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Resources giant loses Qld accommodation rights case

FIFO accommodation camp
FIFO accommodation camp

A mining multinational failed to defend new housing arrangements that allegedly impacted on Queensland workers.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently ruled BHP cannot remove employee rights in single person villages (SPVs) under state law.

The Mining and Energy Union (MEU) successfully argued the proponent wrongly stopped deducting $60 staff weekly payments before terminating their SPV rooming accommodation agreements during 2021. The documents are understood to cover notice for conducting inspections, cleaning, performing maintenance and other accommodation rights.

MEU claimed BHP had no right to stop deductions, cancel agreements and overturn worker rights under the 2012 Moranbah accommodation agreement.

“BHP has transformed an arrangement … to a ‘grace and favour’ arrangement pursuant to which BHP may dictate the terms on which the accommodation is provided,” FWC’s final decision said.

“BHP’s purpose was to ensure that employees living in the SPV did not in future have rooming accommodation rights under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act.”

The proponent claimed it never terminated any accommodation agreements, and the fee was solely for its employees’ benefit. It also suggested it could have stopped collecting fees whenever it saw fit.

Meanwhile, Lock the Gate Alliance (LGA) urged Peabody Energy to preserve existing Wollar homes instead of replacing them with a new 100-person temporary accommodation camp near the Wilpinjong coal mine.

“The mining giant has bulldozed at least 11 permanent houses in the village in the past two years,” an LGA spokesperson said in a public statement.

“Rather than building a temporary workers’ camp Peabody should renovate and improve the existing permanent homes it owns, and make them available to its workers and those struggling to find affordable accommodation,” Wollar Progress Association spokesperson Bev Smiles added.

However, Peabody claimed it demolished those properties at the request of Wollar community members who sit on its community consultative committee, which includes a representative from the association.

“These houses are unsafe for people to live in, not suitable for either refurbishment or re-use, and many of them contain damaged asbestos. So claims that we are demolishing houses that can, or could be, lived in is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth by anti-mining groups,” a company spokesperson said.

“Our application to build an accommodation facility on our mining lease for our own employees is to ensure we take pressure off the local housing market, provide quality accommodation for our people – and is supported by the Mid-Western Regional Council.”

Click here to read the full temporary accommodation proposal.

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