Statement by Steve Knott AM, Chief Executive, Australian Resources and Energy Employer Association (AREEA)
AREEA will engage with the Albanese Government's new discussion paper on 'Same Job, Same Pay', however fundamentally disagrees with the premise of the policy, which will undoubtedly have an adverse impact on jobs, employment and the economy.
In the resources and energy industry there are typically multiple different employing entities at any one site, often with overlapping job classifications, qualifications and duties.
The 'Same Job, Same Pay' policy, especially implemented as broadly and clumsily as the Government is proposing, will greatly disrupt longstanding workforce practices in some of the most productive and highest national revenue producing projects in the country.
Just some of the issues this policy will create:
- In the resources and energy sector, as well as many other industries, it is not uncommon for individuals to hold the same base qualifications and work tasks as a work colleague but be paid differently. This is due to factors including experience, business operational knowledge, length of service with their employer, performance assessment, and other factors;
- The policy erroneously suggests that a labour hire employee engaged temporarily to supplement a site's direct-hired workforce has the same responsibilities, the same qualifications, experience in the industry and history of service with an employer;
- There is a significant difference between use of long-term, ongoing labour hire employees in casual positions – a practice that was addressed with casual conversion clauses introduced in 2021 – and the use of labour hire for specialised and often short-term contract work;
- Resources sector industry labour hire enterprise agreements are almost always reached with unions and must be signed off as lawful by the Fair Work Commission. They typically offer well-above award conditions and a strong enough employee value proposition to attract thousands of workers despite the industry experiencing a highly competitive labour market;
- There are dozens, if not hundreds of worksites where labour hire employees can provide services should they be required. It is not realistic to expect labour hire arrangements would proceed with such an enormous level of red tape, defeating the purpose of engaging labour hire in the first place, being flexibility and choice.
AREEA further notes there has been a distinct lack of acknowledgment that non-permanent forms of work including fixed term and casual labour hire and independent contracting offers choice to both employers and employees.
This is particularly relevant for the resources and energy industry where the workforce is highly mobile, moving between projects and operating sites at various stages throughout the life of the operation.
Without competitive and flexible labour hire services supplementing permanent site workforces, mines and operations will close, jobs will be lost, and state and federal tax and royalty revenues will be foregone.