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Mineworkers at Peabody’s Coppabella mine in central Queensland are set to receive a backpay windfall after the Fair Work Commission found that a requirement to attend the site office 15 minutes before shift for preparations and transport was work time.
The legal win in the case brought by CFMEU Mining and Energy will deliver hundreds of affected workers up to $15,000 each and is estimated to cost Peabody some $3 million in total and is likely to be significant in other industries.
The decisions hinged on a change instituted by Peabody in 2016, that required workers at the Coppabella mine to attend the main administration building 15 minutes ahead of their shift start to complete preparatory tasks like swiping in, finding out the nature and location of their work for the shift, and transport to their on-site pre-start briefing.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland District President Stephen Smyth said the decision was a victory for unionism.
“This is a huge and deserved win for mineworkers at Coppabella who have been underpaid for three years,” Mr Smyth said.
“If your employer requires you to be somewhere to prepare for your shift then that’s work. You would hope Peabody might recognise this, but the important thing is the Fair Work Commission has.
“This decision underscores the importance of unions in the industry and across this country. Without the resources of their union these workers would have been disgracefully ripped off by their employer. Now they’re in line to receive millions in backpay.
“This decision is significant in defining ‘work' and could well be relevant across different industries.
“Everyone who receives the payment should take a moment to thank a union member. Or, even better, join the union. This win is another reminder that it pays to belong.”