CFMEU lodges dispute with Fair Work over vaccine mandate

The mining union has lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission over a vaccine mandate at a Hunter mine. 

The mining division of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has lodged documents with Fair Work claiming mining company BHP’s mandate to require workers to have their first jab by November 10 and a second by January 31 at the Mount Arthur mine isn’t fair.

The union says it is “heavy handed” of the mine to expect it of workers when there is no public health order or regulation from the NSW Government to impose such a mandate.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Northern District president Peter Jordan said a mandate like this just gets people’s backs up.

“Who gives BHP the right to insist in the mining industry that it applies at the Mount Arthur mine for us? No consultation, or approach to resolve the issue locally, just simply a mandate from a man in Perth who says this is what will happen,” he said.

“The vaccine mandate doesn’t represent a lawful or reasonable direction from an employer,”

“The Chief Medical Officer in NSW has not seen it necessary to issue a public health order that requires mine workers in NSW to be vaccinated against COVID, very important point,” said Peter Jordan.

“Coal miners are not frontline workers,”

“No other mining industry employer in NSW, even at adjacent mines to Mount Arthur have thought it necessary to introduce a vaccine mandate.”

Peter Jordan added there are plenty of measures in place that have kept coronavirus off the Mount Arthur site throughout the entire pandemic such as rapid antigen testing for each employee before every shift, social distancing, etc.

“We’ve never had a positive case at the Mount Arthur mine so why take the extreme action to mandate this in the workplace,” he said. 

BHP’s Minerals Australia President Edgar Basto said as restrictions ease the virus will spread and this mandate is in a bid to keep the spread at bay.

“The science is clear that widespread vaccination saves lives. In line with Government guidance, we recognise the path forward is through widespread vaccination in Australia and we are looking at a range of practical ways to support that while protecting communities and workforces.”

“We have undertaken a thorough assessment and believe that this is the right path forward to protect the health of our people, their families and the communities where we operate – including remote Indigenous communities – while continuing to safely run our operations. We know this raise will questions for some, and we will work closely with our workforce as we go through the process of implementing these controls at our workplaces.”

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