Workers fear they could still be stood down without pay at a Hunter Valley mine for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
BHP put a mandate in place on site at their Mt Arthur mine at Muswellbrook that said workers had to have had at least one COVID jab by November 10 and the second by the end of January next year or face being unable to work.
The mining division of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) did lodge documents with the Fair Work Commission saying the mandate is “heavy handed”.
The CFMEU also said it was unlawful and unfair 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.
The mine is the first in Australia to put the mandate in place.
It’s understood around 50 direct employees at the site have not provided any proof of their vaccination status, and some contractors as well.
The CFMEU is continuing the matter with Fair Work and will have the matter heard by a full bench on 24 November with a decision likely in early December. The union did attempt to get interim orders to prevent BHP from taking disciplinary action against affected workers but it was rejected by Fair Work.
The union said they “will provide assistance for affected members and continue representing and supporting all of our members as we fight BHP’s heavy-handed approach.”
A BHP spokesperson has told the NewFM Newsroom they undertook a thorough assessment before making the mandate call.
They also said they won’t be implement the disciplinary action of the mandate until Fair Work makes their decision with the CFMEU.
“The science is clear that widespread vaccination saves lives. We undertook a thorough assessment prior to making vaccination a condition of entry for our Australian workplaces. This is a necessary health and safety control to help protect our people, their families and communities – including remote Indigenous communities – while continuing to safely run our operations. We will continue to work with our people as we implement this change and we have plans in place to manage the transition.”
When the mandate was announced last month 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.”