The suggestion that Australian mining workers are underpaid or precariously employed is refuted by the facts.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that the mining industry employs 256,000 highly skilled workers across Australia and pays higher wages than any other industry.
Median weekly earnings for mining workers were $2,325 in 2020, double the median for all industries ($1,150).
Approximately 84 per cent of mining workers are permanently employed, whether by minerals producers or by service contractors who typically have enterprise agreements.
In contrast, 78 per cent of workers across all industries are permanently employed.
Casual employees in mining had median weekly earnings of $2,109 in 2020, which was 42 per cent higher than the median for full-time permanent employees across all industries ($1,486).
The gap in median weekly pay between permanent and casual employees is smaller in mining (12 per cent) than in all other industries (108 per cent).
According to a survey of MCA members by Deloitte Access Economics, labour hire workers – who may be permanent or casual – account for 11 per cent of the minerals workforce and 14 per cent of the coal operations workforce.
Labour hire workers deliver operational flexibility, which is crucial for mining because it experiences larger swings in production and revenue than other major industries.
Labour hire helps mining companies to:
- Seize expansion opportunities presented by temporary increases in commodity prices
- Supplement core skills, such as maintenance, engineering and high-quality rehabilitation
- Provide a career entry path to new workers.
Applying a ‘same job, same pay’ policy would have adverse unintended consequences.
Deloitte Access Economics has estimated that if mining companies were required to grant labour hire workers and service contractors the same pay and conditions as direct employees, labour efficiency and future investment would decrease, with the result that:
- Employment in coal mining would decline (relative to where it would otherwise have been) by approximately 2,300 full-time-equivalent jobs a year to 2031
- Employment in minerals and other mining would fall by 4,900 jobs a year
- Employment in mining-related construction would contract by 4,000 jobs a year.