Anglo loses battle to reduce miners’ breaks on long shifts

MINING company Anglo Coal has lost its case in the supreme court after it tried to cut workers' breaks.

Anglo Coal operates a mine near Middlemount in the Bowen Basin and in 2014 it sought to reduce the number of breaks workers take on a shift of 12 and a half hours.

Workers were able to take three breaks on the shift but the mining company wanted to reduce this to two.

Anglo Coal argued it had a majority support for the change but health and safety experts said the company needed unanimous support before it could reduce the breaks.

In a judgment handed down this week, Supreme Court Justice Ann Lyons said Anglo Coal initially met with a cross section of 19 workers to get their views on changing its fatigue procedure. Two opposed it.

Anglo Coal then commissioned a report from fatigue experts and had the 19 workers re-examine it. The two workers who had previously opposed it did not attend this meeting, the judgment said.

But when a safety and health expert inspected the mine, they found there was still a disagreement among workers regarding the number of breaks.

It prompted Anglo Coal to review its procedure and the proposal to cut breaks was then put to 30 workers. Six disagreed with the change.

Anglo sought approval to go ahead with the change but the health and safety authority said the company needed unanimous support, as required by law.

Anglo filed the legal case with the supreme court to determine whether or not it could change the number of breaks based on a majority agreement of workers.

Justice Lyons said Anglo's argument was that needing unanimous support was "absurd and unreasonable" and that there would always be an "unending loop" if a minority of workers would not agree.

But Justice Lyons did not accept this because "that submission presumes there will be no change of position as a result of consultation and negotiation whereas that is the very process the regime encourages".

She found the regulations required unanimous agreement.

"If there is no unanimous agreement the existing provisions clearly remain in place." - ARM NEWSDESK

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