The union and the coal miner argued repeatedly over staff rosters.
The union and the coal miner argued repeatedly over staff rosters. File

Hail back up the Creek after losing appeal

A MINING company has failed to win over enough Federal Court judges in a roster dispute affecting operators and maintenance workers.

In April, the Bowen Basin coal company was ordered to pay the CFMMEU for breaking fair work rules 506 times. 

As NewsRegional reported back then, the Federal Court said Hail Creek Coal knew reducing a roster allowance would be detrimental to workers, but went ahead anyway.

Justice Darryl Rangiah found Hail Creek underpaid 20 employees.

But the miner appealed and the court delivered its judgment on Friday.

Federal judges including Justice Mordecai Bromberg examined disputes about what an "indicative 45.75 hour week" meant.

Hail Creek contended that Justice Rangiah wrongly treated that word to mean that hours stipulated in the roster description were approximate, Justice Bromberg said.

"That was said to be incorrect because the hours stipulated by a roster are fixed and exact."

But Justice Bromberg said this argument from Hail Creek was a "mischaracterisation" of Justice Rangiah's reasoning.

Justice Bromberg said the company's appeal should be dismissed.

But his colleague Justice David O'Callaghan colleague had a different opinion.

He said the dispute stemmed from a 2011 enterprise agreement which the Fair Work Commission approved.

"It is apparent that the agreement was not drafted by lawyers," Justice O'Callaghan said.

He examined the roster changes and payment issues, and was in favour of Hail Creek.

That left Justice John Reeves holding the balance.

"Each side has advanced arguments that have merits," Justice Reeves said.

"On balance, however, I agree generally with the reasons of [Justice Bromberg] for rejecting the construction advanced by Hail Creek."

The appeal was dismissed.

The court previously heard a Hail Creek HR manager recommended shift changes to help save the company money.

She ran the idea past lawyers, and Hail Creek senior managers accepted the recommendation. 

Justice Rangiah said Hail Creek thought reducing shifts from 12.5 hours to 12 could reduce the amount of roster allowance.

But the trade union said it disputed Hail Creek's right to cut back the roster allowance. -NewsRegional