Coal LSL appears before Senate Estimates as entitlement questions continue

QUESTION TIME: One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts questioned Coal LSL at Senate Estimates.
QUESTION TIME: One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts questioned Coal LSL at Senate Estimates.

COAL Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) again appeared before the Senate Estimates on Tuesday in relation to under-reporting of long service leave obligations which was confirmed earlier this year.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, who raised concerns about the issue in October 2019, questioned Coal LSL CEO Darlene Perks about what changes have been made since they took part in Senate Estimates in March, as well as raising other concerns.

The term "sham casual" which is used at mine's such as Muswellbrook's Mount Arthur and other mines in NSW and Queensland, was also brought up at the previous hearing.

The six employees who's hours Ms Perks admitted in March had been under reported due to "discrepancies" and "administrative errors", have been reimbursed.

Ms Perks said their records had been updated and a total change of 55 hours had been made. However, the other two employees who were part of that review have not had their records altered.

In regards to what action they will be taking in the future to prevent this happening again, she stated an audit had been ordered, and if they find any employers had "negligently or wilfully" misreported or mis-paid Coal LSL contributions they would consider penalising or prosecuting them when possible.

"The outcomes of that audit will be assessed and reviewed as to whether... penalties will be appropriate if there's any understanding of deliberate misreporting of hours," said Ms Perks.

General manager legal of Coal LSL, Peter Kembrey, said there will be a rolling timeline for the audit although initial findings could be expected within the coming month.

Another major query Senator Roberts had was in relation to what happens when an employee has taken a break of longer than eight years from the industry, or more specifically, what happens to their accrued hours.

Ms Perks stated were that to happen, their record would reset and the minister could have a recommendation to reduce the payroll levy to make up for the excess amount of hours that would then exist in the fund.

Transparency of the fact workers can wave their entitlements and have the contribution paid to them directly, which could benefit those who do not intend to stay in the industry for the eight year qualifying period, was also called into question. Although Coal LSL moved to ensure the senator there were some waver agreements in place, and it was part of their legislation enhancement in 2010 that all their employees had access to that option.

Another point which was labelled concerning was that Mr Kembrey revealed they are aware of 78 employees who are unable to access their entitlements, because their employers hold a "contrary view" to Coal LSL as to whether they qualify for them. He then went on to add that his company expects the true figure could be in the hundreds, but they couldn't be sure because that information was not provided to them.

This was slammed by Senator Deborah O'Neill, who demanded to know "how many hard working Australian men and women" are missing out "because of some confusion in the government's non-advanced legislation to clean it up".

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