Workers on the Sino Iron Ore project in Western Australia's Pilbara region have been fired after not presenting for work on ANZAC day – they were dismissed because they had not applied for leave.
The five workers failed to present for work after attending a dawn service at a project site run by DIAB Engineering. HR manager Gillian Howe told ABC Radio that while an ANZAC day service was hosted at the site, the mine does not shutdown on public holidays and workers needed to apply for leave if they wanted to take the day off. “Anyone who was stood down was because they refused to return to…make themselves available for work. They’re scheduled on a roster and unless they’ve got a reason for illness or injury or a very, very good reason that is acceptable to us they're required to be at work,” she said.
However, the sacked workers have told The Weekend West and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union that their leave was verbally approved the night before ANZAC day, and that they refused to work out of respect for war veterans. Union assistant State secretary Joe McDonald believes Australian values are being overlooked on some projects run by foreign firms.
Yet, Howe assured that the dismissal was a result of the casually employed workers breaching their contracts. “Any individual could have applied for the day off, and it would not have been unreasonably withheld,” Howe said.
Requesting and refusing to work on public holidays
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), employers may lawfully ask their employees to work on a public holiday if the request is “reasonable”.
In determining whether it is reasonable to require workers to work on a public holiday, employers must consider:
the nature of your business (including its operational requirements)
the nature of the work performed by your employees
your employees’ personal circumstances, including their family responsibilities
whether your employees could reasonably expect that you might request them to work on the public holiday (for example, your business is open each year on the same public holiday)
whether your employees are entitled to receive overtime payments, penalty rates or other compensation for work on the public holiday
your employees’ type of employment (for example, whether they are full-time, part-time, casual or a shift worker)
the amount of notice you have given your employees in advance about working on the public holiday
any other relevant matter.
The employer cannot rely on one single factor, but needs to consider all of the relevant circumstances. Notably, an employee may refuse a request to work if they have reasonable grounds.
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