BHP's COVID vaccine mandate at NSW mine unlawful, Fair Work Commission finds

The full bench of the Fair Work Commission has found a decision by mining giant BHP to make COVID-19 vaccinations at a Hunter Valley mine mandatory was not lawful or reasonable.

Key points:

  • The Fair Work Commission has ruled that BHP mishandled the consultation process in its attempt to introduce a vaccination mandate at the Mt Arthur mine

  • The CFMEU has slammed BHP as "arrogant" for attempting to impose the mandate, but the commission's judgement leaves room for the consultation process to be reopened

  • BHP says "the science is clear that vaccination saves lives" and that it would work with the union to keep workers as safe as possible

More than 30 workers at BHP Billiton's Mt Arthur coal mine were stood down after being unable to provide evidence of their vaccination status.

Lawyers for union officials fought against the mandate, arguing there was a lack of consultation.

On Friday the commission's full bench said the direction was not covered by the mine's enterprise agreement for workers.

The CFMEU, which spearheaded the court action, says the decision is a "win for the rights of workers" and slammed BHP as "arrogant" in the way it went about imposing the mandate.

BHP said it was "assessing the implications of the decision" and noted that the commission had acknowledged the dangers posed by COVID-19.

The dispute had been deemed a '"seminal case" because of its potential ramifications for workplace vaccination rules.

But in its judgement, the commission said the outcome might have been different if BHP had handled things differently: