BRODIE Gilks was a trainee driver at BHP's Mount Arthur coal mine in 2017 when a load being dropped into her 240-tonne-load Caterpillar dump truck threw her around and injured her shoulder.
After a period on workers compensation followed by light duties, Brodie says she was about to resume driving again when her labour hire employer, Chandler Macleod, called her to a meeting, saying it wanted her "stood down" or sacked, just a fortnight short of completing her 12-month traineeship.
What happened in that meeting is contested. Brodie says a CFMEU official and a representative from a NSW government trading authority both recommended she accept two weeks' pay and go, with the prospect of maybe "another traineeship or an apprenticeship later on".
She says she was "too shocked" to complain.
She was also sick of the way she had been treated by some of the men at the mine.
"I feel like I'd been used and let down," Brodie says.
After a pause she adds, very softly: "And humiliated."
Coal companies have been quite deliberately targeting women drivers, but Brodie says she was not made welcome.
"No. Because of my size, my appearance. They judge you on your appearance. And because I'm a female."
The union won't put its version of events on record, but it "absolutely rejects any suggestion" it did not represent Brodie's interests.
Nor was it "involved in pressuring her into accepting a termination against her will".
Whatever happened, Brodie finished up two weeks short of earning a ticket to further driving work in or out of the coal industry.
Now, at the age of 26, Brodie is a broken person, living on welfare and surviving with the help of her parents, who are very angry at what the job has done to their daughter.
Brodie's experience has also had an impact on Chandler Macleod, although the public significance of that is only surfacing now.
Having grown to become one of Australia's biggest labour hire companies, Chandler Macleod and its subsidiaries are major suppliers of labour and other services across a range of federal and state government departments and agencies.
The employer has participated in 169 traineeship arrangements in seven different vocations in mining, process manufacturing, business and transport and logistics industry sectors. 118 of 169 traineeships (or 69 per cent) were cancelled before completion [and] to date only 14 persons have completed their training with Chandler Macleod Group LtdVocational Training Review Panel, September 2017
In 2015, the Chandler Macleod group and a separate Sydney-based IT recruiter, Peoplebank, were both bought by Japanese company, Recruit Holdings.
Recruit only switched from publishing to recruitment and labour hire this decade, but an aggressive campaign of mergers and acquisitions means it calls itself the world's fifth-largest recruitment company by revenue, with 352 subsidiaries in more than 60 countries.
In its recent annual report to the end of the Japanese financial year (March 31), Recruit recorded revenues of 2310 billion yen ($30.9 billion) and a before-tax profit of 293 billion yen, or $3.9 billion.
Its Australian revenues were 155 billion yen, or $2.1 billion, but a profit figure was not included in the report.
Paperwork viewed by the Newcastle Herald shows that after Brodie's case went to a NSW government Vocational Training Review Panel in September 2017, Chandler Macleod lost its licence to train people in any workplace in NSW.
The review panel was "of the opinion that it may be in the public interest" to declare Chandler Macleod "a prohibited employer" for training purposes until it could show how it could meet its obligations.
This was because 118 of the 169 Chandler Macleod trainees at Mount Arthur and elsewhere had their "traineeships cancelled before completion". In percentages, only 31 per cent completed their traineeships and their TAFE-level certificate qualifications.
"To date, only 14 persons have completed their traineeship training with Chandler Macleod Group Ltd," the review panel wrote.
Written before Brodie parted ways with Mount Arthur, the review panel said she was one of 38 people still in training with the company.
Corrine McCarthy, 41, also decided to answer the call for more women in the industry, having worked as a nursing assistant and raising two boys with her husband.
If Brodie was bullied, Corrine stood up to the blokes when the sexist behaviour began, although she said management always sided with the men.
Corrine was driving her Caterpillar truck when she, too, was hurt on the job, suffering a spinal injury that required urgent surgery in John Hunter Hospital.
Her accident was only weeks ago. Still "technically employed" by Chandler Macleod, she doubts she will drive a mine truck again and feels obliged to speak up with Brodie because both know there are other women who've been similarly badly treated after workplace accidents at Mount Arthur.
Both have a welter of documents to back what might otherwise seem unbelievable stories in an industry that is supposedly one of the most heavily regulated and supervised in the country.
Brodie is one of many labour hire workers whose employer was using general WorkCover insurance rather than the supposedly compulsory - and more comprehensive - Coal Mines Insurance.
The CFMEU says the legal loophole that Chandler and others relied on to take cheaper cover was closed last year, so Corrine is insured through CMI.
But when she was taken to hospital with bladder and bowel complications from her spinal damage, she says CMI refused to approve the operation, even though the surgeon was one of the insurer's "go-to" specialists.
"Because my GP had recommended this surgeon, and he recommended the surgery, CMI said it was a conflict of interest, and wanted me to get a second opinion but it was a fortnight away," Corrine said.
"In the meantime, the hospital is saying she can't wait for this surgery, it has to be done, so I had to pay for it myself through my private insurance because CMI wouldn't accept it in time."
She says CMI is promising to reimburse her, but says that's not the point.
As well, she says she's receiving far less in workers' compensation payments than she should.
She says there is no sign of coal miners' accident pay that is supposed to top up compensation payments, and when she checked her long service leave entitlements, she found that they had not been paid in since February. Different organisation, same story, she said.
"At work, my hourly rate is $46.78 an hour and my shifts are 12.5 hours," Corrine says. That works out at about $1650 for a 35 hour week.
"But they say my hourly rate is $26.15 for seven hours a day, because the rest of the 12.5 hours is overtime."
Each weekly payment has been different, with no details of how they were calculated, and no clear answers when she's rung to inquire.
"The first was $329.49 after tax, then $576.98, then $680.73 then $450.24," Corrine says.
"It's been atrocious. On top of the injury itself and the treatment, there's the financial side. The mortgage still has to be paid, all the usual costs of life and it's Christmas coming up and I don't want to have to disappoint the children.
"After the other mines, I loved working at Mount Arthur. I enjoyed my job and I wouldn't be sitting here saying any of this if they were looking after me the way they are supposed to."
The Herald put detailed written questions to BHP and Chandler Macleod.
As it has previously, BHP said the issues were for Chandler Macleod to answer.
The Vocational Training Review Panel determination also noted BHP did not provide a formal response to its questions despite "numerous . . . requests".
Chandler Macleod said it "fully complies with its obligations under all relevant workplace laws" but did not respond to the matters raised in the training review panel determination.
Stuart Bonds, the One Nation candidate and CFMEU member who gave veteran Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon a scare at the May federal election, says his industry needs cleaning up.
"I didn't win the election but people are still coming to me for help," Bonds says.
"These are people who wanted to go back to work. They loved their jobs, they loved the lifestyle it provided but they've been broken and beaten and cast aside. And why?"
- Part Two on Monday
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