Fewer permanent positions is a top safety concern among an overwhelming majority of mine workers surveyed by an industry group.
Nearly 90 per cent of coal mine staff blame workforce casualisation for increasing major mine safety risks according to a sample study by the Miners’ Union.
Permanent staff are a minority
The survey interviewed more than 1,000 Queensland coal miners during the Sunshine State’s so-called mine safety reset and found permanent employees are now a minority at many coal projects.
“Coal mining has experienced a widespread move away from permanent, direct employment by operators to casual jobs supplied by labour hire contractors over the past five to 10 years,” the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining Energy Union (CFMMEU) said on its website. “About four in 10 survey respondents said they feared reprisals if they spoke up about safety, increasing to six in 10 for casual mine workers.”
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‘Uncertainty of being sacked’
CFMMEU suggested one way to improve safety is giving permanent jobs to workers to remove the “uncertainty of being sacked”.
“They will have their minds on task, therefore improving safety and people won’t be showing up to work sick, tired and unfit for work just so they don’t miss a day’s pay,” the union said.
Casuals no longer required
However, a number of mine workers have experienced or witnessed retaliatory action after safety concerns were raised. Some casual workers who spoke up quickly found they were no longer required for work according to CFMMEU.
“No-one is told that the reason they’ve been sacked or disciplined is for raising a concern over safety, but workers can see what is happening,” CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said in a public statement. “They are labelled as whingers and moved on or otherwise victimised.”
Operators must commit to ‘change’
Smyth wants all mine workers to feel confident enough to report safety issues without fear of reprisal.
“These results reflect what we hear every day from mine workers on the ground and they are a poor reflection on the industry,” he said. “You can’t have an insecure, vulnerable workers and a ruthless focus on production and expect there will be no consequences for safety … workers at the coal face don’t believe companies are making safety their number one priority [and] operators must take this opportunity to show they are committed to change.”