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Proponent cancels labour hire meeting after bad press

Appin Coal Colliery
Appin Coal Colliery

A mining and metals company slammed the door on industry talks about outsourced worker conditions at its coal operation in New South Wales’ Macarthur region.

South32 management seemingly cancelled a scheduled meeting with advocates about recent redundancies and pay cuts affecting contract workers at the Appin Coal Colliery, 76km southwest of Sydney.

‘Scrutiny’ unwanted

The decision came less than 24 hours after the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) revealed 250 contractors were retrenched since April, and labour hire firms Mastermyne Group and Nexus Mining were replaced by PIMS Group and WorkPac Group, which allegedly pay Appin workers up to $5 an hour less and will not offer bonuses for meeting safety targets.

“South32 does not want any scrutiny, so they are suddenly now refusing to meet and discuss the issues,” CFMEU mining and energy district vice president Bob Timbs said in a public statement.

“If South32 does not want negative attention they should start doing the right thing and stop treating coal miners like mushrooms.”

Fewer rewards

Timbs described the pay cuts and job losses as significant since the operation heavily relies on labour hire workers.

“The majority of Appin’s workforce is not directly employed but are instead outsourced to an ever-changing parade of labour hire companies dancing to South32’s tune,” he said.

“These workers risk their lives going underground everyday, and South32 rewards them by attacking any conditions they manage to negotiate with the support of the union and forcing them out of work or onto substandard deals.”

Coal prices blamed

South32 defended the decision to reduce its workforce and change labour hire providers, blaming the Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and a 40.4 per cent fall in coal spot prices to about US$53 a tonne compared to May 2019.

“These changes are also in response to uncertainty due to COVID-19, coupled with lower pricing and demand for metallurgical coal, and the recent mine plan change,” a company spokesperson told WIN News.

The proponent reassured workers that removing bonuses for meeting safety targets did not mean the employer cared less about workplace safety.

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“Safety is our absolute top priority at all times,” the spokesperson said.

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