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‘Underpaid’ coal workers under report safety issues out of fear says industry

Coal mining QRC
Coal mining

Outsourced mine employees are more unlikely to speak up when something is not right because they are concerned about potential repercussions, an advocate said.

The Queensland parliamentary inquiry into coal mining industry safety recently heard some workers under report occupational incidents due to fear of reprisal.

The Mining and Energy Union (MEU) revealed the number of contract and labour hire fatalities significantly differs to those involving directly employed staff. The union confirmed 22 Queensland coal mine workers died since the year 2002. More than 72 per cent of these fatalities involved contractors while the remainder affected permanent employees.

Outsourced personnel have complained about lower wages and unstable work arrangements, leaving them vulnerable to totally losing income after voicing concerns.

“Contract or labour hire employees, whether they are permanent or casual, are vulnerable to reprisal for stopping the job for safety reasons – or even for simply raising safety issues,” MEU state industry safety and health representative Stephen Watts said according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“There has been over 150 reprisal complaints with not one prosecution. It is pretty obvious that the system [gives] disincentives [for] reporting safety issues.”

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) separately told the inquiry that Resources Safety and Health Queensland offers a telephone service to anonymously report safety incidents.

“There should be no reluctance for a miner to lodge a complaint anonymously. If the system is not working to the absolute optimum let us [employers] work out what we can do to make it better,” QRC CEO Ian Macfarlane said according to the broadcaster.

Neither MEU nor BHP were aware of this hotline and knew how to access it.

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