The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has called on the State Government and Queensland Resources Council (QRC) to support a major overhaul of employment practices in the state’s coal mining industry.
ETU State Secretary, Peter Ong, said the Board of Inquiry into the Grosvenor explosion was a good first step but stressed that it must not impede the Government’s ability to prosecute directors of One Key and Anglo American if they are found to be negligent.
Further to that, he called on the Government to ‘get moving on’ extending Industrial Manslaughter legislation to the mining industry.
“The legislation is before parliament and should be passed as soon as possible, company directors need to know if their negligence causes death or injury, they could go to jail,” Mr Ong said.
The union points to evidence that the increasing use of casual and labour hire personnel since 2012 is a significant contributing factor to deteriorating occupational health and safety outcomes in the coal mining industry.
“With all due respect you can have all the inquiries you like, but until workers can report OHS issues without fear of losing their job, the problem will only get worse,” he said.
Mr Ong highlights the high numbers of High Potential Incidents (HIPs) since 2010/2011 as one indicator of failure, but also noted the negative impact of precarious employment on reporting.
“HPI’s are just one measure of how the industry is travelling regarding occupational health and safety risks and incidents and it is remaining very high. But much more concerning is the evidence coming to us and other mining unions that many workers trapped in insecure work are reluctant to report incidents for fear of retribution and job losses. That fact also featured heavily in surveys conducted during the mining reset last year,” he said.
“The correlation between the increase in insecure work types and workplace risk is there for all to see and we call on the QRC and the State Government to join with us to pressure multinational mining companies to directly employ workers on a permanent basis,” he said.
Mr Ong said while the mining companies themselves were the main culprits in driving insecure work, the QRC has ignored the views of the unions and workers for far too long and was seen by many to be delivering the casualisation agenda or at best turning a blind eye to its failings.
“The business models of multinational coal companies which are based on creating a compliant workforce through the continued expansion of labour hire and other forms of insecure work, (which now account for close to 65 per cent of the Queensland coal mining workforce) must be stopped. We call on the QRC to support our demands for a major overhaul of employment arrangements in the industry,” he commented.
The Grosvenor blast last week which left five mineworkers in hospital is the latest in a string of mining incidents over the last 12-18 months which have tragically resulted in the deaths of eight workers in Queensland.