The mining industry needs to change to ensure workers are safe.
The mining industry needs to change to ensure workers are safe. Lee Constable

REVEALED: The 'dog eat dog' culture in Queensland's mines

THINGS need to change in the mining industry.

One of those things is the "dog eat dog" culture which Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union district president Stephen Smyth said had grown from increased work-force casualisation in Queensland mines.

"Workers go to work to work, not to die," Mr Smyth said.

THE CMFEU yesterday called for a shut down of Queensland mines after the death of a worker at the Baralaba Coal Mine and the serious injury of a worker at Collinsville Coal Mine.

The Baralaba fatality marks the sixth death in Queensland coal mines in the past 12 months.

Mr Smyth said he had never seen anything like the current industry climate.

With so many workers employed casually via labour hire companies, Mr Smyth said safety concerns were going unreported amid concerns companies would remove workers causing trouble.

He said workers were scared.

"A lot of it comes back to the type of employment people are in," he said.

"It is not the fact to say a labour-hire worker or contractor is unsafe, a lot of them are former experienced permanent workers.

"The problem is the type of employment they're in, which puts them at risk, because if they do speak out ... they can simply be told 'don't come back tomorrow'.

"Coal companies, recruitment agencies they can all deny it. But they've got their head in the sand if they think this is not the real issue."

Without a full investigation into the death of the Baralaba worker, Mr Smyth said he could not say if casualisation of the workforce contributed to his death.

But he said, generally, there was a pattern of labour-hire contractors involved in serious incidents and fatalities.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said the safety of miners should be the priority of contractors, employers, companies and the government.

Mr Costigan called for the development of a mine health and safety authority to be set up in Mackay to service the Bowen and Galilee basins.

These calls came at the same time it was revealed that as miners died in regional Queensland a Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee was non-operational for six months because it did not meet gender requirements. It is understood the group will meet sometime this week.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said he wanted to see a cross-industry solution to ensure the safety of miners.

"Safety is not just words, it is action," he said.

Labour-hire workforces in which companies outsource recruitment and staff management are preferred by a number of mining companies for the flexibility they provide.

"They can turn them off an turn them on whenever they see fit," Mr Smyth said.

"The workers are then isolated in the fact if they speak out it is 'see ya later' because they are employed by the hour."

Mr Smyth said the increased pressure on employers from labour-hire situations had caused an ugly culture to develop in the industry has seen workers pointing fingers whenever mistakes were made.

"It creates a culture in the workplace where workers will actually dob each other in so they don't get in trouble," he said.

"It is a dog eat dog world."

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