With both Labor and The Nationals trying to woo the coal vote in the seat of Upper Hunter issues surrounding a casualised mine workforce are dominating campaigning in the final days.
NSW Labor has proposed to cap the number of contracted workers on mines at 20 percent, and mandate that contracted workers engaged by labour hire companies receive the same pay and conditions as those employed directly on the same site.
As part of the social and economic considerations that apply to planning approvals for mining in NSW, any application will need to satisfy that employment on a project, Labor will:
(1) Cap contracted and casual coal mining labour to 20 percent. At least 80 per cent of workers on land subject to an approval must be directly employed by either the approval-holder or, if another entity operates the mine, that entity.These changes will apply to future applications for approvals, including modifications and variations.
(2) Introduce a new licensing scheme for labour hire companies in the mining industry.This will mean labour hire companies will be required to comply with laws regarding workplace safety, pay and conditions - including the same pay and conditions as those enjoyed by directly employed workers.
(3) Mandate that all resource planning approvals for mines include safe and fair work practices and conditions and fair dispute settlement procedures. This includes strengthening the "fit and proper person"test in s380A of the Mining Actto include a requirement that for entities to obtain and to continue holding any mining approval they must engage in safe and fair workplace practices.
Country Labor candidate for Upper Hunter Melanie Dagg said "As the daughter and wife of coal miners I know that casualisation and insecurity can cause significant stress and financial hardship to workers and their families."
"Labor will defend the pay and working conditions of coal mining workers."
Labor also flagged the need to address the growing community concern regarding "fly-in, fly-out" workforces which can undermine secure, locally based jobs and the local services and businesses reliant on them.
CFMEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy District President Peter Jordan said that linking coal mining approvals to creation of safe, permanent jobs was a practical initiative to address job insecurity in the industry and the Hunter region.
"Coal mining will continue to be an important part of the Hunter economy into the future," said Mr Jordan.
"Unfortunately, mining operators have shown that when it comes to employment practices, they will do whatever they can get away with. That's why we need stronger laws to stem the out-of-control casualisation of mining jobs.
"In our district, there are mines where up to half the workforce is casual and earning significantly less than the permanent workers next to them. It's wrong. "We need political representatives that support the coal mining industry and also support the rights and conditions of coal mine workers."
Commenting on the Coalition's approach to tackling casualisation Mr Jordan said it was a meaningless 'right to request' permanency, with a proposed amendment to the Fair Work Act.
"Casualisation has spread like a cancer through the coal mining industry on the Coalition's watch," he said.
"All they are proposing is the 'right to request' permanency from the boss. But imagine what happens in the real world when a casual employee actually makes that request. They're likely to get sacked. Matt Canavan and Michael Johnsen should stop trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Hunter mineworkers
"The Nationals know full well that this waste of time legislation would change nothing. It's a meaningless con."