CFMEU backs call for black lung compensation levy

The Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU) is supporting the Black Lung Victims Group’s call for a 10c a tonne industry funded compensation levy for victims of the disease.

In seeking the levy, the Group is asking mining companies to acknowledge their role in causing black lung.

“Coal companies should be paying for the pain and suffering they have caused, not the taxpayers of Queensland,” Stephen Smyth, CFMEU Mining and Energy Division QLD district secretary said, “Mining companies cannot be let off the hook for a deadly disease that was caused by their own negligence.”

However, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) does not support the proposed scheme.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche told Australian Mining, “We do not support a new levy because Queensland has a very good workers’ compensation scheme and coal companies pay millions of dollars of premiums into that scheme.”

“The current scheme works and I’ve been told by the minster who looks after the workers’ compensation scheme that it’s fit for purpose to deal with pneumoconiosis.

“If there are workers diagnosed with pneumoconiosis who are having trouble with the workers’ compensation scheme then I want to know about it.”

However, Smyth said that Roche “wrongly asserts” that the current workers’ compensation system provides enough support for the victims.

“What Michael Roche is saying is that the workers and the victims of black lung are not worth 10-cents, a tiny fraction of what mining companies get for coal,” Smyth said.

“The truth is that the existing worker’s compensation arrangements aren’t designed for black lung sufferers because the coal companies were supposed to have eradicated this deadly disease decades ago.”

A 54-year-old man was confirmed as the 15th case of black lung in QLD last week. The man had been cleared twice by Australian medical assessors and radiologists, before a US expert confirmed the disease.

Smyth went on to liken black lung to asbestosis claims during the 1990s, highlighting that a levy was the best way for victims to get support.

“As with asbestosis, black lung develops over time, but once you’ve got it you can’t work underground anymore, leaving victims faced with no support and possibly no job,” he said.

“We already know of black lung victims who have had to pay out hundreds of dollars for tests because black lung isn’t covered by workers compensation arrangement.

“For workers that do come forward, they have been moved out of their jobs and put into different roles, with some employees losing $28,000 just for telling their boss they have black lung.”

The QLD government is launching a parliamentary review into the resurgence of black lung in the state, with the main priority of “fixing the issue”.