CFMEU fight QRC on mine safety

The CFMEU is fighting the Queensland Resources Council push to 'deregulate' mine safety.

The mining union claims that the QRC is attempting "to remove the power of mine check inspectors to stop production if they believe safety is at risk".

It comes after the CFMEU initially pushed against the QRC's proposal in September to strip union safety inspectors of the power to close mines has infuriated the CFMEU, decrying the reform as "ludicrous".

"Taking away the powers of safety inspectors at the coalface in favour of entrusting them to company executives in an office is dangerously naïve," it said at the time.

According to the QRC the union has abused its ability to close mines and changes to safety rules would bring regulations closer to those in NSW.

But the CFMEU said strict rules in QLD had been "hard fought" by workers and should not be weakened.

It is now again pushing this stance, stating that it may cause another Pike River situation.

The New Zealand Royal Commission report into the incident was released earlier this week, and recommended a number of changes to the nation's mining industry to increase safety.

“At Pike River, 29 men died because mine management pursued production at any cost,” CFMEU Queensland president Stephen Smyth said.

“They didn’t heed the danger signs because they didn’t want to stop digging coal out of the ground. Pike River is the tragic but logical outcome of deregulation of mine safety.

“Our mining industry complains about regulation and red tape, but the lives of mine workers depend on strong, enforced laws on safety and risk management.

“We are calling on the QRC to back away from its campaign to do away with the exact provisions in this state which a Royal Commission has ruled is vital to introduce in New Zealand to prevent a repeat of Pike River.”

The CFMEU went on to threaten strikes across coal operations if the QLD government complies with the QRC's proposal.

“Mine managers have competing demands,” Smyth stated.

“They have production targets and shareholders to keep happy. It’s nothing personal, but mineworkers don’t trust management with their lives and Pike River has reminded us why," he added.

How the QRC has completely rejected these claims.

In a statement released today it said "there is no move by the Queensland Resources Council to seek the abolition of the [(Coal) Industry Safety and Health Representatives] positions in the Queensland coal industry".

The QRC goes on to say that "the Pike River report recommends that like Queensland, there be worker representatives (equivalent to Queensland’s current Site Safety and Health Representatives) and union representatives (Industry Safety and Health Representatives – formerly known as check inspectors).

"However, the report also specifically looks at the power to stop operations that both these roles have, and recommends that they both have the same power – i.e. to stop operations when there is an immediate danger to workers.

"This power is described as aligned to that of SSHRs in Qld. The report specifically discusses the current power of ISHRs to suspend operations when there is 'an unacceptable level of risk' and rejects this, recommending instead that they have the same power of SSHRs," the QRC said.

"This view reflects QRC submissions that ask that ISHRs not have the power to issue directives to suspend operations when there is 'an unacceptable level of risk'. This power, while on face value may sound very similar to the SSHR power, it has much wider and more significant ramifications and is more akin to the power of a Mines Inspector."

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