South32 CEO addresses Appin coal mine culture issues, stresses inclusivity

Source: South32

Global resources producer South32 has held its annual general meeting (AGM), and commented on workplace concerns, despite “strong financial results”.

Operational issues at the company’s Appin metallurgical coal facility in Illawarra, New South Wales was cited as a potential area of concern and David Crawford, chairman of South32, said he had met with the regulator of the mine to address this.

“At the Appin metallurgical coal mine in Illawarra in NSW we had an unacceptable year as we experienced a series of outages, which affected our production,” added South32 chief executive officer Graham Kerr.

“We have recently commenced a measured ramp-up of long-wall mining activity at Appin that will allow us to reset the operation’s culture, re-establish minimum performance criteria and increase productivity towards a more acceptable level.”

South32 is also appealing a ruling of unfair dismissal from the Fair Work Commission last month after sacking worker Matthew Gosek for abusive language towards co-workers. Kerr cited that South32 had a culture of care and accountability that brought “vibrancy and energy” to company operations.

“In the past year, we’ve made good progress towards an inclusive and diverse workplace and will continue to work hard in these areas,” explained the CEO. “We’ve also implemented a new harassment policy, reinforcing our zero-tolerance approach to all forms of intimidation, harassment and discrimination.”

In addition to tackling workforce harassment, the CEO espoused the importance of inclusivity and support in the workplace; he said the company is implementing new family care policies, increasing paid parental leave, offering more flexible working conditions, and offering help to staff who are victims of domestic violence.

Both speakers pointed out that South32 had improved diversity in the workplace with more female hires in regional and operational lead teams, with $US1.8 million ($2.36 million) spent on improving gender targets in the 2017 financial year.

The company “still [has] some work to do” to increase its representation of black people, but that it had initiatives in place at its South African operations in order to help achieve this goal.

“It is important to me that we have a workplace where people feel safe asking for help when they need it,” said Kerr.

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