AWU deputy branch secretary Robert Flanagan told Australian Mining the union is engaging in talks with both the mine owner Copper Mines of Tasmania and its underground contractor Barminco.
Flanagan said there are a number of employment related issues arising out of the mine’s suspension.
Barminco employs about 140 production workers and about 50 maintenance staff at the copper mine.
“Maintenance workers have about one month worth of work left,” Flanagan told Australian Mining.
“We need to come up with a regime so workers can keep food on the table.
“We’re working through it but there are big questions around the other [production] employees.”
One option reportedly being considered is temporarily relocating about 20 Barminco workers to one of the contractor’s other operations around the country.
Employees with larger amounts of accrued leave have been asked to take it and a portion of CMT staff are performing alternative duties including risk assessment and maintenance work.
He said both Barminco and CMT are involved in discussions about how the situation can be managed for Barminco workers.
“We’re dealing with a situation where we’ve had an event that we couldn’t predict,” Flanagan said.
“Three fatalities in six weeks has sent a shiver up everyone’s spine on site from the general manager to the most recent employees.
“But like all employees they depend on periodic earnings.
“It’s the practical reality we’re trying to deal with.”
Flanagan said he expects talks to continue over the next week.
CMT confirmed last week it will be employing a number of Australian and international experts to look at what can be done to ensure worker safety on site.
West Coast Deputy Mayor Peter Reid told Australian Mining the lack of communication from the operation’s owner Copper Mines of Tasmania is a cause of concern amongst the local community.
“No one knows what’s going on,” he said.
“They’ve been fairly quiet with communications and people are wondering.”
Flannagan said there has been a lot of criticism around the lack of information coming from the companies.
“But the reality is until the investigations are completed there isn’t a lot to of information to report,” he said.
Barminco declined to comment at this time.