Unions strike back at WA government over royal commission call

The war of words over calls for a royal commission into mining deaths in WA continues, with Unions WA slamming ministers for speaking against the bid.

Earlier this week WA Commerce portfolio minister Michael Mischin wrote off the public request from Unions WA, saying it was "desperation on the union movement to remain relevant by grabbing a headline".

Mischin also said it was necessary to take statistical trends from longer timeframes, in this case five year groups to gain an accurate understanding of the trends.

However, Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat yesterday said the decision to call for a Royal Commission was not taken lightly, and that she was disappointed that senior ministers had resorted to juking statistics to hide the true figures.

“The call by UnionsWA for a Royal Commission into work and mine fatalities in WA is only strengthened by cynical and selective use of data by Ministers Marmion and Mischin,” Hammat said.

“In order to disguise current worsening trends, they put data for several good but more distant years together with recent poorer outcomes.

“That is deeply concerning.”

Hammat said statistics show that over the past two years both the number and rate of mine deaths have worsened in WA, while between 2012 and 2013, in contrast to improving trends Australia-wide, the number and rate of work deaths across WA worsened.

In response to earlier comments from Mischin that the Department of Mines and Petroleum and Safework Australia were sufficient to discover information about workplace deaths, Hammat criticised the government’s attitude.

“While SafeWork Australia is a credible source for data, in WA it has a negligible role in enforcing work safety.

“Enforcement is the responsibility of the WA Government.

Hammat said that recent safety history showed the process for investigation at the Aditya Birla Nifty Copper mine was “fundamentally flawed”.

“Media reports last year last documented not only the discovery of a sink hole at the mine but also a number of other serious problems,” she said.

“The department approved the re-opening the mine.

“How can they now be expected to investigate their own earlier decision?

“Governments need to be strong and clear that their role is to stand by working people to ensure safety, not fudge the facts or blame the victims.

“Inaction by the government on health and safety law reform has been the case now since 2008.”

Unions WA have now released newly assembled data which shows the trend in mining deaths in WA turned from zero deaths in 2013, and is now back on the rise.

Examples given by minister Mischin which used a five year time frame comparison of 2008-13 with 2009-14 were affected by the 2008-2009 period which saw seven mining deaths in WA.

The research shows the current rate of deaths per 100,000 mining workers is on the rise despite a decrease in the size of the workforce.

Image: The West Australian

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