Mineworkers at Anglo American’s Grosvenor mine who give evidence about safety breaches in any investigation into yesterday’s coal mine explosion should be given ‘whistleblower’ protections, the CFMEU said today.
A thorough investigation must take into account the casual labour hire work model where workers fear speaking up about safety means losing their job, said CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth.
“In addition to investigations at the mine, the Queensland Government is seeking advice on a board of inquiry, which we would strongly support,” said Mr Smyth.
“Any inquiry must look not only at the procedural and engineering failures that have resulted in this apparent ignition at the longwall face, but also the safety culture when the whole workforce is outsourced and casualised as is the case at Grosvenor,” said Mr Smyth.
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“It is beyond doubt that when workers are not directly employed by the operator, when they have no job security and can lose their job from one day to the next for no reason, then they are not empowered to raise their concerns about safety on the job. The rampant casualisation in our industry is a disaster on many levels.”
Mr Smyth said Grosvenor was known to have high methane levels and that concerns around the management of gas had been raised by union members on a number of occasions, but the causes of yesterday’s event must be allowed to be investigated in full.
He said mineworkers on shift during yesterday’s underground explosion were traumatised and some had broken down when talking about the horrific injuries they had witnessed.
“We are hoping and praying for the recovery of the five workers being treated in Brisbane,” said Mr Smyth.
“As investigations into what occurred yesterday get underway, we must also support those workers who witnessed the event and its aftermath and all the workers with important information about conditions at Grosvenor.
“It is those workers at the coalface who know what has been happening day in and day out. We know from many years of casualisation in our industry that workers are afraid of retribution if they speak up on safety. If we are to get to the truth of this event, they need guaranteed protection.”
AMSJ NOTE: There is a range of available evidence that supports the proposition that whistleblowers may suffer mental health-related issues if not supported through whistleblowing processes. We would always recommend that any persons considering whistleblowing seek guidance from a professional organisation.
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