Muswellbrook Shire mayor Martin Rush weighs in on Glencore dispute

THE growing use of contract and casual labour in local mines is shaping up to be the biggest issue currently facing our community.

The ongoing dispute between mining giant Glencore, owners of Mangoola coal mine, and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has roots in the fact that workers want a firm understanding in their new Enterprise Agreements that permanent positions are not threatened by the use of casual contract labour.

Industry figures show 4950 casual workers were employed in the Hunter Valley’s northern coal district in April 2017, compared to 3185 in January 2015.

Income, which drives economies, has four basic components: wages, profit, interest and rent.

As most of the mines in the Hunter region are now owned by off-shore companies, it is the wages component that has the greatest impact on the local economy. 

Mining, at least since the 1980s has attracted good wages, not just in recognition of the risks associated with mining but also because of the transient nature of mine work and the impact coal mining has on family and community life.

Typically a permanent full time employee earns about $140,000 a year but a casual contractor earns about $80,000 a year.

Those wages flow through the economy to the benefit of the wider community.

An increase in the use of casual and contract labour will have a markedly negative affect on the local economy.

In the past 12 months profits in the resource export sector have risen by around 22 per cent while wages have risen by just 1.5 per cent.

That’s not a fair portion of the upswing in coal prices for employees and their communities.

The granting of a social licence to mining companies comes with the undertaking that a substantial proportion of the workforce will be local, permanent and full-time.

Mine workers have consistently supported Glencore’s Mangoola coal mine and it is time Glencore ended this dispute by fulfilling the commitments made to the community and give its employees the certainty of permanent, full-time employment.