DESPITE recent criticism from rivals that it would kill off the industry if elected, NSW Labor is determined to protect coal miners' jobs and conditions, including those in the Upper Hunter.
And, Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Industry and Resources Adam Searle, joined by Country Labor candidate Melanie Dagg, reassured local workers during a visit to the electorate on Wednesday.
The pair announced Labor will cap the number of contracted employees on mine sites at 20 per cent, and mandate that contracted workers - engaged by labour hire companies - receive the same pay and conditions as those employed directly on the same site.
"Under the Liberals and Nationals there have been significant and protracted workplace disputes in the NSW coal mining industry, with many of these disputes having their roots in the push by companies for increased numbers of contract and casual workers," Mr Searle said.
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen said the Nationals had introduced legislation to protect local miners' jobs.
But, Mrs Dagg responded by saying: "He calls for Labor to vote for phantom federal legislation, which he knows full well his Liberal and National colleagues will never bring on for vote in the federal Parliament.
"It also won't provide the protection that is needed those working in the coal mining industry."
The NSW coal industry directly employs nearly 20,000 people and supports about 80,000 jobs in mine and non-mine related services.
The Labor commitment to cap casual employees and protect condition is part of a three-point plan to improve the job security and working conditions of those in the sector.
"As the daughter and wife of coal miners I know that casualisation and insecurity can cause significant stress and financial hardship to workers and their families," Mrs Dagg said.
"Labor will defend the pay and working conditions of coal mining workers.
"People in the Hunter know that the Liberal and Nationals only bring empty promises when it comes to protecting our workers and communities from creeping casualisation."
As part of the social and economic considerations that apply to planning approvals for mining in NSW, any application will need to satisfy that employment on a project, Labor will:
(1) Cap contracted and casual coal mining labour to 20 per cent. At least 80 per cent of workers on land subject to an approval must be directly employed by either the approval-holder or, if another entity operates the mine, that entity. These changes will apply to future applications for approvals, including modifications and variations.
(2) Introduce a new licencing scheme for labour hire companies in the mining industry. This will mean labour hire companies will be required to comply with laws regarding workplace safety, pay and conditions - including the same pay and conditions as those enjoyed by directly employed workers.
(3) Mandate that all resource planning approvals for mines include safe and fair work practices and conditions and fair dispute settlement procedures. This includes strengthening the "fit and proper person" test in s380A of the Mining Act to include a requirement that for entities to obtain and to continue holding any mining approval they must engage in safe and fair workplace practices.
Labor also flagged the need to address the growing community concern regarding "fly-in, fly-out" workforces, which can undermine secure, locally-based jobs and the local services and businesses reliant on them.
"A Labor government wants well paid, secure and locally-based mining jobs in the coal mining industry," Mr Searle said.
"We know that many disputes arise because big mining companies want to casualise and contract out their work.
"This is bad for workers and the resulting disputes have disrupted the NSW coal supply.
"There has been too much contracting out of jobs in the industry, undermining the economic security of local workers.
"That has to stop, and Labor has a positive plan to work with companies and workers to ensure, decently paid jobs and a resilient industry."