Recently retired mine worker Rob Foot says the shift to labour hire model of employment in Australia’s mines is ‘disgraceful’, telling On the Job that these companies are “climbing the ladder to success on the backs of the working people.”
The retired ‘rigger dog’ (crane operator), joined On the Job with Francis Leach and Sally Rugg to give listeners a first-hand account of life in a mining town and the challenges mining communities are facing with the industry takeover from labour hire companies.
Foot explained that at his mine, workers were given no choice but to join the labour hire company – it was either join or find work elsewhere.
“That put the fear of God into people. You know young people were buying homes, vehicles, and trying to earn a decent standard of living for their families.”
What had been reliable jobs with good pay and conditions, soon changed, with costs pushed onto workers by the labour hire companies.
“You had to pay for your own transport from McKay to the mine site and back. Now, you could go by bus…$80 each way, or you went with your own transport. If you went through your own transport, you suffered broken windscreens, blown tires, kangaroos strikes, going to sleep after working night shifts, all sorts of stuff.
“You also had to pay for your own accommodation on site…and you had to pay for inductions.”
According to Foot, the impact of labour hire was immediately destabilising of the industry, as experienced workers, put off by the change in pay and conditions, left the mines only to be replaced with untrained workers at half the rate.
“These people [labour hire companies], they don’t care about their people. It’s just like a revolving door.
“And if people questioned any of the safety rules or laws or whatever, then you got no more no more shifts.”
Along with impacting the health and safety of workers, Foot says the mining communities themselves have been ‘decimated’ by the changes. He spoke of small business owners having to close down because of the decrease in miners wages.
“[The small business owners] can’t make a living because the people aren’t getting a regular wage. They are spending less and less and less”
“This is the knock-on effect, because people couldn’t in casual work obtain loans, all that sort of stuff. We’re really hurting badly. This is the knock-on effect the casualization of the workforce.”