Mines dept job cuts will affect safety: union

THE powerful Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union has weighed into the controversy over the Queensland government’s decision to axe more than 400 jobs in its department of natural resources and mines, claiming that it will directly impact the regulation of safety in the state.
Mines dept job cuts will affect safety: union Mines dept job cuts will affect safety: union Mines dept job cuts will affect safety: union Mines dept job cuts will affect safety: union Mines dept job cuts will affect safety: union

Union members, image courtesy of the CFMEU.

Lou Caruana

The decision to prune public service numbers is part of its promise to reduce the size of government and expedite mine approval times and comes as the industry is pushing for unions to have less say on decisions to shut down mines over safety issues.

CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth told ILN that removing the positions of experienced health and safety personnel would compromise safety regulation.

“I think personally that it’s disappointing with the lay- offs,” he said.

“Any reduction in staff in particular within health and safety department will result in a reduction [of safety] especially when it’s hard to get quality people now.”

A number of the 413 positions are already vacant and will not be filled, meaning 360 staff will be directly affected by the restructure, mostly in southeast Queensland.

Minister for natural resources and mines Andrew Cripps said a significant number have already expressed interest in leaving the department.

"I'd also like to make it very clear there will be absolutely no loss of frontline mine safety and health officers from my department, to ensure Queenslanders working in the resources sector remain protected by one of the world's best mine safety systems," he said in a statement.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the jobs losses would affect safety and the environment.

“That’s another 400 families who will today find themselves in crisis, another 400 families who will be looking forward to an unhappy Christmas, another 400 families who will have to sort out how they are going to pay the rent, pay the mortgage and put food on the table,” Palaszczuk said in a statement on Thursday.

“When you rid the state of huge numbers of highly experienced workers like this, years of experience is marched out the door never to be replaced.”

The Queensland government has cut about 4000 public servants since coming to power in March and are expected to announce another 11,000 job losses in its September budget.

Safety is emerging as the new battleground, with Queensland’s peak industry group pushing to take away the power of union-appointed inspectors to close mines.

The Queensland Resources Council has made a submission to the government that reform is needed to bring the state’s safety regulations in line with that of New South Wales and a proposed national framework for occupational health and safety.

In Queensland, the CFMEU currently nominates three safety inspectors who can order the closure of a mine over a safety incident, while in NSW that decision is made by a government-appointed inspector.

This would effectively ensure that safety is not used as a pretext to close down a mine.

The unions maintain that the state’s enviable safety record will be at risk if its existing regulatory regime is changed.

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