Australian mines: Two-tier workforce threat to safety
Today’s hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Job Security has again highlighted how labour hire increases safety risks on Australian mine sites.
Evidence provided today stresses that many precarious labour-hire workers fear raising safety incidents, due to fears that their role will be terminated or their shifts reduced. Senators also highlighted how the poor structuring of staff bonuses disincentives timely reporting of safety incidents, with potential tragic consequences.
Katie Hepworth, Director of Workers’ Rights at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) said:
“The explosion of a two-tier workforce on Australian mines does more than erode job security and working conditions. It fundamentally undermines safety, sometimes with fatal consequences.
“Over the course of the Inquiry, the Committee has been provided with conflicting information about the extent of indirect employment on Australian mine sites. This isn’t good enough.
“A company’s workforce mix is material to its performance, and decisions by companies about how they structure their workforces will have long term impacts on company performance and shareholder value. If companies are relying on a large proportion of 'indirect' workers to operate, then information about these workers should be included in annual reporting.
“Currently, many companies are failing to provide investors and the public with even basic information about their workforces, such as the percentage of labour hire and contract workers in their total workforce.
“The message to investors is clear. Responsible stewardship requires them to understand the entire mix of contract types and outsourcing models that companies are deploying in their business. They cannot limit their focus to direct employees.”
ACCR made a submission to the Inquiry.
ACCR is currently engaging companies in sectors that have significant exposure to risks associated with outsourcing and indirect employment, including horticulture, commercial cleaning, mining construction, large scale solar and warehousing. These sectors may be exposed to significant outsourcing risks due to the percentage of the workforce that is employed via third party agencies, or the severity of the risks associated with the outsourcing of labour (up to and including modern slavery).
In May 2020, ACCR released a report entitled Labour Hire and Contracting Across the ASX100. The report described the key workforce and operational risks associated with labour hire working arrangements, and analysed how ASX100 companies in three key sectors - mining, construction and commercial cleaning - are exposed to these risks. It also discusses an emerging sector, large-scale solar installation. The second round of this report will be released in August 2021.