"Most backward decision in living memory"
The miner's union has described the Australian Industrial Relations Commission's change to award provisions that will allow mining companies to impose 10-hour shifts on mine workers as "the most backward decision in living memory on hours of work". The decision — part of the Federal Government's award stripping under the Workplace Relations Act — will cut workers' wages, making them work the extended hours on ordinary rates of pay, and create a more dangerous work environment. Tony Maher, General President of the Mining Division of the CFMEU, said the union unreservedly condemned the decision. "Giving employers the right to introduce 10-hour shifts in underground coal mines, where employees have a one in 28 chance of being killed at work, is an absolute scandal", said Mr Maher. There was provision in the award for eight-hour shifts, with any shifts above that to be decided in consultation with the workers. There are some 12-hour shifts worked in the industry, when the workers agree, with a strict rule of four days on and four days off, averaging out at a 40 hour week. Employers who want longer shifts have to deal with the health and safety considerations and the preparedness of the workers to change their rosters. The union is organising meetings of delegates and branches throughout the industry, starting in NSW this week, to explain the implications of the decision and to seek a mandate from the rank and file for a campaign of action.