Coal miners hit with 10-year wage freeze
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has imposed a wage freeze on coalmine workers as part of the award stripping provisions in the federal Workplace Relations Act. The Commission has decided that the award, which has a 17 percent premium for work in the coal mining industry, should be frozen until other awards in the community catch up with it. The Mining and Energy Division of the CFMEU has condemned the decision, pointing out that it means coal miners will be denied access to national wage case increases until the premium disappears. The union estimates this could take ten years. The premium is a recognition of the dangerous, adverse conditions of coal miners' work and that the responsibilities they carry are greater than industry in general. Coal miners work hundreds of metres underground, in cramped, unsafe and hostile conditions, with only a lamp for lighting. There is a long held view that employees who work under adverse conditions should be paid accordingly. "This is an appalling decision", said CFMEU President, Tony Maher. "I challenge any member of the Industrial Commission to spend a shift in an underground coal mine and come out saying no premium should be paid for that work." He said that the Australian coal mining industry is the most efficient coal producer in the world. "And this is the thanks that workers get; a ten-year wage freeze for coal miners is outrageous." Industry statistics show that out of every 28 starters in the coal mining industry one will die at work during their career. "Ask any punter in any pub in Australia if coal miners deserve a little more in their pay and they'll tell you that they do", said Mr Maher.