The Guardian October 25,2000


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.

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