July 18, 2019
Latest coal industry jobs data shows that coal jobs in NSW are at their highest level in five years, but growth isn’t delivering direct, permanent jobs.
NSW coal jobs data from Coal Services Pty Ltd for March 2019 (the most recent available) shows coal mining jobs rose to 22,307 – the highest level since April 2014. The lowest figure was just under 19,000 in December 2016.
While 3,350 additional coal mining jobs created between the end of 2016 and March 2019 – three quarters of them were employed by contracting companies, not mine operators.
The number of contractors has grown significantly in both underground and open cut coal mines during that time. In open cut, contractors grew less than 5,000 to more than 6,200; and in underground coal mines, contractor numbers have increased from dramatically from 1,440 to nearly 2,400.
The proportion of contractors has grown across the state, but it is the Southern NSW coalfields where the changing workforce profile has been most dramatic, with the proportion of the coal mining workforce being contractors has almost doubled in just over two years from 21% to 41%.
District Vice President Bob Timbs said it was disappointing that an upturn in the industry wasn’t delivering permanent jobs. He has written to coal mine operators in the district seeking numbers of permanent and contractor roles at their operators and clarity about their plans for future employment.
“Community support for the coal industry is based on it providing good, permanent, local jobs. If the latest employment figures are an indication that the industry is no longer committed to direct employment, then the community deserves to know.”
Coal Services data doesn’t tell us whether contractor employees are employed as permanents or casuals. Some contracting companies have good agreements with permanent jobs and are contracted to do a specific or specialist task on a mine site.
However, in a drive to cut costs, mining companies are increasingly using contracting firms to provide casual labour hire workers performing the same tasks as permanent, directly employed workers but at lower rates.
Mining companies outsourcing their labour needs to contractors is creating second and third-tier workforces within coal mines, said General Secretary Grahame Kelly.
“Growth in coal jobs is good news. But that growth should be delivering permanent jobs that support families and sustain communities. Three-quarters of new jobs should be permanent and directly employed with a minority of contractors and labour hire to meet special needs.”