||Issue No. 187||18 July 2003|
Hearts, Minds and Other Body Parts
Interview: As They Say In The Bible ...
Industrial: Just Doing It
Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Bad Boss: In the Pooh
Unions: National Focus
Economics: Pop Will Eat Itself
Technology: Dean for President
International: Rangoon Rumble
Education: Blackboard Jungle
Review: From Weakness to Strength
The Locker Room
Sid Einfield Would be Proud
Tom in the Manger
Sermon on the Mount
Authority Shafts Excessive Mine Hours
Workplace Standards Tamania has served notice on Barminco, contractor to Copper Mines of Australia, giving it until August 10 to replace 56-hour rosters with ones that don’t generate dangerous levels of fatigue.
AWU Tasmania secretary, Ian Wakefield, hailed the orders as a "huge victory that will flow on to every other state and territory."
His union has been the central player in a 30-month fight against Barminco rosters fingered for wrecking families and communities across the Apple Isle.
Public meetings in towns like Zeehan and Queenstown urged Barminco to move away from rosters that forced its employees out of sport and just about every other element of community life.
Clubs, pubs, shops and community groups all said they had been devastated by the effects of the rosters.
"We had the support of whole communities down here," Wakefield said, "the West Coast mayor, the local doctor and the local priest included.
"These companies run 56-hour a week rosters. They are killing our members and they are killing their communites as well."
The rosters, under which a typical worker would do four consecutive 12-hour night shifts then three 12-hours day shifts, back to back, before getting four days off, were developed at fly-in, fly-out operations in WA.
They came to Tasmania's metaliferous mines six years ago as contractors took over mining operations on the promise of huge cost cuts. Essentially, they allow mines to run around the clock with three rosters, instead of the traditional four, slashing the workforce by 25 percent.
Worker and community outrage forced most mines to re-write working hours but Barminco and a string of smaller contractors held out.
Barminco, last week, surveyed its own workforce on their hours preferences, possibly in a bid to appeal the orders, and got an 85 percent return in favour of traditional, less family-antagonistic rosters.
The issue came to a head last year when the Tasmanian Government commissioned an independent report on the issue. ACCIRT found excessive working hours common in Tasmanian mining and that these adversely impacted on occupational health and safety.
Last week's Workplace Standards order was the first, anywhere in Australia, that nominated fatigue, caused by working hours, as a health and safety issue and instructed the employer to remove the hazard.
Barminco and Copper Mines of Tasmania have been told to:
- cease arrangements that fall outside shifts prescribed in the notice
- establish a Fatigue Management policy in accordance with OH&S laws
- work with employees to assess the risk of proposed working hours
- provide documentary evidence of their intention to comply with the notice by July 31
In order to make its position clear Workplace Standards has set down working hours limits in writing. These would prevent anyone working an average of more than 48 hours a week over a full year.
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