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According to the Australian Council of Trade Unions the need to work and the job insecurity that has existed for the last couple of decades in Australia has lead to unsafe working conditions in occupations such as mining.

ACTU president, Ged Kearney said during his speech at the United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day at Cessnock that it was impossible to create a lasting culture of safety when so much of the workforce was mobile and temporary. He pointed out that 40% of the Australian workforce was engaged in insecure work and this helped to create an unsafe work advantage.

Temporary or contract workers receive less job and safety training meaning they may not have the knowledge of all the safety issues and procedures. Add to this that many of these temporary workers need their jobs and fear being dismissed or fired and this creates an environment where workers are afraid to speak up and demand that safety procedures be followed.

Job insecurity can have a powerful impact on job performance and with the continuing job insecurity that many Australian workers face, they are reluctant to do anything that will hurt their chances of even part-time employment. Making decisions based solely on the need to make income with no thought to personal safety can not only result in unsafe working conditions for the temporary worker, but for their co-workers as well.

To complicate matters some mining companies actually favour hiring temporary workers or contractors because they are usually not members of unions, work cheaper, and are less likely to voice safety concerns. This movement towards hiring contractors instead of a permanent workforce, only re-enforces workers feelings of job insecurity and the need to “do the job without complaint” in order to remain employed.

Unless a solution to this problem is found, safety conditions in mines will continue to deteriorate putting more and more workers at risk. One solution may be more safety inspections to help ensure that mining company owners and operators are aware that unsafe conditions will not be tolerated, regardless of whether or not they hire permanent or temporary workers.

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