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Australian Mining Giants To Front Parliament Inquiry

Australia's largest mining companies will defend their hiring practices and safety record when they appear at a federal inquiry.

SYDNEY — Australia’s largest mining companies will front a federal parliamentary inquiry into the gig economy to defend their hiring practices.

BHPRio Tinto, and Anglo American Australia will join the Minerals Council of Australia on an industry panel of witnesses at a parliamentary hearing on July 14.

The mining industry is the most significant contributor to the economy.

Some AU$26 billion ($19.4 billion) was paid to workers in the Australian resources industry in 2019/20.

The balance of crews across regional mines has tilted towards casuals and contractors over the past decade.

BHP, Rio Tinto, and Anglo American Australia will join the Minerals Council of Australia on an industry panel of witnesses at a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image)

Many seek higher hourly rates and flexibility, traded off for sick leave, holiday pay, overtime, and other entitlements enjoyed by permanent company staff.

Unions and labor hire companies provided conflicting evidence to the opposition-led inquiry on July 13.

There are concerns temporary workers are reluctant to speak up about safety issues, worried about the loss of work.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese was touring mining towns in Queensland this week and met miners who have an AU$40,000 ($29801.6) a year wage gap if they are casual.

The resources sector contributes AU$310 billion ($231 billion) to the national economy. It is responsible, directly and indirectly, for employing one million Australians.

“We need the same job, same pay,” said Albanese. “And Labor will legislate for that.”

He said safety is also a key issue.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese is touring mining towns in Queensland this week and met miners who have a AU$40,000 a year wage gap if they’re casual. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image)

“If you do not have secure employment if you are not a full-time employee, but you are in labor hire, then you do not have the confidence to be able to come forward on safety issues,” said Albanese.

Labor hire firm One Key Resources, a leader in coal mining, dismissed fears of retribution over complaints.

The Minerals Council says the industry is working towards zero fatalities, injuries, and preventable diseases, as well as rolling out a mental health program.

The Australian Workers’ Union, Health Services Union, and Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union will provide evidence on the strains of casual work that have been heightened during the pandemic.

As per reports by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in May 2021, employment increased by 115,200 people (0.9 percent) to 13,125,100 people. Over the year to May 2021, employment increased by 987,200 people (8.1 percent).

“The unemployment rate was 1.9 points lower than May 2020, and 0.2 points lower than March 2020,” states the report.

“Unemployed people decreased by 215,400 from May 2020 and was 22,400 lower than March 2020. The youth unemployment rate increased by 0.1 points to 10.7 percent.”

There are about 2.3 million casual workers in Australia who are not entitled to holiday and sick leave.

Many gig economy workers are classified as independent contractors, not as employees, meaning they do not get a minimum wage, superannuation, or worker’s compensation.

(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Saptak Datta)

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