Miners hit by rise of gig economy: inquiry

The Uber-ised economy is delivering anxiety and depressed wages for miners and their families, an inquiry heard.

Wages paid to miners in regional areas are down by $400 million to $800 million because of the casualisation of the workforce by mining companies, economist Stephan Whelan told a federal parliamentary hearing on job security.

“It’s a $45,000 difference on average for the individual worker and that’s somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent of mining workers in those particular regions,” he said on Tuesday.

That imposes a direct impact on the communities, as workers in that area are getting paid less income because of the way the pay is arranged and spend less in cafes, pubs or hardware stores in the regions.

Third-generation coal miner and union representative Stephen Smyth told the Senate committee he sees on a daily basis what insecure work is doing to the industry, including anxiety about no job security and more accidents at work.

Labor plans to make security of employment an objective of the Fair Work Act.

“We need same job, same pay,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese said in Brisbane on Tuesday after a mine visit.

“This is an issue of wages, it’s an issue of conditions. But it’s also an issue of safety.”

Many employers and workers see casual work as a way to create greater flexibility.

A higher hourly wage may come at the expense of job security, lucrative overtime pay, sick leave and holiday entitlements, and long-service leave.

Shell companies are also being set up to contract casual staff through labour hire companies to circumvent entitlements for permanent company staff, the committee was told.

Former labour hire employee Wayne Goulevitch said workers like him started out as “backfill” for absences, but the use of contractors had ballooned.

“Clearly when casual workers outnumber full-time employees by two to one ‘supplemental’ can no longer be used as a word to describe them,” he said.

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