CFMEU Chief says Queensland’s Courier Mail is ‘Union Bashing’

May 17, 2020 Mining Editor

The CFMEU Queensland Mining & Energy Chief, Stephen Smyth has hit back at claims made by Queensland’s Courier-Mail today that the powerful miner’s union has engaged in ‘opportunism’ in the wake of the Grosvenor mine explosion. Smyth says the newspaper is taking another opportunity for “Union Bashing.”

Journalist and Sky News Host Peter Gleeson claims that “the union boss’ public criticism of Anglo-American would appear to be totally at odds with his private thoughts on safety, expressed to Anglo-American.”

In an exclusive letter obtained by the Courier Mail from Smyth to Anglo’s Chief Executive delivered in August 2019, Mr Smyth reportedly praised Anglo’s efforts for safety protocols and efforts towards a ‘safety reset’ at the mine.

“I have to say that the Grosvenor reset and the leadership was first class!,’’ the letter said.

“The other thing in the mix is the fact the mine has a majority of its production and trades in either a LH or contractor role. So you would expect that they would be a little worried about speaking up?

“I take this from experience at other operations in similar situations. But this did not stop the workers speaking frank (sic) about things which I took as a positive and was managed well.

“The industry could take some lessons out of the Grosvenor reset in a number of areas for examples (sic) the leadership. it delivered a clear, consistent and transparent message was (sic) given and no question or view was either shut down or not allowed. This was what the industry is lacking today in my view.’’

Excerpt from Letter Published by the Courier Mail

In a rebuttal issued this morning, Smyth said, “It’s disappointing to see the Courier Mail use the recent disaster at Grosvenor mine as just another opportunity for union-bashing (Union of expediency and power is bad form, 18 May 2020).”

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“There has been no inconsistency in the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division’s public or private approach to safety or work practices at Anglo American’s Grosvenor mine.”

Smyth said, “Peter Gleeson has been given just one of many items of correspondence between the union and the company over recent years.”

Smyth said he did attend the safety reset events at Grosvenor mine last year and was impressed with what I experienced on that day with them and I let the company know that. Credit where it’s due.

“The safety reset was one event at one point in time, which would never have been held without the union’s strong advocacy after the horror string of deaths that have rocked our industry. As we said at the time, the safety reset was an important time to pause and reflect, but it was never going to be a silver bullet for mine safety.”

“In other correspondence with Anglo American, I have on numerous occasions raised the union’s serious concerns over the use of a casualised labour-hire workforce at Grosvenor mine and safety standards at Anglo’s operations.”

“The Courier-Mail may complain about unions ‘leveraging political capital’ in the wake of a health and safety crises – but the truth is that every safety regulation to protect workers must be fought for. Tragically, most are written in the blood of dead or seriously injured workers and we must make sure their blood was not spilled in vain.”

“This is nowhere truer than the mining industry. It is unions that have fought for industrial manslaughter laws, for tighter dust controls to fight the re-emergence of black lung disease, for strong safety laws. Mining bosses have fought back every step of the way.” 

“I’m proud that my union is out on the ground every day standing up for the interests and lives of mineworkers.”

Stephen Smyth, CFMEU Queensland District President

“Our strong advocacy for safety and reform in our industry is for the workers and their families; if it offends the Courier Mail and annoys the bosses then we must be doing something right.”

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