Published: 13 Sep 2018
The growth of casualisation in mining means women are being let go rather than supported when they fall pregnant.
Sharon Smoothy, CFMEU Mining and Energy’s newly elected Female Affirmative Action Central Councillor, said increasing numbers of young women are entering the mining industry, however with most employed casually they have little protection through pregnancy.
“With the permanents, we can move them into lighter or less invasive roles depending on the stage of their pregnancy. They also have maternity leave rights.
“However for women employed by contractors, they can just be let go with no reason. The mining companies say it’s the contractors’ problem.
“We recently got one contractor woman member through her pregnancy without too much drama, but that’s an exception.
“Mining companies want more women in the industry, but they need to take responsibility for looking after them and give them permanent roles.”
The decline in permanent roles in favour of contract labour hire is the biggest current workplace challenge, says Sharon, a Production Operator and Trainer Assessor and long-term member of Bayswater Lodge.
“The high turnover means there is a lower level of skill and familiarity with the workplace. This leads to a higher risk of incidents in the pits.
“Use of contracting leads to division in the workforce, but we need to stick up for each other. We are all here doing the same job.
“My message to everyone is to join the Union, it’s a form of insurance.”
In 2016, Sharon was elected to the Female Affirmative Action position on the Northern Mining and NSW Energy District’s Board of Management and hopes her new role on Central Council will encourage more women’s involvement across all Districts.