The Australian Workers Union (AWU) is concerned the protracted uncertainty of employment at Peak Gold Mines (PGM) is having a detrimental effect on the mental health and safety of their members.
AWU NSW Branch vice president Ron Cowdrey and organiser Brock Skelton were in Cobar last week to meet with AWU members currently employed at PGM in an effort to help answer questions they have around their future employment at the mine site.
Mr Cowdrey said the information being given to employees about the proposed transfer of the workforce to contractor, Pybar Mining Services was “vague”, “misleading” and “contradictory”.
Both Mr Cowdrey and Mr Skelton said the whole process could have been handled much better by Aurelia Metals, which would have allowed for a smoother transition.
“The letters that were issued to employees were so vague, they really caused a lot of anxiousness and more uncertainty, that’s why the process was unprofessional,” Mr Cowdrey told The Cobar Weekly.
Mr Skelton said a lack of information and transparency has left a lot of questions unanswered.
“For us, we’re just trying to get certainty on the process and put a halt on the process, until we’ve got all these questions answered,” Mr Skelton said.
“It’s pretty simple, you’d think they’d have done all this before they started making these decisions. It puts people through unnecessary stress and worry, not just them, their families and the wider community.”
Mr Cowdrey said it affects the whole area.
“Cobar is a town that has helped build the mines, create the wealth for the companies that own the mines, off the back of the people that come from this community,” he said.
“When we get told there will be cost saving—that’s labour costs, and if it’s not in labour costs it’s in production costs.”
Mr Cowdrey said he was concerned that pressure to reduce production costs could compromise members’ safety.
Mr Skelton said they had been told a number of anecdotal stories from members who were concerned about their working conditions deteriorating and losing their entitlements.
“We’ve got a lot of people that are talking to us about not sleeping, worrying about the future. They have questions around time frames, what certainties/guarantees have they got, the same questions that we have,” he said.
“Everything we’ve been told has been in a verbal commitment, nothing has been written down, which has people worried. A lot of safety concerns, shortcuts, production needs, demands, which aren’t questions we can answer during this process but will need to look at into the future,” Mr Skelton said.
Following a recent “productive” meeting with Aurelia Metals chief executive Jim Simpson, at which some of their questions were answered, Mr Cowdrey said the AWU had provided Mr Simpson with a list of 12 required undertakings they would like to see put in place for their members during the transition process.