Here's what mining employees really think about casual work

Picture of a miner sitting by sunset

Do mining industry employees really feel labour hire and casual work is bad for workers?

Do mining industry employees really feel labour hire and casual work is bad for workers?

The Australian Labor Party and union movement say it is and, after a fixed period of time, want employers to convert some labour hire jobs automatically into permanent jobs.

The ALP and union views don’t just apply to mining, but we decided to test the views of those in our industry, with a recent poll conducted via the Mining People Polling/Media Centre.

It revealed some interesting contradictions in the motivations of employees.

What do mining employees think about casual work?

In June 2018, we asked four questions, with the following results. In total, we received just under 500 votes so another excellent and material sample.

  1. What do you think about automatically converting some labour hire jobs to permanent?
    Overall it’s a good idea 362 73.88%
    Overall it’s a bad idea 57 11.63%
    It’s complicated 71 14.19%
  2. Do you or have you worked with a unionised mine site?
    Yes 253 51.63%
    No 237 48.37%
  3. Do you feel the unions have a positive role to play in mining?
    Overall yes 318 64.90%
    Overall no 166 33.88%
  4. Are you a supervisor/manager?
    Yes 163 33.27%
    No 327 66.73%

Do white-collar/blue-collar demarcation lines exist?

We again used our polling tool to assess the views of supervisors/managers compared to non-supervisors/managers. 

As reported, while overall 74% supported the idea of automatically converting some casual jobs to permanent ones, support amongst non-supervisors was 80% of their group, while support amongst supervisors/managers was only 62%.

This would not necessarily be a surprise as in mining it is more likely to be blue-collar workers engaged in casual work than it is technically trained employees or those with supervisory/management responsibilities. 

RELATED: What are contract mining jobs paying right now?

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Do demarcation lines exist between experienced unionised site workers compared to those without unionised site experience?

Compared to the overall result (74% supporting the idea) of those who had worked at unionised sites, 74.3% supported the idea. Of those who had not worked at a unionised site, 73.41% supported the idea.

This suggest the general views are consistent across the broader mining industry, with people making their judgment based on not just their experiences, but most likely also what they feel is right for all workers.

RECENT POLL RESULTS: Does the mining industry get OH&S wrong?

Our takeaways and a summary of our thoughts on these results

Clearly, an overall majority of respondents are supportive of the idea of converting casual jobs into permanent ones at an appropriate time.

At one level this is understandable, as you would assume most people would choose the relative security of a permanent role, with the accompanying leave entitlements and other benefits, over a contract role with possibly only a limited notice period and minimal extra benefits (albeit most likely with a higher hourly or daily pay rate).

However, if such a change were imposed on the mining industry, in our view it is likely there would be significant unintended consequences – and it is these that would need to be carefully explored.

The mining industry is highly cyclical and contractions in metals prices are often swift. By effectively forcing labour costs onto employers, this would almost certainly make them far more wary of taking on staff in the first place if they know they are going to be exposed to higher costs they can’t control.

If you are looking for deep insights into the mining markets and would like MPi to conduct some targeted industry research on your behalf, then please email us.

Steve Heather signature
Steve Heather – BAppSc (Mining Engineering) WASM, FRCSA

Managing Director & Principal Executive Search - Mining People International (MPi)

Fellow/National Board Member – Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association Aust. & N.Z. (RCSA)

Steve.heather@miningpeople.com.au