Politics makes for strange bedfellows. Pandemics, even stranger.
The miner’s union says the stakes are high and while the priority in 2020 was to make for safe workplaces, the struggle on-going will be for the coal mining industry itself.
In the first of a series of stories, Queensland State Secretary of the CFMEU mining division Steve Smythe states the mining industry had to reinvent itself last year.
The pandemic was only one of the fronts the industry faced said Mr Smythe.
“And I’ve got to say, touch wood, that coal mining in particular, got through the year without any COVID case at its mine site,” he said.
“But, that was obviously due to a lot of hard work by the workers and mechanisms and processes put in place by all, both on site and off site, to keep the operations going.
“So, I guess that was a real positive in a bit of a tough year as far as affecting a lot of businesses and the economy generally. But mining kept the economy going, it kept people in work.”
The current Hun at the gate was dressed in the form of ‘uneducated’ public opinion and the great houses of union and owners had formed a defensive line for the good of the industry, Mr Smythe said.
“I’ve never seen it as bad, where if you’re a coal miner … some people choose to be proud to become coal miners, which I am … but people seem to be demonizing those that work in the industry.
“… last year, we had a global dust conference and one of the first groups we contacted to do the ‘welcome to country’ wouldn’t do it because we were involved with coal mining.
“As I said, we don’t align with the employers around tax and company employment arrangements but certainly around the other ones we do, because we understand the importance of it.
“(Coal mining) has kept the economy afloat, it’s kept our head above water during this pandemic. Us and iron ore.”
Mr Smythe said in the last twelve months he’d fielded calls from some unlikely sources including National Party Senator Matt Canavan, former Queensland Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington and Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian MacFarlane.
He said they were all looking out for mining and gave owner’s representative Ian Macfarlane his dues.
“Ian and I speak on a regular basis, we talk about different things.
Obviously on behalf of the industry, we don’t always see eye to eye around stuff, but I actually found him good to deal with.
“He’s direct, and he actually believes in the industry, and I think that’s a plus. I won’t always see eye to eye, but I think it’s a pretty healthy relationship to be honest.”