Union worried Burton Mine workers at risk

BURTON mineworkers's safety is at risk, according to the union, after 350 jobs were slashed at the Peabody Energy mine.

The cuts came with Peabody Energy announcing it was reducing metallurgical coal production by about 1.5 million tonnes a year from the mine, about 150km south-west of Mackay.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union district president Steve Smyth said one of the big gripes they had was the safety of workers still at the mine.

"They still want a million tonnes a year with 100 people, so they've still got to increase the tonnage out of those 100 people," Mr Smyth said.

Mackay workers will take a big hit, with the union claiming that 90% of those laid off were from this region.

Mr Smyth said most of the people were drive-in, drive-out workers from Mackay.

Union representatives have been meeting with Thiess site management over the past few days, and are now seeking a meeting with higher management to discuss more concerns.

"Clearly we want to know how do you propose to mine the place with less people," Mr Smyth said.

With people being laid off from a number of companies this year, Mr Smyth said there would probably be about 2000 people in the region who had lost their jobs.

The mine's operator, Thiess, said their client, Peabody, had requested they review the current operations and mine plan and work together to make operational changes, targeting lower-cost coal reserves.

"Thiess is deeply mindful of the impact that these changes will have on our people and their families and will keep them informed on the range of options available as we move forward," the statement said.

Mr Smyth said with so many people losing their jobs throughout the industry, safety would suffer.

"They still want the same amount of tonnage and they've just had record production out of all these mines of volume, so production has increased," he said.

"There's a lot of pressure on people to perform the job."

Workers' rights will suffer dramatically as a result of the lay-offs in the coal sector, according to Mr Smyth.

"The only option of work for people ... will be in casual type labour hire roles, a day-to-day proposition," he said.

"You're not going to uproot your family to go to a job position like that - there's no security."



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