By Bernie Brian.
WOLLONGONG — Southern District coal miners will hold stop-work meetings on August 7 to discuss moves by NSW coal companies to deregulate safety conditions in the mines.
South Coast District check inspector Glen Dwyer told Green Left that "the dispute is in response to a submission by the coal companies to the Department of Minerals and Energy to weaken the Coal Mines Regulation Act. This act, among other things, empowers Miners Federation district check inspectors to close all or part of any pit they deem to be unsafe."
Dwyer said that "the issue has come to a head following a spate of fatalities in NSW mines recently. Earlier this year three miners were killed at a colliery near Lithgow, and two weeks ago three miners were killed in a gas blast at South Bulli colliery near Wollongong. There has been about 12 miners killed in pit accidents in the last twelve months."
"The recent fatalities at South Bulli could not have been anticipated, but action has to be taken to provide proper protection for miners so such accidents do not occur again", said Dwyer.
Ted Curran, Southern District president of the United Mineworkers Federation, told the Illawarra Mercury of July 30 that "he believed members were so concerned about the probability of reduced safety in coalmines if the regulatory bodies were abolished or weakened that they would be prepared to take lengthy strike action".
Curran said that miners would not accept the alternative of individual companies regulating safety in their own mines. The union has called on its national executive to coordinate a national strategy to defeat the mining companies moves.