Hr Challenges with Qld Coal Mining Industry

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The sudden boom in the resource sector worldwide due to energy demands from mature and emerging industrialized nations has led to numerous issues. From a Human Resource Management perspective, this quick expansion of the resource sector has led to labour shortage with both skilled and professional work force. The need for effectively managing labour poses a number of challenges to Human Resource Management.

I’m working in Coal Handling and Preparation Department within a coal mine in Bowen Basin area, Central Queensland. The location of the mine is quite remote, and the nearby town is not able to provide enough accommodations. As such, majority of the work force choose the option of DIDO / FIFO (Drive-In – Drive-Out / Fly-In – Fly-Out). Majority of the work force reside close to Mackay, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Townsville, which take them from 3 to 7 hours drive to get to work, posing a safety issue. There is a charter flight to an airport about 1.5 hours drive from the mine provided for those who live further like Gold Coast or Brisbane. Because of its remoteness, attraction and retention of employees are always a challenge for the organization. As a consequence, Human Resource has to modify organizational structure in order to fit the amount of people available on site. Existing staff need to take on extra responsibilities. They engaged a few contractors to fill in some empty positions that can’t be covered by existing staff.

2.Reflect & Analyze

2.1 Workforce Planning

Nearly all organizations within Australian Coal Mining Industry failed to properly plan their skill requirements for increasing production and further expansion in the region due to a decade of downturn and the sudden boom. The skills required for the coal industry include not only trade skills, but professional skills, like engineers, geologists, environmentalists and accountants. It requires a proper workforce planning and skill development strategy to meet the industry’s short and long term demands. Australian Coal Mining Industry in the past, and even at the very moment, is still using an ad-hoc, inefficient type of planning because it is reactive and represents management-by-crisis (Stone, 2008). Mining companies have commenced working with universities and other skills training centers to prepare their workforce. However, skill development and gaining hands-on work experience is known to be very time-dependent. It results in a lag to accommodate the industry growth. I remember the General Manager at Dawson Mine, Moura, Queensland once stated

‘We have started apprentice programs again for the past few years, but it is a bit too late. Really, it is our fault for not training enough people’.

2.2Attracting and Retaining Work Force

The increased production at my mine site coupled with the general expansion of the industry has increased the number of people employed. In turn this has created a shortage in housing. The current town that is supplying accommodation for my mine site also supplies accommodation for another two mine sites. The town; however, contracted during the mining industry downturn phase. Mining companies apparently failed to plan far ahead enough to meet the current pressing demands for accommodation closed to sites from an increasing number of coal workers and their families. Having sufficient and affordable accommodation poses another challenge for coal mining companies when they try to attract and retain quality labour. Employers have to incorporate housing benefits or allowance for accommodation in designing the overall compensation package.

The lack of suitable and affordable accommodation closed to the worksites has resulted in many workers choosing DIDO/FIFO (Drive-In – Drive-Out / Fly-In – Fly-Out) options. This increased safety risks of driver sleepiness as a function of the work schedule. Although the safety issue may not be the full responsibility of Human Resource, the design...
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