“I don’t feel free here” – Labour Minister complains during visit to Troy Resources
A visit to the operations of Australian mining company, Troy Resources at Karouni, Region Seven by Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton has aroused “serious concerns for the welfare of more than 300 employees.”
During the four-hour visit on Wednesday, the Minister said he felt “tense and pensive” from the moment he arrived. He departed after describing the camp as “combustible with intimidation.”
“I don’t know if I should say it, but I feel like in the days when you go to communist countries and the miners take you around…I don’t feel free here,” he said while in talks with employees and management.
The Minister did not receive any complaints from the small number of employees he was allowed to engage. He said, however, that the visit by himself and a small team from the Ministry was prompted by complaints received prior to the visit.
Minister Hamilton also said he found it difficult to believe the perfect picture that management was painting.
“I can’t leave here persuaded that there are no worker-related problems. It is unacceptable that there will be no problems. There must be problems…the company can continue to believe there are no problems, but I believe there are problems because regularly the people who work here and their families send me messages,” he added.
Hamilton, in scathing remarks to management present during the visit, said the employees seemed intimated. He was personally concerned with the fact that there was no union or representative body for the workers.
“I can’t comprehend how nobody that works here thinks they should be represented,” Minister Hamilton said as he encouraged management to do what is necessary to facilitate a worker representative organisation.
“It makes business sense than to have 100 persons coming to say the same thing; it’s better to have one or two,” he added.
Currently, workers at the Karouni, Region Seven operation work twelve hours per day.
On this note, Hamilton sought to remind that the law permits eight hours of work daily and any time above that should be regarded as overtime and paid accordingly.
During the Minister’s tirade, both employees and management stood silent with blank looks on their faces.
The News Room subsequently spoke with General Manager of Operations, Colin Connors who said that he welcomes the suggestions made by the Minster, describing it as a “great thing for the business.”
“We welcome those suggestions for ways to improve and engage with the entire workforce. The success of the operation and the company hinges on several things but one of them is an engaged workforce,” Connors told the News Room.
Connors, who took up the post on November 1, 2020, was asked specifically if there were any humans resource-related issues at the Hicks Camp.
“I’m not saying there aren’t issues here, there are problems that occur in any kind of environment. There are operational challenges. I’m still new to the organisation and I’m still learning,” the General Manager said.
Altogether, he considered the visit by Minister Hamilton to be “excellent”; one that presented the opportunity to further build a relationship with the Ministry of Labour.
Minister Hamilton and Connors had lunch together where the two talked privately about the concerns.