1 June 2010 - ETU expulsion threat is overbearing

The uranium industry has strongly rejected union claims that radiation exposure represents a serious health risk for workers.

The Queensland and Northern Territory division of the Electrical Trades Union is using alarmist claims about radiation health risks to justify threats to expel union members who take or keep jobs in the uranium mining industry.

Radiation dose information for workers at the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory shows the average worker dose in 2009 was about one twentieth of the maximum permitted in international standards and under Australian law. [1] The performance of other Australian uranium mines is similar.

“Uranium mines are safe workplaces. Mine operators and mine employees work together, using the right equipment and designated procedures, to ensure that radiation exposure is kept to the minimum. That is standard practice in our industry,” said Michael Angwin, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Uranium Association.

“Given that, we’re puzzled about why the ETU is taking this position at this time, especially as the Australian Government is establishing a national radiation dose register to support further the very good radiation management practices already in place,” Mr Angwin said.

“We’re puzzled for another reason. The ETU’s threat to expel its members appears to be a potential contravention of the Fair Work Act, which makes it an offence for a union to coerce or take adverse action against union members,” Mr Angwin said.

“The Fair Work Act emphasises the rights of individual workers and protects them from overbearing actions of employers or unions,” he said. “That’s the community expectation nowadays and the ETU’s approach is surprisingly at odds with that”.



[1]The International Commission on Radiation Protection sets the following maximum permissible annual radiation doses:

Member of the public: 1 milliSievert

Non-designated uranium worker: 5 milliSieverts

Designated uranium worker: 20 millisieverts per year over five years with a maximum 50 milliSieverts in any one year.

During 2009, 319 designated uranium workers at the Ranger mine received a mean radiation dose of 1.1 milliSieverts. The mean radiation dose for non-designated uranium workers at Ranger was 0.7 milliSievert