Miners to work on 14/14 roster

2020   |   November - December   |  034

The Parliament is set to pass the updated and revised bill for the Labor Law. The new bill has introduced a new concept that touches on miners’ rights: working on rosters. Despite being in practice previously, this is the first time the term “roster” is becoming enacted officially by law. 

Such strict enforcement of rostering on a mine site has created misunderstandings and a rift among employers and trade unions. While mining managements are critical of this decision, trade unions are supportive on the other hand. It has led to a substantial debate on roster duration at the Parliamentary taskforce and the standing commission.  

MP Ts. Munkh-Orgil remarked “Trade unions and employers have submitted proposals on many issues in addition to the roster, followed by numerous discussions in the past six years leading to the ongoing development of this bill by the cabinet, trade unions, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Mongolian Employers’ Federation. Overall, we have compiled the interests of all stakeholders and reached the stage for reachable negotiation.” According to him “Although it’s not possible to satisfy both the trade unions and employers 100 percent, the regulation of the law is keeping a strong balance”. 

While possible overtime for miners on the 20/10 roster is estimated to be 806 hours, the overtime on the proposed 14/14 roster goes down to 200 hours.

When the bill was submitted, the maximum length of the roster period was set as 20 days and a minimum length of the rest and recovery period was 10 days. However, the trade unions proposed a 14-day work and 14-day off (R&R) roster option.

Employers argued that such a strict roster could prove infeasible depending on the different mines and proposed a “maximum workdays and minimum R&R days” arrangement. For companies, the 14/14 rostering poses the necessity to increase their workforces and organize more frequent roster changes for most mines. Regardless, the Standing Committee on Social Policy of the Parliament has refused to accept this proposal by the National Mining Association after discussing it at the session.

Furthermore, while possible overtime for miners on the 20/10 roster is estimated to be 806 hours, the overtime on the proposed 14/14 roster goes down to 200 hours. As miners’ overtime opportunity goes down four times, their salaries could be reduced by 35-40 percent. Therefore, there are people among miners who oppose the particular clause in the new bill for this reason. Meanwhile, the trade unions are united in their position that employees should prioritize time with their family and their familial duties rather than salary, says N. Eldev-Ochir, Director of the Trade Union at Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi LLC. According to him, common roster arrangements among Mongolian mining companies are 28/14, 20/10, and 14/7.        

Meanwhile, Australia organizes its mining rosters more openly, mainly on 4/3, 8/6, 9/5, 12/9, and 14/7 roster arrangements. Australian miners’ most favored option is the 8/6 roster (eight days working and six days resting and recovering). The 2017 poll from Mining People International showed that 30.21 percent of participants chose this option as the most appropriate, while 25.85 percent preferred the 14-days on and 14-days off option. Although it wasn’t elaborated as to why this option was favored the most, it’s possible that it guarantees the best work and life balance, noted Shane Moore, General Manager at Mining People International.   

“If you are based in the state you are working in, it means you get a good break for your ‘R&R’ (rest and relaxation). From an employer’s perspective that healthy work/life balance is good news, too. Happy workers can be more productive. There’s potentially less sick leave taken and a lower turnover of staff on this kind of roster than a two-weeks-on, one-week-off roster.”

But 14/7 rosters weren’t exactly unpopular: it was the second-most favored roster option. Moore said 14/7 rosters were more likely to appeal to the younger generation of workers who don’t have too many responsibilities at home, like young families. Quite often, he said, the 8/6 roster appeals to those who’ve “done their time” on the longer, harder roster. A longer survey with more questions could confirm this speculation. For mining companies working out which rosters they should introduce at their projects, a deeper understanding of which kinds of rosters attract which kinds of could be a handy data point for their planning.

One flaw in the revised Labor Law is the complete absence of research on miners’ rosters. Looking at the above study on Australian miners, the rosters are more diverse due to factors such as age, marital status, the proximity of their families to the mine, and the characteristics of the mine itself. Thus, there’s no clear answer to the question of how appropriate the strict arrangement of rosters in the new law is.   

Lawmakers who are in support of the 14/14 roster for mining employees as specified in the revised bill of the Labor Law consider that despite increased costs for employers, over 50 thousand new jobs will be created and more job opportunities provided for rural communities under this new arrangement. 


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