The Guardian August 1, 2001


Rio Tinto guilty again

Mining giant Rio Tinto has lodged an appeal against the decision by the 
Australian Industrial Relations Commission that the company must reinstate 
11 sacked workers at its Hunter Valley No 1 mine in NSW. The Commission 
found that the workers, sacked by Rio Tinto in 1998, had been unfairly, 
harshly and unjustly terminated. Another 97 workers sacked on the same day 
stand to gain from the decision.

The Mining Division of the CFMEU said that the dismissed workers have 
families to support and that in appealing against the decision Rio Tinto is 
perpetuating the hardship they and the local community have suffered due to 
the conduct of the company.

The decision means Rio Tinto will have to pay the 108 coal miners up to $20 
million in back pay. The union is continuing its fight for the 
reinstatement of 84 workers sacked from Rio Tinto's Mount Thorley mine, 
also in the Hunter Valley.

It is the second such decision against the company this year. In April the 
Commission ordered the reinstatement, with full back pay, of 16 coalminers 
at its Blair Athol operations in Queensland, also sacked in 1998.

The sackings are part of Rio Tinto's anti-union vendetta. In the case of 
the Blair Athol workers, the Commission found they were victims of a 
company-sanctioned conspiracy and that there existed a secret black list to 
victimise the 16.

On October 20, 1998, at Hunter Valley No 1 miners were confronted by 20 
security guards when they turned up for work. The guards escorted them away 
from the mine, telling them they no longer had a job.

The union has called on Rio Tinto to begin fresh negotiations at the three 
mines now that it has been found guilty of victimising coalminers in 
Queensland and NSW. 

Responding to the company's appeal against the Hunter Valley No 1 decision, 
CFMEU Northern District President, Mick Watson, said, "Rio Tinto has shown 
total disregard for these people and their communities by not accepting the 
Commission's decision and reinstating the employees with back pay as 
ordered.

"I call on Rio Tinto to do what is right and accept the umpire's decision 
and reinstate the dismissed employees."

Back to index page