The Guardian August 15, 2001


Rio Tinto's "corporate thuggery"

Hunter Valley coal mineworkers found to have been "unfairly dismissed" 
by Rio Tinto in October 1998 and their families protested in Sydney on 
August the 8th against the company as it seeks a stay order against the 
Industrial Commission's decision ordering their reinstatement with full 
back pay.

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission found Rio Tinto guilty of 
unfairly dismissing 11 coal mineworkers at its Hunter Valley No 1 mine on 
October 20, 1998. The Commission ordered their reinstatement  with full 
back pay. Ninety-seven other coal mineworkers were also dismissed by Rio 
Tinto at the same mine and at the same time using the same procedure. 

Tony Maher, CFMEU Mining and Energy Division General President said that 
"after their two-years-and- nine months ordeal, the Hunter Valley 
mineworkers had hoped that the Commission's July 9 decision would bring to 
an end the years of suffering and hardship that they and their families 
have endured since their unfair dismissal.

"However, Rio Tinto shattered this hope when it announced on July 24 that 
it would appeal against the decision. Rio Tinto will attempt to drive the 
knife in a bit deeper with an application for a stay order against the 
Commission's ruling until the appeal is heard.

"If Rio Tinto is successful, the unfairly dismissed Hunter Valley coal 
mineworkers would be deprived not only of the right to go back to work, but 
denied any payment by Rio Tinto until the appeal is decided. This would 
prolong their years of suffering and hardship by up to a further 12 
months", said Mr Maher.

"Corporate thuggery" is how Mr Maher described Rio Tinto's treatment of the 
Hunter Valley mineworkers.

"This is a $60 billion company that has just announced a more than $1.61 
billion profit for the past six months and it still vindictively pursues 
decent Australian workers and their families who are victims of the 
company's unfair practices".

"It is a disgrace. These families have suffered enough", stressed Tony 
Maher. He called on the company to abide by the Commission's decision.

In Central Queensland, another 16 coal mineworkers found to have been 
unfairly dismissed at Rio Tinto's Blair Athol operation are at least on the 
payroll while the company appeals against the Commission's decision that 
they too be reinstated with full back pay to July 1998.

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