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CFMEU strikes at Rio Tinto mine

14 November, 2012Mining giant Rio Tinto is showing its anti-union character once again. In closing its Australian Blair Athol mine the company is paying lower redundancy packages to CFMEU union members than to other workers.

The discriminatory measure is being countered by three consecutive shift-length work stoppages across 36 hours at the mine on 13-14 November. The thermal coal mine in central Queensland’s Bowen Basin is closing operations on 23 November after 30 years, letting go almost 170 workers. The mine was once Australia’s largest thermal coal export mine.

The IndustriALL-affiliated CFMEU called the low redundancy payments a "parting shot of discrimination”.

On the overwhelming vote in favour of industrial action, CFMEU District Vice President Glenn Power stated:

All our members are looking for is equality. Workers don't take the prospect of strike action lightly, but when faced with a much lower redundancy package than someone they've worked alongside for years, these workers are determined to tell Rio that the company can't get away with this.

As CFMEU members downed tools at Blair Athol, Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever called for unions to be kicked out of workplaces all together with reform of the Fair Work Act,

Direct engagement between companies and employees, flexibility and the need for improved productivity has to be at the heart of the system. Only then can productivity and innovation be liberated from the shop floor up, and without the competing agenda of a third party constantly seeking to extend its reach into areas best left to management.

Rio Tinto, the world's second biggest iron ore producer, continues toward plans to spend almost AUS$16 billion to increase iron ore production in Australia’s Pilbara to 353 million tonnes a year by mid-2015. Rio Tinto is a “repeat offender” that has a pattern of destructive behaviour across the globe.