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Landmark AWU deal with Rio Tinto gives greater job security for workers

18 February, 2014IndustriALL has welcomed a breakthrough deal by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) with mining and metals giant Rio Tinto, which will provide better job security for workers.

IndustriALL affiliate, AWU, has struck a landmark workplace agreement with Rio Tinto covering employees at the company’s Bell Bay aluminum smelter in Tasmania. 

The agreement, which was approved by a ballot of workers, means guaranteed pay rises are waived in return for greater job security, with certain conditions of employment protection no longer at the discretion of the company.

Bell Bay became the first major plant in Australia to be deunionised in 1994. A year ago, negotiations between AWU and Rio Tinto resumed after Fair Work Australia found that the majority of Bell Bay workers wanted to collectively bargain for pay and conditions.

AWU national secretary and IndustriALL Executive Committee member, Paul Howes, said the agreement provided certainty for the workers “without creating any adverse working conditions that would damage the company’s performance.” Adding that the agreement “acted as a role model for how workers and employers can work together during tough economic times to make these plants more productive.”

The deal, which has been praised by both AWU and Rio Tinto for its flexibility, comes against a background of falling aluminum prices and a strong Australian dollar, which has had a negative impact on the sector in the country.

Workers will now benefit from redundancy payments above the statutory minimum, medical insurance for families and singles, death and disability payments equal to the employee’s base salary, as well as private arbitration of grievances that cannot be resolved internally.

Rio Tinto is the focus of a sustained campaign by IndustriALL to introduce greater unionisation and better rights for workers at the company and its many subsidiaries around the world.

Claiming to abide by good corporate practice, Rio Tinto’s conduct includes major disputes with trade unions, communities, indigenous peoples and regulatory authorities.

Glen Mpufane, Director of Mining at IndustriALL said:

We welcome this milestone agreement between AWU and Rio Tinto. It is a huge achievement for AWU and proves that collective bargaining is the only way to truly protect workers’ rights. We hope that this landmark achievement will demonstrate to Rio Tinto that trade unions are good for business. We look forward to further successes in the future.