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Rio Tinto responsible for wage theft in Australian waters

8 July, 2015The crew of a ship chartered by Rio Tinto has reportedly received no wages for months and has been forced to live and work in filthy conditions.

This apparent wage theft and abuse of workers shipping bauxite for Rio Tinto highlights problems with the company’s use of precarious work.

The ship was chartered by Rio Tinto as a coastal trader to carry bauxite from its Weipa and Gove bauxite mines to its Yarwun alumina refinery, to remain in Australian waters. It is Japanese-owned, registered in Panama, operated out of Portugal, and crewed solely by Filipino workers.

“Not content to employ seafarers from poverty-riddled nations on wages that amount to just $2 per hour, the operator of this ship has not paid a single cent in wages to these crew members since April,” said International Transport Workers’ Federation’s Dean Summers, who recently inspected the ship.

While outsourcing shipping of its bauxite, Rio Tinto is currently reducing employment of train operators to move its product in Australia.

“If Rio Tinto wanted to transport this bauxite by road or rail, they’d need to pay Australian minimum wages and adhere to Australian health and safety regulations, but because they transport it by sea they can avoid those requirements and slash costs,” Summers said.

Rio Tinto’s use of outsourcing and other forms of precarious employment has recently come under fire at the company’s annual meetings of shareholders.

Rio Tinto claims to take responsibility for its direct and indirect employees, but the fact that this apparent wage theft only came to light through a union inspection makes it clear that the company is failing to police its supply chain,

stated IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan.

IndustriALL calls on Rio Tinto to ensure that the affected workers are immediately paid all wages they are due. We also call on the company to reduce its use of precarious employment which aims to weaken unions and undermine workers’ conditions. And we call on Rio Tinto to improve its woefully inadequate public disclosure on its use of precarious work,

added Özkan.