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Mine Unions Pressure Super Funds over Rio

February 10, 2022

Mine unions want super funds to question Rio Tinto over bullying and harassment

The Western Mine Workers’ Alliance is calling on Australia’s largest superannuation funds to pressure Rio Tinto over the mining giant’s appalling workplace culture and profit-at-all-costs approach.

The WMWA has written to 13 super funds covering more than 6.5 million Australian members. The funds, each identified as having a Rio Tinto stake, are required to exercise their powers in the best interests of their members.

A recent by report by Elizabeth Broderick found that of all Rio Tinto’s global divisions, bullying and sexual harassment were highest in its iron ore division, in Western Australia’s Pilbara. More than half of those iron ore employees reported experiencing bullying and one third of the women experienced sexual harassment.

As key shareholders in Rio Tinto, each superannuation fund “has a key role in guiding Rio Tinto’s corporate behaviour and setting a high expectation for governance in the organisation,” Australian Workers’ Union National Secretary Dan Walton says in a joint letter to the chairs, CEOs and investment managers of each fund.

“We encourage you to challenge Rio Tinto’s leadership and ask what concrete steps they are taking to resolve these systemic cultural issues.”

The Broderick report backs up the findings of a worker survey conducted by the WMWA last year across Rio Tinto Pilbara iron ore mines, which reported:

  • One in five women said they had experienced physical acts of sexual assault.
  • One in three women said they had received requests for sexual favours, and repeated invitations to engage in sexual relationships.
  • Most workers (men and women) did not believe that the work culture protects workers from sexual harassment.

Mining and Energy Union President Tony Maher says Rio Tinto still refuses to engage or consult directly with its workers and representatives to discuss collaborative solutions to issues such as these.

“We have sounded concerns for several years about Rio Tinto’s failure to appropriately respond to bullying and harassment in the workplace,” Mr Maher says in the letter.

“There are particular historical factors contributing to Rio Tinto’s workplace culture that stem from their ‘direct engagement’ philosophy, which puts workers at the mercy of their immediate supervisor for their livelihoods.

“It removed a collective voice for workers and discouraged difficult issues like bullying from being raised.”

The Western Mine Workers’ Alliance is an agreement between the Australian Workers’ Union and the Mining and Energy Union.

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