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AWU WA Branch Secretary visits Tom Price and Paraburdoo sites

November 13, 2020

AWU WA Branch Secretary Brad Gandy recently visited the Pilbara to meet with members of the Western Mine Workers’ Alliance (WMWA) and visit workers from Rio Tinto and BHP mine sites – Tom Price and Area C.

Brad Gandy speaking to WMWA members

The WMWA is a partnership between the Australian Workers’ Union and the CFMEU Mining & Energy Division. The Alliance strives to improve the working lives of employees of the world’s largest iron ore miners – Rio Tinto and BHP.

Mr Gandy was able to hear how Pilbara regional organisers Andy Smith and Yola Bakker have built the WMWA to the biggest it has ever been, living and working from the remote mining towns of Tom Price, Paraburdoo and Newman.

Mr. Gandy said: “The Alliance is committed to fighting for our workers’ jobs wherever they may live. It is important for us to be present and part of the communities which we are fighting to improve.

We have a strong team in Andy and Yola who live and breathe the Pilbara and work tirelessly to get a better deal for Rio Tinto and BHP Pilbara workers on FIFO or residential sites.”

Visiting Tom Price and Area C mine sites, Mr Gandy was able to hear directly from workers about the issues they are facing.

“The site visits offered me a great opportunity to see firsthand the difference in the way that Rio Tinto and BHP operate as employers and how their wages and conditions vary from site to site.”

Mr Gandy also met with members between shifts on Tuesday and Thursday night adding:

“I was impressed by the commitment of the WMWA members who attended the members meetings. These workers undertake long hours, waking at 4:00am and getting home at 6:30pm but still managed to muster the energy to come and engage with me.

“It was moving to see WMWA members outwardly express their appreciation for Andy and Yola’s dedication to the cause, giving testimonies of just how hard they work and, more importantly, care.”

WMWA Organisers Andy and Yola when asked about the future of the Alliance:

“We take great pride in supporting the alliance as it continues to grow and further expand into BHP and Rio Tinto sites and, with the iron ore price currently through the roof, we will support WMWA members on site by pressuring Rio Tinto and BHP to pass this onto our members through decent pay increases.

“We will be keeping an eye on Rio Tinto’s load and haul automation processes in order to ensure the protection of our members’ jobs are at the forefront as well as the adequate provision of training opportunities.

“Finally, we are focused on rebuilding and resetting the industry standards to those previously experienced in the Pilbara and limiting the impact of ‘traineeships’ on the base rates of pay for mine workers on BHP sites.”

On behalf of the Alliance Brad thanked the members for their hard work building the alliance to the biggest it’s ever been and acknowledged the unique situation facing both the residential and FIFO workers working in Tom Price and Paraburdoo:

“There is no group of workers more important than the members of the Western Mine Workers’ Alliance to WA’s economic recovery post COVID-19.

These men and women continue to work long hours in isolated communities often thousands of kilometres away from loved ones so that Western Australia’s economy can keep on moving.

“It was thanks to their hard work that the State Government was able to produce a substantial budget surplus on the back of a much larger than expected $950 million iron ore royalties this year.

“The Western Mine Workers’ Alliance is integral to ensuring these hard-working miners’ jobs are secure and that their safety and mental health is put before profits.

“On behalf of Greg Busson and myself, thank you to every Western Mine Worker who met with me this week, making the trip such a pleasure and building the WMWA to what it is today.”

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