Rio Tinto is challenging a High Court ruling that will allow the unions to operate in the iron ore operations it owns in Western Australia. If the ruling holds the unions will be allowed to bargain on issues of pay and work conditions for mine workers in the Pilbara region.
The decision of the Court has invalidated the non-union workplace agreements that the company had with mine workers in the region. The deals were based on the Australian Workplace Agreements which had been set up after the Labor Government came into power and banned such contracts in 2008 when they passed the Fair Work Act.
Now the company is appealing against the ruling which was given by the full bench of the Federal Court. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's (CFMEU) spokesperson Gary Wood said that Rio Tinto did not like to lose and added that expected the company to appeal the decision.
Mr Wood said that Rio went to great lengths to avoid provisions under Labor's Fair Work Act. CFMEU’s Kevin Reynolds was also encouraged by the decision of the court and warned mining companies of industrial action unless they negotiated in good faith.
Greg Lilleyman president of Pilbara Operations for Rio Tinto Iron Ore said "We are of course very disappointed with the outcome of today's decision. "It is essential that we properly review this decision and its implications and consider all of our options, which may include further appeal."
Mr Lilleyman commented that thousands of employees have chosen to join Rio Tinto under these terms and conditions. "I reassure all of these employees that there is no practical effect on their terms and conditions, which will continue to apply as they are now. "The last thing we want is to have uncertainty introduced during this period of growth in the Pilbara, both for the company and for Western Australia, and I hope the CFMEU recognises the importance of stability in the region," Mr Lilleyman said.
Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations include a network of 14 mines, three shipping terminals and the largest privately owned heavy freight rail network in Australia spanning more than 1,300 kilometres.