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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Australian Workers Union and Rio Tinto

Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union says that monkeys could do a better job of managing Rio Tinto. He accuses Rio’s Chief Executive Tom Albanese of “sucking out the blood, sweat and tears of blue-collar workers”

At the union’s national conference at the Gold Coast, he told delegates that he had a message for Rio Tinto – “You don’t own this government and you don’t own this country anymore, your workforce has the right to be represented. You cannot hide behind your slimy, grubby mates in the Coalition because we’re coming after you. We are going to take Rio Tinto on and we are going to make sure that they pay a liveable wage to the workers who make the wealth that these shiny arses sitting in the boardroom in London enjoy”. Wow, tell us what you really think Paul.

Delegates endorsed plans to try to unionise every section of the aluminium and glass industries, with Rio operations in Launceston and Gladstone targeted. He also nominated BHP Billiton's Worsley Alumina refinery and its Olympic Dam project.

Last year an anti-mining tax campaign war was waged by Rio, BHP and Xstrata against Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd and Howe's union was a strong backer of the government’s 40 per cent super profits tax which cost Kevin Rudd his job. Wayne Swan gave a speech at the conference, singing the praises of the oldest union in Australia, but left before Howes made his threatening comments.

Rio was the first major mining company to place its workforce on individual contracts and refused to deal with unions and they say this has resulted in 15 years of strike free harmony at its Pilbara sites. But it seems that the union shot itself in the foot when workers at the Rober River iron ore site went on strike in the mid 1980s because some flavours of ice-cream were not available in the canteen.

A Rio spokesman said the company "recognises every employee's right to choose to join a union or not join a union" and went on "We do not monitor the level of union membership in our businesses," He said unions had failed to lift membership because employees were highly paid and had high safety standards in their workplace: "Employers have worked hard to ensure employees are safe at work and well remunerated."

Mr Howes said the AWU was growing fast and has recruited an extra 30,000 members over the past three years.