Miners spurn Rio Tinto offer

May 6, 1998


Miners spurn Rio Tinto offer

IN AN UNOFFICIAL secret ballot, 98% of workers at the Hunter Valley No. 1 coalmine voted on April 30 to reject a new enterprise agreement proposed by management.

The mine is owned by Rio Tinto, the world's biggest mining multinational. Rio Tinto has been attempting to de-unionise its Australian mines. The multinational's strong anti-union stance in many parts of the world has made it a target for a campaign by the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions.

At the meeting, the Hunter Valley miners analysed every aspect of the new agreement and found it would make each of them worse off by $14,000 dollars a year.

The mineworkers also condemned Rio Tinto's performance assessments. With 192 jobs to be cut in the next couple of months, mineworkers accused the company of "payback" in targeting union activists.

The assessments were "a sham", commented Tony Maher, vice-president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. "For example, we have one worker who is not only licensed to drive every piece of machinery at the mine, but was so highly valued by the company that he was used to train others. He is also a qualified mines rescue worker. His performance was marked 'poor'. Another worker, who has not lost a day in 20 years through injury, was also rated 'poor', requiring improvement in safety."

Maher said the assessments were a vendetta against union activists. "It's got nothing to do with real performance. It's a get-square and an attempt to intimidate workers into voting in favour of the company's proposed new agreement when the Australian Electoral Commission conducts a ballot at the mine from May 11 to 15."

The meeting unanimously supported a "no" vote in the forthcoming ballot and the CFMEU is confident that Rio Tinto's offer will be firmly rejected.

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