Job fears for Rio Tinto smelters

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The Australian Workers’ Union has called on the prospective owners of Rio Tinto Aluminium to guarantee the job security of workers at its aluminium smelters and refineries.

Yesterday Rio announced it would divest its interests in Australian and New Zealand aluminium assets because they no longer “aligned” with the company strategy.

The divested assets included the Gove Bauxite mine and alumina refinery; the Boyne smelters and the Gladstone Power Station; the Tomago smelter; and the Bell bay smelter, while in New Zealand it will divest the New Zealand Aluminium smelters.

AWU national secretary Paul Howes said nearly 5000 workers were employed in Rio’s five Australian facilities.

He said the union wanted to make sure the conditions of workers were transferred to the next buyer, and job security was guaranteed.

“We’ll be particularly interested in ensuring our members’ long service leave rights, continuous service, pay and shift rosters are protected,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Rio Tinto and the AWU had previously been involved in a long fight over worker pay at the Bell Bay aluminum smelter in Tasmania.

The AWU claimed Rio was breaking International Labour Organisation conventions and paying its employees considerably less than mainland workers.

But Rio always denied the claims, and said it respected the rights of workers to join a union.

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