Mining union wins court battle, warns of more industrial action

Following a successful legal attack on Rio Tinto, the mining union has warned more companies will face more industrial action if they fail to negotiate successfully.

Divisional secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union Kevin Reynolds told The West Australian businesses who refused to bargain with employees on non-union agreements would be in trouble.

The union were awarded the right to bargain about future pay and conditions on behalf of workers at Rio Tinto’s Pilbara operations this week, after the Federal Court ruled an existing non-union collective agreement made in 2008 invalid.

There are unconfirmed rumours the mining giant is considering a High Court appeal against the decision.

Some industry insiders are concerned the decision will return the mining sector to the industrial havoc it experienced in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Yesterday Reynolds said the government is trying to destroy the CFMEU and other unions with fines and legal actions.

He said it is crucial for unions to be able to conduct protected industrial action, which can only be done with the support of workers.

"The companies have to understand that we will use protected action to its fullest and we just suggest they negotiate," he said.

"Provided the companies negotiate in good faith, as they are required to do under the act, they do not have a problem."

The CFMEU has been instrumental in the workers strikes at BHP Billiton mines in the Bowen Basin, calling for more job security and involvement in rosters.

Rio Tinto Pilbara operations manager Greg Lilleyman said thousands of employees joined the company under the 2008 agreement and the court decision would have no effect on their terms and conditions.

"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," Lilleyman said.

 Image: Melbourne Protests Weblog

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.