Rio Tinto has blamed the unions for falling productivity and has called for urgent action to address workplace laws, taxation and foreign workers.
Speaking at a mining conference in Perth, Rio’s Australia chief David Peever described the issues of unions as an ‘elephant in the room’ and accused the Australian government of taking its ‘eye off the ball’.
"Reform of the Fair Work Act needs to go much further than has so far been flagged by the government," Peever said.
"Direct engagement between companies and employees, flexibility and the need for improved productivity has to be at the heart of the system.
"Only then can productivity and innovation be liberated from the shop floor up, and without the competing agenda of a third party constantly seeking to extend its reach into areas best left to management."
The comments come after around 30 workers at Rio’s Blair Athol coal mine in Queensland announced they would strike over a pay dispute with the miner.
The CFMEU says non-union members, who are on individual agreements, have been offered larger redundancy payouts and have threatened to take the company to court if the pay dispute is not resolved.
Peever also took aim at the government, saying Australia was one of the most expensive places to operate and that changes to taxation, foreign worker deals and regulatory reforms were required.
''Interventions like the recent increase in Queensland coal royalties and the more perverse aspects of the carbon tax, most notably the discriminatory inclusion of fugitive emissions from coal, will help strangle the sector if they are not addressed. Restoring investment certainty around the fiscal regime is an urgent imperative,'' he said.
However, Rio remains committed to its iron ore projects in Western Australia and plans to spend $16 billion to increase Pilbara iron ore production to 353 million tonnes a year by mid-2015.
Image: WA Today