Rio Tinto loses High Court battle with unions

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Rio Tinto has lost a High Court battle over bypassing unions in negotiations with workers on its Pilbara iron ore operations.

The ruling marks the end of a long running battle over a 2008 agreement Rio made with workers.

The decision represents a strengthening union presence in the Pilbara, and has significant impactions for Rio’s Pilbara rival BHP Billiton, which has also employed similar contracts on some of its sites.

According to Reuters Rio Tinto head of Pilbara operations Greg Lilleyman said the court’s ruling would have no impact on workers.

"As has been the case, since the decision was made last year, employees that were covered by the PIEA (Pilbara Iron Ore Employees Agreement) will continue to receive the same pay and conditions as they had before," he said.

Rio‘s non-union contract was designed during the transition of Federal laws from Work Choices to Labor’s Fair Work Act.

According to The Australian, the Australian Mines and Metals Association CEO Steve Knott said the rules would add to the "pain and misery" of mining companies operating under complex workplace laws.

But ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence welcomed the High Court’s decision and said collective bargaining was the "foundation of our workplace relations system".

The decision comes as unionised workers on BMA’s Queensland coal mines again voted to carry out industrial action this week.

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