Rio Tinto’s economists should check their facts: Union

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The CFMEU has rubbished Rio Tinto’s assurance that automation won’t kill jobs, and labeled a report backing the company’s claims biased, misleading, and wrong.

Yesterday Rio Tinto approved a $483 million plan to introduce driverless trains to its iron ore operations in the Pilbara.

After the announcement Rio Tinto Pilbara operations president Greg Lilleyman said while some jobs would change overall employment in the industry would grow with automation.

Earlier this month a report by BAEconomics commissioned by Rio backed the company’s claims and said fears about automation killing jobs were "misplaced".

But yesterday WA CFMEU Mining Division secretary Gary Wood told Australian Mining the report was misleading.

"It assumes continued growth in the industry, but without that there would be a significant loss of jobs," he said.

Wood also said the report’s claims automation would be good for worker safety were "nonsense".

"They’re grasping at straws with the safety argument," he said.

"They should research the amount of truck drivers that have been killed in the last ten to 15 years."

"Where the fatalities happen are in the workshops where people work on the machinery, and with autonomous vehicles that will continue to be the case."

Wood told Australian Mining Rio Tinto needed to "come clean" over its move into automation.

"Tom Albanese has already said that Rio Tinto is looking to reduce labour costs, and the way they’re looking to do that is with automation," he said.

Wood said mining companies should focus on training to fill worker shortages instead of investing millions on autonomous technology.

"If you want to talk about the skills shortage then let’s call a spade a spade," he said.

"Many Australians would love a chance to work in the mining industry, so it’s a fallacy to say there are not enough workers out there."

"Maybe with the higher skilled positions this is true, but not for other jobs."

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