Rio union battle to go global

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) has taken its battle with Rio Tinto Alcan to a new level.

The AWU has begun preparing a report to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to garner the support of unions around the world to put pressure onto Rio.

Rio Tinto Alcan has allegedly breached ILO conventions via its conduct at its Bell Bay aluminium smelter in Tasmania.

Unions from as far flung as Brazil, France, Britain, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the US as well as the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF), have sent letters to Rio’s CEO Tom Albanese, demanding the miner recognise labour standards.

AWU national secretary Paul Howes said that "while top Rio management in Europe will now be asked to respond to the intimidation of workers in Tasmania the local Rio management has not responded to a single letter from the AWU asking them about this issue – they haven’t even bothered to confirm they have our letters.”

The AWU claim that the Bell Bay employees have been “harassed and intimidated’ due to their union links.

Some of the alleged intimidation included workers being paid $20 000 less than their mainland compatriots, as well as denying employees access to a crib room to meet on health and safety issues.

IMF general secretary Jyrki Raina called on Albanese to “immediately intervene to ensure that these workers are allowed to form a union, free from the intimidation of management, and negotiate a collective agreement if they so wish," according to The Australian.

Rio Tinto Alcan spokesperson Bruce Tobin told The Australian that the miner “respects the rights of any worker to join a union,” and that “Rio Tinto will not tolerate any intimidation or harassment in the workplace and the company has never stopped an employee from talking to union officials at Bell Bay.”

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