Rio Tinto loses High Court union fight
RIO Tinto has lost a bid to keep using non-unionised workers in Western Australia's Pilbara, a decision a lawyer for the world's third-biggest miner said could affect other companies.
RIO Tinto has lost a bid to keep using non-unionised workers in Western Australia's Pilbara, a decision a lawyer for the world's third-biggest miner said could affect other companies.The High Court yesterday rejected the miner's request for a full hearing as it attempted to overturn last year's appeal court ruling that invalidated its agreements with railway workers and could give unions more leverage to represent other employees. John West, Rio Tinto's lawyer, said failure to overturn the appeal court decision would affect about 3000 workers who have contracts with BHP Billiton and HWE Mining."Their agreements have evaporated," Mr West said. "All someone has to do now is sue."Rio Tinto's attempt to stem the influence of unions at its mines is part of a bigger battle between labour, pressing to entrench workers' bargaining rights, and business, which claims current laws stifle productivity. The government, which re-introduced worker safeguards in 2009, is reviewing legislation, with a report due by the end of May."Five years ago Australia was one of the cheapest places in the world for us to do business, today it's one of the most expensive," Rio Tinto's chief executive Tom Albanese said.The news ended a tough week for Australia's big miners. Rio Tinto shares dropped 2.3 per cent to $69.98 and BHP Billiton shed 2.3 per cent to close at $36.30. Fortescue Metals lost 2.8 per cent to $5.24.