Some of the employee bargaining claims currently being made at a Rio Tinto operation are incredible.
Speaking at a Minerals Council conference in Canberra this week, Rio Tinto’s managing director for Australia, Phil Edmands said while it is important to respect an employee’s right to bargain, there are some instances in the company where ridiculous demands draw out the process unnecessarily.
“Certain labour market principles have been hard fought and long established. Rio Tinto firmly believes they must be respected, protected and preserved,” he said.
“These include the freedom to bargain, the freedom to be represented individually or collectively in that process, and the freedom to belong to unions and to be represented by them.
“But the system should limit the ability of ambit claims to cause delay and damage labour market flexibility.”
Boosting labour market flexibility is one strategy Rio said could be used to boost an operation’s productivity, something that is critical with a number of mines suffering margin pressures climbing.
“There is no way to achieve increased productivity without changes that affect the way we employ and deploy labour,” he said.
Currently negotiations over employment conditions in some cases at Rio is happening “in jobs that could be eradicated forever by market forces and lack of competitiveness,” Edmands said.
Some of the claims currently being put forward in one of Rio’s Enterprise Bargaining processes include:
Edmands recognised employees are entitled to put forward whatever demands they like but said industrial relations processes needs to be discussed.
“More broadly we need to get past industrial relations being a topic too hot to handle – so that we can have a sensible and robust debate over what is actually needed,” he said.
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