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Class action probes unfair dismissals, poor employment environment

Rio Tinto female worker
A female mine worker

Several victims will share traumatic experiences from substandard work conditions at a mining giant.

Shine Lawyers recently launched a new class action investigation into alleged sexual harassment or discrimination at Rio Tinto.

Anyone who has been employed by the proponent, its subsidiaries or contractors on a full-time, part-time, casual or contracted basis is invited to register. The process is promised to be “confidential, no-cost, no-obligation”.

“If you have worked for Rio Tinto or any of its related subsidiaries, or worked on a mine site wholly or partly owned by Rio Tinto … and experienced sexual discrimination or sexual harassment at work (regardless of your gender) at any point in time, you are encouraged to register for this investigation,” the Shine website said.

“Please [feel] rest assured that your contact details will remain private.”

The law firm’s investigation will help determine whether Rio and related subsidiaries failed to take adequate steps to eliminate discrimination and sexual harassment “as far as possible” at mine sites. It will also estimate potential losses and damages to employees who suffered from sexual harassment, discrimination or anti-social behaviour due to “systems failure”.

Shine class actions practice leader Sarah Thompson revealed some complainants lost their job after reporting work incidents to their supervisors.

“Women have spoken out about instances of sexual abuse and assault and ultimately being driven out of the industry for speaking out. We cannot let any employer get away with this conduct without consequence,” she said according to News Limited.

Similar sentiments were echoed in the latest state of safety reporting culture in Queensland’s mining industry. The document urged WorkSafe Queensland, Resources Safety and Health Queensland and other industry watchdogs to refrain from punishing proponents that report more incidents. It also recommended recognising those who reinforce good safety behaviours, having senior management interact more with crew members and keeping reporting systems clear, easy, quick to use and accessible.

Rio, which confirmed that 21 women allegedly experienced actual and attempted rape or sexual assault within five years, stressed it still takes all concerns “very seriously”.

“We released an external review of our workplace culture as part of our commitment to drive meaningful change to create a safe, respectful and inclusive workforce. The Everyday Respect report included recommendations to ensure the cultural change we are making at Rio Tinto is implemented, embedded and its effectiveness monitored,” a spokesperson said according to the Australian Associated Press.

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