Strike over 'discrimination' at Blair Athol Mine
AT LEAST 30 workers at Rio Tinto's Blair Athol Mine will launch a three-shift strike from Tuesday morning as they protest what they believe is discrimination between contractors and union members.
It will likely be a final hoorah for the union at the site, with Rio planning to mothball the project on November 23 after 28 years in operation.
Once shut, a skeleton crew of about 30 will remain to run the coal handling plant retained by the nearby Clermont mine.
The CFMEU has attacked Rio on the grounds that a side-by-side comparison of redundancy payments after a career at the mine showed contractors could be entitled to $100,000 more than their unionised colleagues.
Contract workers have traditionally been paid at a premium at mines, often sacrificing job security for a slightly higher wage.
A Rio Tinto spokesman said those on the collective agreement had been given secure working conditions and benefits throughout the life of the operation.
"Rio Tinto believes the proposed agreement, as a whole, including the redundancy payments, are fair."
The union has also announced it is considering its legal options in challenging the redundancies offered in the midst of discussions on the enterprise agreement.
"Workers don't take the prospect of strike action lightly," Mr Power said.
"But when faced with a much lower redundancy package than someone they've worked alongside for years, these workers are determined to tell Rio that the company can't get away with this parting shot of discrimination."
Mr Power said it amounted to a short-changing of workers when the company needed to cut costs.
Another 15 workers may join the stoppage from affiliated unions.
The Rio spokesman said it planned to minimise disruptions by using the rest of the workforce.
When its impending closure was announced in August, 170 were employed at the mine.