Rio Tinto is facing a heated discrimination suit after redundant workers allege the company made redundancy payments of up to $120,000 more to non-union member workers.
The legal challenge has come about following the closure of a central Queensland coalmine last year – according to reports, it is claimed the company discriminated between union and non-union miners by giving workers on individual contracts more than those represented by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
It is not the first time Rio Tinto has faced off against the CFMEU. Last year the union took Rio Tinto to court over similar claims which arose when the company was preparing to close the Blair Athol coalmine, also in central Queensland.
In its claim filed in the New South Wales Federal Court, the CFMEU is alleging Rio Tinto breached four sections of the Fair Work Act by discriminating against members of an industrial association.
The union is seeking penalties against Rio Tinto as well as compensation for 29 members made redundant when the mine closed. It has also applied for any penalties imposed on Rio Tinto to be paid to the CFMEU.
A spokesman for Rio Tinto told Fairfax that employees at Blair Athol chose to work under the collective agreement or on individual arrangements. ''Employees who chose to be on the collective agreement benefited from a number of secure working conditions and benefits over many years. Redundancy payments were made in accordance with the employee's conditions of employment, which Rio Tinto believes was fair,'' he said.