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Pilbara union critical

A PROPOSED deal between Rio Tinto and the national office of the Australian Workers Union could spell an end to union plans to reunionise parts of the Pilbara.

The AWU is negotiating a Federal award with Rio Tinto over that company’s Hamersley Iron operations.

It is understood the deal will give the AWU access to Hamersley employees, both at induction and on-site, and also provide for joint training of the employees.

That award deal threatens to derail an attempt by the State branches of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, the AWU, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union to secure a State award for those sites.

Those unions had been working through an organisation known as the Pilbara Mineworkers Union and was taking a softly-softly approach towards getting workers at those mines to start ‘thinking union’ again.

The Rio-AWU deal is to be the focus of a meeting of the ACTU executive this week.

Unions WA secretary Stephanie Mayman said the unions’ plan for the Pilbara was still on track.

However, with the ink almost dry on the Rio deal, those plans seem to be in disarray.

PMU “organiser” Stewart Edwards is understood to have resigned his position and is expected to start a new position with the CEPU in New South Wales later this year. Some of the unions involved are saying that the union is dead.

It is no secret that AWU State secretary Tim Daly was suspicious of the alliance.

Mr Daly told WA Business News that while the AWU had been happy to cooperate with other unions it was “not going to walk away from our area of coverage and hand it over to another union”.

He had been concerned that the mining division of the CFMEU would make a play for metalliferous mining – an area the AWU claims to cover.

“The desire for everyone is that it be possible to have sensible industrial relations without the excesses of the 1980s,” Mr Daly said.

CEPU organiser Shane O’Byrne said the AWU deal with Rio Tinto had angered a lot of the rank and file membership in the Pilbara.

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