Rio Backs Down On Preference Dispute

Wednesday 29th January 2014

On the 16th of January 2014 the AWU lodged a dispute application in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) due to Rio Tinto’s failure to provide all relevant information to AWU members regarding the future structure of the Gove operations before they were forced to submit their preferences via the ‘My Future Plan’ (MFP) form.

On Tuesday January 28 AWU representatives Troy Spence (Metals and Construction District Secretary), Paul Farrow (AWU National Organiser) Barry Martin (AWU Organiser) and AWU Senior Site Delegate Garry Lynch attended a dispute conference at the FWC before Vice President Catanzariti.

Despite Rio Tinto advising members through their Q&A document that they would not be required to submit their final preferences via the MFP until the final structure was released, this had not occurred.

At this conference the AWU argued that all employees who wished to resubmit their preferences due to Rio Tinto's failure to provide the future structure should have the opportunity to do so. The union argued that it was completely inappropriate to have employees lock in their preferences without the employer providing any information about what the options may look like.

The AWU also pointed out that it was clear from the Gove Curtailment Question and Answers (Q&A) document at question 35, that Rio Tinto viewed the preferences provided via the MFP as binding and  that Rio Tinto would ‘have to lock in the preferences once received’.

As a result of the dispute conference on Tuesday, Rio Tinto has backed down and agreed to change their response to question 35 on the Q&A form.

Any employees who wish to change their preferences because of new information, or alternatively, because they received little or no information about the future structure can now utilised the Exceptional Circumstances Request form to resubmit their preferences.

This significant change in Rio's approach indicates that they were not prepared to stand by their previous position.

All members who want to change their preferences as result of new information impacting on your decision, or alternatively you believe you were not provided enough information, please utilise this process.

Members are encouraged to do this as soon as possible and no later than the 11th of February.

Vice President Catanzariti has advised the parties that file will remain open on this dispute in the event either party wish to have this matter relisted.