Court Ruling Boosts Union Power In Pilbara

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July 25th, 2011

A LANDMARK victory in the Federal Court looks set to give unions more power to bargain on behalf of workers at Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton iron ore operations in the Pilbara.

The full bench of the court has ruled that a non-union collective agreement covering workers in Rio Tinto's operations was invalid.

Monday's decision casts doubt on similar agreements at BHP and other operations in the mining region, involving thousands of workers.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) challenged the validity of Rio's 2008 agreement which was used to cover all its workers in the Pilbara and to bypass union negotiations.

The union's challenge was rejected by the Federal Court in August last year but it took the case to the court's full bench.

Gary Wood, the CFMEU's West Australian mining division secretary, told AAP the decision ``confirms that our legal advice was spot on''.

Mr Wood said the Rio agreement and other similar ones restricted those employees from gaining the benefits under the Fair Work Act.

He said the decision meant workers would have the right to be heard in good faith bargaining and to take protected industrial action.