Tuesday, August 30, 2016

CFMEU: Rio Tinto ordered to pay up for 'serious and persistent wrongdoing'

A Federal Court judge has handed down a $50,000 penalty against Rio Tinto for victimising and illegally standing down a Hail Creek coalminer.

The victim, Michael Haylett, injured his neck while driving a bulldozer in 2010; an injury that Rio Tinto admitted was caused by the company’s negligence.

After being declared fit for work, Mr Haylett continued at the mine for three years. It was not until the Queensland District Court awarded him $630,000 in November 2013, as compensation for his injuries, did Rio Tinto stand down Mr Haylett.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President Steve Smyth welcomed the judgment, describing the penalty imposed onto Rio Tinto as a David and Goliath battle against a mining giant.

“Michael Haylett, Hall Payne Lawyers, and the union have been fighting this case for three years, and Michael is finally getting justice against one of the worlds biggest mining companies for his unfair sacking,” Mr Smyth said.

“Rio Tinto has been running a vendetta against Michael Haylett for years, and the way the company acted in this matter - beginning with the heavy-handed and illegal sacking of a worker, to ignoring a Supreme Court order - is appalling and the penalty of $50,000 against them is deserved.

“Mr Haylett has been through three years of legal proceedings to hold Rio Tinto to account for their improper actions, and today is his victory.”

The case highlighted the lengths that some employers go to target workers who stand up to improper treatment.

“The Federal Court found that Rio Tinto’s decision to stand down Mr Haylett was made in retaliation for him winning his damages claim, and was in breach of the Fair Work Act,” Mr Smyth said.

“Justice Reeves made clear in his judgment that he did not think Rio Tinto has any remorse for its treatment of Mr Haylett, and that it acted deliberately to break the law to sack a worker out of spite.”

Solicitors from Hall Payne Lawyers said that they had seldom seen worse treatment of an employee by a company, with Rio Tinto’s defiance of Supreme Court orders and arrogance nearly unprecedented.

The judgment also provided for Michael Haylett to be awarded compensation for his suffering, along with back pay for the time he spent stood down by Rio Tinto. This amount will be determined by the court next week.

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