Up to 500 jobs to go at Rio Tinto

Pilbara News - - News - Nick Evans, Re­becca Par­ish and Tom Zaun­mayr

Rio Tinto is pre­par­ing to sack up to 500 work­ers ahead of the March State elec­tion, a move likely to ex­ac­er­bate ten­sions be­tween the State’s big­gest miner and WA Na­tion­als leader Bren­don Grylls.

More than 130 man­age­ment and sup­port roles could go in the next two months, af­ter new iron ore boss Chris Sal­is­bury com­pleted a re­struc­ture of his se­nior man­age­ment team last week.

Up to 350 more jobs are likely to go in the new year as the ef­fects of the re­struc­ture flows through the com­pany’s Perth head of­fice and Rio’s mine, port and rail op­er­a­tions across the Pil­bara.

A Rio spokesman would not com­ment on the lat­est job cuts but said the mar­ket re­mained chal­leng­ing.

“We have 1000 ini­tia­tives un­der way across our busi­ness to re­duce costs and im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity,” he said. It is the third ma­jor staff cut at Rio in the past two years and would take the to­tal jobs lost to more than 2000.

The com­pany shed about 700 work­ers early this year and about 800 early last year.

It now has about 11,500 work­ers across the State.

Mr Grylls said the Rio Tinto head of­fice in Lon­don was dis­con­nected from what was hap­pen­ing on the ground in the Pil­bara.

“Any other busi­ness which had tripled its mar­gin in the past six months would prob­a­bly not be look­ing to lay off work­ers,” he said.

“Clearly, they are not work­ing hard enough to sup­port West Aus­tralian jobs.

“Maybe there should be a few more ‘what-the-hell-is go­ing-on-here’ ques­tions to the face­less peo­ple of Rio who never make them­selves avail­able ... in this de­bate”

The job cuts come af­ter a sus­tained rally in com­mod­ity prices, in which the iron ore price in­creased from a longterm low of $US38.40 a tonne late last year to an av­er­age of more than $US60/t since July.

BHP, Rio and Fortes­cue Me­tals Group have all said they ex­pected iron ore prices to drift lower next year, per­haps back to about $US40/t.

CME chief ex­ec­u­tive Reg Howard-Smith said the Rio cuts were more ev­i­dence that Mr Grylls’ plan was ill­con­ceived.

“This is fur­ther ev­i­dence that now is the wrong time to be in­tro­duc­ing a big new min­ing tax in WA that would put even more pres­sure on WA jobs and in­vest­ment,” he said.

“Taxes and roy­al­ties on WA min­ing are al­ready seven times more than our big­gest com­peti­tor, Brazil.”

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Rio Tinto’s Pil­bara rail, ports and mine jobs are all be­lieved to be in the fir­ing line.

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