Up to 500 jobs to go at Rio Tinto
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.”
Rio Tinto’s Pilbara rail, ports and mine jobs are all believed to be in the firing line.