The Guardian • Issue #2001

Harassed women mineworkers shouldn’t have to choose between justice and their job

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union Statement

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2001

Shocking reports of sexual harassment and assault aired on the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program this week are the tip of the iceberg and would hopefully encourage more mineworkers to speak out about their experiences, the Western Mine Workers’ Alliance said.

The Western Mine Workers Alliance (WMWA) is a joint Union Alliance between the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Mining and Energy Union (MEU) operating in the Pilbara.

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said an extensive [Fly-in Fly-Out] mining industry survey conducted by the WMWA late last year uncovered high rates of assault along with a lack of confidence that mining companies would deal with complaints.

These findings were reflected in the 60 Minutes stories of women being reluctant to raise complaints for fear of being blamed, targeted or forced out of the industry if they reported sexual harassment.

The WMWA survey found one in five women had experienced physical acts of sexual assaults at work; one in five women had been offered career advancement or benefits in return for sexual favours; and one in three had received unwanted requests for sexual favours and repeated invitations to engage in sexual relationships.

Walton said women mineworkers in the Pilbara had been suffering under a culture of silence and cover-ups and would have the full support of the union in reporting harassment and assault.

“The women on 60 Minutes exposed the systemic nature of harassment, with direct supervisors often involved, meaning women are scared to speak out and face being blacklisted and branded a trouble-maker,” he said.

“Workers like our courageous member Astacia Stevens have unfortunately faced a choice between speaking out and remaining in the industry. We are determined to stand up for all mineworkers so they don’t need to choose between justice and their job.”

MEU General Secretary Grahame Kelly said it was a positive development that the voices and experiences of women mineworkers were finally being heard on the national stage.

“It is shocking to hear these stories – but without understanding women’s experiences we won’t see any real change,” Kelly said.

“Mining companies like Rio Tinto promote themselves as equal opportunity employers but there has been a shocking disconnect between corporate spin and the reality on the ground,

“We hope greater transparency will empower women mineworkers. The union is ready to listen and support all mineworkers with concerns about bullying and harassment.”

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