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Blacklist, shame workers for creating poor environment says inquiry

Rio Tinto female worker
A female worker

An official investigation recommended excluding and publicly exposing the identities of mine employees found responsible for substandard conditions.

A sector-wide blacklist and public register for offenders are two measures endorsed by Western Australia’s inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the fly-in fly-out (FIFO) mining industry.

“We have recommended that government explore options, which could operate effectively and fairly to prevent habitual sexual harassment offenders continuing to be re-employed in the mining workplace. This is an important matter that could be effective as a deterrent, as well as adding to site safety by the permanent removal of perpetrators,” the inquiry committee’s final report said.

The committee chaired by Libby Mettam acknowledged BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) previously dismissed employees found guilty of creating a poor work environment. However, many of them were simply redeployed to different locations or hired by different employers.

“Mining companies pointed to incidents where they had taken decisive action including dismissal for workplace sexual offences. Individuals, however, pointed to incidents where perpetrators had merely changed worksites or were reemployed in the industry with a different company,” the report said.

This is why the committee wants to publicly shame sexual predators, and give recruiters the opportunity to check whether jobseekers are blacklisted.

“The industry must explore ways to prevent perpetrators of serious sexual harassment simply finding reemployment on other sites and in other companies … [and ensure] probity checks across the industry include consideration of harmful sexual behaviours, particularly for smaller companies and sub-contractors,” the report said.

“We considered the value of establishing a register of offenders that could be accessed as part of the employment process – something like the safety white card or the working with children card.”

The committee also urged all resources employers to introduce “moderate” drinking standards for all FIFO accommodation sites.

“We heard that misuse of alcohol was rife,” the report said.

The recommendations came after the inquiry heard nearly 260 individuals complain about their time at BHP, Rio Tinto, FMG, DT Workforce and more.

The following are excerpts from the report:

“I was knocked unconscious in my donga after returning from the laundry one evening. When I awoke my jeans and underpants were around my ankles. I felt sick, ashamed violated, dirty and very confused.”

“[There was] removal of bras and underwear from washing machines in communal laundries. Sex toys [were] hanging from donga (room) door handles, including a blow-up doll sitting on a chair outside my room. Lewd comments [were] regularly [made].”

“I could never even hang my underwear on the line or put it in the washing machine. I had to wash it in my room because it went missing.”

“He would frequently grab my bum, putting his fat gut into the small of my back as if though he would try to ‘ride me’. He would laugh when he did it, and he did it often in front of others present. He would often grab my hips from behind and pretend to sexually penetrate.”

None of the above-mentioned employers faced litigation over “unequivocally unacceptable” failures in reporting such incidents at the time of publication. The inquiry has recommended establishing an official forum to explore opportunities for “redress” including formal apologies and “appropriate” compensation.

Click here to download the full report.

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