Rio Tinto’s iron ore chief says he is “sick” of shocking headlines about sexual assault and harassment in the fly-in fly-out workforce that sparked a parliamentary inquiry and a stream of accusations against the mining giant.
Simon Trott told the Western Australian inquiry on Wednesday that it was an “unpleasant truth” that such an offense occurred in the sector of construction sites, mines and overnight towns.
“I’m shaken and sick of the stories I’ve heard, the things I’ve read about, people’s experience in our business and in the industry,” Mr Trott said.
“We are determined to change and ensure that our workforce is protected from sexual harassment, racism, bullying and psychosocial harm.
“To anyone who has experienced any form of sexual harassment or sexual assault within our company, I’m sorry, I’m deeply sorry, and I’ve facing the investigation today to commit myself to doing better for to remove this behavior from all areas of our business. “
Rio Tinto informed the investigation in August that since January 1 last year, it had documented one case of sexual assault and 29 cases of sexual harassment within its FIFO activities and investigated one allegation of sexual assault and 14 reports of sexual harassment.
As echoed by others in the sector, Mr Trott said the problem was underreported, but Rio Tinto’s anonymous “myVoice” whistleblower program tried to make claims.
Rio Tinto’s Director General of Human Resources Laura Thomas said there had been an increase in accusations filed against the miner between 2020 and 2021 of around 120 per cent, which was encouraging.
She said most of it coincided with the release and rebranding of the myVoice program, and viewers were asked to say no.
Sir. Trott said about 90 percent of the substantiated cases resulted in dismissal or disciplinary action, including a written warning.
Mrs Thomas elaborated and told the query, which amounted to 30 people in the past year, half of which had been completed.
“With this year in mind, we still have a significant number of cases under investigation,” she added.
Mrs Thomas said an example of low-level sexual harassment was someone who made an obscene joke “for comic relief that might have a sexual undertone”.
“Maybe it does in relation to a piece of equipment, but it’s near another person … it would be the floor (for a study),” she said.
“We would work through ‘has this person had another incident like this’?”
Managers were asked about the process of “getting your shirt off” – upgrading from a job or contractor role to a direct job with a miner – which seemed to be a key time for sexual harassment.
Inquiry Chair Libby Mettam referred to a shocking written statement from married mother of two Astacia Stevens, a Rio Tinto worker, who told the inquiry that she was pursuing a degree in counseling with a view to leaving the mining industry due to sexual harassment, she had had. endured.
When she started as a cleaning assistant, a certain colleague touched her “inappropriately on almost every occasion where I was in his presence,” she claimed.
“For example, he would often grab my hold and put his fat belly into my back … he would try to ‘ride me’, he laughed when he did, and he often did it in front of others present, “wrote Mrs. Stevens.
“He often grabbed my hips from behind and pretended to be sexually penetrating.
“He often asked me to bend over and pick up things in front of him and others that he would deliberately lose, such as my trash cans.
“I would have to pick them up, but would do it in a way that I did not bend over. Still, he would make rude and sexual comments in front of other guys when I had to pick something up from the floor.”
Knowing she wanted a job as a haulier, he demanded “special services” and said, “I knew where his room was,” she claimed.
The man had the authority to advise the Rio Tinto supervisor whether she was suitable for the job, but refused to overwrite her “unless I had sex with him”.
“I refused to have sex with him, so I therefore continued to perform the same work as a contractor,” Ms. Stevens wrote.
Sir. Trott said power imbalances in Rio Tinto’s workforce “certainly create the environment that can lead to the events.”
“We are definitely looking at it and understanding it in a way so that we can put in greater prevention at these power imbalance points,” he said.
Rio Tinto’s vice president of health, safety, environment and society Cecile Thaxter agreed, saying “any inequality can lead to disrespect”.
The company looked at how it could hire contractors directly earlier than it had done in the past, she said.
“There has been an effort in that area to get contractors on as Rio Tinto employees as opposed to having them as contractors for an extended period of time.”