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Unions WA backs WMWA campaign to stop sexual harassment

December 21, 2022

Unions WA has backed the Western Mine Workers Alliance’s extensive campaign against sexual assault and harassment in the state’s mining industry by welcoming the WA Government’s Independent Review of WorkSafe Mines Safety report.

The report, released last week, includes recommendations to improve funding for monitoring and compliance to prevent and prosecute sexual assault in mine workplaces and associated accommodation.

It also recommends that victims, mostly women, have access to support.

But there are deep concerns over the review’s finding that: “There are instances of opportunistic and deliberate breaches of duties to notify WorkSafe Mines Safety of sexual assault and sexual harassment, with some duty holders demonstrating ongoing non-compliance.”

The Western Mine Workers Alliances is a partnership between the Australia’s two biggest mining Unions, the Australian Workers’ Union and the Mining and Energy Union.

AWU WA State Secretary Brad Gandy said it was good to see Unions WA was backing what WMWA members have been saying publicly for years.

“The WA mining industry has long seemed more concerned with their corporate reputation than with having crimes investigated,” Mr Gandy said.

“The idea that the multinational mining companies that spent years and millions of dollars creating this toxic culture, while also supporting the non-reporting of criminal activity, is simply shocking.

“It’s just unfortunate that this whole process required the courage of WMWA women members to stand together and go public so that the industry couldn’t hide it anymore.”

In a June 2022 submission to a WA parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the resources industry, the AWU revealed a comprehensive survey had found sexual assault was endemic in the industry, driven in large part by management actively discouraging women from coming forward.

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

Mr Gandy said WMWA members had little faith in mining company executives’ claims that they could be trusted to clean up what was a very serious issue.

“The issue always has been the toxic culture on site, not the culture in St Georges Terrace, and until the mining companies actually work with their employees to build a genuine and positive culture nothing substantive will change,” he said.

“The WMWA and its partner unions represent thousands of workers across WA, and they all want the state government and the regulator to do more.

“There is more to do to make women want to work in the mining sector and it essential that all working women feel safe at work.

“The WMWA won’t simply stand by waiting and hoping that industry will fix the current culture of fear before fairness.”