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WMWA writes to Rio Tinto to get COVID-19 questions answered

February 8, 2022

The WMWA has written to Rio Tinto on behalf of our members that are employed by the company and its suppliers at its Pilbara operations. Our members are concerned for their health and wellbeing whilst they are on your sites, particularly during the current Covid-19 pandemic.


We are seeking an urgent response to the questions below and wish to enter into further and regular discussions on these matters.


We request the company provide its detailed response to each of our queries by close of business Friday, 11 February 2022. The queries are in the context of employees who are isolating as a result of being a close contact or becoming Covid-19 positive, in the course of their employment and work with the company.

1.What steps are the company taking to enable close contact isolating employees to safely repatriate to isolate at home?

2. What steps are the company taking to enable Covid-19 positive employees to safely repatriate to isolate and recover at home?

3. How long will employees be required to isolate in their camp room after returning a positive Covid-19 test?

4. What steps will the company take to ensure that employees who have tested positive to Covid-19 are regularly monitored and cared for while in camp?

5. Can the company confirm that there will be qualified medical personnel in camps to be able to treat Covid-19 positive employees?

6. What resources are available to transport Covid-19 positive employees that are in camp isolation to suitable medical facilities, should they require hospitalisation?

7. What guarantees can the company make that these resources will be available when needed?

8. What contingencies does the company have in place if the number of positive Covid- 19 employees that require medical assistance are greater than available resources can manage?

9. Will the company’s position on isolation times for close contact isolating employees remain consistent with government guidelines?

10. What steps are the company taking to ensure that isolating close contacts are domiciled in the same area of the camp, so that these employees can go outside their room for fresh air, exercise and as a way of maintaining their mental health, while remaining isolated from unaffected employees?

11. What steps are being taken to ensure that isolating employees are provided with reliable internet access, so they are able to video call loved ones and be able to access various entertainment platforms whilst in isolation?

12. Will close contact isolating employees be paid as if at work, that is, not required to use their own leave entitlements for this period?

13. If workers’ compensation is deemed to be payable for close contact isolating employees, will the company pay these employees their normal salary in accordance with their normal pay cycle?

14. If employees are required to isolate at or towards the end of their roster cycle, when will they be flown home after their isolation period has ended?

15. How will the company compensate employees in circumstances where they have to spend isolation time in camp when they would have otherwise been on their usual R&R?
a. Will the employees still get an ample R&R break before returning to their usual roster?
b. If the employee is isolating during R&R time, what pay will be provided to the employee?

16. What measures are the company implementing to ensure that the meals are of a reasonable and nutritious standard and how are these meals to be served?

17. Will the company supply isolating employees with suitable snacks and refreshments that are able to be consumed in between scheduled meal times?

18. How are the rooms of isolating employees to be cleaned both during isolation and during changeover, including changes of bed linen and towels?

19. What assurances can the company give to confirm that rooms will be professionally deep cleaned to Covid-19 sanitisation standards in between room occupancies, in circumstances where rooms are shared between workers on different swings?

20. What process is in place to monitor the health and wellbeing of isolating employees?

21. Will the company provide isolating employees on-demand access to relevant health and mental health professionals?

22. What consultations are occurring with HSRs on site about the required site control measures and their effectiveness?

23. How are employees being communicated with on the effectiveness of the sites’ Covid- 19 control measures?

24. Will employees who are now required to attend airport tents to undergo Rapid Antigen Testing before flying up to site, be given an early finish on their first day of shift, to ensure they work within their 14 hour maximum shift length, and 10 hour minimum break between shifts, to ensure they are not fatigued on their first day of their roster?

25. When and how will you provide the WMWA with ongoing updates on the number of employees that are isolating on site and to the effectiveness of the company’s Covid- 19 control measures and support mechanisms for isolating employees?


Click here to read the full letter we sent to Rio Tinto.

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