Rio Tinto Yarwun alumina refinery.
Rio Tinto Yarwun alumina refinery.

Rio Tinto denies bullying claims of Yarwun engineer

A highly-experienced former Rio Tinto Yarwun engineer has accused the mining giant of allowing a bullying culture at the site, which has been denied by the company.

When he tendered his resignation in writing to Rio Tinto in December last year, the man said his 30 page letter contained 58 reasons he chose to quit.

The 63-year-old man, who asked not to be named, told The Observer he first officially reported the alleged bullying in October 2018.

Following a thorough investigation by the company’s human resources team, the complaint was found to be unsubstantiated and the case was closed in November 2019.

Despite claiming he was placed “under extreme psychological pressure” while his complaint was investigated, the man said he decided to honour the outcome and move forward.

Then, when the man said he emailed the site’s management in July 2020, what followed was a meeting where he raised “20 things” of concern.

During the meeting, the man said “performance issues” were raised about his conduct, primarily surrounding his “email signature”.

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An experienced engineer claims he was bullied while working at Rio Tinto Yarwun.
An experienced engineer claims he was bullied while working at Rio Tinto Yarwun.

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The man said he believed he was also the victim of bullying and harassment, after he stood up for new graduates and junior colleagues, who came to him with complaints about being bullied themselves.

When he wasn’t satisfied with answers provided by site management and human resources, the man escalated his complaints to national and international Rio Tinto management.

What resulted was an investigation by Rio Tinto’s Ethics and Integrity team into allegations he and seven colleagues had been bullied.

The man said he provided emails from a number of his colleagues, commending and verifying his own ethics and practices to the investigation.

Regardless of all his efforts and submissions, the man said the situation became untenable and extremely stressful, so he resigned.

After tendering his resignation, the man said he was asked if he would sign a “non-disparagement” agreement, offering him four weeks pay.

When the man told management he would be “active on LinkedIn and social media”, he was sent an email warning him about the potential of legal defamation action against him.

A Rio Tinto spokeswoman acknowledged the man’s complaints and subsequent resignation.

“This person resigned from Rio Tinto in December 2020,” the spokeswoman said.

“Rio Tinto has conducted numerous investigations into matters raised by the former employee that did not substantiate his complaints.”

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