Mining giant Rio Tinto has accused unions of putting jobs at risks over “unreasonable” industrial relations claims, including compassionate leave to cover the death of a pet.
But while domestic violence leave was introduced last year, paid pet bereavement leave does not appear to be gaining any traction in enterprise bargaining reforms, despite Rio Tinto’s concerns.
Speaking at a mining conference on Wednesday, Rio Tinto’s managing director Phil Edmands spoke about the need to reform workplace laws and cited an example of a recent claim made on an unnamed Rio mine site, where workers asked for compassionate leave to be extended over the death of ”significant pets”, reports Fairfax.
”There is no way to achieve increased productivity without changes that affect the way we employ and deploy labour. Avoiding these changes is a fool’s paradise,” said Edmands.
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“We need to get past industrial relations being a topic too hot to handle—so that we can have a sensible and robust debate over what is actually needed,” he said.
But unions say there is no evidence of such a claim ever being made.
The national employment standard allows for two days compassionate leave if an immediate family member has sustained a life threatening illness or injury, or in the event of their death. The standard is enhanced on some enterprise agreements.
Currently, there are no industrial relations laws for the death of a pet. Employment lawyer Peter Vitale told SmartCompany he doubts pet bereavement leave will ever become an issue for SMEs.
“I can’t see this ever becoming part of the national employment standards,” says Vitale.
“Except for a few extremely militant unions in very strong bargaining positions, I would like to think that small business would never deal with such an issue,” he says.
He said in the context of enterprise bargaining, there should be much bigger priorities than the death of a pet.
“Based on what’s been reported, if it were the case that such a demand was made, that would be a sad reflection on the individuals making it,” says Vitale. “It’s no surprise the unions are backing away at a million miles an hour from this.”
Rio Tinto, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions were contacted for comment, but SmartCompany did not receive a response prior to publication.