Sexual harassment is more common in mining than most other industries, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission. (AHRC).
A growing number of companies admit they have a problem, and have pledged to make changes as a result.
Meanwhile, the Western Australian government is holding a parliamentary inquiry to investigate the issue.
Sexual harassment more common in mining
In 2018, the AHRC found 74 percent of women and 34 percent of men in the mining industry experienced sexual harassment.
That’s compared to 39 percent of women and 26 percent of men across other industries.
“It’s still a culture which is very much based on masculine values and women, in particular, have found there is a significant amount of sexism and sexual harassment that they have to tolerate just to survive in that industry,” she said.
BHP sacked 48 workers in past two years
In its submission to the WA parliamentary inquiry, BHP revealed it had sacked 48 workers because of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Furthermore, the mining giant said it received 18 reports of sexual assault and 73 of sexual harassment among its 13,500 workforce.
Workers reported unwanted touching and advances, in addition to inappropriate pictures and text messages from co-workers.
In its submission, BHP apologised to staff affected by inappropriate conduct:
“We are deeply sorry and apologise unreservedly to those who have experienced, or continue to experience, any form of sexual harassment in our workplaces.”
Other miners, including Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto also reported allegations, but did not disclose if workers had been dismissed as a result of inappropriate behaviour.
Emma Tweedie told the ABC’s 7.30 program about the sexual harassment she experienced while working as a truck driver at the Roy Hill mine in Western Australia.
Specifically, she described the inappropriate conduct of a male colleague.
“[He] addressed me as sweetie, and baby and honey. He’d never refer to me as Emma.”
“Sometimes if you walked past him, he’d growl at you, like a dog. Sometimes bark at you.”
Tweedie said the behaviour left her feeling anxious and depressed.
She has subsequently filed a sexual harassment claim in the Human Rights Commission.
Employment lawyer Stephen Dryley-Collins says sexual harassment is unlawful and has had a devastating effect on many of his clients.
“They include people who have not been able to return to their workplace, people who cannot return to the industry at all, and there’s also people who have never been able to return to work at all,” he said.
Mr Dryley-Collins says people who experience sexual harassment should seek urgent expert advice to find out what options are available to them – including claims for compensation.
“No one has to put up with sexual harassment – not today, not ever,” he said.
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