Global mining company Rio Tinto on Feb. 1 released an internal review of its workplace culture that included findings of bullying, sexual harassment, racism and other forms of discrimination. It also found problems in the treatment of contract workers. The report includes 26 recommendations for improvement.
“The findings of this report are deeply disturbing to me and should be to everyone who reads them,” Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said. “I offer my heartfelt apology to every team member, past or present, who has suffered as a result of these behaviors. This is not the kind of company we want to be.”
Findings in the report included that almost half of people reported they experienced bullying, 28.2% of women and 6.7% of men have experienced sexual harassment at work, and 21 women reported actual or attempted rape or sexual assault in the last five years.
The report noted that in addition to employees of Rio Tinto, four listening sessions were held with contract workers. It noted that female contract workers, in particular, face challenges including sexism, verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
Comments regarding contract workers in the report included:
- “I manage contractors. I find that a lot of Rio Tinto employees bully contractors. … It’s so easy to get another contractor. The power imbalance is so extreme.”
- “What does bullying of a contractor look like? It looks like you are screaming and yelling at them in front of other Rio Tinto employees, ‘You’re just a contractor.’ Don’t come into our tearoom; it’s a Rio tearoom. Go to the substandard one. You’re just a contractor.”
- “We are always told to report [sexual harassment] but [if we do] the girl is always removed.”
Rio Tinto leadership is planning changes in response to the report’s recommendations.
“I feel shame and enormous regret to have learned the extent to which bullying, sexual harassment and racism are happening at Rio Tinto,” Stausholm said.
“I am determined that by implementing appropriate actions to address the recommendations, and with the management team’s commitment to a safe, respectful and inclusive Rio Tinto in all areas, we will make positive and lasting change and strengthen our workplace culture for the long term.”
The review was carried out by former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. More than 10,000 people shared their experiences in the eight-month study.
“This report is not a reason for reduced confidence in Rio Tinto,” Broderick said. “By proactively commissioning this study, one of the largest of its kind within the resources industry, it demonstrates a very clear commitment to increased transparency, accountability and action. The high levels of confidence among employees that a significant impact can be made in the next two years are an encouraging sign that change can happen.”
Broderick also said she has observed a strong desire for transformational change among the Rio Tinto leadership team.