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British Legislators Condemn Rio Tinto

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11 August, 2005ICEM News release No. 24/1998

Rio Tinto, the world's biggest mining corporation, is roundly condemned in a new motion tabled for debate by Britain's House of Commons. Rio Tinto is headquartered in London.

The motion was brought in by Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Clapham, backed by fellow-MPs Eric Clarke, Tony Benn, Ken Purchase, Ernie Ross and Ann Clwyd. A further 23 MPs have already signed up to the text, which urges Rio Tinto shareholders to drum some ethics into the maverick multinational.

The parliamentary motion in full:

That this House condemns the activities of the Rio Tinto Corporation, which has been identified by the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Unions as probably the most uncaring and ruthless company in the world judged by its appalling record of human and trade union rights violation, community destruction, environmental damage and disregard for the lives of indigenous people in many of the 40 countries where it operates; and calls on the shareholders at the annual general meeting in London on 13th May to demand a halt to its current practices and the introduction of an ethical company policy based on trade union recognition, compassion for its workers and their families and concern for the environment in which they live.

[end of motion]

Rio Tinto's anti-union stance in many parts of the world has made it a priority target for trade union networking by the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM). The networking also extends to many other campaigning groups on human rights, notably the rights of indigenous peoples, and on environmental issues. Rio Tinto has come in for widespread criticism on all these counts.


In its new annual report, to be distributed to shareholders shortly, Rio Tinto writes: "At our operations throughout the world, we respect the right of employees to choose for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented collectively."

But these pictures tell a very different story. Broadcast on Australian television, they show a ceremony at the company's Hunter Valley No. 1 mine in Australia on 25 June last year. The overwhelming majority of the workers there were on strike over the company's refusal to conclude a collective agreement. So the company mined small amounts of coal by using white-collar staff plus just seven workers who had signed individual employment contracts.

At the ceremony, trophies were handed out celebrating the "First Coal Mined at Hunter Valley No. 1 Mine by Non-Union Labour."

Footage of this bizarre little rite is included in a new documentary on Rio Tinto, Naked Into The Jungle.