Unions push to get Rio Tinto off the Olympic podium


Union members and workers handed out replica Olympic medals to Rio Tinto shareholders saying 'Don't let Rio Tinto tarnish the Olympic Games' and raised questions at the company's annual general meeting in London today, April 19, 2012.

GLOBAL: Mining and metal workers' unions from around the world are campaigning to stop mining multinational Rio Tinto supplying the gold, silver and bronze for medals at the London Olympics in June.

Rio Tinto, sponsors of the 2012 London Olympics, is providing 99 per cent of the metal for minting the London Olympic medals, tarnishing them with the company's reprehensible labour practices.

Protesting at the Rio Tinto Annual General Meeting in London Marc Maltais, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9490 representing locked out workers at a Rio Tinto smelter, said, "World class athletes deserve medals that aren't tainted by Rio Tinto's brutal treatment of its own workers and communities."

The campaign (http://www.offthepodium.org/) has been developed in support of nearly 800 Canadian metalworkers and members of the USW locked out of a profitable smelter by Rio Tinto because they refused a plan that put new starters on insecure work arrangements with half the pay.

The workers in Alma, Quebec, have been locked out of their jobs since December 30 as the smelter sits idle, said Ken Neumann, Canadian National Director for the USW.

A LabourStart campaign is also running  in support of the workers. Send a message to the International Olympics Committee (IOC) demanding Rio Tinto be kicked off the podium here

Locking out these workers in Quebec is a violation of Rio Tinto's obligations to fair play under the Olympic charter, said Manfred Warda, General Secretary of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Union (ICEM).

"Rio Tinto would like to bask in the reflected glory of the Olympic Games, but it has a black record on the treatment of its own people," said Warda.

Part of the delegation of USW and international trade union representatives participated in the AGM which can be viewed here, raising questions and challenging the management about its lockout of the workers.

David Cockroft, International Transport Workers' Federation General Secretary, who was at the protest, said: "Rio Tinto is one of the most aggressively anti-union businesses in the mining industry and deserves to be the subject of ongoing scrutiny and action by unions and workers throughout Rio Tinto's global supply chain.

"At the AGM, Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese did, however, say that the company was now willing to negotiate with the unions. Let's see if he keeps to this promise."

Supporting the action at the Rio Tinto AGM in London, Unite also arranged for union-friendly Members of Parliament to submit an Early Day Motion in the UK Parliament.

Meanwhile, unions attending an international mining conference in Sydney, Australia from April 17 to 19, decided to mount a global campaign against the company. A resolution passed at the ICEM World Mining conference in Sydney noted that Rio Tinto, like many transnational mining companies, was recording strong profit growth while engaging in brutal and unethical practices. See more here.

"In a strong field of anti-worker, anti-environment companies in the global mining industry Rio Tinto is worst of all," said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of the IMF.

"This campaign against Rio Tinto is only the beginning. Unions around the world have resolved at an international mining conference today to build a sustained global campaign against Rio Tinto and its anti-worker and anti-union ways," said Raina.

For more photos of the action in London see: