Following a mass rally in May, trade union at Rio Tinto majority owned Iron Ore Company of Canada has managed to reduce the number of planned layoffs from 150 to 95 workers.
In the most significant job reduction since the early 1990s, the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) announced in April this year that it was laying off 150 workers in an effort to cut costs. All janitorial service workers were planned to be let go, leaving heavy equipment operators and other employees to clean up.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliate United Steelworkers (USW) were told that 150 of their members were to lose their livelihood at the same time as mining giant Rio Tinto, who owns the majority of IOC, were making record profits.
But following a union protest with nearly a thousand participants, IOC has partly reversed its decision and will keep 55 of the originally planned 150 lay-offs.
Ron Thomas, USW president at IOC Labrador, says he welcomes the news as the workers are still needed:
But there are still problems at IOC. In addition to the remaining layoffs, there are over 2,500 unresolved grievances. Management is consistently breaking the collective agreement, leaving grieve as the only recourse.
At Rio Tinto’s annual general shareholders’ meeting in London in April this year, the dispute at IOC was raised by both Ron Thomas and IndustriALL.
Bringing up Rio Tinto’s extensive use of contract workers, Ron Thomas said:
“Contractors at IOC are not the skilled labourers you actually had, they replace our members on a constant basis.
"Rio Tinto needs to treat our members with respect and get them back to work."
IndustriALL is campaigning to increase trade union membership at Rio Tinto plants and make the company recognize workers' rights. Claiming to abide by good corporate practice, Rio Tinto’s behaviour includes major disputes with trade unions, communities, indigenous peoples and regulatory authorities.
Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary at IndustriALL, says:
“IndustriALL strongly supports the USW in this struggle with Rio Tinto in Labrador. Rio Tinto’s systematic violation of its labour agreement with USW in Labrador must stop.
We demand that Rio Tinto adopt a positive approach to labour relations and negotiate in good faith with USW to resolve this dispute.