IndustriALL Global Union, together with its affiliate, FISEMA, held a workshop on 8 August focused on organizing Rio Tinto’s workers and subcontractors at the company’s mineral sand mine operation QMM in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar.
The workshop and organizing drive form part of IndustriALL’s global campaign to build union power at Rio Tinto plants around the world. Through increased unionisation in the workplace, the campaign aims to make the mining giant recognise fundamental workers' rights, such as the right to organise and collective bargaining.
QMM, which is 80 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, employs 500 workers directly. Another 1500 workers are servicing QMM through its subcontractors. Their work largely depends on QMM renewing contracts.
IndustriALL is assisting FISEMA in organising the mining industry in Madagascar, with a particular focus on Rio Tinto. Even though working conditions at QMM are considered to be better than many other mines in the country the bar is low and there is a lot to be done; not least as many workers are afraid to join unions.
Local union leaders have committed to organizing all workers at QMM, both direct and indirect. Participants at the workshop devised strategies to strengthen FISEMA and build a network of Rio Tinto workers regionally, nationally and internationally. Plans on educating members and improving leadership training have also been devised. Furthermore, membership targets have been set and monitoring strategies put in place.
Global day of action to fight back
The establishment of Rio Tinto in Fort Dauphin has increased the cost of living in the region and despite the fact QMM workers are paid approximately four times the minimum wage, many still need a second job to be able to survive.
As the extractive industry is new to Malagasy workers, they rely solely on information provided by employers when it comes to operational health and safety.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Assistant general secretary, says:
IndustriALL is committed to bringing FISEMA together with the global network of Rio Tinto workers to strengthen the fight for freedom of association and better safety and working conditions at Rio Tinto sites worldwide.
Together, IndustriALL and FISEMA are preparing for the global day of union action at Rio Tinto on 7 October, a day in which IndustriALL affiliates around the world take action as part of the IndustriALL STOP Precarious Work campaign.