This Mother’s Day, an international coalition of unions is calling on the world’s largest jewellery retailer to clean up its supplier of diamonds. They are urging Signet to demand that multinational mining and metals company Rio Tinto improve its practices so that they respect workers’ rights, indigenous peoples and the environment.
With global sales of US $6 billion annually, Signet’s Kay, Jared and Zales jewellery shops are found across the US, Peoples and Mappins stores are throughout Canada, and H. Samuel and Ernest Jones shops are visible on UK high streets.
The unions ILWU, Unifor and USW are organizing demonstrations in the lead up to Mother’s Day at Signet stores in the U.S. and Canada, which is celebrated there on 10 May. This follows recent demonstrations at Signet stores in the UK by unions and civil society organizations from a dozen countries.
The coalition is calling on Signet to abide by its own Responsible Sourcing Policy. This policy declares the company “committed to the responsible sourcing of our products and the respect of human rights, and we expect the same from our suppliers around the world.”
But Rio Tinto is a notorious violator of labour rights, communities and the environment. As has recently been documented in the report Rio Tinto: The way it really works:
- 39 workers killed on the job since 2013 at the Grasberg copper and gold mine, Indonesia, where Rio Tinto has a joint venture
- Planning to develop a copper mine on land considered sacred to Native Americans despite their opposition
- Over 2,300 grievances unresolved by management at Rio Tinto iron ore operation in Labrador, Canada
- Destruction of indigenous sacred sites and vital natural water supply by Rio Tinto in Mongolia
Although the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has certified Rio Tinto, unfortunately the RJC is highly flawed. It is neither independent – it is governed by industry, excluding labour, civil society and impacted communities. Nor is it transparent – it is impossible for the public to determine whether an RJC-certified company complies with RJC’s own certification requirements, let alone international human rights and environmental standards.
IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina states: “We’ve raised on multiple occasions concerns with Signet about its supplier Rio Tinto’s practices that are bad for workers, communities and the environment. So far Signet has remained mostly silent while Rio Tinto has responded with threats. We’ll continue to raise our concerns until Rio Tinto changes its practices and behaves like the responsible company it claims to be.”