Two months after 900 mine workers at Sherritt’s multibillion-dollar nickel operation in Madagascar were laid off, the company has refused to provide evidence that the retrenchments were financially necessary.
Only 20 of the 900 laid off workers at the Canadian’ multinational’s Ambatovy operation have been re-instated. The remaining 880 workers are still uncertain about their future and whether they will ever be allowed to return to their jobs.
Sherritt unilaterally announced the lay-off of the 900 workers for a period of six months citing economic reasons, a claim totally rejected by the Comité d’Entreprise (workers' committee) at the mine and processing plant.
Sherrit Ambatovy’s performance was rated as excellent for 2014 and the company reported an 11 per cent increase in revenue from Ambatovy for the first quarter of 2015, just a few months before the lay-offs. Production targets were met in March 2015 ahead of schedule.
To further confound Sherrit’s claim that economic factors are the reason for the lay-offs, the company donated US$ 1 million to the country’s national defence force in October 2014, a move IndustriALL considers unethical and against good governance. This amount of money would have paid for an average salary of 600’000MGA (US$ 181) per month for six months for the 900 retrenched workers.
At the same time, Sherritt Ambatovy continues to recruit abroad. In a move that violates Madagascar’s laws and regulations, Sherritt Ambatovy is looking for workers with qualifications that can be filled by Malagasy nationals. The Madagascar mining code for large investments stipulate that priority for work should be given to nationals.
Sherritt Ambatovy continues to ignore IndustriALL Global Union’s offer to resolve the dispute. Consequently, IndustriALL is now in discussion with its Canadian affiliate union, Unifor, to mobilize solidarity support for Ambatovy workers amongst Unifor members it organizes at Sherritt’s operations in Canada.
IndustriALL is also in discussion with Unifor to hold Sherritt accountable to Canada’s corporate social responsibility strategy for the international extraction sector, which expects Canadian mining companies operating abroad to promote Canadian values and act with the highest ethical standards.
While IndustriALL is mobilizing direct global solidarity action amongst its mining affiliates, it continues to make the following demands on Sherritt Ambatovy:
- Financial and other necessary documents from Sherritt to verify whether the retrenchment of 900 workers was necessary.
- The reintegration of 15 staff representatives wrongfully laid off at the Ambatovy plant noting that in Malagasy labour law, Recommendation No. 143 offers "recognition of a priority to be given to the continued employment of workers' representatives in the case of reduction of staff.”