Workers at Rio Tinto’s QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) operations downed tools twice in five days over management’s violation of their collective bargaining agreement relative to salary increases. About 320 permanent workers out of 480 went out strike on 8 March.
The CBA calls for a consideration of both annual inflation-linked salary increase and a performance based increase, with the aim to make up for the loss of purchasing power. The union has argued that the company’s approach militates against workers in the lower rankings of the salary scale, and that those workers never achieve the intended purchasing power parity intended in the collective bargaining agreement. Instead, supervisors and managers benefit from management’s approach, and this violates the collective bargaining agreement. According to the union, workers at QMM receive very low wages, averaging about US$45/month.
Members of IndustriALL affiliate, Sendika Kristanina Malagasy (Sekrima) and Syndicalisme et Vie des Sociétés (SVS), suspended the strike in the afternoon of Thursday 8 March after local management promised a labour inspectorate led mediation the following day.
“We suspended the strike on Thursday, but the company retaliated with threats of dismissals, loss of benefits, and intimidation when our members reported for work on Friday,” said a Sekrima union representative.
Negotiations between the company and the unions, Sekrima and SVS deadlocked on Friday, and the strike continued on the following Monday, 12 March. Due to threats of intimidation, only 200 workers participated in the strike.
The strike was called off the following morning, 13 March, after an agreement had been reached including :
- A salary increase above inflation 8.3 per cent for all non-managerial employees
- Executive employees with good performance have at least one salary increase above inflation, while managers with poor performance have a salary increase ranging from 6-7 per cent
- Wages of employees participating in the strike will not be cut, and any form of harassment related to participating in the strike is prohibited
“As the strike has ended, the next step for the union and local management is revising the current collective bargaining agreement due to start in April 2018. We hope this will continue in the spirit of respect shown during the negotiations to end the strike, like we did with the global dialogue process with Rio Tinto,” said Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.
“The conclusion of the strike and more importantly, the content of the agreement is a vindication of the fair and just demand of workers for an inflation linked general increase that maintains the purchasing power of the majority of the workers,” said Anthony Randrianandrasana, president of Sekrima, Fort Dauphin, QMM.
Steve Hunt, District 3 director of the United Steelworkers and co-chair of IndustriALL’s mining and diamond, gems, ornament and jewellery production section, who followed the negotiations closely from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, said: “We are proud of the leadership of Sekrima, who under the most challenging conditions, managed to deliver on the mandate of its members”.
The unions also demanded that the company live up to its supplier code of conduct, presented during the recent joint IndustriALL/Rio Tinto high level global mission to QMM in February, and implement its due diligence requirement for contractors. Contractor employees are afraid to join the union due to intimidation by contractor owners, who fail to respect the provisions of the supplier code of conduct, guaranteeing freedom of association and the right to join a union of choice.