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Alcoa closure in Suriname: IndustriALL calls for a fair deal for workers

20 November, 2018As Suriname’s parliament prepares to discuss a controversial agreement on Alcoa’s withdrawal from the country and the handover of its hydroelectric dam, IndustriALL and its Caribbean affiliates are calling on legislators to send the agreement back to the drawing board.

Alcoa has been mining bauxite for 50 years, shipping it to the US for processing. In the 1950s, the company built a hydroelectric dam, a refinery and a smelter to produce aluminium in Suriname. At the time, Alcoa entered into a 75-year agreement with Suriname’s government, the Brokopondo agreement.

For Suriname, bauxite provided a much-needed opportunity to create jobs, develop skills and generate foreign earnings. However, a big company in a small country, Alcoa had the negotiating power to impose a deal benefitting them at the expense of the state.

In exchange, Alcoa committed to maintain operations in the country until 2033 – a promise broken already in 2015 when the refinery was closed. Along with broken promises, Alcoa left behind a broken economy and broken communities.

A tentative exit deal reached with Alcao has been rejected by unions and civil society. Critics say the committee tasked with reaching the agreement has served as a mouthpiece for the company rather than defending the interests of the country.

Calling on Alcoa to come back to the negotiation table

During IndustriALL’s Caribbean meeting, in Paramaribo, Suriname on 12-13 November attended by Minister of Labour Soewarto Moestadja, IndustriALL reiterated the demands of its affiliate C-47 for a fair deal for Suriname and for the workers. 

“Alcoa would never have accepted that Suriname opted out of the agreement. There needs to be an exit agreement that takes into account the interests of the people of Suriname”

said IndustriALL regional officer Laura Carter.

The meeting adopted a statement calling for

  • a new commission, where labour is represented 
  • a strong alternative to the Brokopondo agreement, taking into account the impact on labour, the environment and energy liabilities that Alcoa is leaving behind

IndustriALL Global Union has also condemned Alcoa for its attacks on workers in Spain, Australia and Canada.