10 December, 2020The IndustriALL Global Union Anglo American global network agreed to continue engaging with the multinational mining company on a framework for global dialogue to deal with critical issues and challenges affecting mineworkers at its global operations.
The meeting on 3-4 December was a follow up on progress made so far towards the proposed dialogue between Anglo American and IndustriALL, as discussed at the last network meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2019. The meeting discussed sustainable mining and acknowledged the global network’s potential to build union power in the mining sector.
The IndustriALL mining and DGOJP sector co-chairperson, Lucineide Varjao Soares, said that in some instances mining companies were unwilling to negotiate and resolve workers grievances. She cited the strike at Cerrejon mine in Colombia, owned by Anglo American, BHP and Glencore as an example of the refusal to negotiate with unions.
“The Sintracarbon strike, which ended after 91 days, is a symbolic victory for mineworkers not only in Colombia, but for the rest of the world. This shows that resistance to the shift changes led to victory as the management agreed to negotiate. Further, the strike exposed that mining companies do not practice what they preach on workers’ rights.”
The Covid-19 pandemic induced crises on the global economy, public health, and employment were discussed as the pandemic caused millions of job losses in the mining sector. Emphasis was put on occupational health and safety and protocols developed as responses to Covid-19, workers and human rights, gender equality, diversity and women workers’ rights, Just Transition to renewable energy sources, and Industry 4.0..
Country reports from South Africa and Australia confirmed that on health and safety protocols on Covid-19, Anglo American worked amicably with the unions. This was confirmed by Anglo American’s Lead health operations, Charles Mbekeni, who outlined how the company worked with the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL mining director, said that adopting an occupational health and safety approach to union work is important.
“As we campaign for the recognition of Covid-19 as an occupational disease, we must continue to prioritize health and safety through training and capacity building of the health and safety shop stewards.”
The meeting heard that according to the Responsible Mining Index’s gender matrix, Anglo American, is taking the necessary steps to improve and mitigate the impact of its activities on women. However, affiliates in Botswana and South Africa said going to work early in the morning is becoming dangerous as women are attacked at bus stops while waiting for company transport to take them to work. The unions said the security of women to and from work is an issue that should be addressed by Anglo American.
Unions also still have a lot of work to do to increase the participation of women in union activities. Armelle Seby, IndustriALL gender coordinator said:
“It is important to build the capacity of the trade unions on gender equality and how to address women concerns including on operational health and safety. Unions should take action to expose and address gender-based violence and harassment, and campaign for the implementation of ILO Convention 190 on eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work.”
Discussions mentioned that Anglo American is inconsistent in its approach to industrial relations. For instance, in Africa and Australia the industrial relations were cordial but adversarial in Latin America.
Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said:
“The Anglo American Global Network continues to be one of the platforms that we are using for meaningful engagement with the company management to improve industrial relations. Further, we want the company to respect fundamental workers and human rights.”
The virtual meeting was attended by 45 participants from ten countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Australia. The photo is from last year's meeting in South Africa.