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As abuses continue, so does Rio Tinto campaign

11 July, 2016Dialogue between IndustriALL Global Union affiliates and Rio Tinto about establishing agreed global labour principles and structures for enforcing those principles continues, following a management reorganization at the company. 

Nonetheless, Rio Tinto has failed to adequately improve its treatment of workers and remains the target of a global campaign.

Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore Company of Canada has failed to keep its promise to reinstate laid-off members of the United Steelworkers (USW) who had been replaced by contractors. The company has also failed to meet its commitment to work cooperatively to resolve a backlog of 3,500 grievances filed by the union.

In Madagascar, Rio Tinto recently announced it intends to dismiss all employees in a number of departments that it no longer considers part of its core business and replace them with contractors. Rio Tinto has refused to discuss concerns about the company’s contractors being compensated at a level that leaves them working-poor on the verge of desperation.

Rio Tinto has long resisted discussing the concerns of the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) about violations of Rio Tinto’s contract employees’ rights to freedom of association. The company recently informed MUN that it plans to contract out all maintenance positions, which would exacerbate the problem of excessive precarious work.

In South Africa, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) reports that when contractors join unions and raise concerns about their employment conditions including by requesting proper personal protective equipment, they are victimized, charged for minor transgressions and eventually dismissed. When NUM raises concern about this, Rio Tinto says it’s not their responsibility.

The situation at Rio Tinto in South Africa recently deteriorated when contracts of employees who previously worked on six or twelve month contracts were only renewed for one month, resulting in more insecure work.

IndustriALL and unions in the Rio Tinto Global Union Network continue to campaign for improvements in Rio Tinto’s labour practices. MUN, NUM, USW, unions in Madagascar and other unions at Rio Tinto are all fighting back against increases in precarious work.

IndustriALL is outreaching to Rio Tinto customers and shareholders about these problems, including through a recent Investor Briefing. IndustriALL has called on the company to disclose more to investors about its workforce, which the company says is its greatest asset but provides very little information about it. IndustriALL also continues to challenge Rio Tinto’s affiliation to the UN Global Compact given Rio Tinto fails to respect its principles.

“We hope that Rio Tinto will soon genuinely pursue constructive labour relations at global, regional and local levels,” says IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan. “However, we’re prepared to campaign against the company for as long as it takes to do so.”