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Dear Signet, don’t let Rio Tinto take the sparkle out of Christmas

14 December, 2015This holiday season, unions are again calling on one of the world’s largest jewellery retailers to clean up its supplier of diamonds. They are urging Signet to demand that multinational mining and metals giant Rio Tinto respect workers’ rights, indigenous peoples and the environment.

With global sales of US$6 billion annually, Signet’s Kay, Jared and Zales are found across the US, Peoples and Mappins stores are throughout Canada, and H. Samuel and Ernest Jones shops are visible on UK high streets.

The unions are calling on Signet to abide by its own Responsible Sourcing Policy. This policy declares the company “committed to the responsible sourcing of our products and the respect of human rights, and we expect the same from our suppliers around the world.” 

But Rio Tinto is a notorious violator of labour rights, communities and the environment, as documented in the report Rio Tinto: The way it really works and on the IndustriALL Rio Tinto campaign page:

  • Fatalities at worksites in six different countries in 2015
  • Thousands of grievances unresolved by management at iron ore operation in Labrador, Canada
  • An apparent increase in the use of insecure, precarious work around the world despite billions of dollars in sales
  • Destruction of indigenous sacred sites and vital natural water supply in Mongolia

Although the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) has certified Rio Tinto, unfortunately the RJC is highly flawed. It is neither independent – it is governed by industry, excluding labour, civil society and impacted communities. Nor is it transparent – it is impossible for the public to determine whether an RJC-certified company complies with RJC’s own certification requirements, let alone international human rights and environmental standards.

Unions and others have raised concern about Signet’s sourcing practices multiple times. ILWU, Unifor and USW organized demonstrations in the lead up to Mother’s Day this May at Signet stores in the U.S. and Canada. This followed demonstrations at Signet stores in the UK by unions and civil society organizations from a dozen countries.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina states:

We are again urging Signet to demand its supplier Rio Tinto change its practices that are bad for workers, communities and the environment. So far Signet has remained mostly silent while Rio Tinto has responded with threats.

We’ll continue to raise our concerns until Rio Tinto changes its practices and behaves like the responsible company it claims to be.