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Glencore unions across Latin America call for a just transition

14 March, 2023Glencore unions in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru are calling on the multinational to engage in dialogue with workers and communities to ensure a just transition that respects labour and environmental rights.

IndustriALL Global Union recently revived its campaign calling for Glencore to respect workers' rights in all its operations. On 3 March the regional network of Glencore unions held an online meeting, since Latin America is one of the regions facing the most difficulties.

Workers reported on the labour situation in each country, agreeing that the biggest problem is Glencore's lack of accountability towards communities and the environment. The multinational is overhauling its operations as part of its decarbonization strategy but has no clear plan to ensure a fair transition for workers and local communities.

Juan Carlos Solano Sintracarbon in Colombia said that Glencore had put no process in place to ensure a fair and dignified transition when it relinquished the Prodeco mine.

“As a result, the region of El Cesar has been left deserted. It’s like a ghost town – there’s no work there now and it’s become impossible to meet the basic needs of the local community.”

Solano said that his union has demanded that Glencore sit down with workers, members of the La Guajira community and the government to discuss a closure plan for the Cerrejón mine. The aim is to avoid a repeat of what happened at the Prodeco mine and ensure that “the transition causes as little damage as possible”.

Victor Rodriguez from Chile said that, although Glencore likes to portray the image of a company that engages with communities near its sites in Chile, it does not genuinely care about its workers or the people in those areas. The ratio of outsourced to permanent employees, for example, is three to one, with 2,400 outsourced workers and only 800 permanent staff.

Héctor Laplace from Argentina said that in the midst of the pandemic, for instance, Glencore unexpectedly shut down the Aguilar mine without informing the union, leaving 700 workers jobless.

IndustriALL representatives spoke about the organization's efforts to foster social dialogue with Glencore to get it to prioritize labour and trade union rights and development policies.

IndustriALL is also advocating for gender-related issues. Regional gender officer, Laura Carter, explained:

“We know that there is still discrimination against women at Glencore. There is no pay equity, there have been incidents of harassment, pregnant women do not feel safe, and some female workers do not have appropriate protective equipment. We want the company to take responsibility for these gender-related issues as well.”

IndustriALL mining director, Glen Mpufane, said:

“Glencore is a very elusive company. It’s difficult for us to talk to them about substantive issues like just transition, global dialogue and company-wide policy concerns, in addition to trying to resolve disputes. The company wants to control the narrative. It's a huge challenge, and one that will require coordination between the union network and local communities.

“The company's strategy is to run down its coal mines by the mid-2040s, which does not give us enough time to have a conservation about a just transition. We need to lead a global campaign and develop actions to hold Glencore accountable and foster social dialogue.”