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Glencore workers call for dispute settlement protocol

18 October, 2019Unions from Glencore operations in Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, USA, Peru, South Africa and Zambia came together to discuss the progress of IndustriALL’s Glencore campaign, launched in 2017. For the first time, Glencore executives attended the global union network meeting in Valledupar, Colombia, on 26 – 27 September.

The unions underlined the need to establish a dispute settlement protocol to deal with the serious health and safety failures.

“The campaign has brought a degree of interaction with Glencore executives, but this needs tp translate into better conditions for all worker around the world,”

said IndustriALL assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan.

Glencore’s head of sustainable development Anna Krutikov, and Gerda Schwindt, global head of human resources, outlined Glencore’s commercial and financial situation, strategies and future prospects, including sustainable development.

However, what they presented bore little resemblance to what the unions presented; continued serious health and safety risks, environmental pollution and gender issues.

  • Workers from Zambia spoke of a breakdown in health and safety and a record number of seven deaths reported this year. The union had done its best to ensure the implementation of safety policies to protect the workers.
  • In Colombia, managers at Codelco are reported to be violating the code of conduct and freedom of association, with constant threats to dissuade workers from organizing. In May, workers held a strike over the appalling health and safety conditions and poor nutrition.
  • Despite Glencore’s claims to healthy water usage policies, many rivers in Colombia have been polluted, like in the Calenturitas, and in La Guajira the company attempted to divert the only river passing through the area to gain access to raw materials beneath the river bed.
  • In New Brunswick, Canada, workers reported that safety was not being taken seriously, leading to accidents and injuries. The union health and safety representative has been locked-out from work since April, in an effort to weaken the health and safety provisions in the collective agreement. The network issued a solidarity statement for all locked-out workers.

Reports from South Africa also highlighted serious health and safety issues, with workers losing their hearing and having to mine in ever deeper tunnels, affecting their lungs.

Participants decided on an action plan to tackle these issues, pursue interaction with management and ultimately establish a global dialogue with Glencore. The network will call for a dispute settlement protocol at operations worldwide and press for a global mechanism that brings management and union leaders to the negotiating table.

The ultimate goal is a global framework agreement.