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Guard strike points to global problem at Rio Tinto

21 October, 2015A security guard strike at Rio Tinto’s mine in Madagascar points to a global problem: the company’s overreliance on and failure to take responsibility for precarious workers.

Over 100 workers who provide security at Rio Tinto’s QMM ilmenite mine in Madagascar went on strike on Sunday. They are protesting the firing of two guards who are leaders of IndustriALL affiliate FISEMA. They are also demanding that a manager who is said to routinely verbally abuse workers and their families be terminated.

The guards, employed by Rio Tinto subcontractor Pro’Tech Security, are treated poorly as are other Rio Tinto indirect, precarious employees at the mine.

“Rio Tinto’s subcontracted security guards, catering employees, cleaners and drivers at its mine in Madagascar suffer from poverty wages and a lack of employment security,” stated Eugène Chretien, FISEMA General Secretary for Anosy Region.

“While Rio Tinto’s direct employees have a decent canteen and clinic, the subcontracted employees must eat in the open air in dusty conditions and be treated in an inferior clinic. Also, their personal protective equipment is not always replaced according to the security norms. This is especially troubling in light of the January fatality at the mine,” added Chretien.

FISEMA recently requested a meeting with Rio Tinto to discuss how to improve the treatment of Rio Tinto’s indirect employees in Madagascar, however the company refused.

Rio Tinto’s excessive use of indirect, precarious employees around the world generated a global protest earlier this month.

Unions at Rio Tinto organized a global day of action on 7 October demanding good, safe jobs instead of precarious work.

In Iceland, the VM union held a rally in front of Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter protesting against the company’s threat to close the smelter if the union doesn’t allow a massive increase in contracting out to lower paid workers.

In Namibia, the MUN union rallied and delivered Rio Tinto’s Rossing uranium mine management a petition demanding an end to exploitation of contractors. This includes paying some contractors only one-seventh as much as regular workers, forcing them to work longer hours with less job security, and victimisation of union members.

Unions representing workers at Rio Tinto in fourteen countries sent a letter to Rio Tinto’s CEO on 7 October requesting to work collaboratively with the company to address these problems.

“The security guard strike at Rio Tinto in Madagascar is a symptom of a global problem that requires a global solution,” said IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan. “We hope Rio Tinto will respond positively to the unions’ offer to work toward that solution.”