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Minera Panama is violating workers’ rights

10 May, 2023Minera Panama, a subsidiary of First Quantum Minerals, is pursuing a policy that violates the fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively. IndustriALL is urging Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals to ensure respect for the right to freedom of association at its copper mine in Panama.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, Atle Høie, has written to the CEO of First Quantum Minerals Ltd., Tristan Pascall, to warn him that his company is violating workers’ fundamental rights.

He also cautioned that the company is in breach of its human rights due diligence obligations by discriminating against the leaders of the Sindicato Industrial de Trabajadores de la Construcción de Minas y Desarrollo de la Minera (STM), an affiliate of Convergencia Sindical (CS) in Panama, and by preventing them from carrying out their legitimate trade union activities. 

Høie urged the company to take the measures required to reverse the acts of discrimination against the STM and to ensure full respect for the right to freedom of association. The STM informed IndustriALL that Minera Panama is violating the workers’ right to freely form and join organisations of their own choosing, which is a right enshrined in the standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO).  

The union organisation condemned the company’s unfair dismissal of STM union leaders, as well as its refusal to reinstate the general secretary, Osvaldo Tallet, to the same position and with the same conditions he enjoyed prior to his dismissal, and its insistence on assigning him duties not stipulated in his contract.  

The union also pointed out that the company is discriminating against Tallet and another STM leader by not covering their accommodation expenses as it does for the other workers being employed at a mine in an isolated area. Additionally, three other union leaders are being denied access to the mine, preventing them from holding meetings and assemblies with their members and the other workers. And three active members who recorded videos in support of the STM as part of the union’s recruitment campaign have suffered reprisals and are unable to report for work at the mine. 

The workers also argue that the company used tactics to delay its compliance with several Panamanian Supreme Court rulings and continued to repeatedly violate the right to freedom of association. For the STM, the violations come at a key moment, when the labour authorities are in the midst of deciding which of the two unions at the company will negotiate the collective bargaining agreement.

In his letter to Tristan Pascall, Atle Høie, said:

“First Quantum’s actions represent a serious violation of the fundamental right to freedom of association. Anti-union discrimination represents one of the most serious violations of freedom of association, as it can jeopardise the very existence of trade unions. We urge you to take the necessary steps to reverse the acts of discrimination against the STM and to ensure full respect for the right to freedom of association.”