5 May, 2016The Rio Tinto global union network met in Brisbane, Australia this week, bringing together nearly fifty union leaders from Rio Tinto in eleven countries to discuss recent developments and update the network’s program of action.
The network received feedback from participants about ongoing struggles.
Union representatives from France and Iceland discussed their recent strikes at Rio Tinto. The Icelandic unions thanked the network for support received during their strike earlier this year.
Unions from all countries reported an excessive use of precarious labour at Rio Tinto worksites. Representatives from Canada, Iceland, Madagascar and Namibia discussed recent disputes with Rio Tinto over the company’s excessive use of precarious labour and failure to protect these workers.
The network viewed a heart-wrenching account of the struggles of precarious workers at Rio Tinto in Madagascar, where the company has invested billions of dollars but the precarious workers have to live in bad working conditions.
The network committed to an ambitious program of work that will enable unions to continue to build power globally at Rio Tinto. This includes ongoing capacity building for unions, additional efforts to organize Rio Tinto’s precarious workers, finalizing research on collective bargaining agreements at the company and bolstering ongoing communications amongst unions in the network.
A resolution supporting the Maritime Union of Australia’s campaign to get Rio Tinto to reverse its decision to replace Australian seafarers with exploited foreign workers earning as little as AUS$ 2 an hour, was unanimously passed.
Chairman of the Rio Tinto Global Union Network and general secretary of IndustriALL Australian affiliate CFMEU Mining and Energy Andrew Vickers, reported on recent outreach by Rio Tinto corporate leadership to unions about establishing a new relationship with unions around the world. Discussions subsequent to that outreach are ongoing.
Following the network meeting, the network participated in Rio Tinto’s annual general meeting of shareholders (AGM) in Brisbane on 5 May. Network participants asked questions to Rio Tinto board members, raising concerns for employees worldwide.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan addressed the AGM. He expressed the network’s concern about the continuing excessive use of precarious work by Rio Tinto. He also welcomed Rio Tinto’s recent outreach to unions globally.
We welcome the company’s recent approach to us, towards constructive labour relations at global, regional and local levels. We are looking forward to a continued process with fruitful, concrete results on the ground.