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Rio Tinto shamed by unions

16 April, 2015World leader in workers’ rights abuses, Rio Tinto was targeted today in London by an angry coalition of campaigners calling for the company to clean up and act responsibly.

IndustriALL Global Union’s network of unions at Rio Tinto took their raft of grievances to the annual shareholders meeting today. The mining giant was shamed by its failures on union rights, worker safety, damage to the environment, and indigenous peoples and other communities.

A number of trade unions from all over the world along with NGOs and groups of indigenous people rallied outside the venue of the Rio Tinto AGM 2015. With chanting and delivering a defiant message that the IndustriALL campaign will continue.

Inside the AGM, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan delivered the joint message of the union network. 

Kemal Özkan says:

Our campaign will continue until Rio Tinto becomes the social actor it describes itself to be. All we seek is respect for workers, indigenous peoples, communities and the environment.

Ron Thomas, USW president at Rio Tinto’s operations in Labrador City, Canada, said to the AGM:

“I’m asking Rio Tinto to treat our members with respect and to stop using contract workers. We want to work with Rio Tinto and get our jobs back.”

Strong criticism came from the floor of the AGM, holding Rio Tinto to account for its arrogant disrespect of other affected stakeholders.

The Innu Nation of Quebec made a strong symbolic gesture by addressing the AGM in their native language, before stating:

“We came here in peace. When will Rio Tinto negotiate and sign an agreement with us. You are taking out the resources without sharing the profits with us. The time has come to pay the rent to the real owners of that land.”

Political funding in the US, non-transparency in numerous deals including in Myanmar, and environmental degradation were strong issues raised.

The Chairman and CEO were required to explain recent events around Rio Tinto workers being killed on the job in Madagascar, Canada, South Africa and Indonesia.

Directly following the AGM, the IndustriALL-led group demonstrated outside two jewellery stores owned by Signet, who source their diamonds from Rio Tinto. Customers of the H. Samuel and Ernest Jones shops on Oxford Street, in the heart of London’s busy shopping area, were told about how Signet’s diamonds are dirtied by Rio Tinto’s unethical behaviour.