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Rio Tinto stands far from real sustainability

15 April, 2014IndustriALL Global Union came together with trade union and civil society representatives to call for an end to Rio Tinto’s unsustainable behavior at the annual general meeting for shareholders (AGM) in London today.

Activists from IndustriALL Global Union, civil society organisations like London Mining Network, and a number of trade union leaders and protestors from around the world gathered outside the venue to show participants at the AGM the real face of the mining giant. The action was jointly organised with Unite the Union, with participation from IndustriALL affiliates Community, FNV and United Steelworkers.

The Rio Tinto AGM coincided with the release of IndustriALL Global Union’s report Unsustainable: The ugly truth about Rio Tinto.

Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL says on the report:

By showing that Rio Tinto does not operate in a sustainable manner, we aim to force the company to live by its own claims. These are our members and we demand a safe workplace, freedom of association and a constructive dialogue with management.

One of the people who spoke out at the AGM was Perle Zafinandro from Madagascar, president of the FAGNOMBA association. She has criticized QMM-Rio Tinto of land-grabbing and environmental destruction in Madagascar. In March this year Perle and a number of other members of the organisation were arrested and put in prison for 58 days.

“Your opening video presentation shows great operations. But that is very far from our reality in Madagascar”, she said.

IndustriALL was one of the speakers in the AGM, raising questions to the board members of Rio Tinto. Kemal Özkan challenged the company, asking how Rio Tinto aims to improve communication and interaction with local communities and the labour movement for the sake of transparency and accountability.

Putting forward facts and figures on fundamental rights’ violations, watering down of collective bargaining processes, precariousness of labor, and appalling health and safety records in Rio Tinto operations worldwide, Kemal Özkan said:

“We question Rio Tinto’s sustainability practices; particularly labour relations and your commitment to health and safety- You say fatal accidents are a shame in the 21st century, and yet you reported 40 deaths last year. And according to the official government investigation the Grasberg accident in Indonesia could have been prevented!”

Lacking in conviction, Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto, at one point said:

“You can count on me”.

To many workers at Rio Tinto operations around the world those are just empty words without meaning.