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Sherritt rejects government talks over Madagascar mine job losses

3 December, 2015IndustriALL Global Union condemns Canadian mining multinational, Sherritt, for refusing to attend a government-mediated meeting to discuss hundreds of lay-offs at it’s billion-dollar nickel mine in Madagascar.

Following a letter to the Prime Minister of Madagascar from IndustriALL and local trade unions, the government requested Sherritt Ambatovy management to attend a meeting with trade unions and community leaders on 26 November. However, the company refused and insisted that the matter be referred to a tribunal instead.

Sherritt violated legal procedures and Malagasy labour law in June this year when it laid off hundreds of workers at its Ambatovy nickel operation for six months without consulting the Ambatovy work council.

In a meeting on 17 November, Sherritt said only 10 per cent of the retrenched employees would be reinstated. They said the remaining 443 direct employees at Ambatovy would lose their jobs, including shop stewards who are normally protected by law in these situations.

According to Malagasy labour law, mass dismissals should be done in consultation with the work council, which should have the necessary time and information to assess the need for significant job losses. This information has never been provided.

Furthermore, Sherritt unilaterally suspended the Ambatovy work council when the employees on the council refused to sign the minutes of the 17 November meeting. The employees did not sign the minutes because members of the work council were included in the job losses, and the remaining members were not representative of workers.

IndustriALL and its affiliate at the mine, FESATI, as well as other trade unions SVS and SEKRIMA, are demanding the reinstatement of all the workers.

In total around 900 workers are losing their jobs. Despite the drop in the price of nickel on world markets, trade union leaders believe that Sherritt is taking the opportunity to bust trade unions following a number of strikes.

Meanwhile, Sherritt is hiring expatriate employees and migrant and local contract workers.

Unifor, IndustriALL’s Canadian affiliate which represents workers at Sherritt Canada, also wrote to the company’s headquarters over concerns of union busting.

IndustriALL’s director of mining, Glen Mpufane, said:

Sherritt has shown complete arrogance in refusing to mediate with trade union leaders at the invitation of the regional government. We urge Sherritt to open negotiations and comply with Malagasy law.