Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

South Africa: Union protests Glencore malpractices

26 April, 2018Hundreds of workers from IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), marched to Glencore's office in Johannesburg on 25 April, protesting against the mining giant’s workers’ and human rights abuses.

The march was part of a nation-wide strike called by the Federation of South African Trade Unions, which saw tens of thousands of workers taking to the streets in South Africa’s main cities to stop amendments to labour laws compromising the right to strike, and the introduction of a minimum wage, too low to meet workers’ needs.

Demonstrators called on Glencore to stop undermining wages and conditions of employment, end union bashing and denying workers freedom of association, and stop polluting the environment through reckless acid waste disposal at its operations.

Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining says:

Multinational companies like Glencore should lead in responsible mining by respecting workers and human rights, collective bargaining and protecting the interests and rights of mine-affected communities. To this end, we will continue our campaign to force Glencore to comply.

NUMSA is demanding the re-registration of smelters with South Africa's Department of Minerals and Resources, and the disciplining of managers involved in collective bargaining that violated ILO conventions. Additionally, Glencore should engage NUMSA as the majority union in the company’s coal division. Contract workers and those employed by labour brokers should get better deals instead of unequal wages, bad working conditions and deplorable health and safety standards.

Thabo Mogoroe, NUMSA, said, when handing the petition to Glencore staff who received the document from behind a steel gate:

We want to inform Glencore that this is the beginning of a series of actions that we will take to fight back its attack on workers, the poor and their families. We are gathered to protest the abuse of workers, communities and the environment by Glencore, not only in South Africa but internationally.

NUMSA was part of the IndustriALL mission to DRC in February, and condemns the human and workers’ rights abuses at Glencore operations at Mutanda Mine and Kamoto Copper Mine. These include constant threats of dismissals, poor health and safety practices, occupation diseases, racism and discrimination, unfair and unjust job classifications, low pay and inferior salaries for Congolese workers compared to foreign ones.

The union also condemned the discharge of acid waste into local rivers at Luilu copper refinery also in Kolwezi. There are also acid waste drainage problems in Mpumalanga, South Africa, where communities will be left with polluted water long after mining has stopped.

*This article was amended on 30 April to reflect that NUMSA wants smelters to be registered under the Department of Minerals and Resources, and not the Department of Labour