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Strike win just first step for Rio Tinto contract workers

17 November, 2015Over 100 security guards for Rio Tinto in Madagascar have won a three week strike, a first step toward addressing poor working conditions for contactors at the mine.

The workers, employed by Pro Tech Security to guard Rio Tinto’s QMM ilmenite mine, struck in response to the firing of two guards who are leaders of IndustriALL affiliate FISEMA. Strikers demanded that the two union leaders be reinstated and that a manager who routinely verbally abused workers and their families be dismissed.

The union ended the strike on 5 November after management agreed to all its demands. Management also agreed to provide full back pay to the workers for the period they were on strike.

“These workers stood up for their union leaders and demanded respect, and their victory shows the power of solidarity,” stated Eugène Chretien, FISEMA General Secretary for Anosy Region.

“I also want to applaud Pro’Tech Security management for listening to their workers and negotiating in good faith with FISEMA. We hope to build relationships based on mutual respect to address our concerns about working conditions at Pro’Tech and at other Rio Tinto contractors in Madagascar,” added Chretien.

Rio Tinto’s contracted security guards, catering employees, cleaners and drivers in Madagascar suffer from poverty wages, poor conditions and a lack of employment security.

IndustriALL has worked closely with FISEMA to train and mobilize these workers and publicize their struggles.

The workers participated in a global day of action at Rio Tinto on 7 October which highlighted the company’s overreliance on precarious workers and failure to take responsibility for them.

The global day included actions by unions at Rio Tinto worksites around the world. In Iceland, the VM union held a rally in front of Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter protesting against the company’s threat to close the smelter if the union doesn’t allow a massive increase in contracting out to lower paid workers. Workers at the smelter recently voted to go on strike on 2 December unless agreement is reached before then.

“Unions in Madagascar, Iceland and around the world are increasingly standing up and demanding that Rio Tinto end its abuses of contract workers and precarious work,” said IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan. “The agreement in Madagascar was a positive first step, but Rio Tinto has a long ways to go to address this global problem.”