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Unions deliver strong message to Glencore shareholders

7 May, 2015A delegation from the United States, South Africa, Australia and Colombia attended Glencore’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Zug, Switzerland on 7 May. Together with IndustriALL they delivered a strong message in response to the company’s perpetual disrespect for workers rights globally.

IndustriALL’s international delegation met in front of the venue in Zug, distributing flyers exposing Glencore’s many violations of workers rights globally to shareholders just before and after the delegation entered the AGM to deliver their message.

Trade union issues dominated the meeting and it was impossible for the company to continue sweeping them under the carpet. Some shareholders, unaware of the violations, left the meeting outraged at Glencore’s behaviour.

“Even the CEO considered that there are legitimate issues being raised and committed to go back and talk to people on the ground. One way or another these issue have to be resolved,” says Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director of mining.

“Their response to my intervention on workers rights violations in Colombia was not acceptable, the company claims that workers are free to choose to be a part of a union but in reality they are being intimidated,” says Igor Diaz, education officer at Sintracarbon and Glencore network coordinator. 

Rey Herrera, vice president at USW Local 235A urged the company to immediately end the lockout at their operations at Shermin Alumina in Texas, and put them back to work and continue to bargain to make a fair an equitable contract.

“They claimed they would make an effort to talk to us, but what they say and what they do are two different things,” says Herrera.

“I’ve been to a lot of AGM’s and I must say that we managed to get all of our issues through. I was happy to get a face-to-face meeting with Glencore CEO Yvan Glasenberg to discuss the issues in the USA, Colombia, South Africa and Australia and we can only hope that it gets to management,” says Wayne McAndrew, national vice president of the CFMEU mining and energy.

The international delegation composed of IndustriALL affiliates from The United Steelworkers (USW), The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and SintraCarbon spent the entire week holding solidarity events and meeting with political leaders and human rights activists in Switzerland.

In the build up to the AGM, the goal was to expose Glencore and to make it clear that the company’s practice is very different from its rhetoric.

Glen Mpufane says:

Glencore claims to respect communities, collective bargaining and the right of employees to freely choose a union, but IndustriALL has testimonies from affiliates, in over 14 countries of the consistent brutality and disrespect of workers rights throughout it’s operations.

A public conference on a corporate social responsibility's initiative by Swiss based multinational corporations (MNCs) held on 4 May heard heart wrenching stories about Glencore's vicious attack on workers and communities in Texas, Colombia, South Africa and Australia.

On 5 May, the delegation met with the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Actrav division to press their case and explore solutions by the ILO.

The delegation's mission was boosted by an invitation to address members of Parliament of the federal government in Berne on 6 May. The meeting confirmed the urgent and appropriate need for the Swiss initiative on Swiss MNCs. A protocol for engagement, consultation and communication with IndustriALL was agreed.