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Unions in Madagascar ready to confront multinational companies

4 May, 2016IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliates in Madagascar say they are determined to stand up for the collective rights of workers against multinational companies in a country where, despite enormous mineral wealth, 70 per cent of the population live on less than US$2 a day.

It follows IndustriALL’s extensive one-week trade union building mission in Madagascar from 23 to 29 April 2016, the second of its kind, following a similar intervention in 2015.

The trade union building effort in the country comes off the back of continuous, unrelenting attacks on trade union rights by multinational companies, Rio Tinto and Sherritt Ambatovy, as well as a local mining company, Kraomite Malagasy.

IndustriALL conducted four workshops for its mining and textile sectors in three different regions in Madagascar: at Fort Dauphin where Rio Tinto operates QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) an ilmenite mine; Ambatovy where Sherritt International operates a nickel mine; and in the capital, Antananarivo.

IndustriALL addressed a mass meeting of members of its affiliates to hear personal stories of their working conditions at Rio Tinto QMM. Two workers who spoke about the atrocious working conditions at Rio Tinto QMM were subsequently threatened with dismissals for speaking out.

FES Madagascar organized an extremely well-attended press conference to highlight IndustriALL’s mission in Madagascar. Two very important research findings were presented at the press conference, one commissioned by IndustriALL on mining and the impact of precarious work in the Malagasy society, and another commissioned by FES on precarious work in the textile sector in Madagascar. The two research findings vindicated IndustriALL’s call for the elimination of precarious work in the country.  

The explosion of precarious work as a business and production model is having devastating consequences for Madagascar’s labour market and economic growth, benefitting big multinational companies such as Rio Tinto and Sherritt Ambatovy, the two leading drivers of this pugnacious practice.

IndustriALL affiliates have emerged out of the week-long workshops determined to organize precarious workers and defend the collective rights of workers in Madagascar. They regard precarious work as a threat to the security of permanent workers and by extension, an attack on the trade unions in Madagascar. They also vowed to protect the two contract workers that have threatened with dismissal following their speaking out at the mass meeting.  

The leader of the IndustriALL delegation, director of mining, Glen Mpufane, said:

“The violations of trade union and employee rights by principally Rio Tinto QMM and Sherritt Ambatovy must come to an end. It is our collective duty to fight the injustices in Madagascar. It cannot be right that Madagascar, so richly endowed in mineral resources, remains one of the poorest countries in the world, where 70 per cent of the Island’s 22.6 million population, live on less than US$2 a day and 59 per cent on less than $1.25. This is a tragedy.”