Global union network makes
Trade unions representing Rio Tinto workers around the world have declared their readiness to work co-operatively with Rio Tinto and ensure that it is "an efficient and competitive producer of minerals and minerals products", in return for Rio Tinto recognising "the rights of its workers to form unions and bargain collectively". The unions met in Canberra on February 7-8, under the auspices of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM). They belong to a global network of trade unions representing Rio Tinto employees. Those attending the Canberra meeting represented workers at Rio Tinto operations in Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, South Africa and the United States — representing thousands of the company's employees. Unions with Rio Tinto employees in Brazil, Indonesia, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Sweden and Zimbabwe sent their fraternal greetings. Some delegates were prevented from attending by the company which refused to give the necessary leave. "It appears that Rio Tinto chooses to act globally but wishes to prevent its own workers doing so", said the Communique issued by the network following the meeting. Rio Tinto is the world's largest and most powerful transnational mining company. There are continuous reports of its poor health and safety record, attacks on trade unions and workers' rights, pollution of the environment, and brutal treatment of indigenous peoples. The unions first came together as a global network two years ago when they decided to campaign for the rights of the communities and workers and the protection of the environment affected by Rio Tinto's global operations. The Canberra meeting is the second meeting of the network, and was necessary, as the Communique stated, "because the problems that first brought us together two years ago are still with us today". The following is the bulk of the text of the Communique: Rio Tinto is, in various countries: * refusing to recognise and bargain with trade unions that represent their workforce — especially in Australia; * contracting out the work of its employees and/or seeking to employ people on a temporary rather than permanent basis; * increasing the shift length and working hours of its workers — often without consultation or negotiation; * relying on the support of military forces and/or governments to secure its operations rather than working with trade unions and their communities in an open and mutually supportive framework; * a major supplier of diamonds to the Indian diamond cutting industry wherein there is a high rate of child labour; * accused of victimising union delegates and activists by targeting them for retrenchment. We declare that: — We recognise the need for Rio Tinto to be an efficient and competitive producer of minerals and mineral products and are prepared to work with the company to that end. — The cooperation of the workforce with the company in achieving its goals must be on the basis of company recognition of the rights of its workers to form trade unions and bargain collectively. To date the company has not met this basic obligation in many of its operations. — Continuing efforts by the company to fragment and isolate its workforce through the offering of individual employment contracts rather than bargain with unions is in direct contravention of this basic obligation. — Until the company respects the basic rights of its workers the trade unions in the global network will campaign against the company in domestic and international forums and in cooperation with other organisations and peoples who have grievances with the company. We see the success of our campaign as linked with other campaigns over the protection of human rights (in particular, the rights of indigenous peoples in or near Rio Tinto operations) and the protection of the environment from poor mining practices. — This campaign will take many forms, and be based on the problems that the company is causing in each operation. — At the global level, the unions in Rio Tinto operations will campaign, in conjunction with the wider labour movement, for the company to abide by the seven core labour standards of the UN's International Labour Organisation and the OECD's Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. These standards cover freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain, the abolition of forced and child labour, equal pay and the prevention of discrimination in the workplace. Rio Tinto is currently in breach of these basic labour standards on many counts. — Any commitment the company may make in respect of these core labour standards must provide for an agreed independent monitoring and compliance mechanism in which trade unions participate. — Rio Tinto must recognise the ICEM Rio Tinto unions network as the legitimate representative of workers in its operations at the global level. Finally, we, the unions of the Rio Tinto global network, declare that, in an age of globalisation and ever-larger multinational corporations, it is increasingly important for the labour movement to organise internationally to protect and advance the position of working people. We see ourselves as the leading the way in making global corporations accountable to the communities in which they operate. The globalisation of big business demands a global response from workers as well as governments. The Rio Tinto global union network is part of that response. "United we bargain; divided we beg!"