WORKERS from around the world gathered in London yesterday to demand that mining giant Rio Tinto clean up its act.
Rio Tinto, one of the world’s biggest companies with assets worth £72 billion, faced vocal criticism and protests outside its annual general meeting over allegations of anti-union behaviour, health and safety failures, suspect political activities and lack of respect for indigenous people's rights.
Unions and campaigners say that while the company publicly claims to respect trade union rights, it also openly defends what it calls “direct engagement” where the union is treated as an external, unwanted force.
Unite international director Simon Dubbins said: ”The way Rio Tinto treats it workers and the communities it operates in makes an utter mockery of any claim to be a socially responsible employer.”
And despite lofty words about “environmental stewardship,” Rio Tinto mines have regularly polluted the air and water surrounding their operations, from West Papua to Wisconsin, unions have said.
Protesters included community members and workers from Rio Tinto sites in Mongolia, Madagascar, Inuit communities in Canada, Indonesia, Apache communities in the US, France, Australia, Namibia and more.
Global IndustriALL union general secretary Kemal Ozkan said: “Among the many bad offenders of workers’ rights in the mining industry, Rio Tinto has been picked out for its anti-worker arrogance as well as its damage to local communities and the environment.
“The company systematically fails on environmental, social and governance factors and our campaign will continue until Rio Tinto becomes the social actor it describes itself to be.”