|Protesters outside Rio Tinto's 2015
Investors arriving today at Rio Tinto’s annual
general meeting today in London, UK, were faced by vocal
criticism of the company’s mining practices from
protestors gathered outside Queen Elizabeth II Conference
Centre in Westminster.
IndustriALL Global Union, Unite the Union and London Mining
Network brought together a number of trade unionists and
communities affected by the mining giant’s
operations to call for an end to Rio Tinto’s "poor
treatment of workers, indigenous communities and the
Among the accusations made by protesters is the
company’s anti-union behaviour, failures in worker
health and safety, increased use of outsourced or temporary
workers, poor relationships with communities, irresponsible
political activity, failure to respect the rights of indigenous
people and a lack of transparency.
Speaking to IM, Kemal Ozkan, assistant
general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union and one of the
protest organisers, said that many Rio Tinto investors do not
know exactly what is going on at Rio Tinto operations and
that the group was working to bring these issues to the
"We are demonstrating before the AGM (…) as what we
have observed is what Rio Tinto claims to be is not the
reality. What we have is the complete opposite to what they
report in their documents. This is why IndustriALL Global
Union has produced its own report this time called 'The Way
it Really Works’," Ozkan said.
Although IndustriALL, an international trade union
federation regrouping more than 50m workers in 143 countries
in the manufacturing, energy and mining sectors, participated
in protests at Rio’s AGM last year, Ozkan said
that the company has continued to operate in the same manner
without offering a clear response.
"After the protest, we will be going into the AGM and our
network has agreed on a joint statement it will personally
make to the chairman and CEO, expressing our discontent,
anger and outrage about what is going on in Rio Tinto
operations worldwide," Ozkan told IM.
Ozkan said that Rio Tinto had been singled 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," Ozkan added.
Rio Tinto’s move
"Year after year at Rio Tinto's AGMs, representatives of
communities across the world make clear their concerns about
Rio Tinto's behaviour," Richard Solly, coordinator of the
London Mining Network, said ahead of the protest.
"Year by year, the company thanks them for coming, says it
respects their views, and offers dialogue. But the pace of
actual improvement in the company's behaviour is glacial. It
needs to walk its talk," Solly added.
Rio Tinto did not immediately respond when contacted by
IM for comment, however the company has
previously hit back at allegations made by IndustriALL.
In October 2014, Rio Tinto told IM that
it was "disappointed" about unfounded allegations made by the
trade union regarding its safety record across its operations
ahead of a protest held on 7 October.
"In our view, it is misleading to misrepresent
workers’ conditions or to call into question the
value that Rio Tinto places on the health and safety of its
employees," a spokesperson for the company told
Rio Tinto is a leading producer of iron ore, an industry
where falling prices are raising questions about the
company’s strategy to ramp up production.
The company is also active in mineral sands markets, and
in 2014 produced 1.44m tonnes titanium dioxide
(TiO2), slightly below 1.5m tonne guidance for the
year. For the fourth quarter, output was at 316,000 tonnes in
2014, down 12% year-on-year (y-o-y) and 13%
2014 borates production for the company 508,000 tonnes, a
3% y-o-y increase, while in Q4 2014, borates production of
123,000 tonnes was 1% up y-o-y, but 3% lower than the Q3 2014
|First Nations chiefs representing the
rights of indigenous people in
However, today the company was heavily criticised by
activists for failing to respect the rights of aboriginal
people in the locations from which it sources its raw
Among the protestors were three First Nations chiefs
representing the rights of indigenous people in Canada, looking
to end a longstanding dispute between the Innu Nation in Quebec
and Rio Tinto majority-owned mining company, IOC.
"Rio Tinto began operating without consultation," a
spokesperson representing the group told IM.
"The Innu Chiefs are looking to negotiate an agreement with IOC
as this is their land, or they would just like a meeting to be
According to the group, IOC has reached impact and benefit
agreements (IBAs) with other Canadian aboriginal groups but
"not with those who hold ancestral title to the territory
affected by mining activities".
The spokesperson added that mining activity carried out
has devastated communities, having a real impact on the Innu
people’s lives, with many families forcefully
evicted from their native territory.
Rio Tinto was also accused of not respecting the rights of
aboriginal people in Africa.
Speaking to IM, Ebenezer Zarondo,
representing the Mineworkers Union of Namibia, said that Rio
Tinto was mining in areas belonging to indigenous people and
profiting from diamonds extracted and revenues earned without
giving back to the community.
"The steps the company needs to take is that they need to
realise that indigenous working groups must also be respected
like real human beings, and Rio Tinto must also know that the
precarious work is affecting the world, not necessarily in
individual parts of the world," Zarondo said.
The protest was additionally attended by current or
previous employees of Rio Tinto, some of which were
represented by the United Steel Workers union, who have been
campaigning against Rio Tinto since the company laid off 780
workers in Quebec in 2012.
|The United Steel Workers union
has been campaigning against Rio Tinto since
The union, which represents about 4,000 Rio Tinto workers in
North America, was also campaigning for the safety of
existing workers, and expressed concerns about the increase
in precarious labour.
Ron Thomas, the union’s president, told
IM: "We’re here because
we’re looking for respect and to get our jobs
"We have been campaigning against Rio Tinto since 
to try and make them a better company, to try and make them
act in a civilised way towards workers and communities,"
another spokesperson told IM. "They
haven’t changed their attitude or behaviour and
we will be here until they do."