Rio protesters regroup in Mongolia

UNION outrage at Rio Tinto has continued inspire international campaigning efforts, with Mongolia set to take centre stage this week.

Staff Reporter

IndustriALL Global Union – which represents some 50 million workers in 140 countries – has called for its affiliates to meet tomorrow in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar to plan moves aimed at improving worker rights within the mining giant.

The meeting follows a two-day conference on socially sustainable mining in the city and a global wave of protests earlier this month which saw workers across five continents hold rallies, stop-work events and other worksite actions claiming grievances against Rio.

IndustriALL says workers in Mongolia are particularly vulnerable, citing Rio’s $US6 billion ($A6.8 billion) investment at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine and a number of allegations about the miner in the country, including wage discrimination, unfair dismissal and sacking workers without adequate consultation.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Ozkan says the group aims to build union power at Rio plants around the world, uniting workers in the struggle for decent work.

“Rio Tinto has extensive experience in causing one conflict after another with trade unions, indigenous organizations, environmental groups and other key community stakeholders,” Ozkan said.

“Unions and civil society are coming together in an unprecedented way to push back against Rio Tinto for the benefit of workers, the environment and communities.

“For far too long, Rio Tinto has systematically put profits before people, sometimes with fatal consequences like the recent deaths at the Grasberg mine in Papua New Guinea. Workers are saying enough is enough.”

IndustriALL said it was seeking to force Rio to live by its own claims, publishing a report that purported the company contradicted its own sustainable development strategies.

The paper said 40 workers were killed at operations fully or partially owned by Rio in 2013 and that one-third of the company’s workforce was continually exposed to work noise levels at which hearing loss could be predicted.

In Australia, IndustriALL affiliates protesting Rio have included the Construction, Forestry, Mining & Energy Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union.

The coordinated protests earlier this month coincided with the World Day for Decent Work and included the CFMEU circulating claims that Rio’s long-held policies were really code for a ruthless effort to exclude unions from playing a meaningful role in its workplaces.

Rio had declined to comment on the protest.

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