WHEN: Thursday 19 April 2012, 10:00
WHERE: The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, SW1P
Union members and workers will be handing out medals to Rio Tinto shareholders’ saying ‘Don’t let Rio Tinto tarnish the Olympic Games’ at its AGM in London tomorrow (Thursday 19 April).
Workers Uniting, the world’s first global union, along with other unions are protesting over the four month-long lockout of 780 United Steelworkers (USW) members in Alma, Quebec, Canada. The dispute is over Rio Tinto’s plans to replace retiring employees with contract workers on half the wages with no benefits at its profitable smelter in Quebec, Canada. When the workers refused to accept, Rio Tinto locked them out.
The unions will bring to shareholders’ attention Rio Tinto’s unethical and illegal actions in Canada and the damage this is doing to the reputation of the London 2012 Olympics by tarnishing it with the company’s reprehensible labour practices. Rio Tinto, one of the sponsors of the 2012 London Olympics, is providing 99 per cent of the metal for the London Olympic medals.
Unite is supporting the USW, which is calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop the company as an official supplier of the 2012 London Games because the company’s treatment of its own workers does not live up to the Olympic spirit and disrespects the Olympic values of fair play.
USW assistant director for Quebec, Guy Farrell, said: “Locking out its workers in Quebec is a violation of Rio Tinto’s obligations to fair play under the Olympic Charter. The effort by this company to drive down living wages at one of the most profitable aluminium smelters in the world is a dangerous precedent for workers and families everywhere.
“Rio Tinto is not Olympic calibre in its behaviour towards its own workers and their families. The company demands unrealistic concessions from employees, and locks them out when they don’t concede. It pollutes the air and water in communities around the world. It has no place alongside the world’s greatest athletes – it’s time to get Rio Tinto off the Olympic podium.”
Unite assistant general secretary, Tony Burke, said: “This deal allows Rio Tinto to promote its association with the most prestigious athletic event in the world. However, its actions go completely against the Olympic values of ‘friendship, solidarity and fair play’.
“We will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers and sisters who have been locked out by this multinational company that is using bullyboy tactics to get its way. We will not allow this to happen.”
The locked-out members of USW are supported in this action by Unite, the London Mining Network and three global union federations: International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
For further information contact Ashraf Choudhury in the Unite Press Office on 020 3371 2061 or 07980-224761
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Notes to editors: Workers Uniting, the world’s first global union representing three million workers, is a partnership between Unite from the United Kingdom and Ireland and the United Steelworkers (USW) from the United States and Canada.