CRITICAL COMMENT

Global unions converge in Mongolia in campaign for workers’ rights

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Leaders of IndustriALL Global Union’s Rio Tinto Network will gather in Mongolia on 22 October to plan the next moves in the worldwide campaign to improve worker rights at the mining giant.

The meeting, in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, will bring together IndustriALL affiliates from around the world. It follows a two-day conference in the city where unions, government officials and civil society groups are gathering to discuss the labour agenda for socially sustainable mining in the global south.

The Network is focusing support in Mongolia, where Rio Tinto has invested billions and mine workers are particularly vulnerable.

The company has a US $6 billion investment in the vast Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in the Gobi Desert. Workers there are represented by IndustriALL affiliate the Federation of Energy, Geology and Mining Workers’ Trade Unions of Mongolia (MEGM).

Last year, Rio Tinto was condemned by the Supreme Court in Mongolia for wage discrimination against Mongolian nationals and unfair dismissal. The company also faced international criticism for sacking thousands of workers in the country without adequate consultation.

Rio Tinto’s blind pursuit of profit at any cost in Mongolia has caused disputes with unions as well as environmental, community and indigenous groups.

Together with its mining trade union affiliates, IndustriALL Global Union has an ongoing campaign calling for an end to bad corporate behaviour at the expense of workers at Rio Tinto operations around the world.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says that with the campaign, IndustriALL Global Union aims to build union power at Rio Tinto 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. 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,” says Kemal Özkan.

The Network meeting follows a global day of protests on 7 October as as part of IndustriALL’s campaign to demand a new era at Rio Tinto.

In a coordinated day of defiance workers from Rio Tinto sites in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America demanded safer workplaces, secure jobs and respect for workers’ rights. Events included rallies, stop work meetings and other worksite actions.

The 7 October action against Rio Tinto coincided with the World Day for Decent Work, when unions mobilize against precarious work - jobs that are temporary, casual, contracted-out and often low-wage, low-benefit, unsafe and insecure.

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