Four IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), OTUC, CSC, TUMEC, and UNTC met at the Immaculata Convent, Kolwezi on 25 May, to discuss how they can build solidarity and work together against Glencore’s trampling of workers’ rights at Mutanda Mine and Kamoto Copper Mine (KCC), and to improve working conditions and win fair wages for the mineworkers.
The affiliates agreed not to compete amongst themselves but cooperate and give each other necessary support in the upcoming social elections for union representatives at workplaces that are held every three years according to the DRC labour laws.
The grievances that were raised by workers to the IndustriALL fact-finding mission to Glencore’s copper and cobalt mines in the DRC which went to Kolwezi in February were read and adopted as the reality prevailing in the mines. The grievances included workers’ rights abuses through constant threats of dismissals, poor adherence to health and safety standards, occupational diseases, racism and discrimination, unfair and unjust job classifications, low pay, inferior pay for Congolese workers versus foreign ones. Further, workers complained of inadequate drinking water during shifts and that no laundry, ablution facilities and showers existed at the mines. The hospital was also too far away for workers’ families.
These are the grievances that IndustriALL took to the Glencore AGM in Zug, Switzerland in May where TUMEC was joined by trade union representatives from Australia, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Zambia and NGOs who demonstrated outside and later attended the meeting.
The affiliates agreed to support CSC which is the majority union that currently chairs the ten unions represented at Mutanda Mine. They will also support each other by developing common positions at KCC and supporting the same candidates at the two mines in the social elections.
In their organizing and recruitment drives, the affiliates will also not compete for members but will instead work as a unit and collaborate to build the strengths of their unions.
The meeting set up an IndustriALL Lualaba provincial committee of six members to coordinate the Glencore campaign and other pressing issues that the unions are facing.
Says Charles Kumbi, IndustriALL Sub Saharan Africa region project officer:
“What was emphasized at the meeting is the need for the union leadership to involve workers in whatever decisions they make. It is important for workers to participate in decision making as this promotes participatory democracy in the unions which is key to building strong unions in the DRC. This will also counter the practices by mining companies to divide the workers by pitting them against the other.”
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