The Glencore campaign comes on the back of a successful campaign against mining giant Rio Tinto.
“Glencore has no corporate soul”, said Tony Maher, national president of Australian affiliate the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union (CFMEU).
“This is a Frankenstein company, stitched together with body parts.”
The immediate impetus for the campaign is disputes in Australia, Canada, and South Africa, including the Oaky North lockout in Queensland, Australia, and a ten month strike at a refinery in Quebec, Canada. The campaign seeks to resolve these disputes, and establish meaningful global dialogue with the company that addresses concerns about union rights and health and safety at operations across the world.
The Swiss-based company employs small numbers of workers at a handful of sites in Europe. These sites are generally unionized and conditions are good, but at other global operations, the story is different, for instance, two mines in Colombia, the company has tried to undermine the union, and there is no proper health care or safety programme: workers who fall ill are sent to recover in a trailer they call “Guantanamo”.
At Oaky North in Australia, which is organized by the CFMEU, union members have been locked out since May, after going on strike against the company’s attempts to replace them with contractors.
At the CEZinc refinery in Quebec, workers have been on strike for nine months against a raid on their pension schemes.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has a campaign for a living wage at Glencore operations, and is planning mass action against the company. The union wants national collective bargaining and harmony of conditions at Glencore operations. Glencore has recently refused union officials in the operations. It employs 27,000 workers in South Africa.
Glencore employs about 15,000 people in Australia, 18,000 in Colombia, 7,500 in Canada, with significant numbers in Bolivia, Zambia and the Congo (DRC). The company directly employs 155,000 workers worldwide.
“lndustriALL affiliates have good coverage at Glencore operations”, said IndustriALL mining director, Glen Mpufane.
“A coordinated campaign is an effective way to change the way this company behaves. In the short term, we want to resolve the current disputes. But our long term goal is to establish meaningful global dialogue with the company.”
The meeting also discussed the revelations in the Paradise Papers of underhand business practices and tax dodging by Glencore. Glencore provided a loan of $ 45 million to a fixer for the rights to the Katanga mine in the Congo, a dangerous site with poor safety standards.
“Glencore has tried in recent years to improve its image. However, the company has a bad reputation earned from years of shady deals and mistreatment of communities,” said IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan.
“Glencore workers of the world are demanding that Glencore live up to its claim to be a responsible company, starting with respecting workers’ rights.”