Rio Tinto executives hoped to score points at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in London on April 19 by boasting that the global mining giant will supply the gold, silver and bronze used in Olympic medals at the London Summer Games.
Instead, shareholders heard a delegation of locked-out workers from the aluminum smelter in Québec who detailed the company’s illegal labor practices – and announced plans for a massive public education campaign that will expose how Rio Tinto’s illegal practices are tarnishing the Olympic Games and medals.
Protesters outside the meeting made their voices heard and distributed Olympic medal replicas with a message about Rio’s abusive labor history. Besides backing from the Steelworkers Union, support for the effort is coming from UK’s Unite union, the London Mining Network and three global union federations: the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
The company wants to phase-out union workers at the Alma smelter and replace them with subcontractors earning less than half of the current\ union wages and benefits. Besides hurting 780 families and the community in Alma, the lockout has been costly to the company. Shareholders were told that aluminum production in Alma has fallen to a fraction of the output before the lockout.