Source: United Steelworkers
African trade unions affiliated with the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), meeting last week in Lagos Nigeria, passed a unanimous resolution criticizing Brazilian-based global mining giant, Vale, for its “anti-worker, anti-union practices” and will be calling on their governments to stop Vale from developing mines and exporting these practices to their countries.
Rayford Mbulu, Chair of the Sub-Sahara African Regional Organization (SSARO) of the ICEM, and president of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, said “the time has come to challenge these global mining giants, and Vale will be a test case for us.” The trade unions will be contacting their respective governments about not granting permits to Vale and its partners for exploration and mine development.
Vale forced a strike in mid-July by 3,500 miners and smelter workers in Canada who are members of the United Steelworkers (USW) by demanding unnecessary cuts in pensions and other areas. The company, which earned billions of profit from its Canadian operations over the last decade, has announced it will use replacement workers to break the strike.
The African unions are also protesting Vale’s practices in Brazil where the company routinely terminates workers without cause, denies workers the right to union representation, and forces workers to sign individual contracts to circumvent collective bargaining agreements.
“We don’t want Vale to come here and export its anti-union practices to our countries,” said Mbulu. “So either Vale improves its labor practices or stays out of Africa.”
“Vale’s strategy is to gut its best collective bargaining agreements and to set a precedent for deep cuts in wages, pensions and worker rights worldwide,” said Ken Neumann, Canadian National Director for the USW. “Vale will use the savings extracted from workers to finance the company’s ambitious plans for expansion and its campaign to weaken trade unions throughout the world.”
Vale has opened offices in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo and recently signed an agreement with South African-based African Rainbow Minerals Limited to conduct exploration and participate in joint ventures. It is targeting numerous Africa countries for expansion.
Vale earned $13.2 billion in net profit in 2008 and paid its six top executives $33 million in 2008 compensation.
The USW is working with trade unions in Europe, Asia and South America and with the ICEM and the International Metal Workers Federation, which together represent over 45 million workers, in a widening campaign.
Contact: Bob Gallagher, USW (Canada), 416-544-5966 / 416-434-2221 /