The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine, and General Workers’ Union (ICEM), the dominant global trade union federation for the mining industry, endorses a letter by its Liberian union affiliate to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf protesting proposed rail passage through the West African nation by Brazilian-based Vale SA.
Recently, Vale purchased a 51% stake from BSG Resources of iron ore blocks near Simandou in eastern Guinea. The mining house intends to create a rail and logistics corridor from Guinea through Liberia to the Atlantic Ocean coast.
In the letter, dated 13 May, the Forestry, Logging, and Industry Workers of Liberia (FLIWUL) calls on President Johnson-Sirleaf to fully examine Vale’s global social record before her government grants the rail concession. Among several irresponsible social acts, Vale has a forced a bitter strike – now in its eleventh month – on 3,500 nickel and copper miners in Canada.
“We are aware of many serious issues surrounding Vale and its mistreatment of workers and communities where it operates around the world,” writes FLIWUL Secretary-General David D. Sackoh.
“Organizations in Mozambique, Brazil, Canada, Peru, Chile, Germany, Italy, and New Caledonia have declared that Vale ‘infringes human rights, exploits both male and female workers, imposes precarious working conditions, destroys nature and disrespects traditional communities.’ It appears that every place where Vale operates, communities are displaced, the environment is harmed and workers’ rights are not respected.
“We are disturbed at the treatment that Vale has given to its workforce in Canada. The company provoked a strike through its demands for deep concessions from its workers despite the fact that the company has made billions of dollars in profit in recent years.
“Madame President, following many years of civil war and turmoil the Liberian people finally enjoy peace and has a promising future under your leadership. This behemoth Vale with its suspect actions could potentially destroy our fragile economy for the benefit of a greedy few. As key stakeholder in the infrastructural and economic development of Liberia, FLIWUL wishes to urge the government to carefully study the situation and ensure that transitional companies investing in Liberia do so responsibly.”
ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda soundly endorsed the letter, and said the Geneva-based federation will also raise Vale’s investment in Guinea with trade unions there, and with the government of Guinea. “We cannot accede to Vale’s investment agenda anywhere while the company brings pain and suffering on workers,” said Warda. “The atrocities that Vale is inflicting on people and their communities in Ontario and Labrador in Canada must stop and we give sound warning that we will follow this mining company everywhere and repeat FLIWUL’s message.”
The ICEM is a global union federation consisting of 467 trade unions in 132 countries, and represents 20 million workers worldwide.
For further information, contact ICEM Information Officer Dick Blin, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 734 8994 (mobile) +41 22 304 1842 (direct line).