MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Unions demand decent corporate standards at Rio Tinto's AGM

Published by MAC on 2003-05-01


2,000 demonstrate as Unions demand decent corporate standards at Rio Tinto's AGM

CFMEU Media Release, Sydney, Australia

1 May 2003

An estimated 2,000 workers held a noisy and lively demonstration outside Rio Tinto's Perth headquarters this morning in support of Union representatives from the US, Canada and Australia who were on their way to attend the company's Australian AGM to demand decent corporate standards from the giant mining multinational.

The international delegation was led by Terry Bonds from the United Steel Workers of America and it included steel workers and miners from Rio Tinto's operations in Canada and the US. Terry Bonds told the public meeting that Rio Tinto “is acting like a corporate thug at its Kennecott Utah Copper facilities where it has walked away from contract negotiations. Worse still”, said Bonds, “Rio Tinto is threatening to remove health benefits from the families of its employees there, including retirees who are the most vulnerable”.

Miners Union General President Tony Maher condemned Rio Tinto's “callous treatment of Australian mining families, particularly the families of the victimised Blair Athol miners that the company is trying to evict from their homes”. Maher said that Rio Tinto is a company that spends a fortune on Public Relations to project a positive community image. “It would be far better if the company practiced decent corporate standards and let its record speak for itself rather than lining the pockets of its corporate spin doctors to create an illusion far removed from reality. It would be better for its workers, for our communities and for the company itself”, he said.

The public meeting was addressed by a number of trade union leaders, including CFMEU National Secretary John Maitland who said that the unions would continue to build their campaign of global solidarity to put pressure on Rio Tinto to do the right thing.

In the AGM, all the Union representatives challenged the Board on a variety of industrial and social issues. Kennecott retiree Wayne Holland senior told the Directors that they should spare a thought for the plight of workers and retirees facing misery, sickness and premature death if the company removes their health benefits. In particular, he addressed himself to retiring Rio Tinto Chairman Sir Robert Wilson who is going out with a $40.4 million payout with no worries about his future health care. The Union delegates challenged the Board to respect workers dignity by immediately withdrawing eviction notices against the Blair Athol families and not reducing the health benefits of Kennecott retirees. CFMEU Mining and Energy Division General President Tony Maher and the United Steel Workers of America delegation leader Terry Bonds pledged that their unions would continue to pursue their Rio Tinto campaigns for industrial and social justice.

Contact John Maitland 0418 286 781

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