MAC: Mines and Communities

News from the North American Regional Office of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mi

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

News from the North American Regional Office of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions

Kenneth S. Zinn, North American Regional Coordinator

Tel: (202) 974-8080/Fax: (202) 974-8084

Joint Press Release of the Canadian Labour Congress and the ICEM

CLC Convention Calls on Canadian Government to Implement Full Sanctions on Corporate Investments in Burma

CLC and ICEM Tell Ivanhoe Mines to Withdraw from Burma

For Immediate Release

Ottawa and Washington, D.C., June 25-- As the Canadian-based Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. (TSE: IVN) holds its annual shareholders meeting today in Vancouver, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) are urging the company to end its mining joint venture with the Burmese military regime and withdraw its investments from Burma.

Burma has received international condemnation as one of the world's worst violators of human rights-- including forced labour, child labour, trafficking in prostitution, and the imprisonment and torture of political dissidents. Ivanhoe's Monywa Copper Mine, located in Sagiang, is the largest foreign mining investment in Burma and has been linked to the mass conscription of forced labour as well as the severe environmental degradation of the surrounding area. According to the UN's International Labour Organization (ILO), 921,753 people were forced to build the railway connecting Monywa to the town of Pakokku. The Thazi dam hydroelectric plant which is the mien's power source was built using 3,000-5,000 forced labourers.

While many multinational corporations have disinvested from Burma, including recently Texaco, Arco, PepsiCo, Eastman Kodak, Motorola, Best Western and most recently Marriott, the Monywa mine represents the largest ongoing Burmese investment of a Canadian-based corporation. At the Canadian Labour Congress' convention earlier this month, delegates passed a resolution resolving that "the CLC and its affiliates respond to the ILO's call by pressuring corporations to cease their activities in Burma and by urging the Canadian government to impose full economic sanctions against Burma."

"We are telling the Canadian government that its program of limited sanctions isn't sufficient," said CLC President Ken Georgetti. "Our members do not want Canadian corporations like Ivanhoe Mines given full sway to continue propping up Burma's brutal military regime. We believe that full economic sanctions on Burma are absolutely necessary until full democracy and trade union rights are restored."

The joint call of the two labour federations is part of a global initiative of trade unions to restore democracy and respect for human rights in Burma. In November 2000, the ILO took the extraordinary measure of urging its members to "review their relations with Burma" and "ensure that such relations do not perpetuate the system of forced or compulsory labour in that country." This has prompted an expanded effort among labour unions to urge foreign companies to withdraw from Burma.

"The ICEM and the global labour movement have made clear that we will not remain silent while multinational corporations prop up the Burmese dictatorship," said Fred Higgs, ICEM General Secretary. Higgs also noted the recent decision of a California Superior Court judge to allow a lawsuit against the American oil company Unocal to proceed to trial. The decision holds that Unocal may be held liable under the legal doctrine known as "vicarious liability" for forced labour and other abuses committed by its joint venture partner, the Burmese government, in the construction of the Yadana gas field in southern Burma.

"Ivanhoe shareholders should take notice of the significant potential material liabilities facing Unocal for its alleged complicity with forced labour in Burma and take immediate measures to preserve shareholder value by discontinuing Ivanhoe's use of one of the world's worst human violators as a business partner," said Higgs.

The Ivanhoe shareholders meeting coincides with renewed hope that the global campaign for democracy and human rights in Burma is beginning to produce results. Burma democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was recently released from eighteen months of house arrest and immediately called for a continuation of economic pressure on the Burmese regime.

Union members are joining together with Burmese refugees, religious and human rights activists in a demonstration today outside of Ivanhoe's shareholders' meeting in Vancouver.

"The struggle for human and workplace rights in Burma is a high priority for our union. Our members are protesting today to tell Ivanhoe that it is time for it to do the right thing and cut its ties with the repressive regime in Burma," said Brian Payne, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

"The long overdue recent release of Burma democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a positive sign, but the military junta has yet to show that it is genuinely changing," added Lawrence McBrearty, Canadian National Director of the United Steelworkers of America. "We will continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in Burma's beleaguered trade union and pro-democracy movements until full freedom without curbs or harassment is allowed."

The ICEM is a global trade union federation uniting 20 million workers in over 400 affiliated unions in 110 countries. The CLC represents 2.3 million working Canadians and their families. It is the voice of Canada's labour movement, bringing together the majority of the country's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial labour federations.

For further information:

Ken Zinn, ICEM: 202-974-8080
Jean Wolff, CLC: 613-798-6040


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