MAC: Mines and Communities

Half truths and distortions

Published by MAC on 2001-04-23

Half truths and distortions

The vice-President of the ICEM, the Australian John Maitland, was one of the trade union leaders who bought Rio Tinto shares in order to be able to take part in the shareholders general assembly in London. "I'd made what I and others considered to be a moderate and responsible statement. I emphasised that our stakeholders' report is part of our attempt to engage in proper, constructive negotiations with the company."

"I was amazed by Wilson's response (Rio Tinto Chairman Robert Wilson). Instead of answering my points, he launched into a series of arrogant character assassinations against officers of the ICEM and the CFMEU (the Australian construction, forestry, mining and energy union affiliated to the ICEM). He also accused us of engaging in misinformation. But in fact his own comments were full of half-truths and distortions. For example, he told the meeting that a miners' strike in Indonesia ended within three days. That is correct, but he omitted to mention that the strike ended because it was broken up at gunpoint by the army."

"Then Wilson told shareholders that "The Way We Work" had been "widely discussed" before it was launched. But was never discussed with unions at Rio Tinto or with environmental and civic campaigners. In fact, Rio Tinto did send a copy for comment to the ICFTU, whose General Secretary, Bill Jordan, sent back a closely-argued 8-page critique. Not one of Bill Jordan's comments was ever mentioned by Rio Tinto, and not a single change was made to the document on the basis of Bill Jordan's letter."

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