Unions in Indonesia, Brazil and Canada Join Forces To Take On Vale-INCOPublished by MAC on 2009-12-14
In a "hands across the waters" expression of international solidarity, mineworker unionists from Canada, Brazil and Europe met last month in Soroako, Sulwesi, near the- site of one of Vale-Inco's most important operations.
The Brazilian iron ore giant, which took over Canadian nickel company Inco in 2006, has been facing vociferous and prolonged union action. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9607
At the Indonesian meeting, not only did one of the country's trade unions affirm support for their foreign guests.
A leader of the United Steelworkers, north America's largest mining union, also issued a telling statement on the plight of Indigenous communities, impacted for many years by Inco's operations in Soroako:
"One of the most appalling stories we heard in Soroako came from the Dongi people who claim that they never sold or ceded their traditional land to PT Inco...Today [they]i live in very poor conditions, and are currently being pressured by Inco-Vale to relocate to another location which is far away and not part of the Dongi traditional territory.
"Vale does not acknowledge that, as the new owner of PT Inco, it has a responsibility to correct historic injustices, and Vale refuses to adequately address the Dongi claims."
Jatam Press Release
18 November 2009
Union leaders from the ICEM (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions), Indonesia, Brazil and Canada representing workers at Vale and Vale-Inco (majority owner of PT Inco) signed a Joint Statement in Soroako, South Sulawesi on Friday November 13 charging that the Brazilian based global mining company disregards the needs and rights of its workers and the communities in which Vale operates.
The Joint Statement (see attached) takes aim at Vale's policy of reducing employment levels and its policy of using contract employees rather than permanent employees.
In Canada Vale provoked a strike of 3,500 miners in July of this year. After more than 120 days on strike the United Steelworkers continues to resolutely reject Vale's demands for reductions in the workers' collective bargaining agreement and pension plan, and a reduction in the profit sharing agreement (which is part of the collective agreement).
Sjaiful D.P., President of the FSP-KEP said that "in the Joint Statement the Indonesian union expresses solidarity with striking Vale workers in Canada, and calls on Valle to return to the bargaining table."
Andi Karman, President of SP-KEP Soroako, which represents workers at the PT Inco operation said that "We understand that the fight in Canada is also our struggle because if Vale succeeds in its attack on workers in Canada, corporate management may believe that it can also try to reduce social benefits in our CLA here in Indonesia."
Andi Karman added that "Profit at PT Inco is getting better due to nickel price recovery, and our operating cost is decreased significantly. If Vale wants to continue its organizational review with the objective of reducing employment and benefits, there will be strong reaction from us because there is no strong reason for Vale to do that". The SP-KEP also had to strike against Vale-Inco for 11 days in 2007 in order to make sure the company fulfilled its obligations under the collective labour agreement.
The Joint statement is the outcome of a week long visit of an international delegation of trade unionists to Jakarta and Soroako, South Sulawesi which was hosted by the FSP-KEP. The delegation included Joe Drexler of the ICEM (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions) which represents 20 million workers world wide; Sergio Guerra of the Brazilian union Sindimetal-ES, CNM-CUT; and Tim Kiley, Nick Larochelle, and Doug Olthuis, three Canadians from the United Steelworkers.
Joe Drexler of the ICEM said that "the ICEM is fully engaged in the Vale corporate campaign because mining companies around the world are watching the Vale strike closely. A positive resolution of the strike in Canada for Canadian workers is very important for all ICEM unions because it will send a strong message that attacks on the compensation and rights of miners' and on their communities will be fiercely resisted. A defeat for Canadian workers will have negative implications in mining globally".
Sergio Guerra said "this visit is very important for the Brazilian Vale unions, not only for reasons of international solidarity, but also because of the first hand information we have gained from the union and community in Soroako. We have heard that Vale is not doing enough to provide stable, secure, well-paid employment in Soroako. We have heard that Vale management fails to communicate. Everywhere we went we heard the same thing - communication was better and management more responsive under Inco, before the Vale purchase."
Tim Kiley, chief steward, United Steelworkers Local 6500 said that "the visit of this delegation is part of a global campaign against Vale. Representatives from our union, the United Steelworkers, have traveled to Brazil, Australia, New Caledonia, Australia, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We are determined to protect our rights and we increase the pressure on Vale". Tim Kiley adds that "we are deeply impressed with the welcome we received from the SP-KEP in Indonesia, and we are extremely grateful for the high level of support we are receiving from them for our strike".
Nick Larochelle, another of the striking members of the United Steelworkers, explained that "Vale continues to be profitable even during the global economic downturn and Vale's demands to reduce workers' rights, pensions and profit sharing are completely unnecessary to the viability of the company and absolutely unfair to the workers that have built the company in Canada."
Doug Olthuis, of the United Steelworkers, noted that "it was important for us to see how closely the community of Soroako works together with the KEP, and how strongly the community supports the KEP in order to make gains for the community and the workers". Olthuis also said that "one of the most appalling stories we heard in Soroako came from the Dongi people who claim that they never sold or ceded their traditional land to PT Inco for the nickel mine and facilities. Today the Dongi live in very poor conditions, and are currently being pressured by Inco-Vale to relocate to another location which is far away and not part of the Dongi traditional territory. Vale does not acknowledge that, as the new owner of PT Inco, it has a responsibility to correct historic injustices, and Vale refuses to adequately address the Dongi claims."
For more information:
Sjaiful P.D. - FSP-KEP 21 585 8823 (Jakarta)
Andi Karman SP KEP Soroako: 0811423638
Abdul Malik - SP-KEP 81 355167456 (Soroako) - (for English language)
Joe Drexler - ICEM 41 79 7348993 (in Geneva)
Siti Maemunah - Mining Action Network (JATAM) 0811920462 (Jakarta for
information particularly with respect to the Dongi case)
Bob Gallagher - United Steelworkers (Toronto, Canada) +1 416 544-5966
Doug Olthuis - United Steelworkers (Toronto, Canada) + 1 416 859-9953