Canadian Steelworkers call on IOC to recast London 2012 gold medals because supplier 'disrespects Olympic values of fair play'
LONDON, UK, April 16, 2012 /CNW/ - One of the world's largest industrial unions, the United Steelworkers (USW), is calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop multinational resource firm Rio Tinto as an official supplier of the 2012 London Games, because the company's treatment of its own workers does not live up to the Olympic spirit.
Launch of OFFthePodium.org.
The UK-based Rio Tinto is providing 99 per cent of the gold and other metals that are being cast into medals for victorious Olympic athletes. The USW says the deal allows Rio Tinto to promote its association with the most prestigious athletic event in the world and implicitly endorses the company's commitment to the Olympic values of 'friendship, solidarity and fair play'.
The controversial mining giant is under scrutiny for a range of alleged environmental, human rights and labour violations at its operations around the world. Most recently, the company announced plans at a profitable smelter in Quebec (Canada) to replace retiring employees with contract workers at half the wages and no benefits at all. When employees refused to accept, Rio Tinto locked them out. The dispute has now gone on for over 3 months.
"At those low wage levels, a worker in Quebec cannot support a family," said Steelworkers Quebec spokesperson Daniel Roy. He said that the union is launching a global campaign to pressure the IOC to drop Rio Tinto as an Olympic supplier.
"Locking out its workers in Quebec is a violation of Rio Tinto's obligations to fair play under the Olympic Charter," Roy said. He also said that the effort by Rio Tinto to drive down living wages at one of the most profitable aluminum smelters in the world "is a dangerous precedent for industrial workers and local families everywhere."
"Rio Tinto is not Olympic caliber in its behaviour toward its own workers and their families," says Ken Neumann, USW Canada's National Director. "The company demands unrealistic concessions from employees, and locks them out when they don't concede. It pollutes the air and water in communities around the world. It has no place alongside the world's greatest athletes - it's time to get Rio Tinto off the Olympic podium."
NOTES TO EDITORS
The global campaign to remove Rio Tinto as an Olympic supplier will be launched at a public event, jointly between the Steelworkers and a new coalition called Workers Uniting:
|What:||Campaign Launch with Steelworkers/Workers Uniting/Unite|
|When:||Monday, April 16 at 7PM London time (2pm EDT Toronto time)|
|Where:||Amnesty International UK's Human Rights Action Center,|
|17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA|
The campaign includes
- The creation of the "Off the Podium" web-site and email campaign (offthepodium.org) demanding that Rio Tinto be rejected by the IOC as a supplier and that the medals for the London Games be recast
- Attendance at an IOC meeting in Quebec City on May 23-25 to ensure that each member of the IOC attending the meeting is made aware of the campaign, and the current labour dispute in Alma, while in Quebec City.
- A series of press conferences and rallies with Steelworker members and affiliate members of the International Metal Workers Federation (IMF) International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) in cities around the world.
- Partnering with organizations such as the London Mining Network to oppose Rio Tinto's sponsorship and highlight the company's hypocrisy.
Despite record earnings and year over year profits, Rio Tinto is relentlessly pursuing higher profits at the expense of local workers, families and communities. The lockout in Quebec (at a smelter in a town called Alma) is just the latest example of Rio Tinto trying to boost profits by slashing wages for its own employees, with little regard for the impact in the community. The company tried the same approach at its Boron mine in California in 2010, locking out workers for 107 days. In that case the workers held firm in their opposition to the dramatic wage cuts demanded by Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto has also been the subject of legal action related to environmental spills, human rights abuses, and criminal wrongdoing in countries like Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and China.
The USW is the largest private sector union in both Canada and North America with more than 225,000 members in Canada and more than 800,000 members continent-wide. The USW is Canada's most diverse union, representing men and women working in every sector of the economy.
For further information:
Guy Farrell, USW-Canada, [email protected] 1-514-949-5139
c/o Paul Reuter, UNITE, [email protected], +447798827090 (London mobile)
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, [email protected], 1-416-544-5966
Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, [email protected], 1-416-434-7907