Rio Tinto has provided 99% of metal for London 2012 medals. Unions say its lockout in Canada violates Olympic Charter obligations


Unite has organised a protest this morning outside the AGM of the global metals giant sponsoring the London Olympics and supplying the metal for the games medals.

Rio Tinto has locked out 780 members of the United Steelworkers union (USW) at an aluminium smelter in Quebec in Canada.

USW says the company plans to replace retiring employees with contract workers on half the wages with no benefits.

When the workers refused to accept, Rio Tinto locked them out.

Unite is supporting the USW, which is calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop the company as an official supplier of the London Games, which begin in 99 days time.

The two unions are part of the Workers Uniting global union group.

USW assistant director for Quebec, Guy Farrell, said: “Locking out its workers in Quebec is a violation of Rio Tinto’s obligations to fair play under the Olympic Charter.

“The effort by this company to drive down living wages at one of the most profitable aluminium smelters in the world is a dangerous precedent for workers and families everywhere.

“Rio Tinto is not Olympic calibre in its behaviour towards its own workers and their families.

“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.”

Unite assistant general secretary, Tony Burke, said: “This deal allows Rio Tinto to promote its association with the most prestigious athletic event in the world. However, its actions go completely against the Olympic values of ‘friendship, solidarity and fair play’.

“We will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers and sisters who have been locked out by this multinational company that is using bullyboy tactics to get its way. We will not allow this to happen.”

The locked-out members of USW are supported in this action by the Unite, the London Mining Network and three global union federations: International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

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