Date: Sat, 22 Nov 97 15:35:17 CST
From: Michael Eisenscher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Oz: Unions go global in fight with Rio Tinto
Unions go global in fight with Rio Tinto
By Brad Norington, Industrial Editor,
Sydney Morning Herald,
Friday 21 November 1997
Rio Tinto will be the first target of a new ACTU strategy to fight
companies that are anti-union on a "global" scale by using strong links
with international unions and pressuring world financial institutions.
The plan, announced after it was endorsed by the ACTU's executive in
Sydney yesterday, will aim to force companies such as Rio Tinto into
backing away from non-union contracts that shut unions out of
The ACTU president, Ms Jennie George, said unions had to become more
savvy about how they dealt with multi-national companies.
While Rio Tinto is the first target, the ACTU has drawn inspiration
from the maritime union's recent success in mobilising international
union support that forced the multi-national Freeport into retreat at
the port of Cairns.
"This is not just on Rio Tinto," Ms George said.
"This ... will be the prototype of further campaigns that we will
consider running against companies that have an ideological obsession
about getting rid of union intervention in their operations here in
The first stage of the union strategy will be a meeting of
international unions, community groups, churches and indigenous peoples
in South Africa next February at which a draft "stakeholders" report
will be prepared.
The president of the mining division of the Construction Forestry
Mining and Energy Union, Mr John Maitland, said the report would
highlight the activities of Rio Tinto over alleged workers' rights
abuses, human rights abuses and environmental damage in its
Unions would then begin a "cyber campaign" on the World Wide Web site
in which messages about Rio Tinto would be conveyed to Governments and
other unions. Unions would approach banks and financial institutions to
make them aware of Rio Tinto's activities.
Mr Maitland said: "We have in mind talking to these institutions about
the image they may develop when the conduct of Rio Tinto is published,
and people look at associations."
Rio Tinto dismissed the plan as a stunt and compared it with warning
letters send to Japanese power companies by Mr Maitland and the ACTU
secretary, Mr Bill Kelty, during a lengthy strike at one of the
company's Hunter Valley coalmines.
A company spokesman said customers and shareholders had lent their
support to Rio Tinto.
"Unions are pretty good at stunts, but when it comes to the substance
of reform they're not too flash," he said.
Ms George said she would advance the union campaign by leading a
delegation of senior officials to Canada, the United States and Britain
next April that would investigate how unions could call on
international resources for campaigns being run in Australia.
The decision of unions to look internationally reflects a realisation
that the only way to combat growing multinational companies is to match
Ms George said the maritime dispute in Cairns in September, in which
Freeport backed away from its attempt to replace unionised waterfront
labour with contract workers, had shown the efficacy of relying on
international solidarity in certain situations.
"Working in a much more global economic environment, we have to
strengthen and forge better links with our counterparts overseas," she