The Guardian March 15, 2000


Campaign targets exploiter Rio Tinto

In an unprecedented move trade unions from the USA, Britain and 
Australia are sponsoring the first ever global shareholder challenge to a 
major transnational corporation. The Rio Tinto Shareholder Coalition has 
been formed to put pressure on the mining giant to be more accountable to 
shareholders and for it to put in place a code of labour practice.

The Coalition is made up of workers who are both direct Rio Tinto 
shareholders and who are beneficiaries of pension funds that are company 
shareholders, accounting for approximately 19 percent of Rio Tinto shares, 
worth around US$3.2 billion.

Two resolutions from the Coalition have been submitted for shareholders to 
consider at Annual General Meetings to be held in London and Melbourne in 
May.

The resolutions demand that the Rio Tinto board of directors become more 
accountable to its shareholders through the appointment of an independent, 
non-executive Deputy Chairman, and that it implement a workplace code of 
practice at its operations world wide.

The Coalition is asking institutional investors to support these two 
resolutions.

The Construction, Forestry and Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)  the 
principle union representing Rio Tinto's unionised workforce in Australia -
- joined with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Trade 
Union Congress of Great Britain (TUC), the American Federation of Labor and 
Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) and the International 
Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) in 
an international launch of the campaign, in Sydney, Brussels, London and 
Washington.

ICEM affiliates represent workers in Rio Tinto operations in the USA, 
Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Austria, Norway, France, Britain 
and Chile. The combined organisations cover 41,000 million workers.

Speaking at the Australian launch in Sydney last week, ACTU Secretary, Greg 
Combet, stated that the shareholder action was the first of its kind for 
trade unions in Australia. 

"Worker-owners and other shareholders need to join together in common cause 
to ensure that corporate management is accountable and that the long-term 
interests of shareholders and workers are protected", he said.

CFMEU National Secretary John Maitland said the union's members had "both 
capital equity and sweat equity invested in Rio Tinto". Mr Maitland is also 
the President of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and 
General Workers' Unions (ICEM) which unites 20 million members.

Susan Ryan, a former ALP Federal Government Minister is supporting the 
union campaign and will lobby Superannuation Funds which are substantial 
shareholders in Rio Tinto.

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