Switzerland under pressure from unions worldwide over Glencore
7 July 2015
IndustriALL Global Union affiliates across four continents targeted
Switzerland last week to pressure the country into holding mining giant
Glencore responsible for worker violations abroad.
In a global week of action against the billion-dollar multinational,
which is headquartered in Switzerland, unions hand-delivered a protest
letter to Swiss consulates and embassies in countries around the globe.
Glencore employs more than 180,000 people in over 50 countries and is
one of the largest producers of commodities in the world, making a
profit of US$ 2.31 billion in 2014. It has a long history of aggression
The union action coincides with a People’s Initiative in Switzerland to
create a new law that would make Swiss multinationals accountable for
violations against labour rights and the environment beyond its borders.
The People’s Initiative cites Glencore’s misconduct as an example of why
the law is needed.
In the United States, members from the United Steelworkers (USW) Local
235A, who have been locked out at Sherwin Alumina by Glencore in
Gregory, Texas for nine months, delivered a letter to the Swiss
Consulate in Houston. USW members also visited consulates in Los
Angeles, New York and San Francisco as well as the Swiss Embassy in
In Canada, United Steelworkers also handed a protest letter to the Swiss
consulate in Vancouver in solidarity with Glencore workers in the United
States and elsewhere.
A high-level delegation from the CFMEU in Australia, led by Tony Maher,
President of CFMEU Mining and Energy, and Lorraine Usher, Vice President
of CFMEU Mining and Energy, delivered a protest letter to the Swiss
consulate in Sydney. Glencore has replaced union member employees with
contract workers at its Collinsville mine and evicted them and their
families from company housing, with devastating impact on the local
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, IndustriALL affiliates from TUMEC,
the mining, metal, energy and chemical industries union, managed to
negotiate their way through strict security in the capital’s
presidential zone to hand deliver a message of protest against Glencore
to the Swiss embassy. The People’s Initiative raises Glencore’s
environmental destruction and human rights violations in the country as
of particular concern.
The Argentine Mineworkers’ Union AOMA and Metalworkers Union UOM also
urged the Swiss Embassy to regulate the activities of Swiss-based
multinationals such as Glencore. In other action, ASIJEMIN, the mining
professional workers’ union, sent a letter to the Swiss Embassy.
In Colombia, where Glencore has been linked to a paramilitary group
responsible for murdering trade unionists, IndustriALL affiliate
Sintracarbon organized activities amongst its local branches as part of
the global week of action. The union’s education secretary, Igor Diaz
Lopez, who has had death threats as a result of his trade union
activities, was interviewed on Colombia television during which he
denounced Glencore’s violations against workers’ rights and freedom of
Meanwhile, in South Africa, IndustriALL affiliate National Union of
Miners (NUM) has this week threatened to sue the government if Glencore
goes ahead with the retrenchment of more than 600 workers at its Optimum
Coal operation. The NUM accuses Glencore of failing to comply with
labour and social plans regarding severance packages for the workers.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:
“The action by IndustriALL affiliates sends a strong message to Glencore
that we are united in defending the rights of Glencore workers in every
corner of the globe.
“The People’s Initiative shows that Glencore’s bad behaviour is as
intolerable to Swiss citizens as it is to those it affects abroad. We
applaud this effort to hold Glencore and other multinationals
accountable for their violations outside Switzerland in the Swiss courts.”
Unions target Switzerland over Glencore
25 June 2015
A group of IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from fourteen countries
is appealing to Swiss citizens to hold mining multinational Glencore
accountable for violations against workers at its operations around the
The Glencore Global Union Network’s week of action from 29 June to 3
July coincides with a new People’s Initiative in Switzerland, which is
campaigning for a change in the law to make Swiss-based multinational
companies, such as Glencore, responsible for their violations against
human rights and the environment abroad.
If the People’s Initiative gets 100,000 signatures, Swiss citizens can
vote on whether it should be made law under the Federal Constitution.
If the vote is successful, it means that victims of human rights or
environmental violations by Swiss multinationals in foreign countries
could take the company to court in Switzerland and claim compensation.
It would also make Swiss companies responsible for violations committed
by their subsidiaries or the companies they control in the countries
where they operate.
During the global week of action, IndustriALL affiliates from Africa,
Australia, Latin America and the USA, which form the Glencore Global
Union Network, will be handing over a protest letter to Swiss Embassies
The letter implores the Swiss government to see that Glencore abides by
international standards and stops the abuse of people and the
“Switzerland has a good reputation for respecting workers rights and
collective bargaining. However, Glencore’s actions abroad are giving the
country a bad name and its behaviour would not be tolerated in
Switzerland,” says IndustriALL’s director of mining Glen Mpufane.
IndustriALL is taking Glencore to task over allegations of
union-busting, health and safety violations, and tax evasion following
grievances by affiliates, among other accusations.
The Glencore Global Union Network has representatives from fourteen
countries which are Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada,
Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Namibia,
Peru, South Africa, United States and Zambia.
Find out more about the initiative here: