Canadian Steelworkers call on IOC to recast London 2012 medals because supplier ‘disrespects Olympic value of fair play’
LONDON, UK, April 16, 2012 – 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.
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.”