IN RESPONSE to mine owners Glencore and Xstrata’s arrogant refusal to meet with a delegation of IndustriALL global union affiliates to discuss labour issues in light of their intended merger, IndustriALL joined a delegation of activists in a demonstration at their headquarters in Zug, Switzerland.
On 11 July, IndustriALL Global Union joined with the Swiss Green Party, local union UNIA and a number of civil society activists to demonstrate against the commodity giants Xstrata and Glencore in Zug, Switzerland after the company abruptly refused to meet with the unions.
IndustriALL’s Glen Mpufane, Mining Sector Director, addressed the chanting crowd saying: ‘We want to make the point here in this demonstration that our interests coincide with your interests, with those of communities, community-based organisations and indigenous communities and those of social and economic justice activists.
‘The merger of Xstrata and Glencore is bad news for us and will represent a momentous milestone and celebration for monopoly capitalism.’
With the mandate of IndustriALL, the South African National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had scheduled a meeting on 19 July with Glencore and Xstrata in Zug; the meeting was triggered by NUM’s intention to file a dispute with the competition commission.
The NUM strategically invited key affiliates – such as Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and North American United Steel Workers (USW) – to express their united opposition to the merger between Xstrata and Glencore and major concerns for the millions of miners that they represent.
Glencore representative, Clinton Ephron, based in Zug Head Office, cancelled the meeting with the unions with no clear indication why.
‘Further proof of the arrogance of Glencore is it’s refusal to meet with a delegation of IndustriALL affiliates by cancelling at the last minute,’ said Mpufane.
He added: ‘In conclusion brothers and sisters, united we shall stand and divided we shall beg.’
‘Amandla, power to the people,’ the crowd cheered.
‘This is a demonstration in solidarity with the victims of multinationals in prime materials, and Zug is the centre of prime materials,’ said Josef Lang, Vice-President of the Swiss Green Party and member of the Zug cantonal union leadership.
Protesters at the demonstration accused Glencore and Xstrata of disregarding the rights of local populations and damaging the environment.
The company denies these charges.
Activists also came from South America, where the companies are involved in mining projects in Peru and Argentina and where human and trade union right are being violated.
Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said last Thursday that it is seeking a solution to the deadlock over public service wage negotiations as soon as possible.
COSATU, which claims to represent over 58 per cent of South Africa’s public servants, said the ANC government was negotiating in bad faith.
The federal state had offered a 6.9 per cent increase during a meeting on 4th July but reduced the offer to 6.7 per cent last Tuesday, COSATU said.
COSATU chief negotiator Mugwena Maluleke said: ‘We are committed to finding a solution as soon as possible.
‘That is why we have elevated this matter to a legal process.’
Maluleke said the secretary of the bargaining council needed to appoint someone registered with both the council and the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to mediate the process.
COSATU announced last Wednesday that a wage dispute had been declared with the government.
Meanwhile, Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) spokesman, Chris Klopper, said the ILC declared a dispute with government three weeks ago, but the caucus’ dispute was not the same as COSATU’s.
‘What could happen is that the (bargaining) council might want to see a joining of the disputes. However, the two disputes are not the same,’ said Klopper.
‘Government has come back to the bargaining table but they have not addressed our concerns,’ he added.
The ILC’s concerns relate to set wage adjustments tied to the Consumer Price Index, unilateral additional working, and a housing allowance, which Klopper described as a deal-breaker.
The Public Servants Association (PSA) declared the same dispute as the ILC in conjunction with the caucus.
PSA general manager, Danny Adonis, said he hoped an agreement could be reached quickly, saying: ‘The gaps aren’t that large anymore and we should be able to bridge those gaps as soon as possible.
‘It’s important to ensure everything is put (in order) properly.’
Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said in a statement last Wednesday that government intended finalising negotiations as soon as possible.
• An estimated 1,000 union leaders from around the world will gather for the 29th World Congress of the global union federation Public Services International in Durban, South Africa from 27-30 November, 2012.
Under the banner ‘In the people’s interest’, PSI members will set policy and action plans on key issues concerning trade union rights and advancing public services for the common good.
PSI General Secretary Peter Waldorff says: ‘We are in the midst of momentous times marked by the wave of indignation and popular revolt against both dictators and neo-liberal policies sweeping our world.
‘PSI, which represents 20 million working women and men, is committed to advancing the quality public services, supported by fair taxation policies, that build just and sustainable societies.
‘From the Arab Spring, to the uprising of public service workers in Wisconsin, to the Indignados youth movement in Spain, to the student protests in Chile and Quebec, to the repeated general strikes of our affiliates across Europe against austerity policies, to the Occupy movement that was sparked in North America and spread worldwide – working people and our communities are uniting everywhere in our demands for social justice and equality.
‘We also emphasise the need for investment in quality public services and infrastructure to ensure effective response in the cases of disasters, such as those experienced in Japan, Australia and Haiti in recent years.’
PSI President Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UK union Unison, said: ‘In South Africa and around the world, public sector unions are campaigning for quality public services.
‘We recognise that public services of the highest level of quality achievable are required for equitable distribution of growth and sustainable development.’
Tozama Mantashe, Chair of PSI’s South Africa Congress Coordinating Committee, and Second Deputy President of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, added: ‘We are proud that PSI is also making a major contribution in terms of a community-building legacy through our Quality Public Services-Action Now! campaign in Durban, an initiative endorsed by the Council of Global Unions.’