NEWS RELEASE · 27th November 2015
Rio Tinto (RT), formerly Rio Tinto Alcan, has ordered much of its workforce to work mandatory overtime shifts, in addition to workers’ regular shifts, at the mining corporation’s recently modernized Kitimat, BC, aluminum smelter. Most workers at the smelter work 12-hour shifts, including night shifts.
Unifor Local 2301, the union representing unionized workers at the smelter, is concerned that the on-going utilization of mandatory overtime by Rio Tinto will have adverse health and safety impacts on its members or conflict with family responsibilities, such as child care. The Union contends that as many of its members are reporting increased levels of stress and fatigue as a result of being ordered to work excessive hours during what has been a difficult start-up of the smelter, the potential for serious accident or fatality in this industrial environment is very real.
Workers at the smelter report a culture of fear, where they feel if the mandatory overtime assignments are refused, the employer will impose suspensions or even terminate their employment. In fact, some workers have already been disciplined for refusing mandatory overtime assignments.
The Union reports that while RT has repeatedly declared that it is within its contractual rights to impose the mandatory overtime, a declaration which is in dispute, the employer should be finding healthier and safer ways to facilitate the start-up of the smelter, such as through increased workforce levels, even if these increases need only be temporary.
The Union is always willing to work with the employer on all matters which affect the well-being of its members and the viability of operations. To date, the Union has made several proposals to Rio Tinto in this regard, with limited results.
The current collective agreement between the parties contain “transition” and “temporary” employee provisions, intended to provide temporary work, particularly for local residents, during the start-up phase of the smelter, which the Union believes Rio Tinto has not fully utilized.
In addition to utilizing regular dispute mechanisms, the Union will be requesting the assistance of municipal, provincial and federal elected officials to lobby Rio Tinto to improve the unsustainable situation in the smelter and that the company rather than insist on exercising its “rights” focus on mitigating the impact its decisions have had on – and to do right by - its employees and the community.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged. Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.
The Way We Really Work
Comment by Pinnwheel on 30th November 2015
Rio Tinto is an industry leader and portrays itself as socially responsible – Rio Tinto’s own claims call for it to be held to a higher standard. But its behaviour is not that of a leader in social responsibility. Rio Tinto needs to live up to the reputation it paints for itself, and for its actions to match its words.
Rio Tinto calls its employees the “foundation of our success”, claiming that “their safety is always our first concern.” However the company’s treatment of workers and trade unions, its health and safety record, as well as increasing use of precarious labour, tell a different story.
The protection of life and health at work is a worker’s fundamental right. Rio Tinto management repeatedly states that health and safety of its employees is a key priority.
But numbers show a different reality. Since 2013, 46 workers have died at operations wholly or partially owned by Rio Tinto.
When Rio Tinto took over Alcan [it] had a Joint Health and Safety Program that took years to develop. Rio Tinto came in and basically ignored the Joint Program and instituted their own philosophies/programs. This impact[ed] [the union] representatives’ ability to address overall safety in the plant.
"The Way We Really Work"
grass is not always greener
Comment by anonymous on 29th November 2015
I heard that Chinalco is interested in buying us.
Comment by Ralph Bartel on 28th November 2015
My bad. "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"
Ruthless Rio, here they go again
Comment by Ralph Bartel on 27th November 2015
Probably the worst corporation in the world that Alcan Canada could have sold to. They think they can treat our workers here in Canada just as horribly as they do in third world countries where they have operations. Just Google "Rio Tinto Corporate Crimes and Labor Practices" and you can form your own opinion. Where there is smoke there is definitely fire. Rumour has it they are trying to sell the operations here in Kitimat. Hopefully it's true and they succeed because as BTO sang we "Haven't Seen Nothing Yet"