Olympic Games Protests Greet Rio Tinto Shareholders At AGM In Brisbane

[First published in the Courier Mail 10th May 2012]

SHAREHOLDERS attending Rio Tinto's AGM at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane today were met by 40 union members protesting about the resource's giant's involvement in the London Olympic Games.

Rio Tinto will make the Games medals but Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams reckons the miner is undermining Olympic ideals.

Their particular gripe is in Canada where Rio has reportedly locked out 800 employees from a smelter after they refused contracts that would put new workers on half the pay, the unions say.

Unions have written to Australian Olympic Committee chairman John Coates asking for an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

Mr Battams said the Canadian workers only wanted a fair go and a decent future for their families.

"We are particularly trying to highlight Rio's attempt to deceive the world into believing that somehow they have similar values as the Olympic movement," he said at the protest.

"They are not a good corporate citizen. They need to be outed as a very bad employer, not just in Alma, Canada, but in their mining operations around the world as well."

Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese said the company had an ethical charter, and negotiates in good faith with all its unions.

"In fact, over the last 16 years, Rio Tinto Alcan has resolved all its contract negotiations throughout the world without conflict," he said.

"Unfortunately, in spite of our efforts, we could not avoid the conflict at the Alma plant and a lockout was the only option to protect the smelter and its future.

"We are seeking a reasonable resolution to this dispute."