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NGO reports raise allegations against Glencore over workplace safety & environmental damage

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, the European-Third World Centre (CETIM) details allegations of worker's rights abuses in Glencore's operations in multiple countries including Bolivia, Canada, Australia, Zambia, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Glencore to respond; response provided below.

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Article
20 August 2019

NGO report to UN Human Rights Council details allegations of workers' rights abuses by Glencore around the world

Author: European-Third World Centre

"Workers’ Human Rights Violations By Glencore Around The World", 2018

Civil society organisations have long criticized [Glencore] for its harmful impact on local communities and the environment. Glencore is also facing increased scrutiny by regulators in many countries over its business dealings and corporate governance practices, as well as a global campaign by unions to press the company to respect labour rights... [I]n Bolivia, Glencore workers who are paid on a production basis complain that safety equipment is substandard... In Zambia, a similar dynamic was reported from the workers of the Mopani Copper Mines, a Glencore subsidiary...In the Democratic Republic of Congo, workers’ complaints against Glencore copper and cobalt mining subsidiaries concern inadequate amounts of drinking water in some Glencore operations, with low quality food and lack of a designated eating area, obliging mine workers to eat where they work, sometimes around chemicals... the percentage of contractors... has constantly increased in recent years... causing a worrying casualisation of the workforce as it leaves workers without an adequate standard of living, equal remuneration for work of equal value... pension and health insurance and the right to form or join trade unions... Glencore’s systematic practice of violating workers’ human and labour rights... highlights the urgent need for an international legally binding instrument allowing the regulation of transnational corporations′ activities and their impacts on human rights... The CETIM urges the host states of Glencore and its subsidiaries to honour their human rights and international labour standards commitments by taking concrete steps to ensure that this company respects workers' rights to safety, health, decent income and freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

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Article
19 August 2019

Impunity Inc. report raises concerns about poor working conditions, pollution of water resources & incitement of violence in Bolivia

Author: Jesús Carrión, Olivier Chantry, Fernando Fernández, Delphine Ortega, Albert Sales and Mónica Vargas, Impunity Inc.

"European capital’s dealings in commodities from South America and Africa: the case of Glencore", 2013

[T]he massive exploitation of [Bolivia’s] immense mineral reserves has brought very few benefits to the Bolivian people. The areas... mined are among the poorest and most damaged in the country... these jobs are characterised by a high degree of instability and multiple health risks... Glencore has been accused by the miners of making its workers bear the burden of its supposed losses caused by the fall in mineral prices. It does this by freezing or cutting wages, increasing hours of work and even laying off large numbers of workers. This has led to frequent social protests against the transnational... In 2007, an inspection by the Prefecture of Oruro found that “colas” (oily water) from Bolívar Mine was being dumped in the Antequera River.... the entire watershed was declared an emergency zone, “due to the imminent risk to human health and food security as a result of the long-term presence of pollution and soil salinization caused by mining activities in the region”...the Vice-Ministry of the Environment found that levels of zinc and cadmium in the water were higher than the permitted levels... causing the disappearance of water sources, the death of fish... as well as reducing the quality and quantity of crop yields... The Bolivian government has made a series of changes with the objective of re-nationalising mining... in June 2012, Colquiri was nationalised by means of a Supreme Decree... [leading to] a major conflict in the area with the cooperative miners... Dozens of people were injured and one died as a result. In October 2012, the government announced that Sinchi Wayra-Glencore would be investigated, as the company is suspected of having incited the violent clashes between miners. 

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Company response
18 August 2019

Glencore's response

Author: Glencore

In Bolivia, we are actively improving safety practices and standards, incorporating international approaches for underground mining in absence of national legislation. In 2013 and 2014, we started the STOP and Safe Work programmes respectively, to raise standards, practices and safety conditions. We are promoting an approach of continuous improvement in safety practices and conditions for all workers. Before starting work at our Bolivian operations, every employee and contractor is required to attend a mandatory training course on safety. Our Bolivian assets hold regular meetings on safety and occupational health with workers and their union representatives. We recognise that only through working in partnership can we transforming the culture of informality and high tolerance to risk that exists in the mining sector in Bolivia. Suspension of mining activities took place in 2017 for two week following safety incidents at the operations, to enable a thorough investigation. All payment obligations were honoured, and workers sustained no loss of income. The suspension enabled the operation to upgrade working conditions. 

A full response can be found at: https://www.glencore.com/ask-glencore/working-practices

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