USA: Los Angeles port truck drivers allege wage & labour violations in Rio Tinto's supply chain; Includes co. responses

Port truck drivers in California are alleging wage and labour violations due to unlawful misclassification by NFI Industries and its subsidiary, Cal Cartage Express, as independent contractors rather than employees. NFI is a logistics provider for global mining company Rio Tinto, hauling borates from the Rio Tinto mine in Boron to the Port of Los Angeles.

Source: Justice for Port Drivers

According to labour groups, unethical employment agreements leave the drivers earning as little as $3 an hour – well below the minimum wage – despite working 50+ hours per week. Many of the drivers end their work week in debt after fuel, insurance, new tires, and lease payments are deducted that can exceed what they are paid to haul the freight containers. The workers' employment agreements - independent contractor or leasing agreements - often leave them unable to quit their jobs because they risk losing the equity they have in their truck. As independent contractors, the drivers have been left to bear the implementation costs of the Clean Truck Program (passed by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in 2008) and have had to replace old polluting trucks, largely through leasing schemes criticised as being 'unconscionable'.

Drivers and warehouse drivers have gone on strike seven times over unfair labour practices, filed numerous complaints with California's Department of Labour Standards Enforcement and delivered petitions to NFI Industries management. A delegation of contract truck drivers attended Rio Tinto's 2019 Annual General Meeting to demand an end to wage theft due to their misclassification as independent contractors and enforcement of the Rio Tinto’s Supplier Code of Conduct in its USA supply chain.

In April 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Rio Tinto and NFI Industries to respond to allegations of labour and human rights violations faced by port truck and warehouse workers. Rio Tinto responded that it takes the allegations against NFI Industries and its subsidiary Cal Cartage Express seriously and has asked NFI Industries to demonstrate that they are meeting its Supplier Code of Conduct. NFI Industries responded that the allegations are "unfounded". Both responses are included below. 

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All components of this story

Company response
6 May 2019

Rio Tinto's response

Author: Rio Tinto

... Rio Tinto takes the allegations against NFI Industries and its subsidiary Cal Cartage Express seriously. We have asked NFI Industries to demonstrate that they are meeting our Supplier Code of Conduct and they are actively working to respond to our request.

Senior executives from Rio Tinto also met a delegation from the Teamsters in London recently to hear their concerns, and answered questions from the delegation at the Rio Tinto Plc annual general meeting on 10 April 2019. Rio Tinto continues to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the Teamsters and related stakeholders in regards to this matter. While we will work to ensure our Supplier Code of Conduct is being upheld, we are also encouraging NFI and the Teamsters to resolve these issues directly with each other. 

 

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Company response
25 April 2019

NFI Industries' response

Author: NFI Industries

California Cartage Express is committed to complying with all laws and the company is in full compliance with the Rio Tinto Supplier Code of Conduct. These unfounded allegations that are being made against the company are part of an ongoing effort by the Teamsters union to force independent truck drivers throughout California to organize against their will.

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Article
15 April 2019

USA: Rio Tinto agrees to investigate after port truck drivers in its supply chain raise labour rights concerns at AGM

Author: Justice for Port Drivers & Teamsters

"UPDATE: Truck Drivers Who Haul Borax For Rio Tinto To Attend Rio Tinto's AGM", 15 April 2019

U.S.-Based Truck Drivers Who Haul Borax For Rio Tinto Attend UK Annual General Meeting, Demand Enforcement Of Company’s “Supplier Code of Conduct” In U.S. Supply Chain; Rio Tinto Chairman Publicly Agrees To Investigate and Take Action to Enforce Code of Conduct

... On Wednesday, April 10, 2019, a delegation of contract truck drivers who haul borax from the Rio Tinto mines in Boron, CA, to the Port of Los Angeles, together with Teamster leaders, attended the company’s Annual General Meeting in London, England. The drivers, who are employed by Rio Tinto’s contract drayage carrier California Cartage Express, a division of NFI Industries, attended the meeting with Teamster officials to demand an end to wage theft due to their misclassification as independent contractors (rather than employees) and enforcement of the Rio Tinto’s Supplier Code of Conduct in their U.S. supply chain...

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Item
15 March 2019

USA: Labour group sends letter to Rio Tinto raising concerns of labour violations in supply chain

Author: Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)

... I write to you... to call your immediate attention to the labour and human rights violations committed by NFI Industries and its subsidiary, Cal Cartage Express... I call on Rio Tinto to enforce its Supplier Code of Conduct and end its business relationship with NFI Industries...

Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) has been part of numerous attempts to raise concerns directly with NFI Industries over the course of several years...

Drivers and warehouse workers have gone on strike seven times over unfair labour practices, filed numerous complaints with California's Department of Labour Standards Enforcement and delivered petitions to NFI Industries management and yet NFI Industries has not taken these concerns seriously. NFI continues to misclassify drivers as independent contractors and therefore has several outstanding complaints by port truck drivers and warehouse workers concerning wage theft, minimum wage violations and even unfair competition laws in California...

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Item
26 September 2018

USA: CSOs send letter to Rio Tinto raising concerns over forced labour in port trucking industry

Author: International Labor Rights Forum & other CSOs

... Tens of thousands of port truckers across the U.S. find themselves trapped in unethical employment agreements that can leave them earning as little as $3 an hour – well below the minimum wage – despite working 50+ hours per week. Many drivers even end their work week in debt because their employers deduct fuel, insurance, new tires, and lease payments that can exceed what they were paid to haul freight containers filled with your merchandise. Not only does this situation run afoul of U.S. labor laws, but these employment agreements, disguised as independent contractor or leasing agreements, often leave workers unable to quit their jobs because they risk losing all the equity they have in their truck.

... The landmark Clean Truck Program passed by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in 2008 required replacing over 16,000 old polluting trucks. Unfortunately, because the trucking companies unlawfully misclassified the drivers as independent contractors, the costs of implementation was pushed onto the backs of thousands of drivers through unconscionable leasing schemes...

Over 1,000 port drivers have filed wage complaints with California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), which has awarded drivers over $46 million in back pay and penalties. Every decision to date has been upheld in court. In light of this situation, we ask that your company develop and implement a Responsible Contractor Policy in partnership with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for all contracted logistics services throughout your global value chains, including in U.S. port trucking and warehouses...

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