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Protesters want Rio Tinto off the Olympic podium

A protest against London 2012 sponsor Rio Tinto (LON & NTSE:RIO), which has supplied the metal to make the Olympic and Paralympic medals, welcomed the company’s shareholders this morning in Brisbane, Australia, where  the annual meeting of the company’s board was taking place.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that union members in Australia and Canada are upset with the lockout of 800 workers from Rio Tinto’s smelter in Quebec, Canada, and are accusing the miner of betraying Olympic values because of that.

Led by Canada’s United Steelworkers’ union (CFMEU), the campaign wants to see Rio off the Olympic podium before July’s games.

“If there was a gold medal for abuse of human rights, work rights and the environment, it would go to Rio Tinto,” said in CFMEU spokesman Tony Maher in a statement. “We are a mining country with a booming resources economy. Rio Tinto is a major player in Australia and we all have an interest in holding Rio Tinto to account for its corporate behaviour.”

John Battams, Queensland Council of Unions president, told the Sydney Morning Herald Canadian employees only asked for 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 told reporters at the Brisbane 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 Alcan locked unionized workers out at the 438,000 tonne smelter, in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, on Jan. 1, after contract talks between the company and unionized employees broke down.

Last April, the Anglo-Australian miner said that no talks were scheduled and that it continues to operate the plant with non-unionized workers at about one-third of capacity.

(Image by Ints Vikmanis /