An worldwide network is to be established for trade unions working in the giant minerals multinational RTZ-CRA. The network will be coordinated by the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).
This was announced at the ICEM's Brussels headquarters on October 25 by ICEM vice-president John Maitland (also president of the CFMEU in Australia) and general secretary Vic Thorpe.
Anglo-Australian RTZ-CRA is known for its aggressively anti-union stance in many countries. One of the latest disputes is with workers at Norzink in Norway. Maitland and Thorpe met with local representatives of ICEM-affiliated Norwegian union the NKIF, who are fighting to save the jobs at the Norzink works in Odda, Scandinavia's only zinc smelter. RTZ-CRA bought 50% of Norzink from BP in 1989. Since then, the owners have taken about US$100 million worth of profits out of the firm, and have cut its work force from almost 700 to 480. This year, following the merger between RTZ and CRA, Norzink management attempted to cut a further 80 jobs by firing production workers and outsourcing a range of ancillary services. This plan met with strong resistance from the workers, who held three protest strikes last month.
Thorpe and Maitland have assured the Norzink workers and their union of full international support during the dispute. The Norwegian workers say they have drawn inspiration from Australian miners' victory over CRA-RTZ at its Weipa mine. Rolf Sivertsen, secretary of the Odda Chemical Workers' Union and Terje Kollbotn, chair of the Odda and District Trade Union Federation, declared: "The struggle at Norzink has received support from unions all over Norway, verbally, financially and by taking part in our general strike. Now, international solidarity will lend new strength to our campaign. As in Weipa, Norzink can be the rallying point for the Norwegian trade union movement."