Workers at Glencore are not free!

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns Glencore Mines because workers are not free. Glencore the mining company is notorious locally and globally for rampant violations of workers and human rights. On its website Glencore claims that health, safety, as well as community and human rights are the ‘pillars of its sustainability strategy’. However, our members, as well as the testimonies of hundreds of thousands of abused workers across the globe, tell a different story. Below is a list of some examples of how Glencore is an oppressive employer:

1)    Glencore continues to deny contract workers, labour broker workers and other workers not directly employed of their basic rights in the workplace.  They are paid less than permanent employees and their health and safety conditions are worse. We demand that all workers must be treated equally, regardless of whether they are employed directly or indirectly. They deserve the same wages and employment conditions. 

2)    Glencore Chrome secretly de-registered its smelters from the Department of Minerals and Energy, so that they can fall under the Department of Labour. The purpose of this was to avoid more stringent monitoring of health and safety regulations. Glencore subjects workers to dangerous worsening health & safety conditions, and workers have fewer rights. For example, workers are unable to refuse dangerous work. We demand the reversal of this situation and demand that all smelters under Glencore fall under the Department of Mineral and Energy as per the previous condition.

3)    Glencore Coal secretly concluded a collective bargaining agreement with dubious unions instead of signing with NUMSA which is majority union in its coal division. We demand that the managers involved in this dubious deal be subjected to discipline because they flouted our universal right to collective bargaining as enshrined in the International Labour Organizations’ Conventions. This deal was done to avoid signing with Numsa an agreement which will substantially improve the conditions of employment of Glencore workers in South Africa.


 4)    NUMSA visited DRC with our global union federation Industri-All, and other sister unions worldwide, we discovered that Glencore workers in DRC are subjected to systemic human and workers’ rights abuses ranging from constant threats of dismissal, poor health and safety practices, occupational diseases, racism and discrimination, unfair and unjust job classifications, low remuneration, and inferior salaries for local workers compared to foreign workers in Kolwezi.

 5)    The company’s Luilu copper refinery in DRC uses acid to extract the copper. For three years after taking over the mine Glencore continued to allow the waste acid to flow into a river.  A reporter for The Guardian found children as young as ten underground at the Tilwezembe mine, which the company had said in a 2008 prospectus that it had closed due to falling copper prices. We are concerned about these reports because we have a problem with acid water drainage in Mpumalanga and looking at the speed of production and extraction and we are convinced that we are heading for an environmental disaster which will stay with us forever after the company had ceased operations.

(More details of their human rights abuses are contained in our memorandum).

On Wednesday the 25th of April, the day of the National Shutdown, NUMSA members staged a picket outside the headquarters of Glencore in Melrose Arch to highlight the suffering of workers at their operations all over the world. They handed over a memorandum of demands to management. We are working with trade unions internationally to expose the ruthlessness of this employer, and we will be intensifying our action. We will force Glencore to respect human rights and submit to the will of the working class!

Aluta continua!

The struggle continues!

Issued by

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola

NUMSA National Spokesperson (Acting)