Montreal - Over 13,000 people worldwide have sent letters to the International Olympic Committee to protest Rio Tinto's role in the Olympics and request that the company be taken "Off the Podium" due to its illegal lockout of 780 workers in Alma, Quebec.
The letters have been sent to IOC President Jacques Rogge and to Marcel Aubut, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, as part of the Off The Podium campaign (www.offthepodium.org). Letters were sent from persons around the world, with the majority coming from Canadians, through the international trade union website LabourStart.
Rio Tinto is the official supplier of the metal used in producing the 4,700 Olympic medals that will be awarded to athletes at the London 2012 Games. As an Olympic supplier, Rio Tinto is heavily promoting itself as sharing the values of the London 2012 Games, including the emphasis of sustainable development.
"Rio Tinto's shameless self-promotion hides a destructive corporate agenda, including its illegal lockout of 780 workers at its highly profitable aluminum smelter in Alma, Quebec," said Daniel Roy, Quebec Director of the United Steelworkers (USW).
"The workers are locked out because they insist on preserving good, sustainable jobs in their community. They are locked out because they dare to challenge Rio Tinto's demands to replace retiring unionized workers with contractors earning half the wages and no benefits," Roy said.
"People around the world are telling the International Olympic Committee that Rio Tinto does not share the Olympics' values and has no place on the podium," said Marc Maltais, president of USW Local 9490, which represents the locked-out workers in Alma.
"Rio Tinto undermines Olympic ideals, just as it is undermining the future of working families in our community," Maltais said.
The letters sent to the Canadian Olympic Committee urged Marcel Aubut to "use [his] influence as President of the Canadian Olympic Committee to have Rio Tinto thrown off the Olympic podium."
Otherwise, "Canadian Olympians and athletes from all over the world will be forced to wear medals tarnished by a company whose behaviour contradicts the ideals of the Olympic movement, and whose record shows a lack of respect for its workers and for the very principles of social responsibility embraced by the IOC."
The letter-writing campaign began in advance of IOC meetings in Quebec City last week. Over 100 locked-out Rio Tinto workers from Alma and their supporters demonstrated outside the IOC's Quebec City meetings on May 24.
The USW is continuing to mobilize global support for the Off the Podium campaign against Rio Tinto in the weeks leading up to the Olympics in London. For more information on the campaign and the Rio Tinto lockout in Alma, see www.offthepodium.org and www.justiceforriotintoworkers.ca.