Earlier this month, United Steelworkers (USW) District 6 Director Myles Sullivan, accompanied by the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, participated in the formation of an international network of unions at Newmont Corporation, a mining company operating at various mines across the globe.
The group, now officially named the International Miners Network (Frente Internacional Minero in Spanish) brought Canadian Steelworkers together with union leaders and members from the Mexican union Los Mineros, the ASIJEMIN (Asociación Sindical del Personal Jerárquico, Profesional y Técnico de la Actividad Minera Argentina) union in Argentina and hosted by the Peruvian union SITRACOMY (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la CIA Minera Yanacocha).
The USW represents about 275 workers at the Porcupine mine in Timmins, Ont., as well as 350 workers at the Red Chris mine in Stikine, B.C., employed by Newmont Corporation.
“This international network is an important piece of the USW’s continued efforts to advance global union activism,” said Sullivan. “Mining is an important industry for the Steelworkers, but we recognize that it is not an equal playing field for mine workers across the world. Through the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, we can help even that field by actively engaging in international solidarity initiatives to uplift and support fellow trade unionists across the globe to defend their rights.”
During the two-day meeting, union leaders and members learned about each other’s experiences working in the mining sector – under the same company but in different countries. The Mineros shared that they recently had a four-month strike against Newmont. They won their strike and made gains throughout their contracts.
The Peruvian miners, on the other hand, are experiencing layoffs at the Yanacocha mine. In a country where the unionization rate is at a mere three per cent, 89 of the 91 workers laid off at the mine have been union members. The mine is scheduled for a partial shut-down in 2025 and there is growing fear among workers and the union that the company could re-open the mine without a union.
In Argentina, workers have participated in a general strike against the far-right government who has proposed appalling changes to the working conditions of Argentines. The Argentine miners already face uphill battles at their worksite with health and safety, wages and subcontracting.
The next steps for Steelworkers are to bring back this awareness of global solidarity to our members working in Newmont-operated mines. Through a comparison and analysis of the various union contracts, Steelworkers have an opportunity to help Mexican, Argentine and Peruvian miners close the gap in their working conditions.
There is a clear need to co-ordinate collective bargaining efforts across jurisdictions and borders. There is also opportunity to bring in union members from Ghana, Dominican Republic and Australia as the miners network’s agenda moves forward.
The USW represents 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector across Canada and is the largest private-sector union in North America, with 850,000 members in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.
Each year, thousands of workers choose to join the USW because of our strong track record in creating healthier, safer and more respectful workplaces and negotiating better working conditions and fairer compensation – including good wages, benefits and pensions.
Founded in 1985, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund is a registered charitable organization that focuses primarily on development projects and emergency aid in developing countries but also supports Canadian communities. USW members contribute to the fund through clauses negotiated into collective agreements. In some cases, employers make matching contributions to the fund.
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