The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) and IndustriALL Global Union has filed a complaint against the British-Australian company BHP Billiton and Brazilian Vale S.A. under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The complaint is also signed by BWI affiliate, the Trade Union of the Construction, Consulting Engineering and Concession Industries of the State of Minas Gerais (SITICOP), and IndustriALL’s Brazilian trade union affiliate, CNQ-CUT.
The complaint is related to the consequences of the collapse of the Fundão Dam near Mariana in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, on 5 November 2015. The dam, which stored millions of litres of waste from the Germano iron-ore mine, is operated by Samarco Mineração S.A., a joint venture between BHP Billiton and Vale S.A.. The dam collapse killed 19 people, including 14 workers. In addition, 700 families lost their homes and more than 2,000 workers from the mining, construction, commerce, electricity and agriculture sectors became unemployed.
Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI, said: “Despite continuous efforts by the unions to push Samarco to provide appropriate remedy to the families, implement measures to prevent future disasters, and ensure compliance to all labour and safety standards, the company has refused. This is unacceptable. Workers and their families have suffered enough and immediate action must be taken to address the tragedy that has befallen the victims of the dam collapse.”
The complaint identifies violations of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by Vale S.A. and BHP Billiton with regard to their failure to: 1) provide adequate remedy and establish a legitimate remediation process that involves affected communities and workers; 2) respect trade unions rights; 3) ensure adequate health and safety standards including respect for laws on working time; 4) conduct due diligence involving stakeholders, including trade unions.
“The Fundão dam-burst disaster is a horror story of production at any cost. Samarco ignored technical warnings and overlooked the fundamental protocols of tailings and dam safety with catastrophic results. Samarco also failed to plan for an emergency, meaning that workers and residents were totally unprepared when the dam collapsed, contributing to the loss of life and devastation. With this complaint under the OECD guidelines, we want the company to be held accountable for its negligence before the representative unions,” stated Valter Sanches, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.