Urgent Appeal: Write to Barrick Gold to Protest Refusal to Reinstate Union Leader

UPDATE: January 12, 2010

After 2-day strike in the Veladero mine (December 17-18, 2009) OSMA-CTA (Organización Sindical de Mineros Argentinos) and Barrick Gold in Argentina signed a historic agreement on Jan. 12, 2010.
Fist, the employer accepted to negotiate with the newly formed union and signed an agreement ensuring recognition and future relationship with the union.
Second, it gives a 23% wage increase to all employees (the union starting position was 26%, the employer offer 16%). No other mine in the area or the country has obtained such wage increase.
Third, the Union and the employer set fixed dates (February 12 and March 12, 2010) to discuss other issues that will be incorporated to the collective agreement.
Fourth, the employer will not punish in any way workers that participated in the wildcat strike of December 17-18, 2009.
Fifth, the employer recognized verbally that Jose Leiva, General Secretary of OSMA, will be reinstated with retroactive pay and the same job classification. The Union and the employer are now negotiating the terms in which Leiva will get back to work and continue servicing as General Secretary of his union.

December 23, 2009

In solidarity with the mineworkers’ union at Barrick Gold’s Veladero mine in Argentina, the United Steelworkers (USW) is asking that people write to Barrick Gold and the Canadian Ambassador in Argentina to let them know we are aware of the situation and urging Barrick to negotiate with the union (OSMA-CTA) and to reinstate Jose Vicente Leiva, the union’s General Secretary, to his job.

Barrick Gold is the largest multinational gold mining corporation in the world, with headquarters in Toronto. It currently operates more than 27 mines in the United States, Canada, Australia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Tanzania. In Argentina, it mines gold and silver at Veladero (province of San Juan), and intends to mine at Pascua Lama (a binational mining project extending into Chile).

Barrick is accused by the mineworkers’ union of unsafe working conditions, which have generated repeated workplace accidents. On December 18, 2006, a workplace accident at the Veladero mine resulted in the death of workers Leonardo Muñoz and Mauricio Aguilera.

The work is carried out on the faces of the open-pit mine at 4,600 metres altitude in extremely unfavourable conditions (in the winter the temperature is below minus 20° C). Despite these severe working conditions, the company does not provide the workers with adequate medication or preventative medical treatments, much less with high mountain clothing to protect them from the low temperatures. The monthly work schedule is of 14 days of work followed by 14 days off, and the workday is of more than 12 hours at the mine site, to which must be added 2 more hours of travel to and from the hotel where they sleep while on duty. According to Horacio Meguira, Legal Director of the Argentinean trade union congress (CTA – Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina), the meals provided to the workers, both at the work site and in their accommodations, are not sufficient given the great exertion demanded by their tasks, the prevalent weather conditions, and the altitude.

Over 200 workers started to organise themselves in various groups to decide on the composition of their union, which was finally and formally established on June 30, 2009 as the Organización Sindical de Mineros Argentinos (OSMA, or Argentine Miners’ Union Organization). The union’s establishment was certified by a notary public on July 24, 2009. José Vicente Leiva, a union activist and founding member of OSMA, was elected General Secretary of the new union.

On July 24, 2009 Barrick sent Mr. Leiva a telegram (OCA No. 4AW00238911), notifying him of his termination without providing cause. The union said the employer’s abrupt decision to terminate constituted anti-union discrimination of the kind repudiated by national and international norms.

Mr. Leiva took his case to the Labour Court and obtained an injunction against Barrick signed by Judge Liliana Tarbuch. Barrick did not comply with the judicial order and appealed the injunction. A Superior court agreed with Judge Tarbuch and supported the injunction. However, Barrick has continued in non-compliance and has refused to reinstate Mr. Leiva. Mr. Leiva and his representatives together with representatives of Barrick met with Dr. Alvaro Ruiz, Under-Secretary of the Minister of Labour, to try to find a solution to the situation. Once more, the Barrick representatives refused to reinstate Mr. Leiva.

On November 23, 2009, the workers had a public meeting in the bus station where workers were waiting to ascend to the mine while other workers were returning. They detained the buses for couple of hours to protest Barrick’s decision not to reinstate Mr. Leiva and not to negotiate with the union. Barrick’s Human Resource Director told the workers that they would be fired if they continued with their actions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009, the workers of the afternoon and night shifts on the Veladero mine called an impromptu strike at the mine site to protest Barrick’s refusal to negotiate with their Union and to reinstate Jose Vicente Leiva, their General Secretary, to his job. The workers took their action without any protection in sub-zero temperatures.

We are asking you to send letters of protest to:

Peter Munk
Chairman of the Board
Barrick Gold Corporation
Brookfield Place
TD Canada Trust Tower
161 Bay Street, Suite 3700
P.O. Box 212
Toronto, Canada  M5J 2S1

Ambassador Timothy Martin
Canadian Ambassador to Argentina
Tagle 2828
C1425EEH Buenos Aires

Write e-mails to:

Barrick Gold San Juan: vcelarrio(at)barrick.com
Vincent Borg, Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications: vborg(at)barrick.com
Barrick Gold Human Resources: hr(at)barrick.com
Joyce Davies, Manager, Investor Relations: jdavies(at)barrick.com

Send copies to:

Hon. Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs: CannoL(at)parl.gc.ca
Hon. Peter Kent, Minister of State for Latin America: KentP(at)parl.gc.ca
Hon. Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labour: AmbroR(at)parl.gc.ca
Hon. John McKay, MP for Scarborough-Guildwood: MckayJ(at)parl.gc.ca
Canada's National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: [email protected]

Jose Vicente Leiva OSMA-CTA: josevicenteleiva(at)yahoo.com.ar