(Ottawa) Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor has failed in her first attempt to resolve a conflict with a Canadian mining company operating beyond our borders. The refusal of Excellon Resources Inc. (TSX: EXN) to participate in a dialogue process under Canada’s CSR Counsellor for the Extractive Sector underlines the serious difficulties facing workers and communities abroad in dealing with Canadian mining companies and underscores the inadequacy of this complaint mechanism.
“The fact that a company can walk away at anytime and end the process is one of the fundamental flaws in the Counsellor’s mandate,” comments Jen Moore of MiningWatch Canada.
“Excellon’s refusal to participate ends the CSR Counsellor’s involvement, but the very serious workplace issues facing the workers and the community in Mexico remain. Where do workers and community members affected now turn?”, says Steve Hunt, Director of District 3 of the United Steelworkers. “In designing such a weak complaint review process, Canada has let them down.”
The Final Report of the CSR Counsellor is clear that failure to proceed in this dialogue process rests squarely with Excellon Resources. The report also affirmed that the union and the Project for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC) who filed the complaint are credible, “directly affected groups” who were eager to enter into good faith dialogue.
The complainants allege that the company has been denying its workers the right to association. The CSR Counsellor’s Final Report outlines their concerns: “that they did not feel adequately trained, that the process of investigation after an accident does not help in avoiding future problems. Workers expressed their view that they do not feel safe. Several times we heard of significant problems with statutory pay increases, overtime pay and so on. Workers expressed concerns that those who were participating in the union drive were suffering retaliation from mine management.”
The company, for its part, argues that a few disgruntled former employees are raising unfounded allegations, and that the company is caught in a fight between two rival unions.
As the first request received by the CSR Counsellor, the Excellon case lends support to the view of Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, which includes many civil society groups such as Mining Watch Canada and the United Steelworkers, that a voluntary dispute resolution mechanism, such as the CSR Counsellor, is inadequate to address most complaints. In her first case, despite the Counsellor, Dr. Marketa Evans' best efforts and significant time commitment, she simply did not have the tools at her disposal to secure company agreement to dialogue, let alone determine if rights are being violated, or arrive at a fair and reasonable resolution of the issues.
According to the Counsellor’s report on the Excellon case, Canadian firms represent 204 of 269 mining companies currently operating in Mexico.
“Given the extent of Canadian involvement in Mexico, including significant public investment, it is irresponsible of the Canadian government not to provide access to effective remedy for directly affected workers and communities,” said Ms. Moore.
The Canadian Pension Plan holds some $2 million in shares in Excellon alone.
“All the familiar and soothing jargon about CSR does not substitute for real problem solving and negotiation with legitimate unions,” said Steve Hunt. “The United Steelworkers urges the shareholders of Excellon Resources to carefully review the Final Report issued by the CSR Counsellor, and to press Excellon management to implement its August agreement to recognize the Mexican Miners’ Union (Section 309 of the SNTMMSRM) and negotiate a collective agreement.”
The CSR Counsellor's final report on the Excellon file can be found here.
MiningWatch’s March 2011 analysis of the CSR Counsellor mechanism is available here.
The CNCA October 26, 2010 statement on the CSR Counsellor is here.
For more information, contact:
Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439
Steve Hunt, Director, District 3, United Steelworkers (604) 683-1117