The Australian mainstream media are full of denunciations of China over the trial of the four Rio Tinto executives in Shanghai. However, from the standpoint of trade unionists and opponents of the oppression of Aboriginal people and the peoples of the ex-colonies, the prosecution of the Rio bosses is a good thing.
Rio Tinto’s obscenely rich bosses are notorious for attacking trade unions, trampling on Aboriginal rights and plundering the wealth of peoples in the “Third World.” And they are used to getting away with it! However, since the Peoples of Republic of China (PRC) arrested four Rio Tinto executives for bribery and stealing information from the PRC’s public sector, Australia’s corporate high fliers and their parliamentary servants are in a bit of a spin. Why? Because someone has finally stood up to Rio’s bosses. So let’s use China’s crackdown on Rio bosses to publicise the nasty methods used by big business owners in their drive to exploit more and more wealth from the toiling masses. Now that we have seen that a serious force is willing to take on Rio’s bigwigs, let’s take up the offensive here against the anti-worker attacks and unrestrained greed of all the big corporate bullies.
One way we can do this is by joining a rally in Sydney at 5pm on May 20 to demand: "China is Cracking Down on Corporate Greed and Corruption - It's About Time That Starts to Happen Here! Stop Rio Tinto's Plundering and Union Busting!" The rally will be outside the Rio Tinto Sydney office in 19-29 Martin Place (corner with Castelreagh Street) - same building as the US Consulate.
For information call Trotskyist Platform on 0417 204 611,
Given all the media hype about the supposed injustices being perpetrated against the arrested Rio Tinto executives and against Rio Tinto itself, it is important to put the whole issue in perspective. So here is some background:
When in the 1960s Aboriginal people in the Cape York objected to a Rio Tinto subsidiary’s failure to offer decent compensation for building a bauxite mine on their land, Rio worked with the Queensland cops to have the entire Aboriginal community of Mapoon arrested and their whole town burnt down.
In the late 1980s when the people of the PNG island of Bougainville rose up to resist the way that the Australian arm of Rio (then called CRA) was operating its huge Panguna copper mine without any regard to the local people, the PNG government and its masters in Canberra waged a brutal war and blockade against the Bougainville people. As a result 15,000 Bougainvilleans perished - all for the sake of Rio’s profits.
Then in the 1990s Rio Tinto used intimidation, spied on union activists and bribed workers to leave unions so as to drive out trade union influence from iron ore mines and other mining sectors in Australia. They are still at it today! Rio has been arrogantly resisting calls to negotiate a union collective agreement with ore train drivers in the Pilbara. Meanwhile, on January 31, Rio Tinto locked out 560 U.S. miners in Boron, California who had refused to accept a new contract that would casualise the workforce, impose involuntary overtime etc. Rio brought in scabs protected by armed private security guards and government riot cops.
Rio bosses are used to having state forces enforce their will. So they got an awful shock when four of their millionaire executives were arrested for corruption and plunder of public property in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). You see, in the PRC, the state is not run for the sake of the Rio Tinto bigwigs and their mates.
Australia’s pro-capitalist politicians have made out that the China arrests are simply about a commercial dispute between Rio and Chinese steel corporations. However, while Rio is dominated by rich owners, China’s major steel companies, like all its biggest corporations, are socialistic state-owned enterprises that belong to all of its people. When Rio bosses rip off such companies they are stealing from 1.3 billion people! In contrast, when Rio makes a grotesque profit that bring little benefit to its workers. Take the year 2008. Despite paying themselves lavish executive salaries and over $2.6 billion to shareholders for the year’s dividends, Rio bosses announced in December 2008 that the company would slash its workforce by 14,000.
The mainstream media here have tried to portray the Rio Tinto arrests as a case of China picking on foreign companies. Yet the PRC is in the midst of a wave of arrests of local corporate figures and high-ranking officials and politicians for plundering public assets. Soon after the Rio Tinto executives were formally indicted in February, China’s (now ex-) richest man Huang Guangyu was also charged with serious economic crimes. Meanwhile, thousands of notoriously unsafe privately-owned coal mines have been forcibly nationalised leading to significant reductions in workplace deaths. Moves to shore up publicly-owned property in China should be welcomed by Australian working class people.
Furthermore, the Rio Tinto arrests have added significance here. For they not only publicise the devious methods of Rio’s bosses but they also prove that these powerful capitalists are not invincible. Encouraged by this, here are some things that we should be fighting for and proclaiming here:
- Open all of Rio Tinto’s books and those of other corporate giants to inspection by unions - Expose all corruption, hiring of anti-union outfits and bribery of community leaders. Down with the Fair Work Act restrictions on union rights to inspection of company documents!
- Force Rio Tinto to accept union agreements with workers in all key sites.
- Smash Rio Tinto’s union-busting actions in Boron, California! Victory to the Boron mine workers!
- Ban any company that can pay any of its executives or owners more than $300,000 in annual renumeration or dividends from laying off any workers.
- Stop Rio Tinto, BHP, Xstrata etc from trampling on Aboriginal land rights.
- For Rio Tinto to pay out the compensation demanded by Bougainville people in a current U.S. court case for Rio’s crimes against humanity and racial discrimination in connection with the Panguna mine.
- For no obstacles to the extradition of Australian Rio Tinto executives if the PRC finds that they have been involved in the corruption scandal.
- Thank you Peoples Republic for standing up to the Rio corporate thugs. Do not back down under pressure – Expose all of Rio Tinto’s corruption!