Commodity giant Glencore Plc defended working conditions at its mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo after an international labor federation said its employees are poorly treated and underpaid.
The spat with Geneva-based IndustriALL, a global union federation that says it represents more than 50 million workers in 140 countries, comes as some of the world’s biggest companies, from Apple Inc. to Volkswagen AG, pursue multi-million-dollar deals for Glencore’s prized Congolese cobalt.
Working conditions at Glencore’s Katanga Mining Ltd. and Mutanda operations violate workers’ rights and need to be improved, IndustriALL said March 22 in an emailed statement after representatives visited Congo in February.
“Auto companies need to live up to their customers’ expectations,” IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanches said. “We’re not asking them to not buy from Glencore, we’re asking them to pressure Glencore to live up to Glencore’s own claims to produce responsibly and to respect workers’ rights.”
Glencore disputes the allegations, it said in a written response to the federation. “Glencore strongly rejects the claim made by IndustriALL of slavery-like conditions at our operations in the DRC,” the company said. The accusations include “a number of unfounded allegations based on factual inaccuracies,” it said.
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