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Glencore wanted to take action against child labor allegations: commodity company fails in Zug’s High Court

Glencore wanted to take action against child labor allegations: commodity company fails in Zug’s High Court

A few days before the vote on the group initiative, Glencore tried to defend itself in court against the allegations of child labor in a Bolivian mine – but was rejected with its application before the Zug High Court.

Glencore's headquarters in Baar.

Glencore’s headquarters in Baar.

Photo: Maria Schmid (December 11, 2019)

In the final sprint of the vote on the corporate responsibility initiative, the two sides do not give each other anything. Now the Baar commodity group Glencore has tried to take legal action against the initiators’ claims, according to which “minors mine zinc, lead and silver under inhumane conditions” in the Bolivian Glencore mine Porco. This is what it said on a flyer from the initiators who reached Swiss households in recent days. The initiators’ headline on the flyer and on their own website: “Minors toil in the Glencore mine.”

Glencore therefore initiated proceedings for the provisional and precautionary measures of the Supreme Court of the canton of Zug, as a Glencore spokeswoman confirmed at the request. “With the request, we want to ensure that the initiators must remove the false allegations of child labor in Bolivia from their website and not spread them anymore. The initiators went too far with the accusation of child labor. “To protect their rights, the commodity company had to react this week. This step was taken to protect employees and the company’s reputation,” the Glencore spokeswoman said.

The initiator welcomes the court’s decision

The Supreme Court of Zug subsequently rejected the raw material company’s application. In its decision of Tuesday, November 24, the sole judge of the Supreme Court initially granted the group responsibility the right to comment and refrained from issuing an interim measure, as “it is no longer possible to prevent the said publications have already become known to the general public. ». Although the order speaks of “serious” and “thoroughly polemical” allegations, it does not contain any information as to whether the court considers the disputed allegations to be well-founded or not.

The group responsibility was satisfied with the court’s decision on Wednesday. Instead of fighting documented child labor, Glencore is trying to take legal action against criticism, according to a similar statement from the association. “With the lawsuit before the Supreme Court in Zug, the mining company wants to ensure that the initiators no longer report on the inhuman conditions in the Bolivian mine.”

Glencore got caught up in contradictions in its statement and subsequent full-page ads in the Swiss press, the initiators write. The company claims that it has no “direct influence” on the cooperatives and can not control who works for them and how old these workers are – even though the often underage cooperative workers even visit a Glencore checkpoint on their way to their tunnels. The subsidiary and they themselves acknowledge that they maintain constant communication with “the cooperatives that exist in our mining operations”, also in terms of child labor.

Glencore CEO: “Why should we hire children?”

The basis for the initiators’ statement was a research from the non-governmental organization Public Eye, which recently wrote on its Facebook page: “NEW SCANDAL: Inhuman working conditions prevail in a Bolivian mine. Glencore buys a large part of the minerals and closes its eyes to accidents, child labor and environmental damage. “In a press release, Public Eye wrote that if the group initiative were to be accepted, Glencore would be forced to” do everything possible to ensure that no minors toil in Porco and that avoidable, often fatal accidents no longer occur. ”

However, Glencore emphasizes that the request is not directed at Public Eye, but only at the Group Responsibility Initiative, as the promoters’ claims went beyond Public Eye. The NGO did not feel compelled to comment on Wednesday, especially since, as a spokesman said on the telephone, “it has already described the key issues in a detailed response”.

In recent days, Glencore had already defended itself against the accusations with an extensive advertising campaign – a news for the group, which has only recently come on a communicative offensive. In a statement, Glencore wrote that child labor will not be tolerated: “Our mines in Bolivia do not employ minors and implement Glencore’s global health and safety program.”

CEO Ivan Glasenberg recently told the newspaper “Sonntagsblick” that the non-governmental organizations would deliberately mix the Glencore mine with the state mining cooperatives. “These mining cooperatives are not under our control. Our Porco mine does not pollute water. And I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty: We do not employ children. These are lies! », Says Glasenberg. Child labor also makes no sense: “Why should we hire children? To save a few dollars? That would just be stupid. We are a $ 40 billion company. Our largest cost pool is the machines, says Glasenberg.

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