Today I took part in a pension trustee in an online asset owner briefing by PIRC and Global trade unions (IndustriALL Global Union) who organise workers in Columbia, Chile and Australia who are employed (directly or indirectly) by the multinational mining giant BHP.
There were a number of investment fund managers and advisors who also took part and asked questions.
I was very disturbed to hear about the failure of BHP to engage with its trade unions across the different continents and also its failure to protect workers against Covid-19 infections.
It was incredible to learn that BHP has set up so called "joint venture" dummy companies to employ staff at their sites at reduced wages and benefits, while at the same time washing their hands over their health and safety.
I asked the local union organisers, what can pension fund trustees in the UK do to help them and was told in no uncertain terms that they want us to push for meaningful dialogue with their employer. They want senior managers, who have the authority to take decisions and make things happen to negotiate with them and not just ignore or dictate to them.
Many UK pension funds have have huge investments in mining companies and are they are liable to potential massive risks if these investments go wrong. If companies fail to engage with their trade unions and fail to mitigate these risks, then investors must question if these companies are really suitable to put pensioners money into them.
(picture of trade unions protesting outside the BHP AGM in London 2018. Check out protests at last months virtual BHP meeting)