Glencore has been using security firm to spy on its behalf

CFMEU Queensland district president Stephen Smyth.
Contributed by Ben Wilson

The use of a security firm in Australia to spy on people’s private lives is disturbing, to say the least, and this is exactly what has been going on, around the present dispute at the Glencore’s Oaky North  mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

The State president of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has called this “clandestine and quasi-military” activity, given that individuals have been spied on, in their homes and at the pub, followed down the street and social media has been monitored.

Individuals have been targeted, just because they have been sympathetic to those who have been locked out of the mine, for not accepting lower pay and conditions than they are currently entitled to .

The Fair Work Commission has found itself compelled to find this behaviour “appalling” and “outside the scope of what would be reasonable’’. The locked out workers Picketers  have also condemned for the use of some colourful language. This is not in the same league and the Commission has failed to be clear on this.

At least Glencore has been ordered to stop the spying.

It should not be left at this though,  because the behaviour of Glencore, goes further than the jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission. Should private companies have the right to conduct operations like this  against citizens?

The political establishment has so far shown its lack of concern and has in effect condoned it. There is no call for outlawing a practice that is not only an intrusion, but a serious form of intimidation.

The Oaky North mine case mirrors what the Australian government has been doing, by increasingly spying on Australians, whether it’s through the spooks in the varies spy outfits tailing people, or through monitoring of the Internet.

Anglo Swiss multinational Glencore International plc is the parent company and the world’s third largest family business. It has a track record of association with  questionable and even illegal behaviour, such as corruption, financial and accounting manipulation, large scale tax evasion and the forced evacuation of villagers from near nine sites.

But the prospect of private outfits being empowered to follow, watch and gather intelligence on people’s lives, raises the risk of not only the loss of freedom, but for information to be used for extortion by businesses that are in it for the money.

Whether what has been going on around the Oaky North mine is an isolated case or is more widespread than this, is not clear at this point. But the matter is important enough to warrant looking in to.

It is up to all off us to be vigilant and make sure this sort of practice does not spread.



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