BWI OnLine – October 6, 2011


New Guidelines to Build Transparency in Construction and Real Estate Sector

October 6, 2011: Carbon emissions, the management and remediation of contaminated land, and sub-contracted labor practices are some of the sustainability issues that can now be reported by construction and real estate companies, thanks to new sector guidance published on 22 September 2011 by GRI.
During its lifecycle – from design and construction through to occupation, operation, and eventually demolition – a building has many different impacts on the environment and society, from the materials used in its construction to energy consumption during occupation. The built environment is responsible for more than 40 percent of global energy use and one third of global greenhouse gas emissions – and up to 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in our cities and towns. In order to improve the sustainability of the built environment, impacts at all stages of the lifecycle need to be considered.

Measuring, monitoring and reporting the sustainability of construction activities and buildings has suffered from a lack of consistency until now. This new tailored guidance aims to make reporting more relevant and cohesive for the sector.

GRI’s Construction and Real Estate Sector Supplement (CRESS) provides guidance for anyone who invests in, develops, constructs, or manages buildings, establishing the principles and indicators for reporting business strategy and performance. Specific issues covered in the new Supplement include building and materials certification, CO2 emissions, management and remediation of contaminated land and a range of labor and health and safety issues.

The Supplement has been developed according to a multi-stakeholder process including BWI – volunteers from construction and real estate companies, labor, non-governmental organizations and academia were brought together in a Working Group to develop the guidance. Visit GRI’s website to learn more about the Construction and Real Estate Sector Supplement.


World Day for Decent Work:  Trade Unions Mobilise on Infrastructure Jobs!

October 4, 2011:  Trade Unions affiliated to the BWI are organising infrastructure projects around the world to win real improvements in working and living conditions for construction workers.

  • Bujagali Hydroelectric Dam Uganda and Kenya Geothermal Power Plant
  • Cambodia rail expansion and Nepal Melamchi Hydro Dam
  • Panama Canal expansion and Panama City Metro
  • Brazil World Cup infrastructure projects in the twelve host cities
  • Roads and rail corridors in the Balkans
  • USA union LIUNA fighting for construction jobs and good Collective Agreements on infrastructure projects

    The Union Effect

  • Proper contracts for employment – no precarious work
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements and Trade Union representation on site
  • Good wages, working hours and working conditions
  • Excellent standards of Health and Safety, training and work organisation
  • Good welfare conditions for transport, canteens and workers’ accommodation.

    What is your union doing on October 7th?
    Mobilise your members to demand Trade Union rights on site – we demand from governments and from construction contractors:

  • Respect for the right to organise, to Trade Union representation and collective bargaining
  • An immediate end to deaths, injuries and damage to our health on site
  • Rejection of informal and precarious work in construction – our people need good jobs now
  • Good wages and working conditions on every site
  • National working parties of construction industry partners to take practical steps to improve conditions in construction.

    Clean up construction now! We need in every country a national plan to promote construction employment and skills; to prevent the terrible toll of deaths, injuries and disease in construction; to improve management of construction projects, and to put an end to illegal and exploitative labour practices in our sector. Contact your government and the contractors association now to demand action!

    Got public works jobs near you? Get out there and organise! Talk to the workers and sign them up to the union, ask for meetings with the contractor, ask for meetings with the project owners to tell them that everyone has the right to Decent Work, and that means Trade Union rights! Send information and photos to:

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    South Africa:  Scoring an Own Goal? The Construction Workers’ 2010 World Cup Strike

    October 4, 2011:  The Global Labour University Conference in South Africa held from 28 to 30 September 2011 focused on “The Politics of Labour and Development” and more particularly the post crisis challenge which consists in transforming the widespread sense of frustration and protest into policies and power that can achieve the changes that are so urgently required. The debate also looked at policies and practices that can effectively shift the balance of power back towards the people. On the revitalisation of labour, the BWI was invited to speak on the construction workers’ 2010 World Cup strike.

    The nationwide strike by 70 000 construction workers between 8 and 15 July 2009 was unprecedented and significant in several respects. It was the first national strike on 2010 World Cup sites by South African construction workers and was therefore a historic event. A second key feature of the strike was the unity displayed by workers and trade unions within a sector organised by several trade unions. Engineering and building workers came out on strike, with the Building, Construction & Allied Workers‘ Union (BCAWU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) standing together as their representative organisations. A third feature of the strike was the widespread support it mobilised from the South African public and media. This was despite it potentially setting back progress on World Cup projects. Fourthly, the pressure placed upon the trade union negotiating team by the Ministry of Labour and the FIFA Local Organising Committee (LOC) proved lethal in undermining their demands and demobilising the national strike.

    Eddie Cottle, BWI regional policy and campaign officer, participated in the event.

    Click here for more information. 



    South Africa’s World Cup: A Legacy for Whom?

    October 4, 2011:  This book is the outcome of three years of engagement, collaboration, research and struggle to improve workers’ conditions ahead of, during and after the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) 2010 World Cup. Once the Labour Research Service reviewed the impact of mega sporting events on workers’ conditions, various new insights and perspectives developed. The research initially aimed to inform the response of workers and trade unions for their struggle to improve the conditions of workers, but it was soon clear that this would not be possible without looking at the sporting spectacle as a whole and FIFA’s role in capitalist globalisation and accumulation.

    This book provides a holistic analysis and critique of the impact of mega sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup and the developmental paradigm associated with it.

    We hope that the lessons learnt in South Africa can be shared with workers involved in preparations for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Football Championship in the Ukraine and Poland in 2012 and the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, among other mega events planned for the near future.

    You can download it here.


    Brazil:  The Odebrecht Trade Union Network Was Set Up

    October 3, 1011:  By a unanimous decision, the Union representatives of various countries in Latin America and Brazilian states present at the Regional Seminar on the multinational Odebrecht, held in the City of Victoria, Brazil, on 22 and 23 September 2011, decided to create the Trade Union Network for Latin America and the Caribbean Workers of Odebrecht. The seminar was sponsored by the BWI and had the support of the BWI’s state affiliates SITRACONST and FETRACONMAG.

    The Network is an initiative that links internationally to representatives of workers in the company business and will serve as a network to exchange information on an ongoing basis with regular meetings once a year.

    The main objective of the Network is to find the best working conditions and relations for all employees of the group, directly or outsourced, to a higher level of quality (above). For this, it will exchange information, will compare conditions and benefits and will organize its members to find better conditions for their constituents.

    The Network does not replace or serve as a union, federation or confederation. Nor is the best structure to solve unsolved problems at the local level. But it does strengthen and promote solidarity among its members. Besides that, it seeks to establish another level of dialogue with the company management in the context of the “social dialogue”, where issues can be discussed beyond those discussed in the context of the collective bargaining agreements, resulting from the so-called agreements or collective agreements. The network, therefore, tends to facilitate the negotiation.

    The Network is composed of union representatives Odebrecht workers. It has a regional coordination group with representatives from each interested labour organization, which owns or will come to own the business of Odebrecht at its base.
    Indistinguishable currents or trade unions in the network operate on the basis of cooperation and political commitment to workers. The decisions to be implemented in each unit by the local union are made by consensus. It has the BWI’s support as it is the international trade union organization that facilitates and coordinates organizations of various countries and also seeks to expand its relations with other organizations.

    The network’s work is guided by the following principles.

  • Promote integration and solidarity;
  • Demand respect for organized workers’ rights;
  • Combat violence and discrimination in labour relations;
  • Defend workers health;
  • Enforce and prioritize labour laws;
  • Monitoring compliance with international labour standards and OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises;
  • Monitor the implementation of Odebrecht Group’s codes of conduct ;
  • Require compliance with the Framework Agreements and collective bargaining agreements;
  • Fight outsourcing and subcontracting;
  • Require and monitor compliance with environmental legislation;
  • Ensure best practices of Odebrecht suppliers and business partners ;
  • Broaden the participation of women and youth in the network;
  • Seek for the self-sustaining and self-financing of the network;
  • It will be autonomous and independent from trade unions
  • It will communicate with unions outside of Latin America and the Caribbean (Europe, Africa, United States);
  • It will endeavour social dialogue with the company’s management;
  • It will support unions initiatives and campaigns ;

    The BWI feels proud of contributing to the advancement of workers’ organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean, mainly because Odebrecht is one of the leading multinational companies in the construction sector in the region.

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    Case of Tunisia Affiliate: Identifying Needs to Inform Union Strategy in the Emerging Arab Spring Interventions in BWI Sectors.

    October 3, 2011:  In a background of political reform and preparedness for October General Election, Tunisians are testing freedom manifested by existence of over 100 parties. Informed with the changes driven by need to address the high rates of unemployment that propelled the revolution, the trade union movement in Tunisia has a role of play to ensure that union structures are vitalized and Unions repositioning as a lead player in democratic reform in the context of Arab spring.

    Revolution has brought two dimensions, on a positive note, enhanced opportunity to negotiate better working conditions with most of the agreements expected to be reviewed in 2012 and Union intention to bring to the table, the issue of precarious working conditions reflected by contractual work in building materials and public work sectors. On a challenging note, risks of pluralism as well as divisions are noted because of increased freedom. Expectation for Union to deliver services to the membership has also increased several folds.

    Internally the Union realizes the need for full time organizers, enhanced youth visibility, reforms in labour legislations and by law regulations, integration of decent work agenda enshrined on respect of International Labour Standards, trade union rights and improvement of health and safety conditions.

    Training needs were identified in aspects of collective bargaining .Bro, Hassan Chebil, Secretary General of the Tunisia affiliate provided insight on how the union stood firm when government was determine to increase retirement age from 60 to 65. With more training on negotiations, chances exist on aspect of wage increase; aspects of bonus payment which will be addressed in both plant and sectoral agreements. Negotiations will be important pillar in Union work especially within the new political set up expected after the General Election in late October.

    Opportunities for engaging Multinationals especially with origin from Italy, Turkey and Portuguese in the building materials were identified especially by building on relations with BWI affiliates in Southern Europe. This opportunity provides room to map out challenges facing migrant workers on the migration corridors to Southern Europe. The Union noted need to strengthen union structures from the shop floor with emphasis on recruitment and organizing activities in BWI sectors with potential of 25,000 workers. Several companies in the cement sector were identified and specifically new plant was mentioned currently under construction which will employ about 1000 workers when it is finalized.

    The Strategy seminar held on 26- 28th September supported by FES and BWI was graced by UGTT General Secretary Abdessalem Jerad, Tunisia FES Resident Representative Elizabeth Braune and BWI Migration, Gender & Campaign Director Jin Sook. Sis Jin Sook highlighted importance of case studies emerging from other countries and in her remark reiterated that BWI was in the process of revitalizing the Unions in MENA region and is willing to work closely with the union on legislative and trade union structures reforms. Also in attendance was BWI Regional staff Paul Opanga and Wassim Rifi. The workshop was facilitated by UGTT Educator bro Salah Bejaoui and attended by 23 union representatives from different branches and regions in Tunisia.


    France: Lafarge Workers End Hunger Strike

    October 3, 2011:  Unions and management have reached an agreement: the Frangey cement plant will continue to operate until a buyer is found, they told the tv channel France 3 Bourgogne (Burgundy).

    The twelve employees of the Lafarge plant have prevailed. After their ten-day strike, Lafarge Group’s management agreed to change its decision regarding the plant’s early closure.

    The announcement followed a special meeting of the central works committee, held at the company’s head office in St. Cloud, a Parisian suburb.

    The twelve employees, accompanied by the municipality’s mayor, were on a hunger strike to protest against the closure of the Frangey cement. Finally, they achieved the plant’s continuation with 40 employees. Of those 40, five are to retire over the coming months. The plant will operate until March 2012, and will then retain its grinding activity while waiting for a possible buyer.


    Ukraine: Trade Union Conference “Euro-2012: Decent Working Conditions for Building Workers – Contractors’ Corporate Social Responsibility”

    October 3, 2011:  On 21-23 September 2011, Building Workers’ Union of Ukraine in cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Foundation held in Kharkov the third annual conference for the Eurocup-2012 campaign. The Conference was attended by union representatives from Brazil, South Africa, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), and the Ukrainian Building Workers Union regional representatives.

    The three-day conference focused on decent working conditions for building workers and corporate social responsibility for contractors. The forum gathered trade union representatives, local authorities, developers and contractors of championship sites, representatives from state health and safety inspectors.

    The conference discussed corporate social responsibility of contractors, health and safety at construction sites of Euro 2012, cooperation between trade unions and government and showed examples of the results and methods of trade union work in South Africa and Brazil. Workers and trade union problems were described such as fake civil-legal agreements instead of permanent employement, occupational injuries hiding, low-quality instruments and tools, wage arrears and many others. Participants visited the most important infrastructure sites of Euro-2012 – stadium “Metalist”, International airport “Kharkiv” and a training center for football teams.

    A press conference was held with Ukrainian Building Workers Union Chairman Vasyl Andreyev and BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson visiting Ukraine for the first time.

    “There are problems with the implementation of labor laws in all hosting cities of the European Championship-2012. We see significant efforts to fulfill social responsibility criteria on the construction sites here in Kharkov. First of all, it concerns the main contractor of local Euro-2012 facilities – LLC “Stalkonstruktsiya where trade union local was organized,” stated Vasyl Andreyev.

    “The country now has a clear opportunity for economic development. But as always workers’ rights are sacrificed. Working conditions are bad. UEFA does not take responsibility for the preparation to the championship, because they call themselves a non-profit organization. Maybe UEFA should propose some benefits to workers? Maybe UEFA should take some responsibility?” said Ambet Yuson.

    Next year Ukrainian union together with the International plan to hold a social auditing of the Euro-2012 infrastructure. The government and football association will be invited in order to explore social and labor aspects of the preparation for the championship, whether the rights of workers and trade unions were observed, what Ukraine has gained in social terms.

    The international project “EURO-2012: Decent Work Campaign” started in 2009. The aims of the project are: improvement of working conditions for builders of sport arenas, transport and tourist infrastructure; commitment to zero accidents at the work places; quality jobs creation and vocational training programmes for Ukrainian citizens; main construction tender agreements which follow core labour standards; enforcement of Ukrainian and international labour legislation through the whole EURO-2012 contractors and suppliers chain.


    Malaysia: The Government Has Not Backed Down From its Plan to Amend Labour Laws

    October 3, 2010:  The proposed amendments seek to allow companies to hire fixed-term contractors for as long as they like. The amendments would further distort the employee-employer relationship, disempowering unions and workers and allowing employees at one worksite to be employed by a number of different employers, regardless of their job and length of service.

    Speaking to local media, MTUC President, and General-Secretary of the BWI affiliated TEU, said “We are concerned that workers under contract for labour cannot be organised into unions. The proposed amendments have not been tabled or deliberated in the National Labour Advisory Council.

    “We want to ensure that the rights of contract and part-time workers are protected,” Workers will be disadvantaged because of different standards and conditions for workers in similar positions and by being prevented from unionising and using their collective strength in negotiations.

    Previously, the Minister of Human Resources had given his assurance that the legislation would not be re-introduced to the Parliament without prior discussion with the National Labour Advisory Council. This has not occurred, yet the government is moving forward with its plans to further obfuscate employment relations in Malaysia.

    The previous introduction of the Bill to Parliament was aborted following strong action by trade unions and government opposition, and these groups have again shown their commitment to fight against the Bill’s reintroduction and protect the rights and interests of workers in Malaysia.


    Uganda Building Union Build Capacity of 40 Negotiators in Four Construction Companies

    September 30, 2011:  Recognising the importance of effective negotiators as well as involvement in the process of collective bargaining, Uganda Building Union targeted ten workers from four companies totalling to forty (40) in the month of September and equipped them with new skills so that they can service the new membership being recruited.

    The workers targeted included 10 members from Sole Bonel International (SBI) Construction Company who are currently constructing Bugiri-Malaba Busia Road Project in the western part of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The training addressed tact for making proposals on issues such as pay rise, leave matters, maternity leave and qualities of good negotiators.

    The second group of ten workers were from Raghwani Construction Company that deals with prefab houses, timber and furniture processing in Kampala city.

    The last two group of ten were selected from Chinese companies. They include workers from China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) and China Railway Seventh Group Company (CRSG). Similar challenges facing workers were reported in these two companies which include rampant dismissal, inadequate provision of personal protective Equipments (PPE), unexplained deductions on wages due to minor workplace mistakes, poor accommodation facilities and intimidation by the Chinese employers.

    While recruitment was reported to be ongoing in the two Chinese companies, Uganda Building Union (UBCCECAWU) had to be cautious so that members are not dismissed in the process of searching for a recognition agreement.


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