IndustriALL Headlines #118, November 20, 2014

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL’s Press Department.
For more information about IndustriALL Global Union click here to visit their website.
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IndustriALL Targets Glencore for Anti-Union Behaviour
Cambodian Union Scores Victory at SL Garment
Let’s Talk About Unions in Iran
Hungarian Workers Protest Against Austerity
200 Polish Miners Occupy Company Headquarters
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IndustriALL Targets Glencore for Anti-Union Behaviour 

Nov 20, 2014  In what can be described as a significant moment in IndustriALL’s mining sector, a Glencore global network was launched in Sao Paulo this week. The global network committed to a mobilization programme.

The country reports from the 32 delegates representing IndustriALL affiliates from 14 countries were a testimony of “the consistent brutality and disrespect for workers’ and unions’ rights displayed by Glencore throughout its operations, all of which are in clear contrast to the public mirage created by its public relations machines,” said Andrew Vickers, Chair of the Mining Sector and General Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) of Australia.

The Glencore global network was established in the midst of a brutal anti-union drive by the mining and commodities giant in five different countries. These attacks are clear contradictions of Glencore’s claim that it respects human rights, community culture, collective bargaining and the right of employees to freely choose a union. Glencore’s practice is far different from its rhetoric.

  • In the United States, management at Glencore’s Sherwin Alumina plant in Texas has locked out members of the United Steelworkers (USW) since 11 October. Glencore is demanding drastic concessions, including stripping retirees of health care benefits and denying a secure retirement to the next generation.
  • In South Africa, 800 workers at the Koornfontein mine in Mpumalanga went on strike on 17 October to protest against substandard severance payments. Glencore offered one week of service per year in this mine, and in other operations it is paying three weeks. Workers in Koornfontein not only have to deal with losing their jobs but also an unfair settlement for the many years they produced coal for Glencore.
  • In Peru, workers at Antamina mine, on strike since 10 November, are subjected to health and safety violations on a regular basis and are being denied fair payment for bonuses and overtime. Workers are being excluded from the Miners’ Pension Fund and the company routinely violates the collective bargaining agreement.
  • In Australia, Glencore has refused to re-hire former employees at the Collinsville mine who are union members and has evicted the former workers and their families from company housing, with devastating impact on the local community.
  • In Colombia, a group of former army officers have linked Glencore to a paramilitary group responsible for murdering trade unionists. The paramilitary group trained at a camp located inside a Glencore mine. Glencore has violently evicted farmers from their homes as well as violated national health and safety laws. Glencore has systematically violated human rights, the right of workers to freedom of association and to freely negotiate a collective agreement. A chilling report was presented during the Sao Paolo network meeting of death threats received by Igor Diaz, the general secretary of Sintracarbon and its leadership.

The meeting heard how the safety situation at Glencore operations was alarming. In Peru and Colombia, the safety and health situation of workers was particularly disturbing, with reports of how injuries to workers are commonplace with Glencore refusing to work with trade unions to address these issues. In addition, it was found that the wholesale use of sub-contracting and precarious employment by Glencore at its global operations was a major contributing factor to the alarming statistics on safety and health.

The meeting concluded with a clear plan of action that will drive the activities of the network. The plan includes an immediate solidarity support by the global network to the USW for its planned activities at the Glencore investor day, 10 December 2014, which ironically coincides with the international human rights day.

Glen Mpufane, the IndustriALL Global Union Director of Mining, declared that Glencore’s day of reckoning may have arrived.

The Glencore global network meeting was held back to back with the launch of the Anglo American Global Network Meeting.

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Cambodian Union Scores Victory at SL Garment 

SL Garment has dropped legal charges against C. CAWDU leader, Ath Thorn, and other unionists in a new agreement.

Nov 20, 2014  Cambodian garment union and IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, C.CAWDU, has won a key victory in settling a long-running dispute with clothing manufacturer SL Garment.

In the settlement, signed between C.CAWDU union leaders and SL Garment on 17 November, the company agrees to drop all charges against union leaders and activists.

SL Garment will also pay US$ 300,000 to all current employees who took part in strikes against the company in 2013.

SL Garment will pay the money directly to the employees after checking the list of eligible staff with the trade union. Representatives from C.CAWDU and the Ministry of Labour will witness and observe the distribution of the money to employees.

SL Garment’s parent company, JD United, is an important supplier for US fashion brand GAP.

C.CAWDU President, Ath Thorn, who was one of the union leaders facing charges by SL Garment, said that pressure on GAP made the brand exert its influence over its supplier to achieve the settlement.  

SL Garment has also agreed that company shareholder, Meas Sotha, who hired military police that attacked workers during the 2013 strikes, will not be involved in the daily operations of the employer or the daily management of the factory.

The November 2014 agreement follows a settlement made between C.CAWDU and SL Garment in December 2013. In it, the company had promised to drop all charges against union leaders. However, it reneged on the deal just a few months later.

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL’s general secretary, said:

“We congratulate C.CAWDU on this important victory which marks a big step in improving industrial relations between trade unions and garment manufacturers in Cambodia. The agreement clears the way for C.CAWDU and SL Garment to work together and build a more productive future at the company.”

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Let’s Talk About Unions in Iran 

IRAN – IndustriALL talks to Jamshid Ahmadi an Iranian activist.  Click here to see the interview.
Nov 20, 2014  Watch this IndustriALL Global Union video about the violations faced by workers in Iran and their struggle to create independent trade unions in a country where they are banned.

“For IndustriALL Global Union it is now an important priority and duty to support these unions in their struggle to form democratic organizations to defend and advance trade union rights,”

says Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL’s Assistant General Secretary.

Iran is an important country in the MENA region in the gas, oil and manufacturing sectors. However, there is little respect for fundamental human and trade union rights.

IndustriALL speaks to Jamshid Ahmadi an Iranian activist working with the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran (UMMI). He helps to raise international awareness of UMMI’s activities and forge links with independent trade unions globally.

“Trade unions are not recognized in Iran. The Iranian labour law currently forbids and prevents the formation of trade unions. In Iran only Islamic labour councils are accepted but they are not trade unions – they are tripartite organizations bringing together the Ministry of Labour, the employers and some selected workers based on their loyalties and religious affiliations to the government. As a result they are inappropriate and ill-equipped to deal with the demands and needs of Iranian workers,”

says Jamshid.

“The operations of unionists in Iran are very, very difficult. They are in effect paying with their liberty and their lives and their security for engaging with trade union activities,”

he continues.

In Iran, arrests and detentions take place on a regular basis; workers are frequently arrested for supporting the right to organize workers and for building independent trade union structures. Torture is routinely used to extract confessions, and political prisoners are systematically denied medical care.

See ITUC survey of violations of trade union rights in Iran

In June, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association upheld an ITUC/ITF complaint over the illegal repression of the bus drivers’ trade union headed by Mansour Osanloo who was finally released from jail. Trade union rights are severely limited and strikes are prohibited. Reports suggest over 70% of Iranian workers are employed on temporary contracts, with no job security.

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Hungarian Workers Protest Against Austerity 

Nov 19, 2014  On 17 November, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Hungarian Metalworkers’ Federation (VASAS), staged a protest in Budapest in front of the Parliament to prevent a new austerity drive.

At least one thousand workers came to the streets and raised their voice against the government’s plan to increase taxes on fringe benefits from 35.7 per cent up to 51.17 per cent, while at the same time lowering the maximum possible annual amount of this allowance paid by the employers.

The government did not consult their social partners about suggested amendments in advance, and workers’ representatives only learned about the planned rise through the mass media. The planned tax increase would affect in a very negative way many households as fringe benefits are a very important and essential part of income for many Hungarian families.

Other IndustriALL affiliates, including the Federation of Building Material Workers’ Unions, the Federation of the Chemical, Energy and General Workers’ Union, and the Mining and Energy Workers’ Union – BDSZ-Mining, joined the protest.

According to VASAS, while the protest was still going on, the leader of the parliamentary group of the ruling party Fidesz announced that they would not support the government’s plan.

Although it happened on the same day, the union action was not directly linked to the “Public Outrage Day” in Budapest involving more than 10,000 people who gathered in front of the Hungarian Parliament demanding the dismissal of the head of the tax authority accused of corruption, and a higher level of accountability of the Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government.

DEVELOPMENT 

The demonstration was successful. Two days later, on 19 November, Parliament voted against increasing taxation on fringe benefits.


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200 Polish Miners Occupy Company Headquarters 

Union leaders at a meeting with KW’s CEO, Miroslaw Taras.  Source: Marek Gacka

Nov 17, 2014  Two hundred Polish miners are occupying the headquarters of the European Union’s largest thermal coal producer in protest at plans to liquidate t he firm.

Liquidation of Polish mining giant, Kompania Weglowa S.A. (KW), would threaten the jobs of more than 46,000 workers employed by the state-owned company.

The protesting miners, which include members from IndustriALL Global Union affiliates KADRA and Solidarnosc, have been camped out in the company’s Katowice-based offices since last Thursday.

They are refusing to leave until they can meet and hold talks with representatives from the Labour Ministry.

They want the Polish government to intervene and save the company, which has already been under a restructuring plan to reduce the workforce by 26,000 employees.  Over ten thousand jobs have been shed in the past two years.

However, last week KW’s CEO, Miroslaw Taras, told union representatives that he had been unable to obtain finance for restructuring the company after plans to raise millions of dollars by issuing eurobonds fell through.

The CEO told unionists that his only option to save the company was to dismiss mining crews and liquidate several mines. He also said that he had returned from the Polish capital Warsaw without any government support.

The company faced a similar financial crisis ten years ago. The government came to the rescue after miners occupied KW’s headquarters.

“The situation of workers is very tense and requires a strong response and specific actions on the side of the government,” said Marek Gacka, Vice President of the KADRA Alliance. “Let’s hope that the situation will end positively for Kompania Weglowa’s employees. We promise that we will stay here to the very end.”

A statement published today by a coalition of Polish unions, criticized the government over its inaction and for downplaying the problems at KW.

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