IndustriALL Headlines #119, November 27, 2014

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL’s Press Department.
For more information about IndustriALL Global Union click here to visit their website. 

Global Union Protest Shake Huhtamaki
Tazreen Victims Set for Compensation on Second Anniversary of Tragedy
New Threats to Sintracarbón Leaders in Colombia
Tense Standoff at Swazi Maloma Colliery
Vote for the Public Eye Lifetime Award


Global Union Protest Shake Huhtamaki

Nov 25, 2014  Workers facing rights’ violations at the Huhtamaki packaging plant in Commerce, California have received solidarity support from their co-workers and union activists across the world.

A global week of action initiated by the United Steelworkers (USW), an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, took place from 17 to 21 November. All the actions were united by a strong demand to respect the legitimate rights of Huhtamaki employees in the workplace, to work in safer conditions and to get better wages.

The actions supported the demands of workers at the Huhtamaki plant in Commerce, California who are asking the company to meet with a democratically elected worker committee to address grievances over health and safety and discipline.  The company has refused to meet and instead brought in a “union-buster” consultant to intimidate the workers.

120 protesters, including leaders of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, USW Huhtamaki Council and District 12, joined workers from the Commerce plant to demonstrate in Los Angeles, U.S. at a Chipotle restaurant, a major customer of Huhtamaki. The unions have also launched an online petition targeting Chipotle.

Through the call from global union federation, IUF, the European trade union representatives at Nestlé, another major Huhtamaki customer, also voiced their demands for Respect for All Huhtamaki Workers.

In Finland, where multinational Huhtamaki is based, leaders from IndustriALL affiliates Paperiliitto, PRO and TEAM and professional union YTN at the union-organized Hämeenlinna plant publicized the violations faced by Huhtamaki workers and expressed their solidarity with U.S. co-workers. Activists from IUF affiliates PAM (private services) and SEL (food industry in Finland echoed their solidarity actions.

In Australia, Huhtamaki workers at the Preston site in Melbourne had a sticker day on 18 November and sent messages of support to their fellow workers. Photographs of these actions were forwarded to the leadership team of the Huhtamaki Group.

In Russia, the Timber and Related Industries Workers Union, an IndustriALL affiliate that is fighting to get recognition at a Huhtamaki factory near Moscow, jointly conveyed their solidarity to their brothers and sisters in Commerce.

In Poland, Huhtamaki workers received solidarity support from the union Solidarnosc.

IndustriALL Turkish affiliate the Petroleum, Chemical and Rubber Workers’ Union (Lastik-Is) activists sent a letter to the local and central Huhtamaki management in Turkey to express their outrage about the situation in U.S. and convey their support to the Huhtamaki workers.

In Nairobi, Kenya, Africa regional women activists from the IUF sent their greetings and solidarity to the Huhtamaki workers, as did leaders of UNI Global Union’s Graphical & Packaging Division. Staff members at IndustriALL’s head office in Geneva, Switzerland also joined in with the protest against the violations.  

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, says:

“Our strength is in our unity, and this global week of action proved it once again. Only together we can withstand pressure of global companies and get better conditions and pay for our members and their families. Huhtamaki workers are not alone and numerous actions of solidarity during this week demonstrated the readiness of unionists from all over the world to stand up and give a helping hand to their colleagues right when they need it. The fight is not over, we will not stop until we get full Respect for All Huhtamaki Workers!”

Follow the Huhtamaki workers’ campaign on Facebook at

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Tazreen Victims Set for Compensation on Second Anniversary of Tragedy 

The Tazreen Fashions factory after the devastating fire which claimed 120 lives.
Victims of the Tazreen fire tragedy are set to get compensation.

Nov 24, 2014 Two years after the Tazreen disaster that killed more than 120 people trapped in a factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, an agreement has been made between IndustriALL Global Union and their local affiliates, the Clean Clothes Campaign and retailer C&A on delivering compensation to the victims.

On 24 November 2012, more than 120 people burnt to death after becoming trapped behind locked exits at the Tazreen Fashions factory, which supplied clothes to global brands. In addition, 300 people were severely injured in the fire.

Over recent days the parties have been engaged in ongoing negotiations facilitated by the ILO to agree principles for an agreement. Details of the programme will be finalized over coming days, with the hope that compensation will finally be delivered.

As part of this agreement, C&A Foundation has pledged to contribute a significant amount towards full and fair compensation for Tazreen victims, in addition to those funds that have already been committed. The final details of pledge will be worked out and made public once the cost of the package has been finalized.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said:

“On the second anniversary of Tazreen, we are very pleased to say that compensation for the survivors and the families of victims is finally in sight. The outline agreement between IndustriALL, the Clean Clothes Campaign and C&A provides the principles for a compensation process to give much-needed financial assistance and allow survivors to get essential medical care.”

Tazreen Fashions customers included Walmart, Disney, El Corte Ingles, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Sears, Dickies, Delat Apparel and Sean John amongst others. Two years on, none of these brands have paid compensation.

Only Hong Kong based Li & Fung, the world’s largest sourcing agent, and C&A Foundation have made some payments through the Bangladesh government. El Corte Ingles and Kik have made informal promises to compensate victims, but these remain to be translated into public pledges.

Jyrki Raina added:

“Now the agreement for a compensation scheme has been reached, we are calling on all the brands that sourced from Tazreen Fashions to pay into the fund. We welcome the lead taken by C&A and other brands must follow. The victims of this terrible tragedy have suffered long enough.”

Walmart was Tazreen Fashion’s biggest customer and workers had just completed a shipment to the US retail giant before the fire. Walmart has yet to compensate victims.

Philip Jennings, general secretary at UNI Global Union, which represents Walmart workers in stores, said:

“We congratulate C&A for taking this important step and call on other brands to follow.  We ask that companies such as Walmart, Benetton and Gap do the right thing for the victims of both Tazreen and Rana Plaza, the survivors and their families, and pay into the compensation funds, an adequate and just amount.”

For more information, please contact:

Leonie Guguen, Communications Officer, IndustriALL Global Union

Tel: +41 (0)22 308 50 24

Mobile: +41 (0)79 137 54 36

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New Threats to Sintracarbón Leaders in Colombia 

Nov 24, 2014  Once again, members of Sintracarbón, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, have received death threats. IndustriALL calls on the Colombian government to stop the persecution of trade unions and reiterates its solidarity with our threatened colleagues.

A criminal organisation calling itself the Joint Urban Command of the Rastrojos and Black Eagles sentenced to death the leaders of the Sintracarbón, Sintrabienestar and Sindesena trade unions in La Guajira for allegedly being members of guerrilla groups.  

Sintracarbón publicly contested this information, calling on “the authorities to take appropriate action to guarantee the lives and other inalienable rights of our threatened leaders” and “the public prosecutor to find out who has issued the threats and bring them before the courts”. It also called on managers at the Carbones del Cerrejón multinational company and other local employers to take measures to protect their lives and guarantee their right to continue with their trade union and civic activities.

Sintracarbón has made it clear that it is only seeking improvements in the living conditions of its members, their families and communities affected by the mining company’s activities. “Our actions are always within the law and an expression of our right to carry out peaceful protests, join a union and conduct collective bargaining, as enshrined in the Colombian Constitution”.

“The intelligence agencies must surely have investigated our work inside and outside the company. We do not have nor will we have any relationship with illegal groups”, said the union.

The oil workers’ union, USO and Sintraelercol, which are also affiliated to IndustriALL and partners in  the project to form a single mining and energy sector union in Colombia, have expressed their solidarity by calling on the government to dismantle the paramilitary groups immediately, purge the security forces and guarantee the security of workers’ leaders. IndustriALL echoes these demands and again calls on the government to stop the persecution of trade unions.

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Tense Standoff at Swazi Maloma Colliery 

Nov 27, 2014 Striking workers at Maloma Colliery in Swaziland have retreated to a hill and refuse to return to work until their demand for a housing allowance are met.

Workers embarked on a legal strike action on 24 November, seeking to double their USD40 housing allowance. Some of the miners earn a mere USD250 a month. The mine is majority owned by South African company Chancellor House with close ties to South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress.

The miners are organized by the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA), which was formed following a merger of nine unions in Swaziland last year. The government of Swaziland has refused to register the union along with the national centre, the Trade Union Confederation of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) formed through a merger in 2012.

Strikers have been confronted by police, despite the strike action being peaceful and this led to the retreat up the hill. Mine management is now denying the strikers water, sanitation and medical treatment.

“The workers have vowed that they are not returning to work or going back to their homes unless the company meets their demands,” said Wander Mkhonza, General Secretary of ATUSWA.

“We urge the company to follow the path of the workers and commit itself on negotiations and desist from intimidating workers.”

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Vote for the Public Eye Lifetime Award 

Nov 27, 2014  Six multinational companies, including Walmart and Glencore, are in the running for the Public Eye Lifetime Award. The prize highlights businesses guilty of human and labour rights violations, environmental destruction or corruption.

To mark 15 years of the award, voters are being asked to choose from a shortlist of six previous winners from the Public Eye Hall of Shame. They are Walmart, Glencore, Dow Chemical, Chevron, Gazprom and Goldman Sachs.

The public can register their vote online now.

The winner will be announced in Davos, Switzerland on 23 January 2015. The ceremony is timed to coincide with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Alpine resort, where several past winners will be present.

You can follow the announcement of the winner on the Public Eye website or on twitter in real time.

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