IndustriALL Headlines #126, January 29, 2015

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


Turkey: Time for global solidarity with metalworkers’ mass strike
Unions mobilize globally for workers’ rights at Holcim Lafarge
Miners protest against destruction of coal mining in Ukraine
Indonesia: Another fatality at the Grasberg mine
Citizens’ initiative to end zero-hours contracts in Finland


Turkey: Time for global solidarity with metalworkers’ mass strike

Jan 29, 2015  IndustriALL Global Union is mobilizing support for its affiliated union Birlesik Metal-Is in the sector-wide strike launched today, 29 January. The strike covers some 40 workplaces with 15,000 workers in Turkey’s metal industry.

Members of Birlesik Metal-Is voted to strike in rejection of an offered three-year collective agreement with the metal employers association MESS.

Priority demands of the strike include:

  • Increasing the sector’s low salaries,
  • Reducing the wide gap in pay between different job categories and seniority levels,
  • And keeping the length of the agreement at two years instead of three.

IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan stated:

“The metal industry in Turkey can and must pay higher wages. We staunchly support our Birlesik sisters and brothers in their strong stand for fair and dignified salaries.”

The massive strike was kicked off at 9am this morning with loud and colourful marches, mobilizations, and pickets. Birlesik has divided the companies they organize into two groups; the strike began today at half of them, with workers at the second group to stop work on 19 February.

Five of the affected 40 companies organized by Birlesik attempted to manipulate the labour law by pressuring mainly white-collar employees to call for a workplace strike ballot at eight factories. All five strike ballots, run by the Labour Ministry, resoundingly supported the strike.

The majority of the companies are international suppliers headquartered in Germany, France, US, Holland, Japan and elsewhere. The companies produce electrical, heating, and mechanical systems. IndustriALL is contacting those multinationals to call on them to meet with the union and discuss workers’ demands in good faith.

Another common anti-union practice of employers in Turkey when their staff votes to strike is to request the government to postpone the strike by 60 days over so-called arguments about “public health” and “general security”. This bad labour law allows for a strike to be postponed if it risks public safety or security, and effectively bans the strike entirely.

All staff at Birlesik are going unpaid during the strike so that full resources can be committed to the action. IndustriALL Global Union will join the strike picket next week.

Click here to send your message of solidarity to the striking Birlesik members.


Unions mobilize globally for workers’ rights at Holcim Lafarge

SpainClick here to see additional photos at IndustriALL.

Jan 26, 2015  Last week, on 15 January Lafarge and Holcim workers and their supporters in 30 countries organized a series of actions as part of a global campaign launched by IndustriALL Global Union, Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) and European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW).

On this day the message of “No merger without workers’ rights!” resonated globally. The campaign is in response to the failure of the two largest cement companies in the world to engage with trade unions on the effects of the merger on workers.

Over 7,000 protest messages with workers’ demands have already been delivered to the leadership of both companies through the web-based resource LabourStart. More electronic petitions in support of workers’ demands to the leadership of Lafarge and Holcim can be sent via www.labourstart.org/go/nomerger.

A number of trade unions in Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Uganda, and Zimbabwe used the opportunity of the global action day to outreach to workers at the various cement plants operated by Lafarge and Holcim.  Union leaders distributed flyers and explained the implications of the merger on the workers’ future.

In Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Philippines, and Romania unions mobilized workers and conducted pickets and rallies in front of the Lafarge and Holcim plants.  Following these actions, some of the unions held work stoppages surprising the company management.

Press conferences were organized by unions in Egypt, Nigeria, Mauritania, and Serbia resulting in significant national press coverage. Other countries where actions took place include Cambodia, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand.

“The strong global mobilizations are indicative of the anger and frustration of the workers and trade unions at Lafarge and Holcim plants in being side-lined and not consulted throughout the entire merger process,”

stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI.

“Workers are demanding respect and the first step would be for the Holcim and Lafarge management to include workers and trade unions as the merger moves forward.”

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union commented,

“We fully support the workers’ demands on guaranteeing the respect of existing collective agreements, and the conditions of workers in parts of the business that will be sold off, as wel as maintaining global level social dialogue and a framework agreement.”

The three unions will continue to coordinate further actions until their key demands are met by the Lafarge and Holcim.


Miners protest against destruction of coal mining in Ukraine

Jan 29, 2015  1,500 coal miners from IndustriALL Global Union affiliates across the Ukraine launched a protest action picketing the Cabinet of Ministers building today (28 January) in the capital Kiev.

Workers are demanding that the government reviews the state budget for 2015 and includes the necessary funding to pay wage arrears, save mining operations, improve health and safety, and restore social guarantees for workers and retirees in the industry.

Social benefits such as miners’ preferential taxation and free domestic fuel, have already been abolished, and a lower threshold for the pension taxation has been introduced. Some workers have not received their wages since August 2014. Wage arrears now amount to 600 million hryvnia (USD 38 million) and keep rising.

At the same time, the state budget is earmarking the closure of coal mining enterprises. The government’s decision to withdraw financial support will result in mass unemployment in the industry. More than 50,000 workers could lose their jobs and as many as 150,000 people, including workers’ families, could be without any income at all. Towns and villages where coal mining enterprises offer the only place to work, will be thrown into decline.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union urged the Prime Minister of the country to review the state budget of Ukraine for 2015 in line with the demands of coal miners.


Indonesia: another fatality at the Grasberg mine

Jan 29, 2015  A mine worker was killed on 24 January at Rio Tinto’s minority-owned mine in Papua, Indonesia. This brings the death toll at the mine over the last two years to a staggering 39.

A worker at the Freeport copper and gold mine in the Indonesian province of Papua was killed in a workplace accident on 24 January.

Mining giant Rio Tinto, who owns a stake in the mine, is consistently failing to take public responsibility for the numerous deaths at this site. In internal e-mails to the staff following the two most recent fatal incidents at the mine, Rio Tinto’s CEO Sam Walsh even blames the workers themselves for the accidents, citing bad driving practices and workers being “complacent”.

The Freeport mine has a chequered history when it comes to work related accidents.

In May 2013, 28 mineworkers died at the mine in what was described as the worst mining accident in the history of Indonesia. The roof on a non-operational underground tunnel collapsed during a safety training session, killing 28 miners.

In September 2014, another five workers lost their lives in two separate fatal incidents at the mine.

IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan slams Rio Tinto’s blatant avoidance of responsibility:

“It is always very convenient for the company to blame the “careless worker” without addressing the workplace culture. Workplace safety culture comes from the top, with management overtly or subtly rewarding risk-taking in favour of production.

“Rio Tinto must own up to its responsibility as part-owner of the mine and stop treating workplace deaths lightly. It’s time to clean up, Rio Tinto!”


Citizens’ initiative to end zero-hours contracts in Finland

Jan 29, 2015  Zero-hours contracts should be outlawed, according to a citizens’ initiative aimed at the Finnish parliament. If the initiative succeeds in collecting 50,000 signatures, the Finnish Parliament will be forced to debate on the matter.

Behind the initiative are young trade union activists. “Zero-hours contracts and part-time work are a reality for many young workers,” says Tatu Tuomela, Youth Secretary of the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions, SAK.

These are contracts where the weekly working hours vary from zero to 40, and give employers the possibility to hire staff with no guarantee of work. Employees therefore work only when they are needed and don’t usually know in advance how many hours to expect.

Young activists have started Operaatio vakiduuni (Operation steady job) to fight against zero-hours contracts. They are demanding that zero-hours contracts are outlawed and that part-time jobs should guarantee at least 18 hours of work per week.

Other demands include more advanced notice on working hours, better unemployment benefit for part-time workers and more rights for people working for temporary work agencies.

The citizens’ initiative is one part of the campaign. If a minimum of 50,000 Finnish citizens of voting age submit an initiative to the Parliament to pass an act. The initiative must include a bill or a proposal to start drafting legislation and the reasons for the proposal. There is a six month time period to collect signatures.

IndustriALL Global Union has an on-going campaign to STOP Precarious Work – to combat the growing trend of full-time workforces being replaced by temporary, part-time, agency and on-call workers.