IndustriALL Headlines #128, February 12, 2015

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

Oil Strike Escalates in US
Switzerland: Workers Fight to Save Jobs at Tamoil
Georgia: Mineworkers Fight Against Severe Union-Busting
Bangladesh: Union Strength and Brand Pressure
Ghana: IndustriALL Members Locked Out at Crown Holdings

Oil Strike Escalates in US

USW Local 7-1 Indiana – Oil workers strike at BP Source: USW
USW Local 7-1 Indiana – Oil workers strike at BP Source: USW

February 12, 2015  Faced with increased employer intransigence in the US the United Steelworkers (USW) oil industry strike, principally in support of demands for improved safety provisions has escalated as it entered its second week.

Workers at BP refineries in Ohio and Indiana have joined the walkout that began on 1 February at nine other refineries. From California to Kentucky this is the first nationwide strike in the industry for 35 years.

There are now more than 5,000 USW members on an unfair labour practice strike at 11 refineries owned by Shell, Marathon, Tesoro, BP and LyondellBasell. THe strikes began after Shell failed to offer serious proposals to address the USW’s concerns about safety, onerous overtime and unsafe staffing levels.

Shell is leading the employer side of negotiations for a new national contract. On 6 February the Houston area oil workers took part in a noon rally at Shell US Headquarters to show management that union members are united in their drive for a fair contract that improves safety throughout the industry. The following day, on 7 February, one week into the strike, refinery workers around the country participated in a National Day of Action for Safe Refineries, Secure Jobs and Healthy Communities. Local USW unions carried out actions in solidarity with striking locals, which included a mix of plant gate rallies and rallies at local union halls.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the USW is clear that the main priority of the national strike is refinery safety and resolving the issue of chronic understaffing. USW International Vice President Gary Beevers, who heads the union’s National Oil Bargaining Program, stated that

“This work stoppage is about onerous overtime; unsafe staffing levels; dangerous conditions the industry continues to ignore; and flagrant contracting out that impacts health and safety on the job.”

In addition to the health and safety issues, the USW unfair labour practice (ULP) strike is over the oil companies’ bad faith bargaining, including the refusal to bargain over mandatory subjects; undue delays in providing information; impeded bargaining; and threats issued to workers if they joined the ULP strike.

The union is committed to negotiating a fair contract that improves safety conditions throughout the industry and USW negotiators are determined to resolve the members’ central issues.

This week has also seen a delegation of striking refinery workers bring their campaign for a safer oil industry to Europe at meetings with allies from trade unions in the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

The group includes striking workers from refineries owned by Shell, Marathon and Tesoro. Shell, which has taken the lead on bargaining for the companies, has its headquarters in the Netherlands. The USW members met with leaders from the FNV oil workers union at Shell and LyondellBasell in the Netherlands and then travelled to the United Kingdom to meet with leaders from Unite the Union, the largest industrial union in Great Britain and Ireland.


IndustriALL Global Union has issued an initial press release and sent a message of support to the workers which you can find at:

This is potentially a long and difficult struggle. We stand ready to increase our solidarity actions in support of our US affiliate in their fight for safe workplaces.

You can access the latest information from the union at:

Audio file at:

Sign USW petition “Safe Refineries Save Lives”:

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Switzerland: Workers Fight to Save Jobs at Tamoil 

©UNIA – Blaise Carron UNIA representative addressing Tamoil workers

February 12, 2015  In early January Tamoil Collombey announced the closure of its refinery in Valais, Switzerland. This decision will affect over 250 jobs, an outcome that, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, UNIA is not willing to accept.

For almost one month UNIA together with the Syndicats Crétiens du Valais (SCIV), representing the workers at Collombey, have been fighting Tamoil’s decision to layoff staff without a real social plan in place. After a number of attempts by the union to negotiate a better outcome for Tamoil staff, it is still unclear what the company will decide.

On 4 February the workers decided to interrupt their shifts from 1pm to 3pm. During this strike they were met by over 600 public supporters from the area, in a demonstration of solidarity for their struggle.

 ©Neil Labrador, ES – Tamoil staff released 258 ballons; each ballon had the name of one of the workers that would love his/her job.

To demonstrate their commitment to the refinery and the disastrous consequences potential closure, some staff released 258 balloons; each balloon had the name of one of the workers that would lose his/her job. Others marched to the sound of funeral music and symbolically planted crosses decorated with their tools (helmet, lamp, tools, etc.). Another group set up a display presenting the quality of their skills at the refinery.

Following Tamoil’s decision to suspend operations at the refinery and fire staff, UNIA had called a general assembly in early January. From the beginning of this struggle, workers’ representatives made it clear that “It is unacceptable that Tamoil proceeds with the collective dismissal of staff without exploring solutions that could maintain jobs and the expertise at the worksite in Collombey, we therefore must come together to show Tamoil our will to keep jobs here and to explore the different avenues that will enable us to achieve a better outcome.”

©Neil Labrador, ES – Tamoil staff symbolically plant crosses decorated with their tools

As a result of the general assembly a resolution was adopted calling on Tamoil to withdraw the collective redundancy procedure, file a formal request to activate temporary layoffs, and waiver all layoff procedures until notification by the competent authority of its decision on possible measures of layoffs. Despite UNIA’s demands Tamoil pressed on with its original layoff procedure.

Furthermore, employees also called on cantonal authorities to support the steps for removing the collective redundancy procedure initiated by Tamoil and asked them to take the necessary steps with federal authorities to investigate the possibility of increasing the length of compensation for layoffs to 24 months.

“It is important that UNIA members are now more determined than ever while negotiations continue between UNIA, SCIV and Tamoil”

said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary.

“IndustriALL will continue to give support and solidarity to this important struggle as it develops.”

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Georgia: Mineworkers Fight Against Severe Union-Busting 

February 12, 2015  The management of RMG Copper and RMG Gold, mining enterprises located in Kazreti, Georgia, began a fight against the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia (TUMMCIWG), an affiliate of IndustriALL. As a result of the union busting, 120 workers have withdrawn from the union within the last few days.

Recently the employer’s representatives have visited the enterprises spreading the drafts of resignation letters to withdraw from the union. They force the employees of both enterprises to leave the union under the threat of dismissal and other trouble.

As a result more than 100 union members could not resist the management pressure and signed resignation letters. The union at RMG Copper had 690 members back in January, but 96 people have withdrawn over the last few days. 14 members out of 320 have left the local union at RMG Gold.

The union busting began after the management once again received a letter from the union reminding that the obligations under the agreement signed back on 23 March 2014 after the end of a 40-day strike have not been fulfilled:

  • the collective agreement draft prepared by the union and sent to the employer for review back in April-May 2014 has still not been reviewed;
  • the company has not taken measures to increase the workers’ salary;
  • in case there is a vacancy the company hires an employee from the labor market instead of using the candidates pool list created by the union;
  • the labor disputes commission had to be created in April 2014, but only met in August 2014 for the first time and so far three meetings out of seven have been held.

On 14 February 2014, exactly a year ago, the miners of Georgian enterprises RMG Copper and RMG Gold went on strike after the management refused to fulfill its obligations according to the agreement signed back in November 2013 and fired more than 180 employees under the pretext of reorganization in January 2014. After a 40-days strike the union and the management signed an agreement to reinstate 80 dismissed workers, to reinstate other workers later in case the economic situation at the company improves, to sign a collective agreement and increase the salaries. However, the agreement reached at the price of a long strike has still not been fulfilled.

“RMG management must withdraw from disgusting anti-union tactics and stop union-busting immediately, without any delay,” said IndustriALL’s General Secretary Jyrki Raina. “The company must fulfill their obligations according to the agreement.”

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Bangladesh: Union Strength and Brand Pressure 

February 12, 2015  Being a union leader in Bangladesh is often challenging. For representatives of IndustriALL affiliate BIGUF at the Global Garments factory in Dhaka, it has also meant persecution and for some even violent attacks.

The Azim Group is one of Bangladesh’s most important and influential employers. They have consistently refused to recognize trade unions at the Global Garments factory.

Union representatives at the factory are no strangers to harassment, false charges and even physical violence. A CCTV (close circuit TV) recording from November 2014 shows two separate instances where female union leaders were beaten up by thugs.

Police did nothing about the violent attacks. In an effort to put a stop to the harassment and anti-union behaviour, IndustriALL Global Union American affiliate Workers United took action and approached the US brands sourcing from the factory.

After discussions the brands held off placing new orders or resuming production until Azim recognized the union in the workplace.

In December, an agreement was reached where the trade union has the right to represent workers in the factory. It states that factory management and union officers are “working together with good faith and into a friendly environment”. A further agreement was reached at the beginning of this month.

Jeff Hermanson from Workers United says:

“This has been a long and complex struggle, and it is far from finished. By our collective action we have won a temporary truce and hopefully helped save the GGLWU and GTLWU from destruction.”

The brands have also committed to establishing a bipartite commission with Workers United and the Solidarity Center to visit the Azim factories regularly to ensure the agreements are implemented and to help encourage improved labour relations.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle says that the Azim case is the latest in a growing number of cases of harassment against unions.

“These systematic attacks against unions are increasingly violent and aimed at destroying factory level unions. Together with a growing number of arbitrary rejections of applications to register a union, they mark a changing attitude of employers and government who are trying to slow the steady unionization of garment workers following the collapse of Rana Plaza.

Attacking freedom of association is unacceptable and IndustriALL will continue to support the courageous fight of union representatives fighting for a better workplace.”

Jeff Hermanson concludes:

“Hopefully this resolution may have a broad impact and demonstrate that the use of violence against trade unionists will not be successful. Instead, it will cause the employers who use violence to suffer great damage to their reputation and face the possible destruction of their business.”

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Ghana: IndustriALL Members Locked Out at Crown Holdings 

February 11, 2015  IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Industrial & Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) protest against the lock out at Crown Holdings in Ghana.

On 27 January, workers at Crown Cans Ghana Limited, specializing in the manufacturing of metal packaging for the food industry, staged a protest in front of the company gate. Management had without any preliminary notice closed the gate. The only information given was a piece of paper left at the gate saying “factory shut until further notice” and undersigned in smaller letters “management”.

For three years the ICU has encountered a number of difficulties in organizing the factory and tough resistance from management. When the union finally succeeded to organize workers, the company management in retaliation dismissed all the initial union executives.

Later, Crown Cans refused to negotiate with the ICU and announced the closure of the factory. The union submitted the case to the National Labour Commission (NLC) and as a result Crown Cans was instructed to negotiate with ICU representatives.

Eventually Management informed the union that they were ready to start negotiating but only after removing their machinery and equipment from the factory. Obviously based on previous negative experiences the ICU rejected the proposal from the company.

The NLC requested that the two parties select mediators/arbitrators to enable negotiations. The ICU complied with this proposal, but Crown Cans management refused and instead decided to bring cranes into the factory to remove the machinery and equipment.

In response to the workers resistance, Crown management requested protection from the local police from the workers. The company’s demand was rejected and instead the police advised that the company follow the due process.

In view of current situation the NLC has requested an emergency meeting between Crown Cans management and the ICU aiming to resolve the dispute.

In his letter to Crown Holdings’ CEO, Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL General Secretary exposed the facts about the workers’ rights violations at the factory in Ghana and urged the company to reopen the factory, and to start negotiations with ICU representatives in good faith.

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