IndustriALL Headlines #130, February 26, 2015

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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Right to Strike Upheld at ILO
Benetton Agrees to Pay Rana Plaza Compensation
Rio Tinto Seeks Conflict With Unions at Global Meeting
USA: Workers Fight Back Against Giant Oil companies
IG Metall Secures 3.4 Per Cent Industry Pay Rise
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Right to Strike Upheld at ILO 

February 26, 2015  After months of pressure from trade unions, the right to strike has been recognized by the employers’ group at the International Labour Organization (ILO) following a crucial tripartite meeting in Geneva from 23 to 25 February. 

Unions in India march in defence of the right to strike on 18 February 2015.

A joint statement from the employers’ and workers’ groups at the meeting affirms that the right to industrial action is recognized by the ILO.

The bilateral ceasefire promotes a package of proposals to end the deadlock that has led to an impasse at the ILO since 2012.

The proposals will now be put to the ILO’s governing body in March for approval.

Employers’ groups have been challenging the right to strike because it is not explicitly expressed in ILO Convention 87, even though for years it has been universally accepted by governments, workers and employers alike.

This has meant that cases of serious labour violations in many countries have been left unaddressed by the ILO as the employers’ group refused to budge on the issue.

The statement follows a global protest day in defence of the right to strike by union federations on 18 February, involving more than 100 actions in over 60 countries, and including IndustriALL Global Union affiliates. The protests were designed to put pressure on both governments and employers at the ILO.

Significantly, the Government Group, which had previously been split on the issue, strongly endorsed the right to strike at the February meeting. In a statement at the discussions it said:

“The Government Group recognizes that the right to strike is linked to freedom of association, which is a fundamental principle and right at work of the ILO. The Government Group specifically recognizes that without protecting a right to strike, Freedom of Association, in particular the right to organize activities for the purpose of promoting and protecting workers’ interests, cannot be fully realized.”

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL’s general secretary, said:

“The recognition by employers of the right to strike is a very positive step forward. Credit must go to our affiliates that have fought hard in defence of this fundamental right. However, the battle is not over. We must remain vigilant and ensure that employers don’t take the right to strike hostage again.”

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Benetton Agrees to Pay Rana Plaza Compensation

February 20, 2015  In reaction to news that Benetton will compensate victims of the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI – the two global unions that have been campaigning on behalf of the victims – issued the following response. 

 
 Families of some of the 1,134 Rana Plaza victims hold a candlelit vigil for the dead.

 IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina said:

“We are pleased that at long last Benetton has promised to pay into the Rana Plaza Trust Fund. Now, it’s time for Benetton to show us the colour of their money.

“We call on Benetton to do what’s morally right and compensate with compassion. We expect to see a significant contribution to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund by Benetton in keeping with a major brand that sourced from Rana Plaza and has a considerable investment in Bangladesh.”

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said:

“We understand that Benetton promises to step up and take their share of the responsibility for the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy.

“For a company with a profit of more than US200 million dollars and turnover of US1.6 billion dollars, we expect Benetton to show their most generous colours. UNI and IndustriALL are ready to talk to ensure fair compensation.”

Although IndustriALL and UNI are welcoming the move with caution, they highlighted some outstanding issues that urgently need to be resolved with regards to Benetton’s payment.

  • Almost two years since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the global unions questioned Benetton’s decision to delay its payment further and to confirm the amount it intends to pay. The unions call on Benetton to clarify these points well ahead of the second anniversary of the disaster on April 24th 2015.
  • The process on who will decide the amount that Benetton will pay remains unclear. Benetton says an “independent, globally recognised third party” will advise the company but refuses to reveal its identity.

The two global unions also urged caution regarding Benetton keeping its promises of payment and pointed out that Benetton was initially involved in the U.N.-backed Rana Plaza compensation arrangements from the beginning but pulled out before the trust fund was set up.

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Rio Tinto Seeks Conflict With Unions at Global Meeting 

February 23, 2015  Rio Tinto cut short a meeting with global union leaders when the leaders rejected the company’s demand to end their campaign exposing Rio Tinto’s unsustainable practices.

Rally against Rio Tinto’s unsustainable business practices in Cape Town, 2014.

The meeting was held at Rio Tinto’s office in Zurich on 6 February. It was jointly agreed to by a Rio Tinto Executive Committee member and IndustriALL Global Union, with the backing of a global network of unions at Rio Tinto. The company had agreed in advance to a fixed agenda for the meeting.

“Rio Tinto behaved arrogantly from the start of the meeting, issuing ultimatums, threatening legal action and talking over us. I’ve rarely seen that sort of behavior by management since the apartheid era ended,” stated National Union of Mineworkers South Africa General Secretary and IndustriALL Vice President Frans Baleni.

“I made the trip from Australia to Switzerland in the hopes of making progress on problems that Rio Tinto’s Australian management has refused to address. These include extensive bullying and alleged sexual harassment at the company’s Hunter Valley Coal operations,” said CFMEU Mining & Energy General Secretary and IndustriALL Mining Chair Andrew Vickers.

“Instead, Rio Tinto said they were only willing to talk if we accepted their ultimatum to end our campaign. The company publicly claims they are willing to work with key stakeholders like unions, but the message they sent to us was ‘my way or the highway’.”

“Rio Tinto’s behavior in Labrador, Canada is bad for business and bad for workers. There are 2,300 outstanding grievances that are demoralizing the workforce, and local management refuses to work with the union to address them,” said USW staff representative Euclid Hache.

“We hoped that Rio Tinto’s corporate management would work with us to find a path toward less conflictual labor relations in Labrador. Instead they rejected dialog and escalated the conflict.”

“Unfortunately I was not surprised,” said Rio Tinto European Works Council Secretary Véronique Roche. “Rio Tinto routinely fails to dialogue with or respect their European employees and unions.”

“IndustriALL has over the last year run a campaign to expose the huge gap between Rio Tinto’s sustainability claims and its actual practices. Our aim – as we have made clear over the course of the campaign – is to convince Rio Tinto to live up to its own claims. That would make Rio Tinto a better, more successful company and be good for all the company’s stakeholders,” said IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan.

“Unfortunately the campaign has not yet achieved its aim, as Rio Tinto corporate management demonstrated by refusing to continue dialog with us. So we will redouble our efforts.”

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USA: Workers Fight Back Against Giant Oil Companies 

February 24, 2015  Thousands of members of IndustriALL affiliate United Steelworkers (USW) National Oil Bargaining Program have gone on strike over health and safety issues in the industry.

Striking for safe jobs and safe communities (photo USW)

US oil industry collective bargaining agreements expired starting 31 January. Since the industry has refused to offer a reasonable proposal, workers are now on strike at 15 facilities across the USA. The strike includes 7,000 workers at 12 refineries, representing about 1/5 of the total oil refining capacity in the whole country.

Health and safety issues are key to this dispute. In 1973, a predecessor of the USW won a hard-fought nation-wide strike against Shell Oil for improvements in health and safety. However, in the decades since then, those gains have been eroded by staff reductions, contracting out, and cost cutting.

Corners are cut on maintenance, equipment is purchased on “low bid”, and more and more skilled refining jobs are contracted out to lower-paid and more easily intimidated, usually non-union, temporary workers. This has left US facilities with less than a skeleton staff of professionals – in many cases, there are not enough staff on the site to deal safely with normal operations, let alone an unplanned emergency. Short staffing leads to inhuman shift schedules and chronic stress and fatigue.

The oil industry is one of the richest industries on the planet. Yet it consistently displays contempt for the health and safety of the people who earn their profits for them and those living in nearby communities.

IndustriALL’s 50 million affiliated workers worldwide fully support the United Steelworkers in their struggle against a rich and dangerous industry, and major oil industry unions are taking solidarity actions.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan says:

“We will continue to support our brothers and sisters in the US oil sector and will do everything in our power to help them reach victory.”

    
 

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IG Metall Secures 3.4 Per Cent Industry Pay Rise

February 24, 2015  German metalworkers’ union, IG Metall, has succeeded in securing a 3.4 per cent pay rise in a deal with employers following warning strikes by more than 850,000 workers nationwide.

More than 850,000 IG Metall workers staged warning strikes during bargaining negotiations.  Source: IG Metall

The agreement was reached in the early hours of 24 February between IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, IG Metall, and employers’ groups.

The deal, which affects 800,000 metal and electronics workers in the key German industrial region of Baden-Württemberg, will provide the basis for bargaining agreements in other regions across the country covering a total 3.7 million workers.

The pay rise is due to take effect in April and marks an important victory for the union:

“With this result we are bringing stability to the German economy,” said IG Metall’s president Detlef Wetzel.

More than 850,000 IG Metall workers from all over the country staged warning strikes from the end of January as union leaders and employers’ groups battled over pay and benefits for the next 12 months.

Workers will also be paid a one-off payment of 150 Euros to cover January to March following the end of the previous collective agreement.

Further gains were made in relation to early retirement, in particular for lower paid workers. In the future, employers will pay 90 per cent of salaries while workers work through a period of early retirement, which will then be continued once they have stopped work and up until their official retirement age. It means that early retirement will be more affordable for lower income employees, particularly on assembly lines and in general production.

In addition, money not used by companies in funding early retirement (which must be accessible to a minimum of 4 per cent of the workforce), must now be used to pay for staff training schemes.

The IG Metall president marked the progress as “the first important step” in establishing a model for workers’ rights for career development.

IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“We congratulate IG Metall on this considerable achievement. IG Metall has once again shown its muscle and won a significant pay rise for workers in the metal and electronics sector. The massive support from close to a million workers in a series of warning strikes is a tribute to the power of worker solidarity.”

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