IndustriALL Headlines #144, June 4, 2015

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL’s Press Department.
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Strike a Volvo Brazil Ends With Worker Victory
Indonesian Workers Strike Against Philips Union Busting

Blame for Rana Plaza Runs Far and Wide

Global Network Formed to Fight anti-Union Behaviour at Huhtamäki

Strike Ends in Victory for Israeli Chemical Workers


Strike at Volvo Brazil Ends With Worker Victory 

Credits: Official web page of Confederación Nacional de los Trabajadores Metalúrgicos (CNTM)
Credits: Official web page of Confederación Nacional de los Trabajadores Metalúrgicos (CNTM)

04 Jun 2015  Workers at Volvo Brazil have ended the longest strike in the company’s history. An agreement on pay and on job security was finally reached on 1 June, ending a 24-day strike that was called in response to company threats to dismiss workers.  

Members of the Curitiba Metalworkers’ Union (SMC), affiliated to the National Confederation of Metalworkers (CNTM), in turn affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, voted to strike on 8 May in response to Volvo Brazil management’s threat to make workers redundant. The strike ended on 1 June after an agreement was reached.

Volvo’s Curitiba plant employs around 3,500 workers. On 7 May, the company reached an agreement with the Ministry of Labour establishing a 15 day period for negotiations with the union to seek an alternative to the dismissals. However, on the same day, the company began to inform workers that it would be dismissing 600 workers.

The union therefore called a strike. Sergio Butka, union president, said from the start that he was open to negotiations to discuss options for Volvo to guarantee job security.

Negotiations Reach an Agreement Benefiting Workers

On 12 May, Volvo organised a secret ballot on a proposal to make a 50 per cent reduction in payments due this year under the company’s profit-sharing scheme. It also proposed flexibilisation of rights in the pay agreement. However, 77 per cent of employees rejected the proposal, with 23 per cent in favour.

With no further response from the company, the workers decided to continue the strike until the company was ready to negotiate. Finally, on 1 June, Volvo agreed to sit down with the union at the negotiating table and presented another proposal on profit-sharing. It proposed an increase of R$ 5,000-8,000 for the first instalment and a ceiling of R$30,000, depending on production levels. Finally, it negotiated the possibility of a voluntary redundancy plan, in which employees accepting redundancy would receive their pay plus other rights.

“Fernando Lopes, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union said, This victory shows that the workers must get behind their unions. We can win if we remain united”.

Industriall Global Union welcomes the negotiations and agreements between Volvo and its employees and the company’s decision to listen to their grievances and agree to accept collective bargaining.

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Indonesian Workers Strike Against Philips Union Busting 

Workers praying out the building.
Queue to the rest room.

4 Jun 2015  600 workers at PT. Philips Industries Batam, members of IndustriALL Global Union through the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers’ Union (FSPMI), went on strike on 3 June in protest at the union busting and unfair dismissals by company management.

The workers demand that Philips management:

  • reinstates unfairly dismissed union officials and members of FSPMI dismissed as part of the union busting campaign started by the management;
  • starts respecting Indonesia’s labour rights and the International Labour Organization’s Freedom of Association Convention;
  • respects the union PUK PT Philips and restarts negotiations.

So far the management refuses to satisfy workers’ demands and applies tactics of intimidation and bad treatment, blocking the strikers from access to any facility including toilets, the canteen or the use of the mosque for prayers.

According to FSPMI, the union PUK PT Philips Batam was registered on 18 March 2015. Batam is an Indonesian municipality granted the status of a Free Trade Zone, notorious for its increasingly hostile attitude towards trade unions.

On 9 April 2015 the PT. Philips Industries Batam management received an official notification of registration of the union. The very next day the management called in rank and file members of the union one by one and put them under strong pressure to sign a letter of termination of their employment. They were both permanent and contractual workers.

The workers, supported by the union officials, refused to accept their dismissals and were forcefully evicted from company grounds. They were not even given a chance to take their personal belongings from their lockers. In total, 83 FSPMI union officers and members were dismissed by PT. Philips Industries Batam in April this year.

The union has tried to negotiate with management on a number of occasions to discuss reinstatement of those unfairly dismissed. However, every time the management referred to work efficiency as the reason for the sackings.

The dismissed workers have received substantial support from their colleagues. An additional 519 workers out of about 1900 employees became new union members by the end of April.

Having used all other possible measures and failed to convince the management to reinstate the workers, the union announced a strike at the end of May and notified the management.

The strike continues to date. IndustriALL has contacted the local and global leadership of the company seeking a fair solution of the conflict. Addressing the CEO of Philips in the Netherlands, as well as the Senior director of PT. Philips Industries Batam in Indonesia Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL General Secretary urged them “to immediately reinstate the unfairly dismissed union officers and members, to stop harassing workers and to respect their right to join the union of their choice.”

Raina also called on PT. Philips Industries Batam “to resume the collective bargaining negotiations with the FSPMI to achieve a fair and just resolution of this conflict as well as create a constructive relationship between labour and management.”

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Blame for Rana Plaza Runs Far and Wide 

Compensation for victims is still US$2.3 million short out of a target of US$30 million.

2 Jun 2015  Culpability for the Rana Plaza disaster, which killed more than 1,100 people and injured 2,500, is widespread, says IndustriALL Global Union as the owner of the factory complex and 41 other people have been charged with murder over the building’s collapse in Bangladesh two years ago.

Murder charges have been brought against the owners of garment factories in the building and more than a dozen government officials, who are accused of ignoring warnings not to enter the building the day before the collapse on 24 April 2013.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, which represents garment workers in Bangladesh, said:

“Rana Plaza victims and their families deserve justice. Responsibility for Bangladesh’s worst-ever industrial disaster runs far and wide.  The Rana Plaza collapse was the culmination of an unsustainable system of production that demands suppliers produce more for less, and depends on cheap labour and low costs no matter what the consequences.”

“Now, factory inspections carried out by the Bangladesh Accord mean that responsible brands no longer rely on self-controlled auditing systems which failed so miserably in the past.” 

“However, two years on and Rana Plaza victims are still waiting for full and proper compensation. We urge that brands sourcing from country, as well as the Bangladesh government fulfill their obligations and give the US$ 2.3 million needed to complete compensation payments to victims.”

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Global Network Formed to Fight Anti-Union Behaviour at Huhtamäki 

Participants at the global trade union network meeting in Helsinki, Finland

3 Jun 2015  Unions from Huhtamäki plants around the world met in Helsinki on 1 June to establish a global trade union network. There are currently a number of disputes between the employer and workers at Huhtamäki’s packinging operations, in countries including India, Turkey, and the United States.

Participants at the global network meeting spoke about bad relations between management and trade unions. Very often union representatives have no right even to enter the factory, and in many countries health and safety rights are violated frequently.
Workers at the Commerce, California plant faced harsh working conditions with temperatures often reaching above 40 degrees Celsius. When they decided to organise  the company refused to meet with them and brought in anti-union consultants who held mandatory meetings urging workers not to unionize. In 2014, the company spent US$430,000 on anti-union consultants.
Huhtamäki’s Code of Conduct and Code of Conduct for Group Suppliers recognize all fundamental ILO Principles, including the right of employees to associate. However Huhtamäki’s Vice-President, Sami Pauni, told union representatives that in countries that have not ratified ILO Conventions the company follows national law, even if it is weaker than the Conventions. In fact, more than 75 per cent of Huhtamäki’s workforce is found in countries that have not ratified ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association.
Sami Pauni participated in the meeting and gave a brief presentation on the company situation. However, after a question on why Huhtamäki spends a lot of money to fight the unions instead of establishing social dialogue with them, Mr. Pauni became annoyed and left the meeting room.
Commerce worker Levi Ross, who participated in the global network meeting on his holiday time, said on the incident:

“I came all the way to Finland hoping to have a serious dialogue with the company, but I feel like they turned their back on me and the workers in Commerce.”

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina said:

“This meeting was only the first step in the fight to restore the rights of the workers and trade unions at Huhtamäki plants. The struggle will continue as long as the owners of the company will not agree to respect the workers’ rights and start a serious dialogue with their unions.”

The global trade union network meeting was held on the initiative of IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union and attended by workers’ representatives from Huhtamäki plants in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, UK and USA.
The participants of Huhtamäki Global network meeting adopted a statement, proposing steps to improve conditions for Huhtamäki workers and establishing a dialogue with management.

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Strike Ends in Victory for Israeli Chemical Workers 

3 Jun 2015  Israeli trade union, Histadrut, has succeeded in saving hundreds of chemical workers’ jobs in an agreement reached on 28 May, bringing an end to a four-month-long strike.

Around 2,000 workers went on strike on 2 February 2015 after Israel Chemicals Limited (ICL) threatened to lay off hundreds of employees at its Dead Sea Works and Bromine Compounds factories in the south of Israel.

In the new deal, reached between ICL, Histadrut and employees’ committees at both factories, only 38 workers (19 from each factory) will be laid off. However, they have until the end of the year to prove themselves, when their future employment will be considered. All of the laid-off workers will receive severance pay of 300 per cent.

ICL employs 4,500 workers in Israel, of which 3,500 are based in the south of the country. A further 25,000 workers are dependent on ICL for business.

The victory will protect the workers and economy of the south of Israel, where unemployment rates are high and job opportunities low, says Histadrut Chairman, Avi Nissenkorn:

“We are returning 2,000 people to work, the South wins…No worker has been laid off at this stage.”

Approximately 100 workers from both factories will be forced to retire, in addition to 100 employees that have retired in recent months. Histadrut has been able to secure a greatly improved conditions package for the retirees.

Chairman of the Dead Sea Works Employees’ committee, Armond Lankri, said: “This was one of the most significant battles…Thankfully, the whole country supported us. I’m glad we finished a difficult period and we succeeded in maintaining the status and rights of the workers.”

Chairman of the Bromine Compounds employees’ committee, Avner Ben-Senior, said: “We struggled not for money and improved conditions, but a struggle of principle that a profitable company doesn’t fire workers, first and foremost!”

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