IndustriALL Headlines #46 – June 6, 2013

IndustriALL Joins Global Unions in Demanding a Stop to Violence in Turkey

June 5, 2013:  On 3 June the Council of Global Unions (CGU) discussed the developments in Turkey and expressed their deep concern, regret and outrage over brutal and excessive violence applied by the Turkish security forces against people peacefully exercising their rights of freedom of assembly.

In their letter to the Turkish Prime Minister, the leaders of Global Unions said “The global union movement is concerned that your Government has turned violent repression into a regular practice. It is still fresh in our minds that this year’s May Day Celebrations, which were supposed to take place in Taksim Square in Istanbul, turned into bloodshed with the attacks of the security forces on demonstrators using tear gas and other repressive methods. According to reports received, there are a number of injured people and thousands in custody.”  

Almost for one week, there have been clashes with police and since Friday night 31 May, clashes and mass demonstrations spread to all parts of Istanbul and many other cities including Ankara, Izmir, Samsun and Trabzon.  

The initial reason of this mobilization was to block government’s decision to destroy the central park “Gezi Park” in Taksim Square of Istanbul and build a shopping mall in the area. The police tried to oppress this peaceful protest with excessive violence and at 5 am attacked people with tear and pepper gases. This oppression provoked anger of millions and suddenly on Friday night after 11 pm, hundred thousands of people poured to the streets to protest police acts of violence and state terror.  

Particularly since the 2011 elections, the authoritarian actions in Turkey have increased. This includes legal and illegal union busting, adoption of laws that discourage rather than encourage the exercise of trade union rights, inaction, at best, against employers refusing to respect workers’ rights, abuses in the judiciary system, and violence against trade unionists. Coupled with the limits on freedom of assembly and expression, these constitute attacks on fundamental human rights and democracy.  

The CGU members called upon Turkish Government “urgently to take necessary actions to calm the current situation by entering into a real dialogue with your citizens and their representatives. The global union movement urges your Government to take action against those who are responsible for such massive unrest in society and for the violence. We also call on you to ensure that those detained  for participating in peaceful demonstrations be immediately released”.

Full text of the CGU letter to the Prime Minister of Turkey is available on the link.  

 The website has launched a campaign in support of the rights for freedom of expression and non-violence in Turkey which is available on the link.

IndustriALL, UNI and ITUC Visit Bangladesh

June 6, 2013:  A joint mission of IndustriALL, UNI and ITUC visits Dhaka to push for a labour law reform and implementation of the historic Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh which more than 40 leading clothing brands have signed.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is our strong response to the recent horrific catastrophes in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Negotiated between IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union, and over 40 of the most progressive global fashion brands, the Accord is not just another voluntary initiative. It is a binding agreement with a complaints mechanisms and real consequences for non-compliance.  

In the last week of May, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and ITUC jointly visited Dhaka, Bangladesh. The purpose of the joint mission was to push for progress on trade union rights, decent work, minimum wage raise, and the acceptance and implementation of the Accord. Meetings took place with the Bangladesh Secretary of Labour and the Deputy Secretary of Labour, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), IndustriALL-affiliated trade unions, and a number of non-governmental organizations working to improve conditions in Bangladesh.  

The meetings confirmed the many challenges faced by Bangladeshi workers: inadequate labour laws, inadequate enforcement, a labour movement that is still in many ways just finding its voice, and a powerful but defensive garment industry. There are thousands of ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh, and the problems are so extensive that implementing the Accord will be a daunting task. Building inspections and fire safety training are both crucial and urgent, but a healthy safe and sustainable garment industry must be built on a solid foundation of respect for human rights, labour rights, and decent work.  

Brian Kohler, IndustriALL’s director for health, safety and sustainability, reports from Savar close to Dhaka a month after the industrial homicide:  

“Reading about events such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza building is one thing, but even though a month has passed, seeing the site somehow put the scale of the horror in a different perspective. Something like 4000 people, plus or minus a few hundreds, worked tightly-packed with their machines in a small building in the tropical heat of Dhaka. It is nearly impossible to imagine what working conditions were like. The official death toll is 1129 but there are still many unaccounted for.  

“Thousands were injured, many maimed for life with horrific injuries. At least two pregnant women gave birth while trapped under the rubble. The site still smells of rotting flesh. The building, built on swampland, was only supposed to be four stories residential – and was improperly built at that – but the owner added four more, then overloaded it with heavy, vibrating industrial equipment and people. It will not be the last building to collapse in Dhaka. On April 24, 2013, at least 1129 human beings paid a very high price for other people’s low prices. None of us are innocent, really,  

concludes Kohler.  

A global levelling up of standards must replace the race to the bottom. The task in Bangladesh is a start. It will not be an easy one, but neither is it an impossible one. Successful implementation of the Accord in Bangladesh will create a model for other parts of the world and other industrial sectors that are equally in need of attention but have not suffered the same headline-grabbing events as Bangladesh.

Russia Ratifies ILO Convention 176 on Mining Safety


June 3, 2013:  On 21 May the State Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house, ratified ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines. This is the result of many years’ sustained effort of the trade union movement.

IndustriALL Global Union’s Executive Committee meeting on 28-29 May 2013 warmly applauded the victory of the Russian mineworkers’ trade union in achieving this milestone. This Convention was adopted at the ILO Conference in 1995.  

The Convention sets minimum health and safety standards at the ratifying country’s mines, including the safety standards for miners working underground and establishing preventive measures. It specifies the rights and duties of the social partners with regard to mine safety.  

The ratification of the Convention 176 will not require changes in existing Russian laws. Labour legislation is already fully compatible with the Convention.  

Since 1995 the Russian Independent Coal Employees’ Union, an IndustriALL affiliate, appealed several times to the Russian government, urging it to ratify the Convention. The union’s efforts to push for the ratification of the ILO Convention 176 were supported by IndustriALL and its founding organizations under the long standing global campaign “The Stronger the Union, the Safer the Mine”.  

“Finally, after 17 years of common struggle the ILO Convention 176 was ratified. This is our great achievement. We thank you for your solidarity, help, and support,” said Ivan Mokhnachuk, president of the Independent Coal Employees’ Union.  

Once the ratification passes through each stage of Russia’s legislative process, which is now a formality, Russia will become the 27th country to ratify.

IndustriALL Global Union Welcomes Unifor

June 6, 2013:  Unifor: A strong, new, bold union for Canadian workers is being formed with the joining of forces of IndustriALL affiliated unions CAW and CEP.

The new Canadian union being formed by the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) will be named Unifor. The name and logo were unveiled on 30 May during a packed press conference of 200 local leaders, members, community supporters and allies.  

“All together, Unifor will be: 800 local unions, 3,000 bargaining units, in more than 20 different sectors, and we’re here to show that we will be a strong voice and a positive force for change for working people across this nation,” said CAW National President Ken Lewenza.  

“Today, we are proud to introduce our new union as Unifor, a union that will fight for working people in every sector of the economy and in every community in Canada,” said CEP National President Dave Coles. “Unifor will be a union for young workers, those struggling to piece together part-time work and contract jobs, and other precarious working conditions. It will be a union for everyone.”  

Unifor Canada was chosen as a name that is expressive, dynamic, and symbolizes the two unions’ aspirations as a new organization: to be united, strong, modern, forward-looking. The name was picked after a process that spanned several months and involved members, union leadership, communications advisers and community allies.  

“We have a new union with a new name, and today we will begin to build the next chapter in the future of the labour movement in Canada,” said CEP Secretary-Treasurer Gaétan Ménard. “This new union identity –the name and logo – expresses our aspirations for all Canadians, at work and in our communities. This new union will take our movement forward, to a new era of engagement and action.”  

“This is an historic moment for our two unions, and the Canadian labour movement, another concrete step in the direction of creating Canada’s largest private sector union,” said CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy. “Collectively, we will represent over 300,000 members and plan to grow to represent many more.”  

The Founding Convention of Unifor will take place over Labour Day weekend in Toronto (August 31- September 1). At that time, CEP and CAW delegates will vote to create Unifor as an entity, and then will hold individual vote to merge with the new union.

South African Solidarity Support for Nissan Mississippi Workers


June 6, 2013:  A weeklong visit to Numsa by a delegation organized by UAW in the US ended with a solidarity protest at the Japanese Embassy calling for union rights at the Nissan plant in Mississippi, USA.

Delegates from the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) including IndustriALL executive committee member Bob King and substitute member Kristyne Peter were joined by a worker and organizer from the Mississippi plant as well as a civil rights organization and community organization lending support to the campaign. But it was actor and activist Danny Glover, committed to raising awareness of the situation of US workers at the Nissan plant, that stole the show.  

Hugely popular in South Africa, Danny Glover was well received by the public and media. He met with South African President Jacob Zuma and together with the rest of the delegation, was received also by several other government officials as well as those from the ruling party, the African National Congress.   

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) hosted the delegation in South Africa and organized several opportunities to engage with unionists and workers. Accompanied by Numsa, the delegation met with management of the Nissan plant in South Africa.  

“They spoke positively of their relationship with Numsa and said
that they would put our concerns to the company in Japan,”  

said Peter.  

Peter said that they had encountered this around the world, where Nissan has good relations with unions that organize at their plants. All except in the United States.  

Whilst in Cape Town the delegation met with IndustriALL affiliate, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union. “What made the Cape Town trip extra special was that President of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, also an IndustriALL Exco member, made the effort to come to our press conference where he reaffirmed Australian workers’ solidarity to Nissan workers in Mississippi.”  

Numsa organised a picket outside the Japanese Embassy on 4 June to call on the apenese government to reach out to Nissan and ensure it behaves as a good global corporate citizen. Demands of protestors included that Japanese owned car manufacturer Nissan must end union bashing in Mississippi, respect worker rights and end exploitative conditions including the lack of job security for its temporary workers.  

“Nissan employs a high percentage of temporary workers who for
years receive less pay, have limited benefits and have no job security,”  

said Numsa spokesperson, Castro Ngobese.   Nissan can do better!

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