IndustriALL Headlines #49 – June 17, 2013

Big Six in Denmark sign Bangladesh Safety Deal 

Denmark’s top six retail brands agree to sign up to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord which now is now backed by more than 60 global brands.

June 25, 2013:  Bestseller, IC Companys, DK Company, PWT Group, COOP Denmark, and Danish Supermarket all agreed to back the Bangladesh Safety Deal following a meeting organised by the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH) bringing together, NGOs, unions and government officials. The Danish Trade Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr urged the companies to add their names to the agreement which aims to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh’s garment factories in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse that claimed 1,129 lives.  

The Accord brokered by IndustriALL and UNI Global Union in a strong alliance with leading NGOs, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers Right Consortium, now covers around 2000 of Bangladesh’s 4000 garment factories.  

Andy York from N Brown Group, one of the companies which has already signed the Accord and who is part of the Implementation Secretariat spoke to the Danish companies and explained why signing the agreement was the right thing to do.  

IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina welcomed the new signatories, “The Danish trade unions, including IndustriALL affiliate 3F, have worked well in convincing the Danish market leaders into joining the Accord. The momentum continues building the Accord and continues to further alienate those brands remaining outside.”  

UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings observed, “We had a lively and informal exchange with the retailers present. We welcome the decision by these six “Great Dane” retailers to sign the agreement. This is another important day for the Accord which continues to grow in scope. The retail sector is answering the call for a socially responsible supply chain.  

We know that lives depend on it, with the will to succeed shown by the Danish companies and the 60 plus brands who have signed the Accord we will achieve the goal of making Bangladeshi garment factories safer places to work. Trade Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr and the Danish government should be applauded for driving the Accord forward in Denmark. During discussions with the Trade Minister I was impressed with her determination to get all Danish retailers on board. Other European governments should take note and get behind the Accord as should politicians elsewhere, notably in the United States.”  

Jennings said that the global brands, unions and NGOs were making rapid and constructive progress to implement the Accord. He concluded, “There can be no excuses in terms of cost or process to not join the Accord. The Danish companies took their time and have made the right decision. The decision by certain U.S. brands, led by Walmart, to refuse to sign, is looking more and more like a serious error of judgement.”  

The Accord provides for a binding programme of fire and building safety reforms based on independent inspections, worker-led health and safety committees and union access to factories, signatories commit to underwrite improvements in dangerous factories and properly confront fire safety and structural problems. The Accord grants workers the right to refuse dangerous work, in line with ILO Convention 155.

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IndustriALL stands with mass Brazilian social uprising  

Over one million Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand social justice for all in the growing economy.

June 26, 2013: Poor quality of public transportation was the final issue that sparked the unprecedented wave of protests through Latin America’s largest economy. The angry public reaction to the increase in fare prices for the bus, metro and train brought people to the streets. The aggressive reaction of the police to these manifestations then exploded the situation last week, with over one million demonstrators in 100 cities on 20 June alone.  

Workers, especially young workers, throughout Brazil are tired of being made victims of poor urban mobility policy, and now demand that government jointly discuss with transport providers to find solutions to the problems. Demonstrators are calling for quality education, quality health care, quality transportation, but also quality conditions of employment, fair wages, and reduced working hours.  

Brazil is a different case to the social uprisings seen elsewhere around the world in recent times. Brazil has a democratic government, a healthy and growing economy that is generating jobs, and increasing minimum and average wages. However the quality of life for residents of Brazil’s large cities is not seen to be improving, and those people resent the large sums of public money spent on the upcoming Olympic Games and Football World Cup.

President Dilma Rousseff stated that her government is listening to the messages and proposed an emergency plan to resolve the main problems: combat corruption, political reform, education, health and public transportation.  

IndustriALL Executive Committee member Monica Veloso, Vice President of CNTM stated:  

“It is wonderful to live in a democracy and exercise the right to assemble and shout in the streets, those rights were hard-won by Brazilians. But our revolution must begin at home and in the community, it is our own responsibility.”  

Valter Sanchez, of the Metalworkers Union of ABC / CNM-CUT, told the USi:  

“The protestors are young people, and we as unions welcome all the young people who are finally learning to fight for their rights, fight for their agenda. We as unions decided to join the protests and are taking part in the protests.  It is a horizontal movement without leaders and social organizations behind them.”  

All Brazilian trade unions have condemned the police violence, as hundreds of participants were injured especially in São Paulo while the police are trying to avoid destruction of public facilities by provocateurs infiltrating the demonstrations. The Brazilian trade unions were central protagonists in the fight to bring down the military regime in 1964.
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Nupeng issues ultimatum over unfair labour practises 

Nupeng plans to strike on Monday 1 July if government does not respond to their demands to address anti-union and unfair labour practices of multinationals, in particular Shell Petroleum Development Company, Chevron Nigeria Limited and Agip Oil Company.

June 27, 2013:  The union issued a strike notice to government early in June and has been engaging government in dialogue “We have given an ultimatum to the government on unfair industrial relations practices at these multinational companies that are using more and more outsourced workers”, says Acting General Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (Nupeng),  Isaac Aberare. “We are mobilising our members and preparing to go on an indefinite strike, should the issues not be resolved.”  

Amongst the unions concerns, is one on the increasing casualization of work in the oil and gas sectors. Almost 85% of Nigerians working in the oil and gas sector are either contract, casual or outsourced workers with conditions of work not commensurate with oil and gas industry standards and best practices globally. These workers remain without job security or benefits, some for many years, without conversion to permanent workers.  

Contract workers are being handed over to labour outsourcing companies without receiving terminal benefits. The outsourcing of labour to contractors exposes workers to possible exploitation and often times these contractors prevent workers from join the union.   

The union is demanding that a forum be set up with which the union can interface with contractors for bargaining. At a previous tripartite meeting for the industry in July 2011, it was resolved that a contractors forum should be put in place to interface with the trade unions on contract workers’ unionization and negotiation of their conditions of service.  

Nupeng raises issue with anti-union and unfair labour practices at Chevron Nigeria Limited, Nigeria Agip Oil Company and Shell Petroleum Development Company. Poor corporate behaviour of these multinationals includes arbitrary retrenchment and redundancies, resistance to unionisation, non-compliance with labour laws and disregard for government intervention on labour matters. Nupeng is also concerned that government has not confirmed and gazetted awards of the Industrial Arbitration Panel that were given in favour of the workers.  

Nupeng has demanded that government urgently convene an Oil and Gas Conference for tripartite dialogue to address workers concerns.   In writing to the Nigerian government, IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina stated:  

“We are prepared to mobilise international action to support the Nupeng strike should the issues they have raised with you not be addressed. We ask that you engage with the union in constructive dialogue and to this end we support Nupeng’s call for an Oil and Gas Conference to seek lasting solutions to workers concerns.”

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 Striking Georgian workers win the struggle 

On 31 May a collective agreement was signed after an eleven-day strike at Zestafoni Ferroally plant in Georgia.

June 27, 2013:  Workers at the Zestafoni Ferroalloy plant organized by the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining, and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia won significant concessions after going on strike for eleven days.  

The new collective agreement at Zestafoni plant provides guarantees for trade union activities. The wages increase by 10 per cent, and the agreement ensures wage adjustment according to inflation each year.  

The collective agreement also stipulates compensation for the families of workers who die in a workplace accident or lose their ability to work. The specific amount of compensation would be determined in each case.  

The employer also agreed to spend over US$20,000 per year on worker training programs and workshops for trade union members.  

“The strike was successful due to the firmness and determination of workers, strong solidarity and heroism of trade union members,” said Tamaz Dolaberidze, president of the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining, and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia.  

Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant employs 2,000 people. It belongs to Georgian Manganese LLC, a company owned by the British mining giant Stemcor.  

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IndustriALL reacts against union-busting of Birle?ik Metal-?? in Turkey 

Turkish auto parts manufacturer Arobus Argen, and wheel manufacturer Tekersan are breaking national and international labour law by strongly cracking down on workers organizing into the IndustriALL-affiliated Birle?ik Metal-??, including by sacking employees in three factories.

 June 27, 2013:   The two Arobus plants in Tuzla and Bursa, and the Tekersan plant in Bilecik have been target locations of the Birle?ik union for organizing drives. Once it became clear to the two sets of company management that Birle?ik would represent the legally required 50% plus 1 majority of workers the intimidation and dismissals began.  

IndustriALL Global Union will exercise its leverage in both companies as both Arobus and Tekersan produce for major auto companies, many of which are cosignatories of Global Framework Agreements with IndustriALL, and companies where IndustriALL affiliates organize trade union networks. In the GFAs with IndustriALL those multinational companies such as Mercedes and Renault commit to ensure minimum labour standards in their supply chains.  

Arobus have dismissed a total of 19 workers including 6 from the first stage of organizing, 11 more dismissed on 24 June in Tuzla, and a further 2 on 24 June in Bursa. Birle?ik reports that workers at the Bursa plant were summoned one by one into the management’s office and offered the choice between dismissal and relinquishing their Birle?ik membership in favour of another union. Arobus management even brought a public notary to the plants to move workers to the other union.  

In writing to both companies, IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina made reference to Turkish legislation that management has breached in refusing their workers the right to join the trade union of their choosing:  

“Article 25 of the Collective Labor Relations Act coded 6356 entitled “Guarantee of freedom of trade union” enshrines that “No worker shall be dismissed or discriminated against on account of his/her membership or non-membership in a trade union, his/her participation in the activities of trade unions or workers’ organizations outside his hours of work or during hours of work with the employer’s permission”. 

“Along with this, the article 118 of the Turkish Penal Code, coded 5237, entitled “Prevention of use of trade union rights” reads: “Any person who uses violence or threat against a person in order to force him to become or not to become a member of a trade union, or to participate or not to participate in the activities of the union, or to cancel his membership from the union or to declare his resignation from the management of the union, is sentenced to imprisonment from six months to two years”.  

IndustriALL will continue to monitor and support Birle?ik until the problems are resolved in a fair solution.