IndustriALL Headlines #51 – July 11, 2013


IndustriALL Headlines is produced by IndustriALL Global Union

Bangladesh Safety Accord implementation – moving forward 

 

The broad coalition of trade unions – led by IndustriALL and UNI – and 80 market leading clothing brands and retailers today announces the next steps to implement the historic Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

July 7, 2013:  The signatories to the Accord, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the over 80 clothing brands and retailers, set themselves a 45 day period to draw up and agree on the implementation plan and 8 July is the deadline. The Accord represents a new era of collaboration and sincere efforts to make the Bangladeshi garment industry safe and sustainable through comprehensive inspections, repairs of factories, training and involvement of workers.  

All parties to the five-year binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh are enthused by this milestone and the real work on the ground will begin soon.  

Key highlights of the implementation plan include:  

  • Initial inspections to identify grave hazards and the need for urgent repairs. This will be completed within 9 months.  
  • An Interim Procedure to take effect when existing inspection processes or worker reports identify factories which require immediate remediation measures.  
  • Hiring process commenced for the Chief Safety Inspector and Executive Director positions.  
  • Governance structure established through a Steering Committee with equal representation of signatory companies and unions and an Advisory Board with broad representation in Bangladesh.

See the report of the implementation team attached for full details. The Accord will cover all factories producing for the signatory brands, opening them all up for safety inspections and further measures depending on the factory’s significance to the brand. Signatory brands and retailers guarantee that in every case where an unsafe factory is found funds will be available for the necessary safety upgrades.  

The Accord will be governed by the Steering Committee with equal representation of labour and company members. The Steering Committee will be empowered to take decisions to resolve disputes, with the arbitration to be enforceable in a court of law in the company’s home country. The selection of the Arbitrator in this process will be governed by the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985. All action of the Accord will be transparent and publically reported.  

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina stated:  

“This historic, legally binding Accord will effect tangible change on the ground and help make the Bangladeshi garment industry safe and sustainable. Voluntary initiatives have proved insufficient, as 1,800 Bangladeshi garment workers have died in factory fires and building collapses during the past seven years. A profound change is possible only with a strong coalition between trade unions, international brands and retailers, Bangladeshi authorities and employers, and with worker involvement in the workplace with guaranteed freedom of association.”  

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings commented:  

“Now the real work starts. The terms of reference and the rules of the Accord are set in place, we can now identify the best people and put together the team in Bangladesh who will be charged with carrying out this vital work. These are exciting moments. The world is watching.”  

The International Labour Organization (ILO) acts as an independent chair to enhance the Accord’s implementation. The labour NGOs Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers’ Rights Consortium played an important role in supporting the Accord and will continue to do so throughout its five year duration.  

Of fundamental importance to the Accord is that it includes a central role for workers and their representatives. Another central aspect of the Accord is that it commits signatory companies to staying in Bangladesh for at least the first two years of the Accord. The signatory companies to the Accord are making serious and sincere commitments to working with trade unions to clean up their production chain in Bangladesh. They can all be held up as standard-setters in the industry.  

The full list of company signatories to the Accord:

Abercrombie & Fitch Aldi Nord Aldi South Auchan Belotex Benetton
Bestseller Bonmarche C&S Camaieu Carrefour Charles Voegele
Chicca Comtex Coop Danmark Cotton On Dansk Daytex
Debenham Distra DK Company El Corte Ingles Ernstings’s Family Espirit
Fat Face Forever New Gstar H&M Helly Hansen Hema
Hemtex AB Herding Heimtextil Hess Natur-Textilien GmbH Horizonte Inditex JBC
Jogilo John Lewis Juritex KappAhl Karstadt Kik
Kmart (Australia) LC WAIKIKI Leclerc Lidl Loblaw Mango
Marks and Spencer Metro Mothercare Multiline N Brown New Look
Next Otto Group Primark PUMA PVH Rewe
S Olivier Sainsbury Schmidt Group Scoop NYC / Zac Posen Sean John Apparel Shop Direct Group
Stockmann Switcher Target (Australia) Tchibo Tesco Texman
Topgrade International V&D Van der Erve NV Varner Group Voice Norge AS We Europe
Zeeman

Contacts:

Tom Grinter, IndustriALL, Mobile: +41 79 693 44 99, TGrinter@industriALL-Union.org

Richard Elliott, UNI Global Union, Mobile: +41 79 794 9709, richard.elliott@uniglobalunion.org

Andy York – Ethical Trading Manager – N Brown Group – Contact Fergus Wylie – Newgate Communications – +44 (0) 20 7680 6550


IndustriALL Global Union readies to pull the trigger on Rio Tinto 

 

At the end of June thirty mining union delegates from across the world at Rio Tinto operations met in Johannesburg to map out a global campaign strategy, marking a significant milestone in the process towards the launch of a campaign against the corporation.

July 11, 2013:  At its inaugural merger conference in 2012, IndustriALL resolved to launch a multi-coordinated, multi-union global corporate campaign against Rio Tinto for its legendary anti-union and unsustainable labour and community relations practice, including environmental practices and conduct across the globe. With the launch of a Rio Tinto Global Network responsible for driving the global campaign, the June meeting in Johannesburg marks a significant step forward.  

The purpose of the global campaign is to force a seismic shift in the way that Rio Tinto relates to workers and trade unions across all of their operations. The specific objectives are to increase trade union density in its operations globally and a recognition by Rio Tinto of trade unions and of IndustriALL Global Union as a formal interlocutor or counterpart.  

Part of the strategic outcome of the meeting was the launch of a strategic alliance against Rio Tinto (START), envisaged as an alliance of progressive social, community, environmental, faith-based and economic justice network. To this end, an environmental activist persecuted for exposing mining environmental abuses in his country addressed the meeting. A Researcher at one of the leading universities in South Africa also addressed the meeting on the community abuses and social dislocation associated with mining in his home country.


Walmart/Gap Bangladesh safety plan: pale imitation of Accord 

IndustriALL and UNI, reacting to the announcement by Walmart and Gap today of another toothless corporate auditing programme for Bangladesh factory safety, stated that these companies are only repeating the mistakes of the past.

July 10, 2013:  The Walmart/Gap initiative falls short of the standard set by the binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The Accord is an enforceable building safety programme backed by more than seventy global brands from 15 countries. Unlike the Accord, the Walmart/Gap initiative is unclear on enforceability and there is no commitment from the brands to stay in Bangladesh, nor is there full transparency.

IndustriALL Global Union, General Secretary, Jyrki Raina said,  

“The Accord on Fire and Building Safety signed between global unions, more than 80 global fashion brands, and NGOs provides assurance through a legally binding process that the commitments to inspect and improve garment factories will be carried out. This is the highest possible standard and one the Walmart/Gap initiative should be seeking to replicate. Instead what it provides is a pale imitation in terms of commitment and transparency. The workers’ and their unions’ voices will be heard loud and clear in the Accord but it will be muted in the plan presented by Walmart and Gap today.”  

UNI Global Union Deputy General Secretary, Christy Hoffman said,  

“Walmart are bringing their discount practices to factory safety. This is not a price war; this is about people’s lives. Walmart has dragged Gap and a number of other brands down the wrong track. We now urge the Walmart/Gap initiative to think again and raise its standard to those of the Accord out of respect for Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi garment workers.”  

Comparison of Accord with Walmart/Gap scheme  

  • The Accord is a binding agreement between companies and unions, governed jointly. Worker representation is essential if the effort to protect workers is to succeed. The Walmart/Gap scheme was developed unilaterally with no meaningful involvement by worker representatives. It is another company controlled audit scheme like those which have failed in the past, including joint programmes like BSCI. Two factories at Rana Plaza passed BSCI audits and Walmart repeatedly audited Tazreen Fashions. More than 1,200 workers died at those locations, tragically underlining the failure of this system.  
  • Under the Accord, all unsafe factories will be renovated and repaired with brands guaranteeing funds will be available for the necessary safety upgrade: the bottom line is factory safety.  Brands and retailers will pay what it takes to make all factories safe. Under the Walmart/Gap initiative, the bottom line is limiting the brands’ and retailers’ liability and costs. Although the Walmart/Gap initiative says that it will make loans available, unlike the Accord, there is no obligation to create commercial terms that would allow factory owners to repay.  
  • Under the Accord, the right of workers to refuse dangerous work, including the right to refuse to enter a dangerous building, is protected. The Walmart/Gap scheme is silent on this issue.  
  • The Accord provides full transparency. All reports of factory inspections will be made available to worker representatives and they will be notified right away of any imminent safety threats. All factory reports will be made public in a timely fashion and there is on-going public reporting on whether factories are being renovated as agreed. Under the Walmart/Gap scheme factory reports will only be made available where there are plans to remediate.  

Walmart has a history of labour rights violations on a global scale. Gap and the other companies who have allowed it to take the lead on this initiative should ensure that standards are raised to the highest possible level as set by the Accord.  

Contacts:

Tom Grinter, IndustriALL, Mobile: +41 79 693 44 99, TGrinter@industriALL-Union.org

Richard Elliott, UNI Global Union, Mobile: +41 79 794 9709, richard.elliott@uniglobalunion.org


Belgium ends historic discrimination between white and blue-collar workers 

The Constitutional Court in Belgium has decreed that the status of blue and white-collar workers need to be harmonized, urging the government to eliminate the discrimination between the two types of workers.

July 11, 2013:  The discrimination had been going on for a century and an attempt to stop it had been blocked for 27 years, when the government finally managed to find a compromise in June. It was the solidarity between the two types of workers that made the agreement possible. It means that the classification of blue or white-collar, or manual and non-manual, worker, will disappear. Simply the term “worker” will remain.  

The former blue-collar workers seem the most satisfied by the agreement as their notice period will be extended and granted according to seniority. Moreover trial periods have also been scrapped, and all sick days will be paid, whereas before the first day of a sickness was unpaid. However, not all differences between the two types of workers have been withdrawn. The calculation and the payment of annual leave, wage and salary payments, short-time work are still pending and will need to be settled by the Labour Council, a national body.  

Employers are afraid that the costs for firing workers will go up. And the unions are afraid that employers will have recourse to more temporary work. The unions will join the negotiations at the Labour Council where the details will be worked out, hopefully in the workers’ interest. The final differences will have to be ironed out by the social partners within a certain deadline.


Argentina: metalworking supervisors on state of alert

The Asociación de Supervisores de la Industria Metalmecánica (ASIMRA), affiliated to IndustriALL, has put its members on a state of alert in response to the employers’ refusal to discuss changes to the job classification categories set out in the current collective agreement.

July 10, 2013The union, led by Luis García Ortiz, has issued a press release denouncing the employers’ rejection of union demands for a pay rise and changes to the job classification system in both the manufacturing and administration sectors of the industry. The union accuses the employers of failing to respect the agreement’s clauses on maintaining job categories under review in order to take account of new production methods and technologies. ASIMRA accuses employers of trying ¨to make us believe that Argentinean industry operates like a village smithy”.  

The union held a rally at the offices of the employer’s federation on Monday 1 July as employers were holding a meeting at the Ministry of Labour. Roberto Martín Navarro, ASIMRA Secretary, said that the union wants a review of the job classification system. He explained that the union went to the negotiating table with the aim of “updating basic aspects of the agreement. When they won’t agree to what we are asking for, they always start talking about paying us one-off lump sums. We requested changes to the job classification system set out in the collective agreement, in order to bring it up to date with new technologies and production methods”.  

Navarro added that the categories in the current job classification table, “were established in 1975 and 1994. We think that things have changed since then, especially the role of supervisors, and we hope that the employers will review the situation to bring them up to date with the current situation”.  

He said the union has put its members on a state of alert and called for the government to mediate in order to achieve an agreement.  

IndustriALL has communicated its solidarity to our colleagues in ASIMRA in the union’s fight for improvements in the conditions of its members.