IndustriALL Headlines #54 – August 1, 2013

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union


Mass dismissals at Rio Tinto in Madagascar  

The sharp decline in commodity prices in the international market is being felt in the mining sector in Madagascar, as Rio Tinto QMM’s subcontractor Omega plans to stop operations at Fort-Dauphin.

July 31, 2013:  The security company Omega stopped operations on 31 July 2013. No response was ever given to the workers despite the many demands made by the local union FISEMA to the different stakeholders.  

The mass dismissals announced at Rio Tinto QMM in Madagascar would affect over 300 workers. IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Fédération des Syndicats des Travailleurs de l’Energie et des Mines (FISEMA) calls on the Rio Tinto and local authorities to adequately deal with the situation. These dismissals come with no social planning for the dismissed workers and Rio Tinto has not entered into meaningful dialogue with the union.  

Rio Tinto has demonstrated a common trend in a number of countries where it runs operations, of destroying communities by failing to develop sustainable operations as it always manages to keep wages to a minimum, justifying that they are above the national minimum. This is very far from its commitment to conduct its activities in compliance with environmental, health, safety and well being of its employees and the community.  

For the union there has been a real failure for sustainable development in the region. Now that Omega has ceased operations, the fate of the workers now lies in the hands of the local authorities to which the union has made their demands to enable them to be able to sustain a decent life in the region.

Three years of persecution for Pakistani Syngenta workers  

The long-standing, sustained attack on the local trade union of Swiss-based agrochemical multinational Syngenta in Pakistan has cost the company huge sums in legal fees, but management continues its ideological path of crushing the union at all costs.

August 2, 2013:  Syngenta is a market leader in pesticide used in farming, posting a US$1.8 billion profit in 2012. The Swiss company’s code of conduct proclaims that this multinational:  

“Commits to comply with all labour laws, national and international codes and conventions,
and upholds the principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
International Labour Organisation’s Core Conventions. These include the right to freedom
of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining, equal remuneration and
minimum age requirements.”  

In Syngenta’s operation in Pakistan, every sentiment of this code of conduct statement has been breached since December 2010. The Syngenta Employees Union Pakistan is part of the IndustriALL affiliated national union PCEM and the factory level union’s General Secretary is also president of PCEM. General Secretary Imran Ali was sacked for his trade union activities in December 2010 and dragged through countless court case appeals until in July 2013 he was hospitalised with heart problems.  

Brother Imran Ali learned of his sacking through an article in the local newspaper during a period of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. A major priority of Imran Ali in the union negotiations was to push through a change in employment status for 50 contract workers who had worked the legal requirement for a permanent contract.  

Since the December sacking the union has won court cases at every level of the Pakistan courts both for Imran’s reinstatement following unlawful dismissal, and for the right of the 50 contract workers to be employed on a permanent basis. Each legal victory was followed by an absolute rejection of the judges’ recommendations by the company management who instead continued to appeal to a higher level court all the way to the High Court of Sindh in capital Karachi.  

Bearing in mind the history of the conflict, IndustriALL General Secretary Raina today wrote to Syngenta global management to say that there are no remaining avenues to escape the company’s legal and moral responsibilities towards its Pakistani workers. It is time to enact the judicial rulings and cease the union busting campaign. Failing positive action from Syngenta IndustriALL will take this case to the complaints mechanism of the OECD.

IndustriALL decries Mittal pay arrears in Bosnia-Herzegovina  

IndustriALL Global Union intervened in support of its Bosnia-Herzegovina affiliate in the city of Lukavac, as coke-chemicals company GIKIL fails to pay wages and attacks the union.

July 26, 2013:  The Ispat Group, owned by Pramod Mittal, has a record of social destruction in several countries. Its actions in Nigeria, Libya and Bulgaria over the last five years illustrate a total institutional disregard for the company’s employees and their communities, as well as for the law and the national economies in which they operate. The record includes lengthy pay arrears of up to seven months, leading to numerous worker suicides. The company is also known for cannibalising equipment and exporting it.  

The Ispat Group’s subsidiary Global Infrastructure Holdings Ltd has an unscrupulous history in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The company is the minority owner in the coke-chemicals enterprise Global Ispat Koksana Inustrija Lukavac (GIKIL) in the northern city of Lukavac. The enterprise sells coke, a vital element in the steel making process, throughout Central Europe, Turkey and India.  

Although the local Canton of Tuzla owns the majority 67 per cent stake, it is Global Infrastructure Holdings that manages the plant. In Lukavac the company stays true to form and repeatedly shows total disregard for the law and for the 1,000 workers at the enterprise.  

Repeated failure to pay wages on time have put workers in an impossible position throughout the ten years of the GIKIL operations, especially in light of the unilateral management decision to slash wages to below the minimum wage.  

Now GIKIL management has escalated its intimidation of the local Independent trade union of chemistry and non-metals workers of the FBIH, an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate. On 21 June management wrote to 60 members of the senior staff in Lukavac strongly urging them to quit the union and set an example to the rest of the workforce to quit also.  

The immediate reason for increasing the squeeze on workers at GIKIL is the 180 million KM (92 million euros) company debt. This artificial debt however was created through highly dubious business dealings by GIKIL, purchasing coal at an inflated price for a prolonged period from another subsidiary of the same holding company, Stenkom owned by Global Infrastructure Holdings.  

IndustriALL is taking the case to local and national government in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  

In writing to GIKIL Managing Director Mr Kumar Nath, IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina confirmed:  

“We stand in firm support of our affiliated Independent trade union of chemistry and non-metals
workers of FBIH, under the leadership of President Kata Iveljic, and expect swift action on the part
of your management to enter into good faith social dialogue with your union partner, settle the
abusive practice of non-payment of salary, reverse this pressure on union members to leave the
union, and to find a business solution that will fix the artificial financial debt created through
fraudulent dealings with STENKOM.”

IndustriALL supports Tunisian affiliates’ mobilization against political killing  

After the general strike, in protest of the killing of opposition leader, Mohammed Brahmi, which was the second killing within six months, the General Union of Workers of Tunisia (UGTT) urged the government to resign.

July 31, 2013:  Tunisia observed an official day of national mourning on 26 July in response to the deadly shooting of the prominent opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi, who was general coordinator of the People’s Movement, a member of the National Constituent Assembly and a leading figure in the Popular Front coalition. He was also known as an outspoken critic of the ruling party Ennahda.  

An unidentified gunman on a motorbike shot Brahmi dead on 25 July outside of his home near the capital, Tunis. The 58-year-old was the second leading member of the leftist Popular Front to be shot dead this year.  

The UGTT also called for all national dialogue meetings and initiatives to be suspended in order for the UGTT National Administrative Commission to meet on Monday 29 July 2013 to assess the overall situation in the country and to take every measure deemed necessary and appropriate, which resulted in a general strike.  

The opposition, angered by the assassination of leftist leaders Chokri Belaid in February and Mohamed Brahmi last week, has rejected several concessions and power-sharing proposals from the Ennahda-led coalition.  

“IndustriALL strongly supports its Tunisian affiliates and their confederation UGTT’s mobilizations to urge the authorities to investigate the killing of Mohammed Brahmi and make sure that those responsible are brought to justice” said Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL General Secretary.  

This killing follows on from a long line of attacks against trade union leaders, journalists, political activists and ordinary citizens over recent months. In February 2013, Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside of his home, sparking protests that led to the resignation of the prime minister. Belaid was the General Secretary of the Democratic Patriotic Party.

USW concludes tentative agreements with major tyre-makers  

Negotiations on new collective bargaining agreements have been concluded in succession over the last weekend, covering union members at leading companies in the US tyre industry. The outcome is a big step forward for the workers.

July 30, 2013:  The United Steelworkers (USW) have reached tentative agreements with three of the major tyre producers in the US; Goodyear, Bridgestone-Firestone and BF Goodrich (Michelin). In total, the agreements cover 15, 500 workers at fourteen different locations across the US. The Goodyear and Bridgestone agreements are for four years, while the one for BF Goodrich will be for three years.  

USW International Vice President Tom Conway says on the agreement affecting workers at Goodyear plants: “the new tentative agreement includes economic and non-economic improvements for all union represented Goodyear employees, which led the committee to unanimously endorse it for ratification by the membership.”  

“Our goal throughout the bargaining process has been to reach an agreement that ensures a solid future both for our members and their families,” said USW Secretary-Treasurer and Chairperson of IndustriALL Rubber Industry Division, Stan Johnson. Together with BF Goodrich coordinator Larry Jackson, Stan Johnson led the negotiations for the union. “This agreement represents a step forward for USW members at BF Goodrich.”  

Ratification votes are expected to take place in the coming months, after which details of the agreements will be communicated.

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