IndustriALL Headlines #63 – October17, 2013

  IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union








October 17, 2013:  More than 100 global brands have now signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, driven by UNI and IndustriALL in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza building collapse six months ago.

Woolworths Australia, GEBRA, Wünsche Group of Germany, became the latest brands to sign the Accord, which aims to make the garment industry safe and sustainable for years to come.  

The signatory brands have committed to making the changes garment workers need to improve factory safety. The Accord, a broad coalition of industry-leading brands with IndustriALL Global Union and UNI, covers more than 1,600 factories and over 2 million workers in Bangladesh.  

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina said, “This milestone comes as the world’s attention focuses once again on Bangladesh. Next week IndustriALL and UNI will mark the six month anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy. The strength of the Accord is growing and we, and all brand signatories, are committed to improving safety in Bangladesh’s factories.”  

All companies serious about conditions in their supply chain are joining this broad alliance to change the game for factory safety in Bangladesh.  

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings added, “We are delighted to reach this landmark figure. With this support we can make a difference on the ground. We are sending a strong message to all the companies that stand outside of the Accord: sign up and get engaged.”  

The news came as a team from IndustriALL and UNI arrived in Bangladesh to prepare for the next phase of the implementation of the Accord. High-level talks involving unions, brands, government and employers will coincide with a week of action on safety and working conditions ahead of the six month anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse on 24th October.  

Various public demonstrations are planned including by those yet to find and identify the bodies of loved-ones lost at Rana Plaza. Another will see families calling for a fair compensation settlement as compensation negotiations continue on the international level, chaired by the ILO, convened by IndustriALL and supported by UNI.  

To see an updated list of brands which have signed up to the Bangladesh Safety Accord on IndustriALL’s website click here

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October 17, 2013:  Trade union leaders had to announce a hunger strike to protest the union busting campaign started at “Mozyr Oil Refinery” against the local union organization of the IndustriALL affiliate Belarusian Independent Trade Union, BITU.

Yuri Shvets, BITU vice-president and chairman of the primary organization at “Mozyr Oil Refinery” and Vasili Alkhovsky, his deputy, started a hunger strike in reply to constant pressure on trade union members and their union. Due to the management pressure since 2008 some 467 workers were forced to withdraw their membership from the organization. This is almost one third of it.  

The union leaders decided to go on hunger strike as the last resort measure after the management of the factory has recently fired five BITU members for minor disciplinary reasons while in the same time according to the union the management winks at similar or even more serious offences of workers who are not BITU members. The management refused to meet with the trade union leaders trying to get some clear explanations. This was the last drop that forced first Shvets and later Alkhovsky to go on hunger strike. Both leaders demand:

  • to stop illegal acts against BITU members.  
  • to start a full and objective investigation by competent independent specialists of the circumstances of the five dismissals.  
  • to abolish disciplinary penalties and other punishments as they are not proportionate to the committed offences.  
  • to reinstate the dismissed workers on the basis of the local and national legal acts.  

On 16 October union representatives were supposed to meet the leadership of the concern Belneftekhim, to which the Mozyr oil refinery is an affiliate. Unfortunately, the meeting was postponed and a civilised solution of the conflict hoped by the union is not there yet. The BITU leaders promised to apply all legally possible measures for protection of the fired workers. They decided to stop hunger strike for the time being.

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October 17, 2013:  Talks between Ineos and Unite, Britain’s largest trade union and IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, have come to an abrupt end after company representatives walked out demanding an apology from the union.

The dispute at Ineos, one of the major multinational companies manufacturing petrochemicals, specialty chemicals and oil products, in Scotland, has its background in the harassment and threats of sacking of a Unite the Union elected representative. Escalating over the past weeks, the parties finally sat down to try to resolve the conflict. But after several hours of negotiations, and on the brink of an agreement, Ineos representatives walked out of the talks in the early hours of 16 October. Unite had offered Ineos every proposal they could make but were met with a list of new demands, including one for an apology to Ineos Chairman Jim Ratcliffe.  

According to Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty the apology was presented as a deal breaker:  

“I have never came across anything like this in over thirty years of employment relations and it is utterly reprehensible. It is absolutely incredible that the future of this site, its workforce – both permanent and contracted employees – and the national interest has been totally compromised by one man’s out of control ego.“  

Unite the Union has responded by calling off all industrial action by guaranteeing not to go on strike during the negotiations to protect the Grangemouth site, which is an important asset for all the parties. Unite the Union is fully committed to avoiding any damage with cold shutdown to ensure fuel production and supply across Scotland, and the safety of the site and the surrounding areas.  

IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina says:  

“It is imperative that Ineos refrain from any irresponsible behaviour that would jeopardize the future of the Grangemouth site. IndustriALL Global Union calls on Ineos to follow Unite’s exemplary responsible behavior by returning to the negotiation table and giving full consideration to the unions’ legitimate demands.”  

“IndustriALL Global Union stands with Unite the Union and its members in Grangemouth, and fully supports their demands for a fair and just resolution of this vicious assault over the union convener, as well as its members. We are prepared to mobilize our member unions all over the world to launch a protest campaign targeting all subsidiaries and supply chains of Ineos and PetroChina.”

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October 16, 2013:  Workers of the General Electric plant in Fort Edward, NY joined by union members and local communities announce a rally planned for Friday 18 October to protest against closure of their plant.

The workers and representing them Local 332 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), a U.S. affiliate of IndustriALL are worried that the closure of the capacitor plant and its transfer to Florida will have catastrophic consequences for 200 employees, their families and even more harmful to the local community through destruction of local businesses working with GE and leaving many more people without income.  

However, this is not the only concern of the workers and their union, GE leaves a very bad environnemental heritage to the Fort Edward community.  

According to the union from 1940s to 1970s the GE Fort Edward plant has poured some 1.3 million pounds of highly-toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River. The GE has tried to escape the responsibility for the damages and currently a multi-year project to clean the river is taking place. The consequences are still impacting both the environment and people’s health.  

Commenting on the closure Scott Gates said, “It would be a gross injustice to all the people of our region and of New York State, for GE to take away these jobs and leave us nothing but polluted land and a poisoned river. GE owes us much more. At a minimum, GE has an obligation to keep these jobs here.”  

IndustriALL expressed its full solidarity support to the Fort Edward plant workers, their families and local communities. In his letter to Local 332 members Jyrki Raina said, “We strongly believe that General Electric has a social responsibility to protect the livelihood of General Electric employees and its 200 families in the community. Furthermore, General Electric should strictly abide by EPA’s regulations concerning the clean up of hazardous waste sites, including the dumping of millions of gallons of PCBs into the Hudson River. General Electric must take full responsibility for the harmful impact of its actions on the environment and human health.”

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October 15, 2013:  The Supreme Court in Mongolia has ordered Rio Tinto to reinstate an unfairly dismissed employee, as well as to pay compensation.

Gantuya was dismissed from work by Rio Tinto for protesting against discrimination over the remuneration paid to Mongolian employees. The unequal remuneration pay between Mongolian nationals and expatriates translate into a disparity of MNT 3 million for local Mongolian workers at Rio Tinto, to MNT 30 million for expatriates a month on average.  

The Ministry of Labor has confirmed that Oyu tolgoi and Rio Tinto were in violation of Clause #8.1 of the OT IA “in the most blatant, wanton manner and never made a single step towards enforcing this  obligation”. The Supreme Court ruled that the termination of Gantuya employmentwas unjust and unlawful.  

The ruling of the Supreme Court was the final arbiter over Rio Tinto’s intransigence and arrogance to refuse two lower court judgements in favour of Gantuya. Rio Tinto took the matter on appeal to the Supreme Court and lost.  

IndustriALL Global Union applauds this important victory, and Assistant Secretary General Kemal Özkan says:   

“This is a huge victory not only for Sainkhuu Gantuya, but for all workers in Mongolia, especially at Oyu Tolgo.
This is a
significant and important pushback against Rio Tinto, particularly in the context of IndustriALL Global
Union’s global corporate campaign against Rio Tinto.”

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