IndustriALL Headlines #64 – October 25, 2013

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union

Families Hold Six Month Candilit Vigil at Rana Plaza Site FAMILIES

Six Months After Rana Plaza – Brands Must Pay Compensation NOW

Russian Chemical Workers Forced to Join Yellow Union

Nissan Workers Denied Right to Organize

Turkish and Canadian Workers Together Call on Crown to Stop Busting 

Families Hold Six Month Candilit Vigil at Rana Plaza Site FAMILIES

10-24-13:  Families of workers who died during the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh have held a candlelit vigil to mark six months since the day the tragedy occurred.

The families were joined at the site of the former factory by survivors as well as national trade unions, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union.  

Rana Plaza, a structurally flawed building containing five garment factories and seven floors came down on 24th April, killing 1,129 people. More than 300 bodies are still to be identified, whilst thousands of workers have suffered injuries.  

In the aftermath of the disaster, IndustriALL and UNI signed an agreement with international brands committing to transform the safety of the Bangladeshi garment industry. In a world first, 103 brands have signed the Accord, and 1600 garment factories are covered by new safety regulations.  

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina said, “We are lighting candles to remember more than a thousand lights that went out on this day six months ago.  

“Tomorrow, with renewed vigour, we will strive to put the processes in place to ensure the safety of millions of garment workers in Bangladesh.”  

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “Today, we remember each of the 1,129 people who died six months ago. We stand united with families at this site, which has come to symbolise all that is wrong with the business practices of so many rich global brands.  

“The Accord now covers more than 1600 factories and will provide safety for millions of workers. This new dawn rose out of these ruins, and we will never forget it.”  

UNI and IndustriALL are shocked that after six months Primark is the only brand to have paid anything to the victims. Primark worked with local trade unions, organised through the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), to establish the mechanism for distribution of compensation payments to over 3,600 workers and families.

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Six Months After Rana Plaza – Brands Must Pay Compensation NOW  

10-24-13:  Today is the solemn milestone of six months since 1,129 garment workers were killed in the industrial homicide at the Rana Plaza factory building collapse in Savar on 24 April. Only one brand has paid any compensation.

IndustriALL and UNI, the two global unions jointly working to make the garment industry in Bangladesh safe and sustainable, will stand with survivors and families of the dead at Rana Plaza today for a candlelit vigil at sundown. The two unions are shocked that still after six months Primark is the only brand to have paid anything to the victims.  

Primark worked with local trade unions, organised through the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), to establish the mechanism for distribution of compensation payments to over 3,600 workers and families. The method of payment, through bKash, cuts out any middleman and has the full endorsement of Rana Plaza workers.  

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina focuses on the Accord as the way to ensure that lasting change to the industry will be the legacy of the tragedy of Rana Plaza:    

“All actors in the supply chain in Bangladesh agree that the enormous scale of the devastation at Rana Plaza gave all involved the historic chance to fix the industry’s safety problems. The Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh answers that call. The next five years will see the Accord regularly reporting success stories of factory repairs and improvements.”  

UNI Global Union general secretary Philip Jennings continued:  

“The Accord will continue to be the central engine maintaining the momentum for safety reform.
The only way factory safety can be monitored and verified is with worker involvement, this international
industrial relations agreement is built on this sentiment.”  

The stance of the buyers to compensation has been varied, some refuse to engage, others vehemently deny a connection and some deny responsibility because their production ended some time ago or was outsourced to Rana Plaza without their knowledge.  

Meanwhile, two committees established by the High Court in Bangladesh have proposed levels of compensation for the Rana Plaza victims almost identical to the workers’ demand, reflected in the IndustriALL/CCC/WRC proposal, of 1.8 million BTK (US$2,300) per family of the deceased.  

As talks continue on the international level, survivors and victims’ families at Rana Plaza today remember their loved ones and all ask the same question: When will we finally receive compensation for our loss?

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Russian Chemical Workers Forced to Join Yellow Union  

10-24-13:  In Bashkortostan at JSC Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat (ex Salavatnefteorgsintez) workers are pushed to withdraw from Russian Chemical Workers Union (RCWU), an affiliate of IndustriALL, and join a yellow union created by the administration.

According to the RCWU since last year there are two union organizations operating at the facilities of the company, one is RCWU, representing chemical workers in Russia since a long time, and the other one, is a recently created structure announced as part of a ‘Trade Union No. 1’. The workers at the enterprise say the latter is the project of the administration, which started a full campaign aimed to move workers from their genuine union to the yellow or how they call it “pocket” union.

The workers are now subject to a constant pressure. According to Vladimir Morozov, chairman of the RCWU local, the technical director received a clear order to move all workers of the plant “Monomer”, one of the factories owned by the company, to the management controlled yellow union. Failure to fulfil the order would qualify for “inconsistency with job” and subsequently meaning dismissal.

RCWU believes the conflict is due to the intent of the management to introduce some unpopular decisions including removal of compensatory payments for harmful working conditions, as well as shift from five to four-team based schedule of work, meaning new redundancies and increased working hours for the remaining workers. RCWU would never agree to the proposal while “yellow” union is certainly easier to manipulate.

According to the RCWU despite extreme psychological pressure many workers keep on paying their affiliation fees directly to their genuine union, so as to avoid being exposed to the management through the check-off system, their only request is to be anonymous. Vladimir Morozov is denied access to the territory of the enterprise, the financial department does not provide him with any documentation required for operation of the union and stopped accepting all applications of RCWU members for deduction of union dues through check-off system.

The Federation of Independent Unions of Russia and RCWU addressed to the board of directors of Gazprom, the parent company, informing them of violations of workers’ rights at Gazprom enterprises to freely choose their union. They got a cynical reply stating that according to Gazprom  knowledge, “there was no confirmation of the facts expressed in the letter”, and everything is about a fight for members between two trade unions.

The investigation of the public prosecutor’s office of the city of Salavat however found evidence of violation of workers’ rights at the enterprise.

IndustriALL is shocked with the arbitrariness happening in Bashkortostan at JSC Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat and sent a letter to Director General of JSC Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat as well as to Deputy chairman of the board of directors of OAO Gazprom demanding proper investigation and correction of the situation in their company.

JSC Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat is specialized in production and sale of oil refinery, gas and chemical, and monomer products in the Russian Federation.

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Nissan Workers Denied Right to Organize  

10-23-13:  Ten-hour shifts, removed pensions, low pay, and forced to work nights and weekends. Add to that implicit threats of closure of the factory or pay decrease when workers voice their desire to form a union. This is the reality of workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. 

A report by international labour law scholar Lance Compa and the Mississippi NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) describes how Nissan violates international human rights standards of workers who want to organize and bargain collectively. Workers at the plant have been told to participate in round table meetings held by management where the message is clear, through talks and videos – if you form a union in the US, the plant will close. When workers point out that this does not happen at other Nissan plants around the world, the answer is “in the US union closes plants”.

Sheila Wilson, is a technician at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, and says that threats also include a pay decrease.

“We as workers are asking for a fair trade union election without intimidation from the management.”

“Nissan is not living up to the standards of worker treatment enshrined in International Labour Organisation, ILO, core labour standards, UN human rights principles and other international norms. It also belies Nissan´s own public commitments to honour international standards through its memebership in the United Nations Global Compact,” says Lance Compa. “Workers´ descriptions of how they are treated behind the walls of the massive Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, affirm that Nissan is systematically interfering with the internationally recognized right to form a union.”

Sheila tells of ten-hour shift, six days a week. For the temporarily employed the working hours are twelve hours a day, seven days a week. And up until an hour before the end of a shift, workers can be told to work extra hours. These long and taxing shifts have a huge impact on family life. Workers struggle to balance work and family and divorce rates are soaring.

“We can´t manage that balancing act,” Sheila continues. “And last week, without any discussion, we were informed that we would have to work night and weekend shifts as well. It strongly affects the children and there are a lot of health issues. It is not a safe way to be.”

Cassandra Welchlyn is on the board of the Mississippi All for fairness at Nissan. The organization was formed two years ago, as a response to the effect Nissan had on the local community in Canton.

“When Nissan arrived in Canton a little over a decade ago expectations were high that they would treat their workers correctly. And we still expect that”, Cassandra says. “The civil rights struggle in Mississippi has taught us that you can´t silently stand by when people´s rights are violated. The Mississippi workers are denied the right to organize; a fundamental human and international right.”

The Nissan plant at Canton produces 300 cars per shift, and there are three eight-hour shifts per day. And yet workers’ pensions were recently removed. Sheila Wilson earns 23 dollars/hour; including her latest pay increase in six years of 50 cents/hour. Temporary workers earn even less; 12,50 dollars per hour, and they have no health benefits. Work related accidents have increased, and workers have been fired for their injuries, only to be replaced by cheaper, temporary workers.

Says Sheila Wilson:

“We are asking Nissan to allow for a free trade union election without intimidation and
without violating international labour law. We will continue to spread this message around
the world: Nissan, please respect us and our rights as workers.”

IndustriALL Global Union supports the plight of the workers at Nissan´s plant in Canton, Mississippi.

“Our role is to ensure that everyone has a free choice to join a union. We stand by the workers and fully support their claims for internationally recognized labour rights such as the right to organize and to collective bargaining,” says Secretary General Jyrki Raina.

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Turkish and Canadian Workers Together Call on Crown to Stop Busting  

10-22-13:  The global campaign against Crown Holdings over its anti-labor practices continues with a demonstration held in front of the company’s facility located at Kartepe, Izmit in Turkey on 21 October following the ones in the US and Switzerland. Hosted by Birle?ik Metal-?? and attended by the USW, the action raised common voice of Turkish and Canadian workers.  

IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate United Metalworkers’ Union (Birlesik Metal-Is) launched an organizing campaign at Crown operations in Turkey last year. After many difficulties in recruitment period, in November 2012 Ministry of Labour issued a certificate making the union eligible for collective bargaining negotiations.  

As it is widely used tactic by employers in Turkey in order to destroy union organizing, Crown Holdings immediately challenged this certification at the local labour court by stalling the process since this kind of cases in Turkey last long periods.  

Later, the local court finalized the judiciary process in the first half of this year by ruling valid the certificate issued by the Ministry of Labour in favour of Birlesik Metal-Is. However, the company management took the verdict of the local court to the Court of Cassation in Ankara. Turkish Crown workers cannot enjoy their fundamental rights for around two years. In the meantime, independent audits made at Crown operations have exposed violations of fundamental rights.  

“In spite of all pressure and intimidation by Crown management, workers have chosen to have a union and the Ministry of Labour recognized Birlesik Metal-Is as the authorized union which Crown cannot pretend not to see,” said Adnan Serdaroglu, President of the Turkish Union. “Even though Crown tries to stall our bargaining process using anti-labour legislation, we do believe that workers will win, not just here in Turkey, but also in Canada and elsewhere in the world”.  

 “As a striking worker since the beginning of September, I am proud to see such worldwide actions,” said Mike Cruttenden, USW, who attended the demonstration in Baar, Switzerland on 18 October. “Crown management must hear this rising voice of the workers worldwide.”  

“We congratulate our affiliates USW and Birlesik Metal-Is for their solidarity and joint actions against Crown Holdings” said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary. “IndustriALL Global Union will go forward with such actions worldwide until our members win.”

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