IndustriALL Headlines #65 – October 31, 2013







IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union



October 31, 2013:  Spanish coal miners launched two-day work stoppage on 29 October 2013 after the deadly accident taking away six lives and leaving many more injured happened in a mine in northwest Spain.  

IndustriALL and affiliates mourn the terrible loss of the workers’ lives in what is described as the worst mining accident in Spain for the last 18 years, and extend the deepest condolences to the families of perished mineworkers.

The fatal accident occurred on 28 October at the mine of Pozo Emilio del Valle in the north-western Spanish city of Pola de Gordón owned by the company Hullera Vasco Leonesa.  

Reportedly eleven miners were working 694 meters underground in the gallery 740 of the coalmine when poisonous firedamp, highly inflammable gas formed in mines by decomposition of coal mainly consisting of methane, quickly spread across the gallery and exploded not leaving people the time to put on their protective masks.  

The accident happened only 20 days after other three mineworkers gave their lives in an accident in potash mineshaft near the town of Unterbreizbach in Germany. They also were 700 meters underground when a controlled blast provoked sudden massive release of a big amount of carbon dioxide and did not have enough time to put on their oxygen masks.  

“It is unbelievable and unacceptable at this age that miners still lose their lives, even in Spain and Germany,” said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union. “While mourning for Spanish and German colleagues, our global union will continue to champion the struggle for safe mines worldwide”.  

IndustriALL joins its affiliates in Spain FITAG-UGT, FI-CC.OO. and FI-USO as well as IG BCE in Germany and calls on the authorities to start an urgent investigation into the accidents’ reasons and to take all necessary steps and measures in order to prevent from happening similar tragedies in the future.

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October 29, 2013:  IndustriALL has offered its solidarity to 70 members of its Honduran affiliate, the FITH. They were sacked for protesting at the anti-trade union actions taken by their employer, the Korean cardboard company, Corporación Cartonera 3j Fenix, located in Villanueva, a municipality in the department of Cortés. IndustriALL has called on the Ministry of Labour to intervene and resolve the dispute.

When the workers formed a trade union one year ago in response to the abuses to which they were subjected, including non-payment of the minimum wage, the company made their life a misery. It transferred their leaders to very hot workplaces, exposed to the sun and without access to water; forced them to unload containers even though this work was not stipulated in their employment contracts; and locked them out if they arrived one minute after their scheduled starting time of 7am, meaning that they lost a day’s pay and a weekly bonus.  

On 15 August this year, in protest at the company’s unfair treatment, all the workers decided to report for work at 7.15am  

The company closed the gates and, in the following days, sacked about 70 workers without paying the benefits due to them. The company suspended the members of the union’s executive committee on full pay while it applies to the labour courts for authorisation to dismiss them.  

In response to the company’s non-payment of the minimum wage, the union has lodged a complaint with the labour courts and asked them to impose a pay rise to cover the last two years.  

IndustriALL Global Union has written to the government of Honduras, through the Ministry of Labour, demanding that it tries again to promote negotiations between the two parties with a view to resolving the dispute.

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October 31, 2013:  IndustriALL affiliate Russian Oil, Gas and Construction Workers Union (ROGWU) wins the battle for the workers’ right to set their union structure according to their own decision.

On 24 October 2013 the Constitutional Court of Russian Federation issued a verdict in favour of ROGWU’s complaint against violation of its rights by the Gagarin district court of Moscow, Ministry of Justice, Office of the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court of Russian Federation. The case also sets the precedent for other Russian unions who can now build their structure according to their internal decisions.  

The story began two years ago when ROGWU Congress introduced changes into ROGWU statutes referring to internal structure of the union. According to the national law Ministry of Justice has to formally approve new statutes, if those do not violate federal law, without any preconditions, and with reference to the international legal obligations of Russia, in this case particularly to the ratified fundamental ILO conventions 87 and 98.  

Unfortunately the Ministry of Justice decided to interpret the article in the Law on Trade Unions named “Basic Definitions” as an exhaustive list of allowed union structures. The Ministry addressed a complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor General, which urged regional court to file a legal case. Consequently ROGWU received a verdict urging it to dissolve many of its structures created over past 20 years by the union in order to maintain collective bargaining and social dialogue with permanently emerging business units and structures. De facto this court ruling undermined union capacity to fulfil its main functions.  

ROGWU interpreted this verdict as an interference with their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, Russian law and basic ILO Conventions ratified by Russia. None of the complaints filed by ROGWU have found support in either the Supreme Court or the Office of Prosecutor General. Finally, the union brought the issue up to the Constitutional Court of Russia and simultaneously reported the case with the ILO Workers’ group as part of the IndustriALL delegation at the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2013.  

On the eve of the hearings in the Constitutional Court Jyrki Raina, Secretary General of IndustriAll sent a letter to the Constitutional Court of Russia supporting the international legal expertise regarding the ROGWU case and urging Constitutional Court to restore the rule of law and bring justice to labour relations in Russia.  

The result is that the Constitutional Court of Russia qualified actions of the Ministry of Justice, Office of Prosecutor General, Gagarin district court of Moscow and Supreme Court as anti-constitutional interference into the union affairs, violation of the Russian law and international obligation of Russia and demanded unconditional and just revision of the earlier verdicts.

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October 31, 2013:  A strike by Austrian metalworkers planned to start on 29 October was cancelled when parties reached an agreement. Wages are to be increased with in average 2.85 per cent.

After several bargaining rounds between the biggest metal organization, the Association Machinery & Metalware Industry FMMI, and the DPA-dip trade union and IndustriALL Global Union affiliate PRO-GE, with little or no results, unions announced a strike for the end of October. It was called off at the last minute when an agreement was reached, covering 120,000 workers of the total 180,000 workers in the metal sector. Depending on the category, wages will increase by between 2.6 and 3.2 percent.  

The question of flexible working time, which has been under discussion for the last two years, remains unresolved. Negotiations on this are expected to commence when all bargaining rounds are concluded.  

IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle says:  

“The raise in wages between 2.5 and 3.2 per cent in the metal and mechanical engineering industry in Austria was only achievable because works councils and members in this sector were ready to stand up for their collective bargaining agreement. Our colleagues in Austria prepared the strike; their readiness to fight led to this breakthrough and hence this success.”

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October 25, 2013:  IndustriALL Global Union, together with 163 other trade union and civil society organisations, are raising concerns over a proposed expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (“ITA II”) being negotiated at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Several WTO members are currently negotiating the expansion of the Agreement to cover information technology (IT) goods created since the first Agreement, in force since 1997. The Agreement covers IT goods that comprise about ten per cent of the global merchandise.  

A number or trade union and civil society organisations, including IndustriALL Global Union have drafted a joint letter to the WTO, pointing to the damage the proposals would do to the development of the IT industry in developing countries. The letter warns the participating countries that the Agreement could further harm workers and restrict the prospect of industrialisation for participating developing countries.  

“The necessary diffusion of technology and the need to overcome the digital divide within and across countries require policy space for governments in order to implement industrial policies that enable them to develop their own industries or to increase the ownership of production of ICTs (information and communication technologies) in supply chains in which they operate,” it says.  

Trade unions and civil society are calling for the negotiations to focus on expanding the potential for decent jobs. They also warn that an expanded ITA will likely benefit mainly multinational enterprises that control patent monopolies and impede technology transfer.  

Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, says:  

“IndustriALL Global Union is calling for sustainable development in the ICT sector which has been facing driving down wages and the spread of precarious forms of employment as a result of severe global competition driven by the trade agreement.  ITA-II should focus on expanding the potential for decent jobs, especially in the developing countries.”  

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