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Building Strong Unions Remains IndustriALL’s Focus in Africa
Swaziland Bans Trade Unions
Victory for Workers at Schneider Electric Ends Strike
Global Unions Converge in Mongolia in Campaign for Rio Tinto Workers’ Rights
Mexican Electrical Workers: Five years of struggle – still standing, looking to the future and resisting
|Participants at IndustriALL’s 2014 Sub-Saharan Regional Conference in Johannesburg.|
October 23. 2014 – Leadership of affiliates in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) heard reports of IndustriALL’s work in the region focussed on organizing and growth, and discussed the need for economic and social justice in order to build Africa.
Around 150 trade union leaders from 28 African countries met at the IndustriALL SSA Regional conference in Pretoria from 14 to 16 October 2014. Whilst there was much internal reflection on the need to build strong unions as well as unity amongst workers at national and international level, external factors affecting social and economic progress on the continent came to the fore in discussions.
|Participants at the Sub-Saharan regional conference committeed to priortizing industrial development in Africa.|
Participants stressed the importance of manufacturing as an engine of growth in national economies. Affiliates committed to prioritize industrial development by taking up the issue with their national centres and seeking to influence their governments on the matter. Affiliates recognize that it will be key to build trade union strength and capacity to demand comprehensive and strategic industrial policies, including educating members and raising public awareness to campaign for policies that benefit working people. At a regional level there is an undertaking to develop joint policies towards regional intergovernmental bodies such as SADC, ECOWAS, EAC, CEMAC and the African Union; and mobilizing regionally on Africa Industrialization Day on 20 November.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:
“This vibrant conference hosted by the South African unions will inspire IndustriALL affiliates
in the whole continent in our joint struggle to build a strong industrial base across Africa to
provide good quality jobs for workers and forge societies based on social and economic justice.”
There is grave concern for the level of precarious work in the region especially at multinational companies that are not being held accountable for poor labour practices. Poor health and safety standards are also worrying. Another African concern is low wages, in some cases even below poverty levels, which can be found in all the sectors organized by IndustriALL’s affiliates. The Conference resolved that Africa and the world needs an immediate pay rise. Affiliates will continue to mobilize, organize and defend workers’ rights to ensure sustainable employment and living wages in safer and healthier workplaces.
Women’s involvement and participation in trade union activities at all levels was discussed in depth. The Sub-Saharan African Women’s Conference was the third region to call for a 40 per cent quota for women at all levels of IndustriALL. Delegates committed to intensify their efforts towards ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 183 on maternity protection. Since adoption of this convention 14 years ago, only three African countries have ratified it.
The Conference strongly condemned the Government of Swaziland for dissolving the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) and the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Swaziland (ATUSWA) and urged the Government to revoke this decision, and to start engaging in a genuine dialogue with unions about legislative reforms that will ensure that workers’ rights are respected in line with Swaziland’s international obligations without any further delay.
The Conference underlined the importance of peace and stability in the region and called on all African governments to ensure the existence of peace and stability in the region. Delegates agreed that Ebola is also posing a real threat to human life and economic stability in West Africa, which requires an international response to eradicate.
|Worker representatives made a rare show of protest against swaziland at the ILO in June.|
October 17, 2014 – Swazi Minister of Labour and Social Security, Winnie Magagula, has announced a Cabinet resolution deciding that, pending legal reforms, all federations should stop operating immediately. All trade union and employer federations will be effectively banned, a clear violation of ILO Convention 87, ratified by Swaziland, guaranteeing freedom of association for workers and employers.
Federations were called upon to submit reports of their operations to date, including their prepared audited financial statements to the Commissioner of Labour. This decision affects not only TUCOSWA and ATUSWA, affiliating IndustriALL members SATU, SESMAWU and SMAWU, but also the Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of Commerce, and the Federation of the Swazi Business Community.
Tripartite bodies such as the Wages Council, Labour Advisory Board, Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission, Swaziland National Provident Fund, Training and Localization Committee and the Social Dialogue Committee will stop functioning as a result.
Article 5 of ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize recognizes the right of workers’ organizations to establish or to join federations and confederations of their own choosing.
In response to the complaint filed by TUCOSWA and the ITUC on 23 May 2012 (Case No 2949), the Committee on Freedom of Association recommended that pending legislative reforms TUCOSWA is able to effectively exercise all its trade union rights without interference or reprisal. An ILO High-Level Fact Finding Mission that visited the country in January 2014 recommended the registration of the worker and employer federations by end of April 2014.
The Swazi government has ignored the recommendations and repeated calls from the international trade union movement to respect rights guaranteed under international conventions ratified by Swaziland. Instead they have suspended workers’ right to freely associate and to carry out trade union activities completely.
IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina says:
“This decision also goes against the decision of the Industrial Court, which recognized that TUCOSWA could operate in terms of its own constitution.
“We urge you to revoke the decision to dissolve TUCOSWA and ATUSWA and to start engaging in a genuine dialogue with unions about legislative reforms that will ensure that workers’ rights are respected in line with Swaziland’s international obligations without any further delay.”
October 20, 2014 – Members of IndustriALL Global Union’s U.S. affiliate, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), have voted to accept an improved offer from Schneider Electric, ending a two-week strike.
More than 300 IAM members of Local 2069 took part in the industrial action at Schneider’s Square D facility in Peru, Indiana, which finished on 19 October.
“Our members stood strong and won improvements that they can be proud of,” said IAM Director of Collective Bargaining Tom O’Heron. “Schneider Electric is an extremely profitable company and our members, who make those profits possible, fought for their rightful share of the company’s success.”
Local 2069 members won improvements in key areas of the new three-year contract. In addition to a signing bonus of $1,600, there are general wage increases of 3 percent in year one, 2 percent in year two and 2 percent in year three. IAM negotiators also addressed members’ concerns that the gap between lower and higher-paid workers was growing too wide.
Although the new pact freezes the traditional Defined Benefit Pension as of December 31, 2015, IAM negotiators achieved company contributions in the transition to a Defined Contribution plan that are higher than the company originally proposed.
“Both local businesses and other local area unions gave our members tremendous support,” said O’Heron. “Local 2069’s Bargaining Committee also did a great job keeping our members and the community informed throughout the entire process. Together, it made a big difference and we are grateful that it helped lead to an agreement.”
European multinational, Schneider Electric, employs 130,000 people in over 100 countries.
IndustriALL Global Union’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:
“This is a considerable victory for IAM after well-supported industrial action by union members. Schneider was ultimately forced to return to the bargaining table after significant pressure from IAM and the Local.”
The IAM is one of North America’s largest industrial trade unions representing nearly 600,000 active and retired members.
|A worker from Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi mine receives information about the global day of action against the company.|
October 21, 2014 – Leaders of IndustriALL Global Union’s Rio Tinto Network will gather in Mongolia on 22 October to plan the next moves in the worldwide campaign to improve worker rights at the mining giant.
The meeting, in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, will bring together IndustriALL affiliates from around the world. It follows a two-day conference in the city where unions, government officials and civil society groups gathered to discuss the labour agenda for socially sustainable mining in the global south.
The Network is focusing support in Mongolia, where Rio Tinto has invested billions and mine workers are particularly vulnerable.
The company has a US $6 billion investment in the vast Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in the Gobi Desert. Workers there are represented by IndustriALL affiliate the Federation of Energy, Geology and Mining Workers’ Trade Unions of Mongolia (MEGM).
Last year, Rio Tinto was condemned by the Supreme Court in Mongolia for wage discrimination against Mongolian nationals and unfair dismissal. The company also faced international criticism for sacking thousands of workers in the country without adequate consultation.
Rio Tinto’s blind pursuit of profit at any cost in Mongolia has caused disputes with unions as well as environmental, community and indigenous groups.
Together with its mining trade union affiliates, IndustriALL Global Union has an ongoing campaign calling for an end to bad corporate behaviour at the expense of workers at Rio Tinto operations around the world.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says that with the campaign, IndustriALL Global Union aims to build union power at Rio Tinto plants around the world, uniting workers in the struggle for decent work:
“Rio Tinto has extensive experience in causing one conflict after another with trade unions, indigenous organizations, environmental groups and other key community stakeholders. Unions and civil society are coming together in an unprecedented way to push back against Rio Tinto for the benefit of workers, the environment and communities.”
“For far too long, Rio Tinto has systematically put profits before people, sometimes with fatal consequences like the recent deaths at the Grasberg mine in Papua New Guinea. Workers are saying enough is enough,” says Kemal Özkan.
The Network meeting follows a global day of protests on 7 October as as part of IndustriALL’s campaign to demand a new era at Rio Tinto.
In a coordinated day of defiance workers from Rio Tinto sites in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America demanded safer workplaces, secure jobs and respect for workers’ rights. Events included rallies, stop work meetings and other worksite actions.
The 7 October action against Rio Tinto coincided with the World Day for Decent Work, when unions mobilize against precarious work – jobs that are temporary, casual, contracted-out and often low-wage, low-benefit, unsafe and insecure.
Learn more about Rio Tinto’s history of conflict at http://www.industriall-union.org/riotinto
October 17, 2014 – On 11 October 2009, 44,000 employees of the state-owned utility company, Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC), supplier of electricity to the central regions of Mexico, were literally thrown out on to the streets after a presidential decree issued by then President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa shut down the company.
The Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME) decided to undertake a legal and peaceful fight back through the courts. At a mass meeting held a few days later, the union’s most important decision-making body rejected the government’s meagre and erroneously calculated offer of redundancy pay. Instead, workers chose the path of RESISTANCE.
The union has since done everything possible to fight back – organising marches, meetings, hunger strikes, campaigns for the release of political prisoners, negotiations and forums.
At a forum organised by the SME to commemorate five years of struggle, representatives of many organisations reiterated their support for the union and later joined a march to the main square of Mexico City. During the march, the General Secretary, Martín Esparza Flores, joined other members of the national executive in carrying a banner with the slogan “They did not see us born, THEY WILL NEVER SEE US DIE”. At the forum, a letter of support from Jyrki Raina was read out and IndustriALL placards with the slogan AGAINST PRECARIOUS WORK were displayed.
At the forum Flores added that, five years after the illegal decree, “we are still standing, looking to the future and resisting”. The 15,000 workers who remain in the fight are hoping for agreement on a proposal to find jobs for the former LyFC employees at companies in the electricity supply sector.
As part of the commemoration of five years of struggle, Martín Esparza said: “We will continue the fight to re-establish the rule of law, which has been trampled on by multinational companies and fascist governments”.
The fight continues for the electrical workers, who held a march on 15 October to demand re-employment after five years intense social and legal battles, recognition of their labour and human rights and implementation of agreements reached with the federal government.