IMF NewsBriefs No. 04, March 23, 2007

IMF NewsBriefs No. 04, March 23, 2007

A new cancer prevention guide, reveals that over 600,000 deaths a year – one death every 52 seconds – are caused by occupational cancer, making up almost one-third of all work-related deaths.

GLOBAL [March 23, 2007]: A worldwide epidemic of occupational cancer is claiming at least one life every 52 seconds, but this tragedy is being ignored by both official regulators and employers.

This stark warning comes from a global union coalition, which this week launched stage one of a “zero cancer” campaign to tackle what it says is the No.1 workplace killer worldwide.

Marcello Malentacchi, General Secretary of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, says: “Occupational cancer is the most common work-related cause of death, ahead of other work-related diseases and accidents, but it is not taken seriously by regulators or employers.”

Preventing occupational cancer, the most common work-related cause of death, is the subject of the new guide, published today. Occupational Cancer/Zero Cancer: A union guide to prevention addresses the growing epidemic of occupational cancer and outlines steps unions can take to protect workers in the workplace. The guide was produced as part of the first ever international zero occupational cancer campaign, involving 11 global trade union organisations together representing over 300 million members in more than 150 countries.

“Despite occupational cancer being the single largest cause of work-related deaths, the risks have been downplayed by governments, health and safety enforcement agencies and employers. The end result has been a wholly preventable epidemic of cancers,” says IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi.

“This epidemic has to stop. Trade unions in hundreds of countries will be joining the campaign. We’ll be calling for widespread workplace mapping, inquiries and surveys, and a big drive to get rid of the top killers, such a achieving a global ban on asbestos,” adds Malentacchi.

IMF published the guide with the support of the International Trade Union Confederation the other global union federations: BWI, EI, ICEM, IFJ, ITGLWF, ITF, IUF, PSI and UNI.

Copies of the guide are being sent to IMF affiliates along with a zero cancer campaign poster, both available for download on the IMF website in English. The guide will also shortly be available in French, Spanish and Russian, in print and as a pdf on the IMF website at:

Spotlight on precarious work and metalworker news from around the world.

GENEVA [March 23, 2007]: In recognition of International Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28, the latest issue of Metal World features a report on occupational cancer – the biggest cause of work-related deaths, claiming one life every 52 seconds.

The issue discusses plans for launching the Zero Cancer campaign, in an effort to address the growing epidemic of occupational cancer and outline steps unions can take to protect workers in the workplace. A campaign poster and new IMF publication, Occupational Cancer/Zero Cancer: A union guide to prevention, will be sent to affiliates and is available in English (French, Spanish, Russian editions to follow) on the IMF website at:

Metal World’s SPOTLIGHT focuses on precarious work. The article discusses how workers in precarious jobs are often not covered by labour law and social security protections. The piece poses key questions for affiliates on the issue, which will be the focus of the IMF Central Committee in November.

Three new IMF publications are reviewed in this issue, including the latest editions of the Auto Report and the International Purchasing Power Survey. You can find copies of these and all IMF publications at:

The magazine will soon be getting a new look. Please participate in the IMF Metal World survey. Click here or visit:

Metal World is published four times a year and is available free of charge. To be added to the Metal World mailing list, email: Metal World is also available on the IMF website for download.

USW, CNM-CUT and other unions outline common goals for CVRD workers.

CANADA [March 22, 2007]: Union leadership from Canada, Brazil, Mozambique and New Caledonia met in Sudbury, Ontario and announced on March 20 the development of a new global union accord created to advance the interests of workers at Companhie Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD).

Unions representing CVRD employees in Norway and Australia have endorsed the accord.

The United Steelworkers in Canada represent about 5,000 CVRD Inco employees. Brazilian unions at the Sudbury conference, including the Confederação Nacional dos Metalúrgicos (CNM-CUT), represent close to 25,000 CVRD workers at the company’s mines, rail operations, ports, offices, chemical plants, energy operations and steel mills in Brazil. USW and CNM-CUT are affiliated to the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), a global union federation representing more than 25 million workers worldwide.

“This accord underscore the importance of international cooperation and strategic collaboration,” said IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi adding, “workers’ rights, safe workplaces and healthy communities are common issues that reach far beyond a nation’s border.”

The Brazil-based CVRD is an international producer of nickel, iron ore and coal.

According to a statement released by the USW, the “Sudbury Unity Accord” outlines five shared goals:

  • Increasingly stronger collective agreements that bring high wages, improved retirement incomes and benefits, safe workplaces and a meaningful voice in the corporate decisions that affect workers’ lives;

  • Capital expenditures by CVRD in our communities to support new facilities, exploration, the highest environmental standards and new developments;

  • Safe and healthy workplaces for our members and environmentally sustainable operations, which are healthy and safe for our families and communities;

  • Respect for the human rights of communities affected by corporate operations, and full recognition of the right for unions to represent the collective interests of workers;

  • Full access to information about corporate acquisitions, mergers or other reorganizations that affect our members in any way;

  • Elimination of corporate outsourcing/contracting out.

Historical wage and pension raises for 440,000 metalworkers.

SWEDEN [March 21, 2007]: Industrifacket Metall (IF Metall) representing 440,000 members within the Swedish industry has reached a preliminary agreement for new national collective agreements.

Five different branches are covered, including the engineering industry where IF Metall is organizing approximately 170,000 members and is the union’s biggest sector.

The agreement will give members a total increases of 10.2 per cent over three years, the highest increase since the joint industrial agreement started 10 years ago. The agreement period starts on April 1, 2007 and expires on March 31, 2010.

Worker gains include:

  • A total real wage increase of 9.6 per cent, the allocation is varied between the different branch agreements.

  • An increase in the lowest wage level, one of IF Metalls’ principle issues. The difference between the lowest wage and the average pay will be decreased during the contract period.

  • During the agreement period, pension benefits will be increased, with a total of a 0.6 per cent rise. The increase will not only raise the level of pension benefits, but will also eliminate different pension levels between blue collar and white-collar workers.

IF Metall also succeeded in resisting employer attempts to include more flexibility on working hours in the new agreement.

Mass protests scheduled on March 16 in Paris and Hamburg.

EUROPE [March 15, 2007]: Airbus unions announced that workers in France, Germany and Spain would demonstrate Friday to protest the aircraft maker’s plans to cut 10,000 jobs and spin off or close six European plants. Affiliates of the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) have pledged solidarity.

Preparations for mass demonstrations on March 16 are underway, with 20,000 expected to protest in front of Airbus parent company, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) headquarters in Paris, France. Another 20,000 are expected to demonstrate in Hamburg, Germany, where IMF president and president of IG Metall, Jürgen Peters, will address the crowd.

On Friday, French unions will stop work at all Airbus production sites, and their German counterparts will stop work at seven Airbus plants. In Spain, 9,000 Airbus workers at three factories and other sites owned by EADS will down tools for an hour. Supplier companies in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands will support the European action by taking part in activities in neighbouring countries.

In a statement released by the European Metalworkers’ Federation, workers and their unions are demanding that EADS stops its “Power 8” restructuring plan and are calling for:

  • NO to the selling off of sites
  • NO to plant closures
  • NO to job cuts
  • NO to the only justification being to cut costs
  • YES to an industrial plan geared to the future based on innovation and know-how development
  • YES to a European industrial policy for the aerospace sector, which gives support to the efforts in R&D that, are essential for the development of this industry.

EADS contends that the mass job cuts are necessary to counteract financial losses caused by production delays of the A380 superjumbo and the currency effects of an extremely strong Euro. Last week it was exposed that production delays of the Airbus A380 was partly due to the outsourcing of cable works.

At an meeting in Brazil on March 12-14, metalworkers and union leaders from the aerospace industry in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Spain, declared their “total support and solidarity to the European workers at EADS-Airbus…”

A joint solidarity statement released by the unions’ leadership said that unions will demonstrate with the workers at Embraer, of which EADS is a minor stakeholder, on the 16th in São José dos Campos, Brazil.

“As workers, we cannot accept that a company such as Airbus is solely stock market oriented and does not worry about the impacts such dismissals shall have on the communities where it’s settled,” the statement said.

UPDATE A delegation of around 60 from the Belgian union, FTGB, will demonstrate on Friday in Porte d’Auteuil, France, to protest against the EADS Power 8 plan. Click here to read Solidarity statement.

International solidarity plays role in negotiations.

USA [March 15, 2007]: An agreement between the United Steelworkers (USW) and Gerdau Ameristeel, a U.S. subsidiary of Brazilian steelmaking giant Gerdau, was ratified by workers at three former North Star Steel plants.

Worker gains include:

  • A pay rise of more than $4 an hour
  • Improvements in benefits and work rules
  • Financial resources for employee retirement insurance

The agreements, which were reached at locations in Beaumont, Texas; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Wilton, Iowa, come after a long and fierce struggle between USW and the company. The new contracts are effective March, 2007, and run through March 2010, July 2010 and September 2010, respectively.

Workers have been fighting for a contract since September 2004 when Gerdau Group acquired North Star Steel from Cargill. The International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) and their affiliates that represent Gerdau workers around the world have actively supported the USW.

Last May, steelworkers from Chile, Brazil, Canada and the U.S. protested at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting held in Toronto calling on Gerdau to negotiate fair contracts and stop its union busting.

More recently, members of Brazil’s two Metalworkers’ Confederations, CNM-CUT and CNTM Força Sindical, have leafleted outside Gerdau plants in Brazil in solidarity with steelworkers in the U.S. The USW and their Brazilian counterparts have worked closely throughout negotiations, sharing and exchanging information in an effort to seal an agreement.

“Our members showed their strength and resolve for two long years. However, global solidarity played an equal role in achieving a respectable and fair agreement,” said USW president Leo Gerard. “Gerdau could not hide and they could not run because our global partners were ever present, particularly, our partners in Brazil.”

USW is currently in contract negotiations with Gerdau Ameristeel at plants in Whitby, Ontario; Joliet, Illinois; Sand Springs, Okalahoma; and Calvert City, Kentucky.

Location of new industrial center in India threatens agricultural community.

 ITALY/INDIA [March 13, 2007]: Italian affiliates of the International Metalworkers’ Federation are urging FIAT for clarification about the establishment of a new production unit in India.

“According to press reports, the Fiat Group is involved in the setting up of a new Tata Motors plant at Singur in the Indian state of West Bengala for the production of a low cost car,” read a joint statement from the Italian unions.

“International and Indian labour groups have voiced concern that such an industrial establishment would have a devastating impact on the fertile agricultural area, which is home to about 22,000 inhabitants, many of whom would receive no indemnity at all for the expropriation of their land.

“The area involved has in recent months been the site of protest demonstrations and, unfortunately, repressive measures taken against the farmers including the arrests of trade union leaders.

“The Fim, Fiom and Uilm National Secretariats in Italy are requesting that clarification be given on any participation of the Fiat Group in this initiative. They are demanding that FIAT, together with Tata Motors, take initiatives so to ensure that the government of West Bengala sets aside a location other than Singur in order to make the necessary industrial development possible while safeguarding the living conditions of the agricultural community.”

Zimbabwean government cracks down on labour as general strike looms.

ZIMBABWE [March 13, 2007]: “These are the last kicks of a dying horse,” said Japhat Moyo, general secretary of the National Engineering Workers’ Union (NEWU), from an undisclosed location this morning. “We have a very scared government that doesn’t know if it will be in power tomorrow. We expect it to get worse,” Moyo said, referring to the massive government attack on trade unionists in recent weeks.

On the morning of March 13, two days after the government opened fire on an unarmed group of people at a Save Zimbabwe Campaign rally, the office of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) was raided by the police. Video tapes and documents were seized, including posters and materials in preparation for next month’s general strike scheduled for April 3 and 4.

Documentation about the event, including names of organizers and supporters has forced many labour leaders and union members to go into hiding to avoid arrest, or worse. In the last month there have been a number of reports about unionists severely beaten, arrested and tortured. The most recent arrest was that of ZCTU financial director, Galileo Chirebvu, while a NEWU staff member has been missing since Sunday.

The situation in Zimbabwe has become catastrophic. Inflation has risen to a world record of 1600 per cent and people face daily shortages of the most basic food staples, in addition to daily electricity outages and ongoing petrol shortages. The scheduled strike, coordinated by the ZCTU, is to protest the government’s “failure to address the economic meltdown” in the country.

NEWU is an affiliate of the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), a federation of national unions, representing 25 million workers from 100 countries in the metal industry. In a letter sent to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi blasted Mugabe and condemned the attacks.

“Given the news of these recent attacks against the ZCTU and NEWU, I am gravely concerned for the safety and protection of our union brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. In the strongest terms, I urge you to stop this attack on basic workers’ freedoms,” Malentacchi said.

“Your government’s blatant disregard for internationally recognized labour rights and willingness to shoot and kill those exercising those rights, is horrific. The IMF will use all international channels available to show our solidarity with the women and men of Zimbabwe who are courageously fighting for basic needs and worker protections.”

The Zimbabwean government has banned all rallies and public demonstrations in major cities. Still, preparations for the general strike are moving forward. “We are not going to stop fighting,” said Moyo, who is also deputy general secretary of ZCTU. “The struggle is moving ahead.”

New union will represent more than two million workers in the UK and Ireland.

UK/IRELAND [March 09, 2007] : After two years of discussion and planning, members of Amicus and the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) in the UK and Ireland voted to merge on March 8, creating a union more than two million strong.

The merger will take effect on May 1, 2007.

Eighty-six per cent of TGWU members and 70 per cent of Amicus rank-and-file voted in favour of the merger. The new union will make up 30 per cent of the UK’s Trade Union Congress.

Amicus leader Derek Simpson and TGWU head Tony Woodley will serve as joint general secretaries until 2010, when a sole general secretary will be elected by the membership. Full intergration of the two unions is expected to be completed by November 2008.

Both Amicus and the TGWU are affiliates of the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF).

Outsourcing leads to Airbus losses.

EUROPE [March 06, 2007]: Marcello Malentacchi, general secretary of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, denounced the Power 8 – the restructuring and cost saving program of EADS – as “genuflection” before the analysts. “It’s difficult to understand the logic of EADS management. How can Airbus regain its market shares and deliver aircraft on time with a workforce reduced by 10,000 and a plan to outsource more work to private companies?” he asked.

Malentacchi was referring to Airbus’ failure to deliver the A380 superjumbo, which has caused a $6.6 billion USD loss in expected earnings at EADS. Sources close to the issue have confirmed that outsourced cable works are one of the key reasons for the production delays of the A380.

“It’s clear that management’s decision to outsource work has had a devastating impact on Airbus. The company should not lose control of its ability to produce quality products on time by outsourcing more jobs to private companies,” Malentacchi said. “To propose to continue in that direction is asinine.”

EADS management said that the Europe-wide cuts are in large part due to the A380 delays.

Malentacchi urged EADS to re-think its Power 8 proposal to ensure that Airbus positions itself as a technological leader, able to regain the confidence of its clients and meet its responsibility towards its workforce and society.

French Airbus workers went on strike today over the job cuts. Of the proposed 10,000 jobs axed, almost half of them are projected to be in France.

Airbus currently employees about 56,000 workers.