IMF NewsBriefs No. 13/2006

IMF announces DAY of ACTION on September 12

GLOBAL [August 16, 2006]: The International Metalworkers’ Federation has coordinated a DAY of ACTION on September 12 calling on all affiliates to urge the Japanese government to use its influence in bringing a just resolution to the troubling situation at Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation.

The IMF Executive Committee in May 2006 supported the launch of a campaign for the reinstatement of workers unjustly dismissed at Toyota Philippines. The company has repeatedly refused to reinstate 136 illegally dismissed workers or recognise the Toyota Motor Philippine Corporation Workers Association (TMPCWA) as the sole bargaining agent.

Last month, IMF affiliates representing Toyota workers conducted solidarity actions at Toyota sites in South Africa, Brazil, the UK, Australia and Thailand. Other affiliates have collected funds for the TMPCWA and sent letters of protest to Toyota management.

On a broader scale, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) which represents 155 million workers in 156 countries, has released a damaging report on labour rights abuses in the Philippines. In their 2006 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, the report specifically refers to the Toyota Motor Philippines dispute as an example of foreign companies exploiting Philippine labour laws to break unions and trample workers’ rights.

For more information and other materials about the situation at Toyota Philippines click here to go the IMF website.

Total Corrosion Controls is suing 40 of its employees for AUD$28,600 (US$21,800) each and the AMWU for at least AUD$220,000 (US$168,000) for a union meeting that ran 15 minutes too long.

AUSTRALIA [August 22, 2006] : Employers, eager to take advantage of new anti-union laws introduced by the Howard government, are now threatening workers against taking industrial action by suing individual employees and their unions.

While companies see this as an advantage to increase profits, workers’ livelihoods, their homes, and their family’s welfare is on the line.

Garry Graham has a family of four and is one of 40 Total Corrosion Controls (TCC) employees who will appear in court to defend himself against the lawsuit totalling AUD$28,600 (US$21,800). He is worried about the impact of this court decision on his family’s future.

“We’re doing it fairly tough as it is with the rising costs of fuel and interest rates, so getting stung for that much money would really put us in a hole,” Garry told reporters.

Western Australia-based TCC is one of the contractors engaged by Alcoa to erect scaffolding. Their lawsuit against employees and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) is the first case by a company to use the penal provisions contained in the Workplace Relations and Buildings Industry Improvements Act.

The company maintains that the meeting went overtime and therefore constitutes an illegal industrial action. The company is prosecuting the workers and the union for tens of thousands of dollars. AMWU WA secretary Jock Ferguson says the workers have done nothing wrong.

“It is an absolutely aggressive attack on the legitimacy of the union movement and we are going to fight this vigorously,” Ferguson said.

10,000 autoworkers’ jobs will be affected if car manufacturing industry cannot reach agreement.

AUSTRALIA [August 21, 2006]:  On Friday, August 18, 189 workers were stood down without pay as talks for a rescue package for Ajax Engineers Fasteners, a components supplier to major car makers throughout Australia, seemed to reach an impasse.

Ajax workers occupied the plant over the weekend to keep the equipment running and the furnaces burning in hopes of a last minute breakthrough.

Australian Workers’ Union Victorian secretary Cesar Melhem said workers were told early today that weekend talks had failed, and the furnaces were shut down. “The workers are extremely disappointed, “Melhem said.

“This is a big kick in the guts because the workers have done everything right. They stood by without pay to keep the equipment and furnaces ready to start production straight away, but the agreement had not been forthcoming.”

Workers, union officials and company executives had hoped to agree on a rescue package that would allow Ajax to continue operating for the next six-months until a buyer could be found, however union officials claim the car companies are dragging their feet, and thus costing workers their jobs. The carmakers have agreed to underwrite the business until a buyer is found and to secure workers entitlements but remain at a standstill on division of costs.

Ajax Engineered Fasteners is a division of Global Engineered Fasteners (GEF) and produces specialised nuts and bolts that are used in more than 200 auto parts needed by car makers.

At stake beyond the 189 Ajax jobs already on stand down are 4,000 jobs at Holden’s South Australian plant. It has also been reported that Ford is considering standing down 5,000 workers across its factories in Victoria and 3,500 jobs at Toyota’s Melbourne plant are also possibly at risk.

“The Ajax workers and their unions will continue our fight for a fair go, these workers have been penalised for the inaction of the giant car companies and it stinks,” Melhem said.

TMPCWA members beaten and shot at while protesting in front of the Department of Labour and Employment.

PHILIPPINES [August 16, 2006]:  The International Metalworkers’ Federation has learned that at least 21 members of the Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers Association (TMPCWA) were arrested and are currently being detained by authorities following a demonstration in front of the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE).

What started as a peaceful action turned bloody as DOLE security attacked TMPCWA demonstrators.

Workers report that at 9:30 am, on August 16, a group of about 21 went to the DOLE to update their TMPWCA case. Armed DOLE security attempted to keep the group from entering, “…but some of TMPCWA members pushed through to the inside of the buildings. Five gunshots echoed while the securities of the buildings tried to hold us back. Some of the members suffered serious injuries from the bat of the securities namely Angelo Gavarra, Rommel Mariano, Manolito Gertes, Vergilio Colandog,” said a TMPCWA member in an emailed update on the situation.

The police have charged TMPCWA members with damage to properties, assault, and inciting to sedition. Currently, all 21 workers in question are still being held at the Western Police District Headquarters in Manila.

The IMF sent a letter to the president of the Philippines expressing its deep concern for the health and safety of TMPCWA workers and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of those arrested.

The TMPCWA action was an effort to protest the DOLE’s recent decision to declare the Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Labour Organisation (TMPCLO), a company-backed union, exclusive bargaining rights at Toyota Philippines Motor Corporation.

The TMPCWA have been struggling for union recognition at Toyota Philippines and fighting for the reinstatement of 136 workers who were illegally fired following a worker demonstration.

The IMF and its affiliates have maintained an ongoing campaign on behalf of worker rights for TMPCWA members. For more information about the IMF campaign click here.

Update August 18, 2006— All 21 TMPCWA members were released without charges.

In September IMF affiliates will meet to consider the future direction of International Framework Agreements.

GLOBAL [August 15, 2006]: On September 26 and 27 the IMF will be holding a conference in Frankfurt, Germany on the future direction of International Framework Agreements(IFAs).

Delegates to the IFA World Conference will be asked to consider questions such as:

  • What standard of agreement should IMF agree to sign?
  • How can we build international solidarity at the negotiation stage?
  • Should IMF target particular companies for an IFA?
  • What do we expect to gain from implementing IFAs?
  • How can we ensure that companies comply with the terms of the IFA?

International Framework Agreements are negotiated between a transnational company and the trade unions of its workforce at the global level. It is a global instrument with the purpose of ensuring fundamental workers’ rights in all of the target company’s locations as well as those of its suppliers.

The conference will make recommendations to the IMF Executive Committee and help to guide the IMF in its future work on negotiating, signing, implementing and enforcing IFAs.

A background paper recording the historical and political context in which IFAs have been negotiated and providing practical information on their usage to date has been prepared for the conference. The background paper and other conference papers are published in all IMF languages on the IMF website.

SITIAW, the union of workers employed by Volkswagen in Mexico, has organised a peaceful March to demand respect for labour rights.

MEXICO[August 15, 2006]: “We are workers, not beggars!” This was one of the slogans used by Volkswagen workers in Mexico on a march organised to demand respect for their collective agreement on Sunday 13 August.

The Independent Union of Volkswagen Workers (SITIAW) organised this peaceful march after a week of negotiations with management at the vehicle company. Its objective was to demand respect for labour rights.

Workers and their families arrived at Paseo Bravo and made their way to the town’s main square, where union leaders brought workers up to date with the negotiations.

SITIAW says it will not take strike action if management decide against changing the collective agreement. The union says it will be able to negotiate a pay rise without taking strike action if no changes are made to the agreement. José Luis Rodríguez Salazar, the union’s leader, said negotiations would resume on Monday at 15h00. He explained that negotiations are taking place on four clauses of the agreement and that the company is seeking more flexible working.

SITIAW is calling for an 8.5 per cent pay rise and refuses to accept changes to the agreement, while the company aims to change aspects that benefit workers.

Labour ministry authorizes Grupo Mexico to fire 2000 miners and cancel union contract

MEXICO[August 11, 2006]: Members from Mexico’s National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (SNTMMS) who had been on strike since March in support of disposed union leader, Napoleon Gomez, were promptly fired following a government ruling that the strike was illegal.

Grupo Mexico, the owner of La Caridad copper mine, won authorization by the Mexican federal labour board to close the mine, thus voiding collective agreements and sacking its employees.

The company has reopened the mine and plans to hire back most of its previous employees, although now without seniority rights or a union contract.

“This is outrageous,” said International Metalworkers’ Federation general secretary Marcello Malentacchi. “The Mexican government is clearly working in the interest of big business at the grave expense of its citizens and workers.”

The IMF has been an outspoken opponent of Mexico’s recent government interference in union affairs. Miners throughout the country and the region have held numerous strikes and work slowdowns in solidarity for the reinstatement of the union’s elected general secretary.

For more information about the IMF’s work in Mexico click here

While investigating the death of a peasant at the mine, police find mine security’s stash of more than 50 military guns.

PERU [August 10, 2006]: Fifty-six military guns have been found at the facilities of the security contractor at the Yanacocha mining company, in Cajamarca, Peru.

Prosecutor Alfredo Rebaza seized Kalashnikov, FAL and G-3 guns, six revolvers, six pistols and almost 2000 rounds of ammunition stored at Forza facilities at the Yanacocha mine.

The discovery took place during an investigation into the death of Isidro Llanos Chavarría, a peasant who was hit by three bullets during a confrontation between residents of Combayo and the mining company’s security personnel on Wednesday 2 August.

The reason behind the clash was that the peasants believe the mining company is contaminating local water supplies.

The prosecutor told journalists he will try to establish “whether any of the weapons were used by the person who fired the shots that killed Isidro Llanos and also investigate whether Forza and Yanacocha have official authorisation to hold long-range weapons.”

The mining company acknowledges that 47 Forza personnel were involved in the clash with the villagers, although it claims that none of them fired their weapons.

Forza’s general manager, Wilson Gómez Barrios Rincón, said that Yanacocha and his own company had not violated the law on ownership of military guns at the site. “It’s normal – they are used to guard the caches of explosives used in the mine against terrorist attacks and to guard the gold mined by Yanacocha. We are talking about stocks worth several million dollars,” he told the La Republica newspaper.

He insisted that the FAL, AKM, G-3 weapons and revolvers seized by the police were legally registered with the Control of Weapons and Munitions Department (Dirección de Control de Armas y Municiones – DISCAMEC) and gave assurances that Forza personnel only fired rubber bullets during the clash with local residents.

The trade union at Yanacocha condemned the incident, demanded an investigation and punishment of those responsible.

Imprisoned trade union leaders released and workers paid wages owed after months of struggle in the shipyards in Tuzla, Istanbul

TURKEY [August 09, 2006]: After months of struggle, including violent clashes with police and the imprisonment and release of two trade union leaders, 55 dock workers in Istanbul have finally received payment of wages owed from a shipbuilding company.

The workers’ contracts were terminated in March 2006 by Motesan, one of a group of companies owned by the Turkish company Desan. After waiting more that two months to be paid, the workers began to protest at the shipyard gates on May 23 with the support of their union Limter Is.

On May 31, the police attacked the workers, seriously injuring six and arresting 16, including Limter Is president Cem Dinç and union official Kamber Saygili, who remained in jail for 40 days. The protests continued at the shipyard, with solidarity support from other workers, unions and the IMF, until Cem and Kamber were released and the workers were paid.

Escondida workers strike in support of their rights.

CHILE [August 08, 2006]: More than 2,000 workers at the Escondida mine in Chile, the largest private producer of copper in the world, began an indefinite strike this Monday in support of a pay rise and other benefits. Striking workers in Antofagasta, capital of Chile’s second region, were joined by several union leaders in solidarity with their action. The company, owned by the Australian BHP-Billiton, indicated that around 60% of production has been affected. The union says it called the strike because of the company’s lack of interest in maintaining a dialogue.

“We couldn’t reach agreement. The company never considered our proposal for the collective agreement. Its proposals only focused on its aim of reducing monthly wages with a view to affecting bonuses. We don’t think this is in workers’ interests”, said union leader, Pedro Marín, to one radio station.

Workers are demanding a 13 per cent pay rise and a 16 million Chilean pesos (US$ 29,629) bonus because of the increase in Escondida profits caused by the high price of copper.

They are also demanding an increase of 5 per cent in the bonus paid to workers due to the inhospitable nature of the region. The mine is located 3,000 metres above sea level and 180 km to the southeast of Antofagasta. Developments are causing concern to the mining industry at the national and international levels. The industry is monitoring closely the position taken by leaders and how the company manages this dispute.