ITUC OnLine – April 6, 2009

Colombia: Fatally Flawed Industrial Safety at U.S. Multinational Drummond
Brussels, 6 April 2009 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has strongly condemned the situation at the opencast mine in La Loma, operated by Drummond Company, Inc. for the last 13 years. The lack of respect for workers’ lives and safety cost Dagoberto Clavijo Barranco his life, in a fatal incident described by the human resources manager of the U.S. multinational as a “traffic accident”.
The energy and mining industry union SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA (Sindicato Nacional de los Trabajadores de la Industria Minera y Energética) did not hesitate in highlighting the company’s responsibility for the accident, a clear result of inadequate industrial safety, as Clavijo Barranco had only been working at the site for 32 days, was hired through an employment agency, and had not received sufficient training in the handling of a tanker, one of the most hazardous operations at the mine.
On 2 April, the 9000 employees at the U.S. multinational’s Atlantic Coast operating site completed the third day of an all-out strike in protest at the poor occupational health and safety conditions. SINTRAMIENERGÉTICA is demanding that the management set up a joint commission to assess the risk of accidents and take preventative measures, as stipulated by national law and international regulations. The union is also demanding that Drummond pay for the deceased worker’s funeral expenses. .
The Colombian trade union centre CUT (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia) expressed its concern to the national government over the high rate of workplace accidents taking place in multinational companies. The ITUC united with its regional organisation TUCA and its affiliate CUT in condemning this lack of respect for workers’ lives and safety. “Safety at work is essential to the smooth running of any company,” said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the ITUC. “The attitude of these multinational companies and their lack of responsibility is unacceptable.”
In a letter to the Colombian authorities, the ITUC urged President Álvaro Uribe to take every step necessary to guarantee the protection of workers and the inspection of companies, to ensure their full compliance with national and international regulations on health and safety at work.

EU Core Labour Standards Report
Brussels, 6 April 2009 (ITUC OnLine):  A new report by the world’s largest trade union body, the ITUC, on core labour standards in the European Union has been issued today to coincide with the Trade Policy Review of the 27 EU member states at the WTO.  The report underlines the ratification by all 27 countries of the eight ILO fundamental conventions but notes shortcomings in the application and enforcement of core labour standards, particularly with regard to anti-unions discrimination, the right to strike and an increasingly large gender pay gap in a majority of the countries.

Despite full ratification of all eight ILO conventions there are shortcomings in both Eastern and Western EU member states. It is worryingly that anti-union behaviour, such as hostile attitudes, threats, failure to cooperate on collective bargaining and disciplinary actions against trade unionists, is growing in the private sector and among major international and national employers notwithstanding the prohibition of anti-union discrimination in most EU member states.

Furthermore, as indicated in the report, some of the older EU member states, like Belgium, Finland, France, Greece and United Kingdom, have initiated new legislative measures that severely limit the right to strike or leaving the door open for interpretation of collective action. In cross-border situations within the EU, the European Court of Justice has introduced a proportionality assessment as the over-riding criteria of legality of a collective action, which is a violation of the right to freedom of association – a deeply concerning development.

The report also refers to discrimination in employment and equal remuneration, which is still very much prevalent in many EU member states. Despite laws for equal treatment, indirect wage discrimination against women remains a serious problem, and women in Europe earn on an average 10 to 30 percent less than their male counterparts.

Finally, the reports notes with great concern that discrimination in employment, education and housing against the Roma ethnic minority still exists in many of the Eastern European member states.

To read the full report click here.