IMF NewsBriefs No. 03, March 05, 2007

On International Women’s Day, the IMF joins with an Indonesian affiliate in celebrating the outcome of a four year women’s organising project.

INDONESIA [March 05, 2007] : Increases in the number of women members, shopstewards and leaders of Serikat Pekerja Metal Indonesia (SPMI) are the result of a three-year women’s organising project.

The project, launched in 2004 after a pilot program in 2003, aimed to organise more women workers and increase their role in the SPMI.

Commenting on the project in his latest opinion column, IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi writes, “Indonesian affiliate SPMI has demonstrated that when it comes to changing its structures and culture to improve representation of women, it can be done.”

Despite rapid turnover of women workers due to widespread precarious employment conditions, SPMI managed to increase the number of women members from 29,780 in 2003 to 42,272 in 2006 by organising new plants and enlisting others into the union.

SPMI also focused on changing its union structures to enable increased participation of women. At its Congress in December 2006, SPMI adopted rule changes for a minimum of 30 per cent representation of women at all levels and elected women onto its National Board for the first time. The number of women leaders at the branch level also increased from 18 per cent in 2003 (8 out of 43) to 25 per cent in 2006 (27 out of 108). In addition, SPMI established a Women’s Directorate to cater for the needs of women members.

“Incorporating more women into union structures is essential if unions are to be able to present themselves as organisations worth joining to a female workforce,” writes Malentacchi.

“This International Women’s Day, I put the challenge to all IMF unions to look critically at their structures and organising methods and identify the changes that must be made to give a voice to women workers.”

This IMF project was funded by the Swedish trade union centre LO-TCO and supported by IMF affiliates Sif and IF Metall.

Click here for a full copy of Marcello Malentacchi’s opinion on International Women’s Day (in English).

Delphi announces plans to shut Cadiz operation.

SPAIN [March 01, 2007]: US-based auto parts maker Delphi Corporation has announced plans to close the Puerto Real plant in Cádiz, Spain. This would directly imperil the jobs of 1,600 workers and indirectly impact many more jobs in the Andalucía region.

The company made a unilateral decision without information or consultation to the workers and their union representatives. Delphi workers have staged a sit-in today to protest the company’s move and city residents have planned demonstrations in support of the workers.

Last year, Delphi made a commitment to keep the plant operating at least through 2010. The European Metalworkers Federation highlights that between 1986 and 2005, Delphi accepted more than €60 million in funding for investment in the Cádiz plant from the region of Andalusia, the Spanish government and the European Union.

The news shocked many Delphi employees, while other workers in the plant reportedly have complained that management had already transferred machinery to a factory in Poland.

Delphi employs 4,000 people in six factories in the Spanish cities of Pamplona and Tarazona, and the eastern city of Barcelona. The plant produces steering, suspension and bearings.

Parent company Grupo Mexico objects to labour contract, depsite workers and local Asarco management in the U.S. supporting the deal.

USA [February 26, 2007]: More than 1,600 Asarco workers at five plants in Texas and Arizona voted in the first week of February to ratify a contract with the copper mining company.

The contract is the result of two and a half years of national and international trade union action, including cross-borders support from the Mexican miners’ union (SNTMMSRM) against Grupo Mexico, the parent company of Asarco.

The deal, supported by Asarco’s current management, awaits approval of the U.S. court in Asarco’s bankruptcy case. However Grupo Mexico, threatening to scuttle the deal, has filed an objection with the court, which will be heard on February 28.

Asarco went for bankruptcy protection in August 2005. Since this time copper prices have risen to historic highs and Asarco has continued to work towards reorganisation.

If approved by the bankruptcy court, the agreement is retroactive to January 1, 2007 and expires on June 30, 2010. Highlights include:

  • A single master agreement, replacing seven separate contracts with varying language and expiration dates,
  • A (US)$3,000 signing bonus and substantial wage and benefit improvements,
  • Restoration of health care benefits for retirees to previously negotiated levels,
  • Stronger corporate protections against the sale of the company or plants, and
  • Agreement on the company staying neutral in future organising campaigns.

“Our new labor agreement is a fair and just contract that serves both the company and its workers well,” said Terry Bonds, director of United Steelworkers District 12, who led the negotiations for trade union members.

Asarco employees covered by the agreement are members of the United Steelworkers, IBEW, Machinists, Boilermakers, Teamsters, Operating Engineers, Millwrights and Pipefitters.

IMF calls for a focus on assessing the expected impact of trade liberalisation on jobs following the release of a WTO-ILO study on trade and employment.

GENEVA [February 22, 2007]: A report on a joint study on trade and employment by the World Trade Organisation and the International Labour Office was presented in Geneva on February 19.

Speaking after the presentation, IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi welcomed the closer cooperation between the ILO and the WTO, but given some shortcomings in the study, also called for transparent and more systematic inter-agency collaboration.

The study, titled “Trade and Employment. Challenges for policy research”, examines the relationship between trade liberalisation and jobs. As indicated in an ITUC press release, the study “points the finger at many of the major problems faced by workers and their trade unions,” but neglects to tackle other problems such as the impact of trade on women workers and workers in many of the world’s 5,000 export processing zones where unions are effectively outlawed.

“The presentation of the report has left us with the impression of an approach focusing on measures to ensure protection of workers against the bad impact of trade liberalisation, rather than on the search for development-oriented trade policies based on the creation of quality employment,” writes Marcello Malentacchi in his latest opinion column.

“The IMF has been among the first in the trade union movement demanding that a thorough assessment of expected employment repercussions should be the pre-condition for any trade liberalisation agreements.

“We have been and continue to be very critical of the powerful international institutions of trade and finance agreeing on policy independently from, if not in contrast with, those dealing with social and labour policies. Therefore we can only welcome this example of closer cooperation between ILO and WTO Secretariats.

“This however needs to be further developed and touch aspects that are relevant for policy making, moving from a somehow “neutral” domain of academic research to the more challenging identification of procedures and indicators for impact assessment, in particular on employment and more generally on development repercussions,” he writes.

Click here to view a full copy of Marcello Malentacchi’s opinion on the release of this study.

The ITUC press release on the study can be seen here.  

A copy of the WTO-ILO presentation on the study can be found here.

A copy of the study itself can be found at this web address

IMF delegation meets with Pasta de Conchos widows, SNTMMSRM leadership and Mexico’s Labour Minister

MEXICO [February 22, 2007]: Members of the USW from Canada and the United States, led by the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) working with a representative from the AFL-CIO, headed to the site of the Pasta de Conchos mine, February 19, to extend their condolences to the families and comrades of the 65 miners who died in an explosion there one year ago. Over 400 people crowded into a Mexican Miners’ Union (SNTMMSRM) labour hall, near the Pasta de Conchos mine, which was guarded heavily with local and national security.

“Lucharemos de norte a sur y de este a oeste, cueste lo que cueste,” men shouted shoulder-to-shoulder with fists raised in the air. “From North to South to East to West, we will fight no matter what the cost.”

IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi shouted over the crowd, “Internationally speaking, you are not alone. We are trying to do everything we can to help rescue your loved ones, to investigate what went wrong and to help prevent tragedies like this in the future.”

“We cannot let anyone forget what happened here a year ago, these types of accidents are completely foreseeable and avoidable.”

The international delegation took the message of the widows and miners of Pasta de Conchos to the new Labour Minister, Javier Lozano Alarcón, to discuss the countries growing labour unrest and the government’s brut force in labour affairs.

Specifically, the delegation addressed:

  • Recovery of the victims. Bringing in specialized recovery units from around the world to bring the bodies back to their families.
  • An investigation into what led up to the explosion and post-blast problems, conducted by the ILO.
  • All union affairs must be dealt with through the democratic processes of the membership. This is non-negotiable.

Labour Minister Javier Lozano Alarcón assured the delegation that he would go to all lengths to retrieve the bodies of those killed in the Pasta de Conchos explosion and that he agreed to work with the ILO on an investigation and would do what he could to encourage the company to comply as well.

The IMF, which represents 25 million workers globally, has filed a complaint with the ILO against the Mexican government citing violations of ILO convention 87. For more information about IMF’s work with the SNTMMSRM, click here.

Unions vow to fight for members following the Chrysler restructuring announcement.

NORTH AMERICA [February 19, 2007]: The Chrysler Group, the U.S.-based division of the DaimlerChrysler Corporation, announced on February 14, it would cut 13,000 jobs or 16 per cent of its workforce in North America.

Speaking about the cuts, UAW president Ron Gettlefinger said, “[The] action by DC is devastating news for the thousands of workers, their families and their communities. While Chrysler Group’s recent losses are not the fault of UAW members, they will suffer because of the reductions announced.”

In a joint declaration from the UAW, CAW and the IG Metall Employee Representatives on the DC Supervisory Board, the unions demanded a strategy of sustainable growth that emphasizes job security from the company.

The unions also demanded that, “the staff reductions be carried out with a socially responsible attrition program that respects the collective agreements and takes into consideration the needs of workers and their families.”

Employee representatives on the Supervisory Board of DC also stated that they have approved the necessary financing to support a socially responsible attrition program.

IMF invites communications officers to Geneva, June 20-21.

GENEVA [February 15, 2007]  : An invitation to participate in the 14th IMF Communicators’ Forum on June 20 and 21 has been issued to all affiliates. The meeting will be held at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The central theme of the two-day meeting will focus on how communications work can assist unions in achieving their industrial and political goals and look at how unions are influencing public opinion in their campaigns for political change and trade union gains.

Subjects for discussion will include:

  • Strategic Communications
  • International Solidarity Campaigns
  • Creative Media
  • Labour publications

In addition to our discussions, the IMF will hold a Night of Labour Film Shorts, presenting affiliate work as well as a few award-winning labour films. At the meeting, we will announce details of a digital photography exhibition to be held at the IMF Central Committee in November where we hope to showcase work submitted by IMF affiliates.

Affiliates are asked to nominate your director of communications, editor, journalist and/or press officer for this meeting. The basic working language for the forum will be English, but interpretation will be provided for Spanish speakers.

Applications to attend the Communicators’ Forum is available on the IMF website.

This form and supporting information must be completed and returned to the IMF by April 16, 2007. For further information, please contact Kristyne Peter, IMF Communications Officer.

Russian autoworkers press for better wages and working conditions.

RUSSIA [February 15, 2007]: Production at the Ford Vsevolzhsk plant outside of St. Petersburg came to a stop for 24 hours as about 1,500 workers downed tools in an effort to improve their wages and conditions and ensure full respect for their workplace and trade union rights.

Members of the local union of Avtostroyprof (ASPR) occupied the Ford assembly plant in a sit-in strike that lasted through the day and into the night on February 14. The union, which has been struggling to establish a proper collective bargaining process with the company, is demanding that Ford raise wages and improve conditions, including health and safety protections and adjustments on working time.

The strikers resumed work at midnight, but the union has cautioned that more strikes could take place. Negotiations are still underway. Messages of solidarity have been expressed by a number of IMF affiliates around the world.

The average monthly salary for Ford Vsevolzhsk workers is between 16,000 and 19,000 rubbles (US $600 to $720). After a long struggle in 2005, during which workers undertook a series of concerted actions, the local union and company negotiated a pay increase of between 14.25 and 17.5 percent. Thereafter, Ford began to increase production, putting added strains on the workforce.

The Ford Focus model produced in Vsevolzhsk is the country’s most popular car. The plant currently assembles about 300 units per day.

The ASPR is an affiliate of the All-Russian Confederation of Labour (VKT), which in turn is an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

UPDATE:  On March 1, 2007, ASPR and Ford announced that they had reached an agreement on a 14 to 20 percent rise in pay and other financial and social improvements which would come into effect immediately and be valid for a year.

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