IMF NewsBriefs No. 04, March 08, 2006
This International Women’s Day, the IMF commits to fighting for improved conditions for women working in global supply chains in the electronics industry.
GENEVA [March 08, 2006]: Marking this International Women’s Day, IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi calls on unions and non-governmental organisations to combine their efforts to fight for improved conditions for women working in global supply chains in the electronics industry.
“There are, without a doubt, many barriers to organising women workers in the electronics industry,” writes Malentacchi.
“But we must not allow these obstacles to deter us from the necessary and urgent duty we have to these workers to help them improve their working lives,” he adds.
Malentacchi reports that later this year the IMF will bring together affiliates to discuss what can be done to improve conditions for women working in global supply chains in the electronics industry.
Malentacchi argues that if we are to bring real pressure on electronics companies, unions and NGOs must combine their efforts both at exposing the abuses to the public and organising workers to fight for improved working conditions.
“This International Women’s Day, let’s make that commitment,” concludes Malentacchi.
IMF calls for letters of protest following the arrest of Brother Jeon Jae Hwan, president of the Korean Metal Workers’ Federation (KMWF).
SOUTH KOREA [March 06, 2006]: Brother Jeon Jae Hwan, president of the Korean Metal Workers’ Federation (KMWF) was arrested by police on February 25 at a tollgate in Inchon where he lives. First detained in a local police office, Jeon was then transferred to the Youngdeungrpo Detention House in Seoul, where he currently awaits trial.
Jeon was arrested on the charge of breaking the law of public assembly for participating in a rally on December 17-18, 2005. The protest rally was against the proposed bill on nonregular workers, which unions argue will increase the number of working poor and deepen the social divide between the rich and the poor.
Jeon, who served as acting president of KCTU for about half year, was elected president of KMWF in April 2005.
Jeon’s arrest is seen as a crack down of KMWF as his arrest was made right before the ruling party plans to pass the non-regular workers bill.
The IMF has written to Roh Moo-hyan, the President of South Korea, calling for Jeon’s immediate release and calls on all IMF affiliates to send similar letters of protest to the South Korean President.
DELPHI DELAYS ATTEMPT TO VOID AGREEMENTS
Management backs away from threat to use bankruptcy court to void collective agreements and terminate benefit plans.
USA [March 03, 2006]: Union negotiations with Delphi continue after the company backed away from its threat to use the bankruptcy court to void collective agreements and terminate benefitplans for retired workers. CEO Steve Miller had indicated Delphi would file a court motion on February 17 unless unions met demands for deep concessions and job cuts.
The company said it would continue talks to achieve a comprehensive accord and failing that, it would move to void its labour contracts on March 31, 2006.
Responding to the postponement, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Richard Shoemaker emphasized the union has “said consistently that the only basis of finding satisfactory resolution to these matters is through the use of the collective bargaining process with Delphi, GM and the UAW at the bargaining table.”
The UAW, which represents 25,000 of Delphi’s 34,000 active union workers, said it might strike Delphi if the company filed to terminate its collective agreements in bankruptcy court. A strike would impact GM North American assembly plants in a few days.
MEXICAN GOVERNMENT INTERFERES IN UNION AFFAIRS
IMF calls for solidarity with the general secretary of the Mexican National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union after the Minister for Labour seeks his expulsion on March 1.
MEXICO [March 02, 2006]: In a flagrant act of interfering with trade union affairs, the Mexican Minister for Labour called for the expulsion of Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the general secretary of Mexican National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (SNTMMS) on March 1.
The Minister’s action came after Napoleón Gómez criticised the government and the transnational Grupo Mexico for their role in the Pasta de Conchos coal mine 8 disaster in the northern region of Coahuila state in which 65 miners died.
The Labour Ministry has since announced they no longer recognise Napoleon Gomez as the general secretary of SNTMMS identifying an alternative leadership of the union. Napoleón Gómez, who is also a member of the IMF Executive Committee, strongly opposes the Minister’s actions.
The IMF has written to the President of the Republic of Mexico calling on him to intervene in the matter and to put a stop to the Minister of Labour’s interference in the trade union’s affairs. The IMF will also file a complaint to the International Labour Organisation informing it of the Minister’s actions.
“The Minister’s campaign to threaten, defame and discredit Napoleón Gómez as the general secretary of SNTMMS must stop,” said IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi.
Solidarity Request: A copy of IMF’s protest letter is published on the IMF website in English and Spanish. The IMF calls on affiliates to show solidarity and send letters of protest to the President of the Republic of Mexico, Mr. Vicente Fox Quesada, at the following email address: email@example.com
Please send copies of the letters to: Mexican National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (SNTMMS), at: firstname.lastname@example.org
IMF Latin American and Caribbean Regional Office, at: email@example.com
PSA PEUGEOT CITROËN SIGNS IFA
Commitments beyond core labour standards and expecting suppliers to do the same are key clauses in the International Framework Agreement signed by PSA Peugeot Citroën, the IMF and the EMF on March 1.
PARIS [March 02, 2006]: PSA Peugeot Citroën joined the International Metalworkers’ Federation, the European Metalworkers’ Federation and the Liaison Committee of the European Works Council including all French affiliates, in signing an International Framework Agreement (IFA) on March 1.
The agreement commits the company to adhere to the International Labour Organisation Core Labour Standards, including clauses on freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the right to equal pay, no forced or child labour and no discrimination. The company also agrees to:
Significantly, the agreement uses strong language to describe how PSA Peugeot Citroën’s suppliers and industrial partners must also abide by the principles of the IFA to ensure a continued business relationship.
The IFA also commits PSA Peugeot Citroën and its trade union partners to consider establishing a world committee in three years time to further implement and monitor the agreement.
PSA Peugeot Citroën’s European industrial base comprises 12 production centres: six in France, two in Spain, one in the UK, one in Italy and one in the Czech Republic. The company is also a major joint venture partner in several assembly operations. Present in more than 150 countries, PSA Peugeot Citroën is focusing its international development in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and China.
The company has 207,200 employees around the world, 128,000 based in France and 79,200 in other countries.
SMER FORMS WOMEN’S SECTION
IMF’s Macedonian affiliate has created a women’s section to improve the representation of women in their union.
MACEDONIA [March 01, 2006]: Women members of the Trade Union of Metal & Energy Workers and Miners of Macedonia (SMER) celebrated the creation of a Women’s Section of the union last month.
Female representatives from all local branches of SMER met in February to establish the Section by adopting a statutory platform, appointing an executive board and electing a coordinator and deputy. All participants at the meeting expressed willingness and readiness to work for better representation of the interests of women in SMER. While considered a predominantly male union, approximately 15 per cent of SMER’s members are women.
“IMF congratulates SMER on this important and symbolic step towards putting greater emphasis on the needs of women members,” said IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi. “It is only by involving women in the decision-making structures of their unions that we will ensure that the union movement is able to address the needs of women workers, particularly in those areas of employment that have historically been male dominated.”
TRAPPED MINERS ARE DECLARED DEAD
Miners’ union says that what happened at the mine “was industrial homicide and should be investigated and denounced as such and those responsible should be punished accordingly”.
MEXICO [February 27, 2006]: The 65 Mexican miners trapped inside Grupo Mexico’s Pasta de Conchos coal mine 8, near the town of San Juan de Sabinas, in the northern region of Coahuila state, since Sunday 19 February, have been declared dead. Twenty-five of the victims were members of Section 13 of the Mexican National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (SNTMMSRM).
In response to this terrible event, the union, which is affiliated to the IMF, has issued a communiqué calling on the authorities to give practical help to the families of the victims. “We demand that President Vicente Fox Quesada; the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Francisco Javier Salazar Sáenz and Grupo Mexico, owned by Germán Larrea Mota Velasco, stop talking about technical matters, which only serve to confuse the issue, and make a clear and concrete commitment to safeguard the future of these families,” says the communiqué.
It also recognises the efforts of the rescue teams: “Each minute of the rescue operation, they risked their lives to save their colleagues. They are real national heroes who, more than anyone, knew the importance of following their hearts rather than their heads, and who knew they had the experience, preparation and courage to succeed if anyone could.”
The union said its National Executive Committee “is committed to ensuring that the families of the dead workers receive the moral and economic support and the respect and dignified treatment they deserve, whether they were members of the union or not.” It explained that inspectors from the Labour Ministry and the Joint Health and Safety Committee inspected the mine on 7 February but they only checked whether 34 irregularities identified on 12 July 2004 had been dealt with, without reporting on any other issues. This inspection was late because such checks should be carried out in the same year that such irregularities are identified, where urgent attention is not needed.
The union affirms that “neither the company, nor the federal labour inspector made a record of the irregularities identified on that date. However, our representative in section 13 made a record of the irregularities identified.” It said that, at the global level: “What happened at mine 8 was industrial homicide and should be investigated and denounced as such. Grupo Mexico shareholders and directors and whoever is responsible for this crime, caused by greed, repression and insensitivity should be charged and punished accordingly.
The company now claims to be acting in a moral way and to be treating the affected people ‘as human beings, without sensationalism’, in order to hide its real objective, which is to exploit economic need and hunger.” The union thanks national and international trade unions for their “support for our demand for clarification of the facts, in a responsible, impartial and speedy way and for their dissemination of the facts throughout the world, including President Vicente Fox’s government’s aggressive attitude and repression of democratic Mexican trade unionism.”
The IMF’s Regional Officer, Jorge Campos, visited the mine, accompanied by workers, their families and union leaders, and said that “the IMF will discuss with the National Union of Miners and Steel Workers what international action to take after the investigation of this terrible event.”
FOUR DIE AT ALANG SHIPBREAKING YARD
IMF calls for industry-wide clean up of health and safety problems in shipbreaking following the death of four workers in a fire on board a ship in an Alang shipbreaking yard.
INDIA [February 24, 2006]: Police have recovered the charred remains of four workers from an Alang shipbreaking yard after it caught fire last week.
According to local press reports, the charred remains of the four labourers were recovered by police on February 21 from the engine room, four days after the fire raged through the ship. The fire occurred on board the ship ‘China Sea Explorer’ on February 17 at plot number V at Alang. The identities of the victims are not yet known.
In responding to the tragedy, IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi expressed deep sadness and condolences to the workers’ families and called on the international community to act together and ensure that similar incidents are not repeated.
“This tragedy should never have happened. Employers have a duty to provide workers with safe working environments,” said Malentacchi adding: “And society at large is at fault for not dealing with the inhumane and unsafe conditions found in many shipbreaking yards around the world.”
“Preventing this type of tragedy from occurring again will require an industry-wide approach, not just focusing on this individual yard. The international community needs to work out a practical response that can be applied in all shipbreaking yards, including comprehensive international laws that cover the whole life of a ship,” said Malentacchi.
“In extending condolences to the families of these workers I can only hope that this tragedy is the last and that the industry cleans up its act once and for all,” he said.
IMF MEETING ON TOYOTA IN THE PHILIPPINES
IMF calls for an emergency meeting on March 16 to discuss the difficult and ongoing dispute at Toyota in the Philippines.
PHILIPPINES [February 24, 2006]: The IMF will host an emergency meeting on the current dispute at the Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation plant in the Philippines.
The dispute centres on the company’s failure to restore the rights of Filipino workers dismissed in 2001 or to recognise the certification of the Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers’ Association (TMPCWA).
The dispute has now been further complicated by a second certification election held at the plant on February 16, which has left workers without representation from any union. Toyota union representatives from Japan, Thailand, Australia, the UK and South Africa have been invited to participate in the meeting in Manila on March 16, 2006.
AUSTRALIAN BOEING DISPUTE GOES TO ARBITRATION
One of Australia’s longest running industrial disputes could soon be over after a state Industrial Relations Commission ruled it could intervene on behalf of Boeing workers’ right to negotiate collectively.
AUSTRALIA [February 22, 2006]: Aircraft maintainence workers at Boeing returned to their jobs in Newcastle on February 20 following the New South Wales (NSW) Industrial Relations Commission intervention in the dispute.
Representing the returning workers, the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) welcomed a report by the NSW Commission on its inquiry into the 262 day strike and its intervention in the dispute.
The NSW Commission found that it has jurisdiction to resolve the dispute and recommended an immediate arbitration and that the workforce return to work whilst it is arbitrating the matter.
AWU national secretary Bill Shorten said he was pleased that the NSW Commission found in favour of the union’s and NSW Government’s claims and appealed to Boeing to abide by the independent umpire’s decision.
“These workers were not asking the world of Boeing, they were only seeking to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and the fact that the Commission found in their favour is testament to the fact that their claims were not unreasonable,” Shorten says.
The 25 workers and their families had been on strike without pay since June 1, 2005 when they were initially locked-out after taking legal industrial action.
Evidence before the Commission indicated that AWU members were being paid up to A$15,000 (US$11,000) less per annum than comparable workers in the Australian aviation industry including other Boeing workers in Australia.