IMF NewsBriefs No. 05/2006


International Metalworkers’ Federation takes fight for asbestos ban to ILO in June.

GENEVA, April 25, 2006:  Marcello Malentacchi, general secretary of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, issued a statement in honour of April 28, Workers’ Memorial Day, with a call for a global ban on asbestos.

“Everyday workers are injured; everyday they die as a result of their employers’ negligence. With annual workplace fatalities numbering over two million each year, we can see that the number of workplace deaths is so high that it can be compared with the number of lives lost during a war. Of even greater concern is the fact that quite often this war is waged with the support of governments that fail to protect their own citizens from unlawful acts by unscrupulous employers.

“It is sad that the International Organization of Employers and some governments in full knowledge of the fatality statistics still persist in preventing a global ban on the import, export and production of this deadly product. They prefer to continue making a profit at the expense of human lives.

“In light of this, the IMF together with other GUFs will fight for the adoption of a resolution at the ILO labour conference in June calling for a global ban on asbestos.

“We cannot bring back our brothers and sisters killed by asbestos, but we can and must join together to protect those who can be saved in the future and a global ban would be a fitting memorial,” Malentacchi said.

STEELWORKERS SUE ALCOA  USW fights aluminium giant’s attempt to break contract agreement and cut retiree health care benefits.

USA April 25, 2006: The United Steelworkers (USW) has filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court challenging Alcoa’s move in January 2006 to start charging health insurance premiums to retirees who worked at 15 Alcoa and Reynolds Aluminium plants now sold or closed.

For the 2,500 to 3,000 affected retirees and their families, some have had to pay health care insurance premiums of up to $450 monthly. The lawsuit seeks monetary and injunctive relief on their behalf on the grounds that they are exempt from paying premiums under a 2001 agreement that does not expire until January 1, 2007.

“Alcoa has a contractual obligation to continue providing agreed upon health care benefits to retirees and their families who have given their work lives to building this company into the world’s premier aluminium producer,” said USW District 7 Director Jim Robinson.

The company, that recently announced record-breaking quarterly earnings, a reported $608 million, employs 131,000 workers at 350 plants in 43 countries.


NUMSA calls on BMW to respect workers’ rights at its plant in Rosslyn, South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA, April 25, 2006:   IMF affiliate NUMSA called on the management at the BMW plant in Rosslyn, South Africa to respect the rights of workers and to negotiate in good faith on the use of contract and temporary labour.

The ongoing dispute at the plant centres on the company’s refusal to allow supervisory workers to join a union of their choice and its attempts to extensively outsource its major operations.

NUMSA is also concerned that the company is seeking to undermine the position of the union by not allowing union officials access to the plant and by not properly recognising the union’s local and regional leadership.  NUMSA has invoked the provisions of the International Framework Agreement as signed by BMW as a means of resolving the issue of freedom of association for the supervisory workers at the plant.


After 19 hours of bargaining, German metalworkers make big gains in wages, avoiding widespread strike.

GERMANY,  April 24, 2006:   Leaders of IG Metall and representatives of the metalworking and electrical industries reached a pilot agreement after marathon negotiations won a three per cent wage increase in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.  Under the 13 month contract, workers will receive a wage increase over 10 months fromJune through March 2007, plus a one-time payment of 310 € (USD $382) for March, April, and May of 2006. The one-time payment can be adjusted on a company-by-company basis.

The agreement will set a pattern for industry-wide contracts in all other regions throughout the country in the next coming weeks. International Metalworkers’ Federation and IG Metall president Juergen Peters called the deal “a result we can live with very well.”

IG Metall is Germany’s largest industrial union representing 3.4 million workers.


IMF affiliates in the southern-cone region of Latin America argue that the current proposals of the developed countries for NAMA are unjust and call for trade union unity in the struggle for quality jobs.

PARAGUAY, April 23, 2006:   Latin American metalworker unions expressed concern about the effects that further trade liberalisation may have on sustainable development and the living and working conditions of workers.

In a statement from metalworker unions affiliated to the IMF in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay the unions call for unity and solidarity in the fight for quality jobs.

The statement, which was adopted at the end of an IMF seminar on trade, employment and development on April 22, argues that the current proposals of the developed countries for non-agricultural market access (NAMA) would mean greater casualisation and more unemployment.

The current proposals would also harm industrial policies and development, without ensuring greater access to the agricultural markets of developed countries.

The meeting was the first of a series regional meetings to be held by the IMF in 2006 and was aimed at developing common strategies and building union capacity to engage with Governments, employers and other institutions on trade, finance and development policies.

A copy of the statement in English and Spanish is published on the IMF website.


Strike turns violent as 600 armed police in riot gear storm Mexican steel plant.

MEXICO, April 21, 2006:   Workers at the Sicartsa steel plant were attacked with tear gas and bullets in the early morning as police tried to break a three-week strike protesting the illegal dismissal of Napoleon Gomez, elected general secretary of the IMF-affiliated Mexican metalworkers’ union.

Members of the National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (SNTMMS) had taken over the steel plant on April 2 to show their support for Gomez and to challenge the Mexican government’s move to interfere with union activities.

“The IMF is shocked and outraged by the recent actions taken by the Mexican government against unions and the workers they represent, “ said International Metalworkers’ Federation general secretary Marcello Malentacchi. “ The fact that the authorities and the companies they collaborated with would rather negotiate with bullets than reason underscores how important the struggle our Mexican union brothers and sisters are facing.”

Reports of the deadly clash comes just weeks after the IMF launched a formal complaint with the ILO charging that the Mexican government was in violation of internationally recognized labour rights.

“The IMF and our affiliates will continue to campaign for an end to the violence against Napoleon Gomez and the members of SNTMMS. We stand with those that continue the fight for workers’ rights in Mexico and will remember those that have died,” Malentacchi said.


More than 2,000 PSA workers in the U.K. would lose their jobs with the Ryton plant closure by mid 2007.

United Kingdom, April 19, 2006:   PSA announced its intention to close the Ryton plant with 2,300 workers facing redundancies as a result. The plant closing is to occur in two stages according to company plans, half in July 2006 and entirely by mid 2007. Further loss of jobs could occur at component supplier operations in the Coventry area and elsewhere.

Ryton has produced the 206 model since 1999, with no other models assigned to the plant. Meanwhile, PSA plans to begin production of the Peugeot 207 at a plant in Slovakia later this year.

Trade union leaders have said that PSA failed to fully consult workers before making its announcement on the closure. The company recently negotiated and signed an international framework agreement with the International Metalworkers’ Federation and trade union organisations at PSA.

Union leaders in the U.K. held a series of meetings and said they wanted the closure plans reversed, calling the company’s actions “callous” and “absent of any social responsibility”.

“Make no mistake, we will be looking, as a matter of the utmost urgency, to explore with the company as well as with ministers ways to have this devastating decision reversed,” said Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union.

Derek Simpson, General Secretary of AMICUS, pointed to weak U.K. labour laws and associated flexibility in the country’s labour market as contributing to the company’s move.  French unions have expressed their solidarity with the workers and unions at the PSA Ryton plant.