IMF NewsBriefs No. 08, August 15, 2007

20 SNTMMSRM Members Wounded, 15 Detained, 1 Dead

MEXICO, August 14, 2007: The international labour community is taking action against the murder of Reinaldo Hernandez González, a miner and member of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSRM) who was fatally shot by hired thugs working for Grupo Mexico.

According to reports, on August 11, 2007, at 8:30 pm, about 90 workers who were unjustly dismissed by Grupo Mexico were holding a meeting near the La Caridad copper mine in Nacozari, Sonora, when several buses branding Grupo Mexico’s logo ambushed the workers.

The SNTMMSRM reported that individuals from the company buses began throwing stones at the group of workers and a moment later gunshots were fired. Workers then tried to flee the area in vehicles only to be intercepted again by the company hired men. According to reports, it was during this second confrontation that gunshots were again fired, which is when the workers noticed that González had been fatally shot by a bullet to the forehead.

In local news papers the union noted that police were absent during the 2 hour long confrontation in which 20 workers were wounded and González was killed. The SNTMMSRM also reports that at least 15 SNTMMSRM members are currently being held by authorities and that there are reports of torture being used against some of the detainees. 

Workers were meeting to discuss a recent court injunction ordering Grupo Mexico to reinstate them. The 90 or so workers were fired in June 2006 after holding a 46-day long strike demanding recognition of SNTMMSRM leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia. Grupo Mexico fired all the workers, nullifying their collective agreement. Soon after, most workers, apart from the 90 strike leaders, were rehired on monthly contracts, with no union representation, previous benefits or worker protections.

The IMF sent a letter immediately to Mexican President Felipe Calderón and to the International Labour Organisation condemning the murder. “The international labour community has witnessed with shock and outrage an escalation in government and Grupo Mexico-sponsored violence and persecution of SNTMMSRM members,” IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi said in the letter to the President Calderón. “The Mexican government cannot continue to ignore such gross human rights violations nor should it continue to protect and abet Grupo Mexico’s criminal role in the assassination of González,” Malentacchi added.

The IMF is calling on affiliates and unions around the world to send letters of protest to President Calderón and letters of support and solidarity to the SNTMMSRM.

Send letters to:

Felipe Calderón
President of Mexico
Presidencia de La Republica
Residencia Oficial de Los Pinos
Puerta Central
Mexico, DF 11850
Fax: +52 55 55 22 34 26
E-mail :

Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSRM)
Calle Dr. José Maria Vertiz 668 Col Narvarte
03020  MEXICO D.F. 
Fax:  +52 55 5530 0036

Strikers undeterred by company harassment and intimidation.

RUSSIA August 09, 2007: 300 workers of Togliatti auto-giant’s assembly workshops laid down tools on August 1. Their main demand — to raise wages up to 25,000 rubles ($1,000USD).

The demand to raise wages at AvtoVAZ were put forward some time ago, such a promise had been made by the pro-presidential party “United Russia” in its regional elections’ campaign. After the electoral victory the politicians forgot about the promise, but not workers.

AvtoVAZ is the largest automobile company in Russia which employs over 110,000 people and impacts the life of Togliatti, a city with a population of 700,000 people. The monthly wages at the plant, 7,000-10,000 rubles ($275- $393USD), is low even by generally modest Russian standards. Two years ago the plant was acquired by a state-owned company Rosoboronexport. Many in the city hoped that nationalization would bring about improvements. However, things have proved otherwise.

Rosoboronexport plans to attract a strategic investor. It is possible that this will be Magna, which already has an agreement to form a joint venture with AvtoVAZ. The current management of the company is actively increasing its “attractiveness” to foreign investors — getting rid of the social infrastructure, refusing to adjust wages, conducting scheduled layoffs and trying to push trade unionists out of the plant.

A pre-strike situation in the assembly workshops of AvtoVAZ has evolved sporadically, the workers have elected an independent strike committee. There are two unions acting in the plant — AutoSelhozMash (Automobile and Farm Machinery Workers’ Union -AFW), an affiliate of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, and Edinstvo, which has applied for affiliation to IMF. The AFW did not support the strike, arguing that discussions with the employer were under way and the workers’ protests were politically inspired.

Management together with police and company security started to mount pressure on the strike committee. One of the committee’s members, Anton Vechkunin, was held under arrest for three days. The strike committee turned for help to chairman of Edinstvo, Petr Zolotarev. Edinstvo has provided necessary legal support to the strike action, and has helped to establish and keep the dialogue going with the company’s management.

Identifies strategies for improved social and environmental conditions.

Global, August 7, 2007:  A new report, Corporate Social Responsibility in China’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT), has been released offering a close analysis of strategies for improving social and environmental conditions in the ITC sector in Shenzhen, China.

Published by the Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS) and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the report examines how suppliers, customers, governments and local NGO’s each contribute to the overall social and environmental health of the ITC sector and provides recommendations for improvements.

Information is based on meetings with various government agencies in Shenzhen and Beijing, labour and environmental agencies, as well as the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU).  Additionally, the reports’s research team visited 15 suppliers and conducted additional interviews with six more suppliers after the mission.

The report is available in English and Chinese and can be downloaded from the IMF website

Court rules general strike at Mittal Steel Zenica illegal.

BOSNIA, August 03, 2007: 3,300 workers at Bosnia’s largest steel maker, Mittal Steel Zenica, who went on strike on August 1, were ordered back to work two days later after a municipal court ruled that the union had not met all legal conditions before proceeding to strike.

Members of the Trade Union of Metalworkers (TUM) launched the largest strike Bosnia has seen since the 1992-95 war after collective bargaining talks that started in June broke down. Workers are demanding a minimum wage of 2.50 Bosnian marka ($1.83 USD) per hour, up from the current 2 marka hourly wage. The union also wants night and overtime bonuses in line with a regional collective bargaining deal.

The court denied management’s move to have the strike deemed “unfounded”, which leaves a window of opportunity for the union to correct any illegalities and restart the strike.

“The International Metalworkers’ Federation fully supports the efforts of Mittal Steel Zenica workers fighting for a decent wage and improved conditions,” said IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi. “It is clear that the hard work and skills of the workers have made this plant extremely productive and profitable, yet the company refuses to share the rewards of their labour.”

Mittal Steel Zenica has a production capacity of 800,000 tonnes of metal annually and is a unit of the world’s largest steel maker, Arcelor Mittal.

As many as 600 workers will be out of work at one of the oldest Ford facilities in Australia by 2010, further 3,500 other jobs will also be lost.

AUSTRALIA, July 27, 2007:  Confirming the worst fears of workers and their unions, Ford Australia announced on July 18 its intention to discontinue the production of a six-cylinder engine at its plant in Geelong by 2010. The plant, one of Ford’s oldest operating in Geelong since 1925, produces a locally designed in-line six-cylinder engine used in its Falcon Ute and Territory vehicles.

According to IMF-affiliated Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), the announced 600 jobs losses would not only seriously affect Ford workers and their families, but could also result in at least 3,500 more additional jobs disappearing in local car parts and service industries.

Among others, reasons provided by the company to justify the plant closure include low sales, the rising value of Australian dollar, the introduction of tougher car emission standards and a cut in tariffs on imported cars from 10 per cent now down to 5 per cent by 2010.

“The Federal Government should be speaking directly with Ford headquarters to negotiate a package to save these jobs and in the long term they need to wake up and start supporting Australian manufacturing with things like research and development assistance and reviewing our tariffs and Free Trade Agreements,” said AMWU national secretary Dave Oliver.

Korean metalworkers win wage gains and improved conditions.

SOUTH KOREA, July 26, 2007: About 22,000 members of the Korean Metalworkers’ Union (KMWU) went on strike for two to six hours over a period of July 18-24 demanding improvements in the minimum wage, collective bargaining power, trade with subcontractors and labour security.

Agreement was reached on July 25. Worker gains include:

  • An 8 per cent increase in the minimum wage, set for next year at 900,000 won ($985 USD). The new wage applies to all employees, including temporary and migrant workers.
  • Management agreed to inform the union 70 days before any planned corporate division, merger or sale and execute the plans with the consent of the union.
  • Companies agreed to provide fair terms to subcontracting firms.
  • The union and management will set up a joint committee to secure employment in the metal industry.

The KMWU is positioning itself for industry-wide negotiations, but four automakers, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Daewoo and SsangYong Motor, which account for about 60 percent of the 143,000-strong membership, have refused to engage in recent discussions for fear of “double bargaining.”

Trade unions reject latest NAMA proposal, which threatens employment and sustainable development in developing countries by lowering tariffs too far.

GLOBAL, July 24, 2007: Trade unions opposed new proposals in World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks on manufactured goods in the last week, arguing the new “coefficient” for developing countries would seriously impact on employment and sustainable development.

In a joint statement of trade unions from 12 countries in Latin America and regional trade union organisations, including the regional office of the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), and in an earlier statement from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), unions expressed their opposition to the proposed new text.

The proposal, put by the chair of the Non- Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) Group on July 17, would lead to average tariff cuts of around 60 per cent for developing countries, bringing the average tariff levels down to 12 per cent, a level so low as to undermine prospects for industrial development in many developing country economies.

In addition, the proposed flexibilities on tariffs that would allow developing countries to shield and develop specific labour intensive sectors, such as textiles and clothing, leather and footwear, plastics, paper, rubber, metals, automobile and furniture, are so minimal they would provide little employment protection for vulnerable workers, further reducing development prospects.

“The disconnect between the discussions on development strategies and the creation of decent work in developing countries on the one hand and the NAMA proposals is enormous and cannot result in a pro-development outcome of the Doha Round,” said the trade unions. 

A copy of the joint statement of Latin American trade unions is published on the IMF website and the ITUC statement can be seen by clicking here

American autoworkers hope to reach agreement with Chrysler, Ford and GM before September 14 deadline.  

USA, July 23, 2007:  National collective bargaining talks between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the U.S “big three” automakers kicked off on July 20 in Detroit, Michigan.

The current four-year contracts, which cover more than 720,000 active and retired UAW members, will expire at midnight on September 14, 2007.

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger and his bargaining teams met with Chrysler on July 20, and General Motors and Ford on July 23. Busloads of UAW active and retired members rallied outside the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources to mark the day and show their union pride.

At a news conference following the Chrysler meeting, Gettelfinger was quoted as telling reporters, “We’re going into these negotiations as we do every set of negotiations, which is to look out for the interests of our active and retired membership,” noting, “job security is very important to us, and the American automobile industry is very important to this country. So when we fight to preserve jobs, it helps our nation as a whole.”

NUMSA and five other metal unions in South Africa sign new collective agreement with engineering employers’ federation, including a wage rise of 9 per cent for lowest paid workers.

SOUTH AFRICA, July 16, 2007:  A new three-year collective agreement was reached by metal unions and employers in South Africa on July 13, after protracted negotiations and three days of strike action by 260,000 metalworkers across the country.

The agreement was reached by IMF affiliates the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA), which represented the majority of the workers, and the Metal and Electrical Workers’ Union (MEWUSA) and four other metal unions with the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation (SEIFSA), which represents 9,000 engineering companies.

A significant victory for workers in the engineering, auto, tyre and rubber sectors, the agreement paves the way for the implementation of a new five-grade job structure, an employees share ownership scheme and will generate more employment opportunities and skills development.

The employers’ federation also agreed in principle to increase wages, effective from July 1, by 9 per cent for the lowest paid workers and 8 per cent for the advance A grade level, and by 8.1 per cent and 7.1 per cent in the year 2008 and 2009 respectively.

The parties to the agreement will also resume investigations on the structure and timing of apprentice wage rates and annual wage increases.

NUMSA general secretary Silumko Nondwangu described the agreement as an “unprecedented deal which surpasses all other negotiated settlements in most sectors”.

China enacts new Labour Contract Law that could improve workers’ rights if rigorously enforced.

CHINA, July 6, 2007:  A new Labour Contract Law was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in China on June 29 to take effect in 2008. The law strengthens protection of workers’ rights and may particularly benefit the millions of migrant workers in China who currently endure endemic violations of their rights.

The Labour Contract Law confirms that all individual workers have the right to a written employment contract that complies with minimum wage and safety regulations, requires redundancy payments upon termination for many workers and places limits on the use of temporary employment, making it more difficult to terminate contracts.

The new law also provides for workers’ representatives to negotiate collective contracts at the workplace through the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which is controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. According to the law, if the ACFTU has not established a branch at an enterprise, the workers may elect their own representative to negotiate a collective contract with management, but only under the guidance of the ACFTU.

“While we welcome the new labour law in China, without proper implementation and rigorous enforcement it may not result in real improvements for workers. Furthermore, without the right to independent trade unions, workers have limited means to ensure their rights are respected,” said Marcello Malentacchi.

Five shots were fired at the porter’s lodge at the union offices. Fortunately, nobody was hit.

BRAZIL, July 03, 2007:  The national metalworkers’ confederation (Confederación Nacional de Metalúrgicos – CNM) has announced that the Taubaté Metalworkers’ Union, affiliated to CNM/CUT, suffered another attack during the night of Monday 2 July. At approximately 22.20, five shots were fired at the porter’s lodge. Fortunately, nobody was hit, as the security guard was not in the lodge when the shots were fired.

The Military Police and the Technical Police arrived at the scene and identified the bullet cartridges found there.

The vice president of the Taubaté Metalworkers’ Union, Isaac do Carmo, said that this was yet another attack on trade union freedom and autonomy by the opposition that is due to contest the trade union elections this year.

“We are on the eve of elections to the union, which is one of the most important and representative in the state of São Paulo and the metalworking industry in Brazil. This behaviour shows the opposition is desperate and unable to conduct a political debate with the workers on the shopfloor and that it has opted for psychological and physical intimidation,” said Isaac.

The union was attacked for the first time earlier this year, on June 5, when bombs were thrown at the union office and the union received an anonymous phone call making death threats against the union president, Valmir Marques da Silva.