IMF NewsBriefs No. 09, September 05, 2007

Detailed report proves allegations against Gómez are unfounded and fraudulent

GENEVA/MEXICO, September 04, 2007:  An independent audit of a $55 million fund owned by the National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (SNTMMSRM) in Mexico shows all funds are accounted for, exonerating SNTMMSRM general secretary Napoleón Gómez Urrutia of all charges of theft or misappropriation of funds.

“This is a powerful affirmation for Napoleón, the union, and labour leaders around the world who have repeatedly denounced the false charges levied against Napoleón,” said International Metalworkers’ Federation general secretary Marcello Malentacchi. “Not only does this audit prove that the charges raised against Napoleón are unfounded and fraudulent, but it highlights just how far Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government will go to seize control of the SNTMMSRM.”

 The audit was commissioned by the IMF and conducted by Horwath Berney Audit S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland.

Representatives from the SNTMMSRM, United Steel Workers, AFL-CIO and the IMF held a press conference in Mexico City announcing the audit findings and calling on the government to:

  • immediately release all frozen accounts belonging to Gómez and the union;
  • drop all charges still pending against Gómez;
  • prosecute in a court of law, immediately and transparently, all those responsible in the corruption of documents and facts; and
  • investigate Grupo Mexico’s involvement in the recent murder of Reinaldo Hernandez González, a miner and SNTMMSRM member.

Documents including the auditors’ report, an Executive Summary of the audit report, and a statement signed by 17 members of the IMF Executive Committee was delivered to Mexican President Felipe Calderón and the governors of two Mexican states where charges against Gómez are still pending. Solidarity actions in front of Mexican embassies throughout Latin America are scheduled to take place on September 5.

The audit is in response to a government investigation into illegal use of union funds. In February and March 2006, the Mexican government used falsified documents to publicly accuse Gómez of embezzling an unspecified amount from the $55 million fund owned by the union. The government removed Gómez from his position as general secretary, imposed an appointed replacement, and seized all personal assets and those of the SNTMMSRM.

The multi-million dollar fund is the result of an agreement made dating back almost 20 years. In 1989 and 1990, the Mexican government sold three mines to Grupo Mexico. The deal included payment to the SNTMMSRM, which at the time totaled US $31 million. For 15 years, Grupo Mexico refused to honour the deal. Then, in January 2005, the company was finally forced to pay an adjusted amount of US $55 million. To date, accounts remain frozen and charges are still pending against Gómez at the state level. However, similar charges filed in federal court against Gómez have been dropped.

“It’s criminal,” Malentacchi added.”Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government must be held accountable to the law, the very law they so blatantly manipulate to their advantage and profit at the expense of workers’ lives.”

To request a copy of the audit brief, contact Kristyne Peter at the IMF in Geneva. Call +41 22 308 5031 or email:

Sporting a new modern look and featuring metalworking in Brazil, the latest edition of IMF’s journal Metal World is available now on the IMF website.

GLOBAL, September 04, 2007:  Metal World travels to Latin America in the latest “new-look” issue published today and takes a closer look at metalworking in Brazil. Trade union members Julio Cesar and José Pereira Miranda speak about their experiences as metalworkers and the importance of the trade unions in their workplaces in Brazil.

Silvia Portela de Castro reports on the project of setting up Mercosul, the common market in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and examines the challenges trade unions face in influencing the direction of this bloc in a special report on Metalworkers and the Mercosul.

In a personal profile Alexei Etmanov, a trade unionist at a Ford plant in Russia, speaks about how his whole concept of unionism was changed after visiting Brazil in 2005. This latest issue of Metal World also includes all the latest news and pictures from IMF and its affiliates.

Metal World, IMF’s quarterly magazine,  has undergone a revitalisation process in recent months and now sports a totally new modern design. The changes are the results of comments and feedback from readers and affiliates of the IMF.

The magazine is available as a pdf download on the IMF website in English (Russian and Japanese editions will follow) and is available in print, by sending subscription details to:

Temporary, casual, insecure and contingent work is on the rise in the metal working sector, according to a recent IMF survey.

GLOBAL, September 03, 2007:  Metalworkers around the world are increasingly feeling less secure in employment, according to the findings of a recent survey on changing employment practices and precarious work conducted by the International Metalworkers’ Federation.

The International Metalworkers’ Federation, representing the interests of 25 million metalworkers in 100 countries, surveyed its affiliates in 2006 and 2007 about the prevalence of precarious work in the metal sector and on how trade unions are responding to the problem.

The survey found that:

  • Ninety percent of respondents said precarious work has increased in the last five years.
  • Two-thirds of respondents indicated precarious workers are paid much less than permanent workers.
  • Two-thirds of respondents said companies in their country were shifting from directly employing temporary workers to hiring them through agencies or brokers.

The survey also found that metalworkers’ trade unions are using collective bargaining to respond to precarious work, are mobilizing for legislative changes for better protection of workers’ rights and believe that precarious workers should be recruited into existing unions.

“Precarious work is caused by employment practices designed to maximize employer profits and flexibility and to shift risks onto workers. As the results of this survey show, it is an increasing problem on every continent, undermining wages and conditions of work,” said IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi.

“The IMF and its affiliates will be taking up this issue and deciding on a strategy to take co-ordinated global action against precarious work at our Central Committee in November this year,” said Malentacchi.

A total of 54 unions whose combined membership represents 62 per cent of the global IMF membership responded to the survey, including unions from all five continents. Precarious work is typically non-permanent, temporary, casual, insecure and contingent and workers in these jobs are often not covered by labour law or social security protections.

For more details and a copy of the results of the survey go to:

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat publishes Killing the Future, a report on Asbestos Use in Asia.

ASIA, August 31, 2007:  In 2003 Asian countries accounted for nearly 50 per cent of global asbestos consumption with China, (491,954 tonnes), India (192,033 t) Thailand (132,983 t), Vietnam (39,382 t) and Indonesia (32,284 t) being the largest users. Within the region, only Japan has stopped the use of asbestos.

The International Ban Asbestos Secretariat has published Killing the Future, a report on Asbestos Use in Asia, which documents the wide-spread use of deadly chrysotile asbestos in a range of industries across Asia, including shipbreaking in India and Bangladesh.

This new report highlights the work of asbestos victims’ groups, pioneering non-governmental organizations, the trade unions and global union federations in the fight to expose the lethal industry lobby and to protect workers’ health. Photographs showing chaotic and hazardous working practices throughout Asia reveal that the reassurance of asbestos stakeholders that asbestos can be used safely under “controlled conditions” is a lie.

Author Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator of the IBAS, says, “Millions of global asbestos victims have learned that when it comes to asbestos the polluter rarely pays; the real costs of using this toxic substance are borne by individuals, families, communities and countries. The best way to reduce the burden of asbestos-related disease is to ban asbestos; asbestos is yesterday’s material and should be relegated to the dustbin of discredited technologies and discarded materials.”

For copies of the report, please contact the IMF at or download a copy from the IMF website.

Workers face unjust dismissals, harassment and threats, and violations of trade union rights.

THAILAND, August 28, 2007: Thai Summit Eastern Seaboard Auto Parts Company, owned and controlled by Thai Summit Group has drawn fire from the International Metalworkers’ Federation, IMF affiliates, and the National Human Rights Commission in Thailand for committing trade union and human rights violations at their Rayong auto parts plant.

Rights violations at Thai Summit Eastern Seaboard Auto Parts Company include:

  • the unjust dismissal of ten union members;
  • obstruction of workers’ right to freedom of association through threats, intimidation and harassment; and
  • failure of the company to respect the right of workers to collectively bargain.

Workers at the plant are represented by the Ford & Mazda Thailand Workers’ Union.

Thai Summit Group, a leading auto parts manufacturer in Asia, is one of Ford Motor Company’s top selected suppliers. At the IMF Ford Working Group meeting in London on June 25-26, 2007, union delegates condemned management actions at Thai Auto Summit and called on Ford Motor Company to abide by its commitment to ensure that its suppliers fully respect worker and trade union rights.

In addition to international solidarity efforts, the union is taking action at the local level. On August 23, 2007, workers at the Ford and Mazda plant in Rayong refused to accept Thai Summit auto parts because the supplier did not meet Ford’s purchasing guidelines, halting production for a day.

In a letter to Thai Summit Group president, IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi called on the company “to ensure that Thai Summit Eastern Seaboard Auto Parts Company immediately reinstates the ten workers who were unjustly dismissed; ceases and desists from any further threats, harassment or intimidation of workers and union members; halts any further rights violations; and resumes negotiations in good faith to promptly reach a fair collective agreement with the union.”

The IMF is urging affiliates to send letters of protest to Thai Summit Group.

Up to 1.1 million workers and residents are safer thanks to the union’s efforts.

USA. August 23, 2007: Schweitzer-Mauduit paper mill in central New Jersey has invested $700,000 to change over from using deadly bulk chlorine to bleach their paper, to a safer process thanks to the United Steelworkers (USW).

The union’s success protects 240 members in the plant, and the surrounding communities where dangerous 90-ton railcars of chlorine rolled through town to the plant. According to the company’s own “worst case scenario” report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a terrorist attack or major accident releasing the chlorine could have endangered up to 1.1 million people within a 14 mile radius.

Chlorine exposure burns the eyes and skin, and breathing chlorine can be fatal. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory estimates that should a mass chlorine release take place in a populated area, up to 100,000 people could be killed or injured within the first 30 minutes.

Steve Green, President of USW local 1482 commented in the press that the union worked closely with community residents to push for safer technology in the plant. “Both the union and community had concerns. The union repeatedly urged the company to eliminate the hazard. Fortunately, they responded positively,” he said.

Affiliates discuss cross-sector and cross-regional case studies and strategies.

SOUTH AFRICA, August 21, 2007: The International Metalworkers’ Federation hosted a regional workshop in South Africa in June to bring together African affiliates, trade experts and IMF secretariat and regional staff to discuss the impact of Chinese trade and investment in southern Africa.

The workshop’s aim: to provide metalworker unions, especially those in SADC countries, with an opportunity to learn from experts about the reality of China’s expansion, particularly, though not exclusively, in Africa; compare trade union experiences in different regions; and collect information on and analyse the fast growing Chinese presence in SADC countries with attention to the repercussions on the regional integration process and the impact of Chinese investments on employment, workers’ rights and development.

The meeting served as an opportunity for trade union leaders in the region to share their experiences and better understand an increasingly complex situation of foreign investments and trade that have direct repercussions on the working and living conditions of their members.

Major points of discussion included:

  • Violations of fundamental democratic rights – human, workers’, and trade union rights in China and by Chinese investors abroad.
  • Cross-sector and cross-regional strategies and case studies.
  • Precarisation of employment conditions. Are Chinese employers accelerating this problem?

Delegates put forth the recommendation that affiliates must commit to organizing all kinds of casual workers for the survival of the trade union movement, recognizing that the increasing phenomenon of casualisation of work will erode their membership unless they are able to reach out to these workers.

Brazilian metalworkers call for job security and the ratification of ILO Convention No. 158, which states that employers should not terminate workers unless there is a valid reason.

BRAZIL, August 20, 2007:  From August 13 to 15, thousands of Brazilian metalworkers were in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, to fight for job security through the ratification of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 158.  During the protest the metalworkers also called for the implementation of a National Collective Agreement, the unification of the bargaining deadline in September and the establishment of a national minimum wage for metalworkers. The action was organised by Brazilian Metalworker’s Confederation (CNM/CUT).

As part of the protest workers marched to the Brazilian Congress, National Industry Confederation, Work Ministry, ILO Office, Superior Court of Work and the Brazilian Supreme Court to deliver documents in support of their demands for job security. The ILO Convention No. 158, which concerns the termination of employment at the initiative of the employer, was approved in Brazil in 1995, but one year later, the convention was suspended after a claim made by the National Industry and Transport Confederations.  

The unions are seeking ratification of ILO Convention 158 to stop employers in Brazil from the widespread practice of turning over workers from one year to the next to reduce wage costs by re-employing workers on lower conditions than previously offered.

Prior to the action in Brasilia, Brazilian metalworkers held similar local protests at the offices of the employers’ groups in the city of São Paulo, on June 27 and Belo Horizonte on July 25.

Strike averted as agreement between NUMSA and seven car manufacturing companies is reached.

SOUTH AFRICA, August 20, 2007: On August 17, the National Metalworkers of South Africa reached agreement with seven car manufacturers, avoiding an industry-wide strike and winning substantial gains for workers.

The agreement covers approximately 15,000 autoworkers and includes:

  • Wage increases for year 1 will be 9% ATB
  • Wage increases for year 2 will be 8% ATB
  • Wage increases for year 3 will be 7.5% ATB
  • Improved benefits on Severance Pay, the establishment of an industry-wide Provident Fund, improved benefits on Maternity Leave, career pathing for the C02 welders and spray painters.
  • The agreement also proposes that other matters such as the limitation on the work of Labour Brokers, the establishment of a Plant Task Team to consider the adverse effects and payment thereof in the event of a Short time or Lay-off, that the parties will negotiate these matters at plant-level.
  • Provisions for the establishment of an Industry Policy Forum which will consider, the issue of black economic empowerment and benefits to members, this Policy Forum will also consider the issues of, HIV and  AIDS, a Social Plan to deal with issues of retrenchments and closures and the establishment of a Mega Bargaining Council.

NUMSA General Secretary, Silumko Nondwangu, said that both parties had skilful negotiators at the table and that he hopes to continue winning gains for NUMSA members in other industries.

“This is the second landmark agreement we have signed this year in our sectors which substantially improves conditions of employment and takes a long-term view to the continued growth of our sectors,” Nondwangu said, adding “NUMSA is not prepared this year to settle on anything that does not substantially improve conditions of employment. When we said at the beginning of the year that we will fight for a share of the windfall in profits, we meant business.”

Join the Listen UP Cochlear campaign to ensure that workers have the right to chose union representation.

AUSTRALIA, August 17, 2007: Cochlear Ltd., a world leading manufacturer of state-of-the-art hearing devices, is using Australia’s anti-union industrial relations laws to deny 260 workers at its Sydney manufacturing plant the right to be represented by their union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.  

The AMWU has represented Cochlear workers for over a decade, delivering a high standard of wages and working conditions. This year Cochlear management initiated a union-busting campaign. Despite workers voting for a union-negotiated collective agreement in two separate secret ballots, the company has refused to bargain. Recently Cochlear management moved to use Australia’s unfair workplace laws to force employees into a non-union agreement, conditions the workers have repeatedly rejected. These unfair working conditions will come into effect on the 6th of November.

As part of the global campaign to support Cochlear workers’ right to union representation, the International Metalworkers’ Federation, to which the AMWU is an affiliate, and Public Services International, which represents workers at clinics where Cochlear hearing devices are distributed, are urging affiliates to take action in one or more of the following ways:

  • Unions should contact local clinics that distribute Cochlear hearing devices and urge them to press Cochlear to respect a worker’s right to union representation.
  • Pass out flyers at local distribution clinics to educate the public about Cochlear’s refusal to honour its workers’ right to union representation.
  • Employees at clinics that distribute Cochlear hearing devices can wear badges in solidarity with Cochlear manufacturing workers in Sydney and speak with management about the dispute.
  • Send letters of support to Cochlear workers fighting for the right to union representation, and letters of protest to Cochlear CEO Chris Roberts.
  • Publicise the campaign in your union publication and on your website.

The AMWU has prepared a list of all the locations where Cochlear hearing devices are distributed. It is available on the IMF website.   Also available on the site are flyers, protest letters and other solidarity resources.