IMF NewsBriefs No. 12, November 16, 2007

Union and auto parts supplier develop a new way of working together that would cover 18,000 Magna employees in Canada when implemented.

CANADA [October 24, 2007]:  The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and Magna International Inc. signed a historic agreement that creates a new kind of relationship between Canada’s largest automotive employer and Canada’s largest private sector union. “With this agreement, Magna and the CAW will develop a new way of working together,” Hargrove said in signing the agreement. “It will strengthen the CAW’s ability to support auto parts workers at an incredibly challenging time, but in a way that also strengthens Canada’s auto industry.”

The agreement signed on October 15, called the Framework of Fairness, will allow Magna employees to participate in secret-ballot votes regarding membership in the CAW. It also establishes an innovative new structure for labour relations involving workplace elections and referenda; a multi-faceted dispute settlement process; and the use of final-offer arbitration instead of work stoppages to settle contract disputes.

The Framework of Fairness is not a collective agreement. It is a set of principles that will govern the process whereby Magna workers vote on union membership, negotiate and approve their contract, and resolve concerns. Once fully implemented, the Framework would cover up to 18,000 Magna production employees working in about 45 manufacturing facilities in Ontario.

“Magna and the CAW have established an effective working relationship through our existing unionized facilities, and through our participation in joint industry initiatives like the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council,” said Hargrove.

Magna employees at each plant will have the chance to vote (in secret-ballot elections supervised by independent officials) on whether to approve a new contract and join the CAW. If a majority of workers in a facility support CAW membership, then that plant will be covered by a new CAW-Magna national collective agreement, and its employees will join the CAW. The national contract, CAW membership, and subsequent changes negotiated to that national contract must all be approved by Magna employees through secret-ballot votes.

Magna International is the world’s most diversified automotive supplier, with 83,000 employee working in 23 countries, including over 20,000 in Canada.

The CAW currently represents over 25,000 production employees working for independent auto parts firms, including in three Magna facilities.

In honour of the upcoming IMF Central Committee meeting to be held in Brazil on November 28 and 29, Metal World’s latest issue featuring metalworking in Brazil, has been printed in Portuguese.

GLOBAL [November 16, 2007]: In the issue, Metal World interviews Brazilian metalworkers Julio Cesar and José Pereira Miranda who speak about their experiences and the importance of the trade unions in their workplaces.

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.

Union leader Alexei Etmanov, a trade unionist at a Ford plant in Russia, is profiled in the latest issue of Metal World. Alexei explains how a visit to Brazil in 2005 had a lasting effect on him, changing his entire concept of trade unionism.

Metal World, IMF’s quarterly magazine, is printed in English, Russian and Japanese and can be downloaded from the IMF website. Metal World is mailed to subscribers free of charge. To be added to the Metal World mailing list please send subscription details to: or fax your request and address information to: IMF Communications +41 22 308 5055.

International trade union delegation calls for European Union support of the Mexican Miners’ Union, which has been the target of government repression and attacks by Grupo Mexico.

BRUSSELS [November 6, 2007]: An International Metalworkers’ Federation delegation is in Brussels and London this week, explaining and presenting evidence to the European Commission on how an independent Mexican trade union has been the target of government repression and attacks by the transnational Grupo Mexico.

Mexican government repression has included arbitrarily withdrawing legal recognition from Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the elected general secretary of the Mexican Miners’ Union (SNTMMSRM) and other elected leaders based on forged evidence, and filing baseless criminal charges again Gómez and the union, disproved by an audit of the union’s finances conducted by an international auditing company.

Other actions included: deploying military and security forces against the union, resulting in the deaths of three union members; granting overnight recognition to a pro-company union and holding “elections” in which workers were forced to vote publically in front of company officials; refusing to punish the Grupo Mexico officials responsible for the deaths of 65 miners in the explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine in February 2006.

In addition, there are serious allegations that Grupo Mexico may be behind the recent murder of Reinaldo Hernández González, and the detention and torture of 20 SNTMMSRM members in Nacozari, Sonora State, Mexico.

An IMF representative and trade unionists representing the Mexican Miners’ Union (SNTMMSRM), the United Steelworkers (USW) and Unite met with a range of European officials including Erika Mann, chair of the European Parliament-Mexico Parliamentary Delegation, to ask the EU to try and use the forthcoming EU-Mexico joint parliamentary delegation in Brussels to end these attacks.

Juan Luis Zuniga, one of the IMF delegation and member of SNTMMSRM National Committee, explained, “We have come to Europe to ask for your help in ending these repeated attacks, we would like assurances from the Mexican government that the persecution of trade union leaders will stop and that Mexican workers can enjoy basic human rights.”

IMF Director of Union Building and Projects Fernando Lopes, who is with the delegation, added, “In the past few years the EU-Mexico have established a close and long lasting relationship, we would like to see that relationship used not just for economic co-operation but as a way of furthering social justice and human rights.”

AFL-CIO accuses the US National Labor Relations Board of “systematic efforts to deny workers’ rights in violation of international labour standards”

USA [October 30, 2007]:  On October 25 the American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) filed a complaint with the International Labour Organization’s Committee on Freedom of Association. AFL-CIO claims that the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Republican majority of which is appointed by the US President George W. Bush, violates workers’ fundamental rights.

According to the AFL-CIO, over recent years through its decisions the NLRB has: 
shrunk its coverage of certain workers:

  •  limited the rights of workers who are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA); 
  • strengthened management’s prerogative to discriminate against, harass, and intimidate workers; and 
  • refused to apply the “few meaningful remedies available” under the NLRA.

The AFL-CIO accuses the NLRB of eviscerating workers’ fundamental rights during the course of the Bush Administration. According to the complaint the NLRB has removed entire groups of workers from the definition of employee including university teaching and research assistants, workers with disabilities, and temporary and contract workers.

In addition the AFL-CIO points out that substantial delays by the NLRB in issuing decisions further undermines workers’ fundamental rights.

To correct the situation the AFL-CIO is asking the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association to direct the United States to “take all necessary steps to restore, in law and in practice, the rights of workers to have full freedom of association and engage in effective collective bargaining.”

IMF discusses with Brazilian Government and employers the impact of trade liberalisation on industrial jobs and development

BRAZIL [October 23, 2007]: The IMF Working Party on Trade met in Brasilia on 26-28 September 2007. Parallel meetings were held with Government and employers’ representatives and with the leadership of the IMF affiliates in Brazil, in consideration of the key role that this country is playing in trade negotiations and in the G20 alliance. Developments in the negotiation of bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) – between USA and South Korea, Panama and Peru, Canada and South Korea, and the Mercosul and the EU – were the focus theme of the agenda.

The impasse in the Doha Round negotiations raised concern for the inadequate consideration that negotiators are showing of the development and employment repercussions, particularly in more vulnerable countries, the quality of jobs that increased trade may generate and the respect of fundamental rights.

Trends in trade with China and the fast growing role of this country in Asia, Africa and Latin America were discussed. The trade policy of the European Union was analysed in the light of the differing positions and interests of its member countries.

A panel composed by leading members of the Brazilian business community and the chief trade negotiator Minister Roberto Azevedo gave the WP members the opportunity for a lively debate on the trade, social and labour agenda of Brazil and the G20. At a meeting with Minister Luiz Dulci the social and labour market policies and the measures against poverty adopted by the Brazilian Government were analysed.

In their conclusions and recommendations WP members reiterated the importance of regular exchanges between the IMF affiliates, and of improved collaboration with other GUFs and with the ITUC Geneva office. Survey and analysis of China’s trade should be continued in all regions. Dialogue should be promoted between IMF affiliates of Mercosul and EU countries on trade negotiations. A sectoral focus should be adopted in future analysis of FTAs. The IMF should demand an extension of the deadline and a review of negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). The next meeting should be held in India to continue dialogue with G20 countries. Dialogue on priorities and methods for the achievement of the trade union demand for the respect of labour rights to be incorporated in trade rules needs to be further developed among IMF affiliates.

Presentations and materials from the meeting are available on the IMF site.