IMF NewsBriefs No. 14/2006

Japanese embassies prepare for demonstrations and protests calling for a resolution to the situation at Toyota Philippines Motor Corporation.

GLOBAL – September 06, 2006: Workers from Australia to India to the Ukraine are taking action on behalf of Toyota Philippines workers who have been wrongly fired, arrested and denied union recognition.

IMF affiliates are coordinating a DAY of ACTION on September 12 in front of Japanese embassies around the world to call on the Japanese government to use its influence in bringing a fair resolution to a situation that has grown worse.

Just weeks ago, government security shot at and arrested 21 Toyota Philippines workers during a peaceful demonstration in front of the Department of Labour and Employment. All 21 were released the following day however many suffered serious injuries from the police violence. The workers have been struggling for the reinstatement of 136 illegally dismissed workers and company recognition of their union, the Toyota Philippines Motor Corporation Workers Association (TMPCWA).

The International Metalworkers’ Federation and its affiliates have launched an international campaign calling for the immediate reinstatement of the workers and respect for their fundamental right to form a union and to bargain collectively.

Preparations for the September 12 DAY of ACTION include:

  • In Australia, the AMWU has added the Toyota Philippines campaign to their website and have designed a leaflet to compliment their September 12 mobilization efforts at Japanese embassies.
  • Belgian affiliates have launched a petition on the web and at Toyota plants. They will demonstrate at the Japanese embassy on September 12, and deliver the petition. They will then join a demonstration in front of the European Commission where Philippines president, Gloria Arroyo, is visiting. The action in front of the EU has been organised by a network of NGO’s called, ‘Stop the Killings’, who are very supportive of the REINSTATE THEM NOW campaign.
  • The CFTC will be mobilizing their members on September 12 at Toyota France. They have sent a letter calling for resolution to the Japanese Ambassador in France.
  • Kenyan Metalworkers have also sent a letter of international solidarity to the Japanese embassy in Nairobi.
  • The IMF-SC plans to deliver a petition to the Japanese embassy on September 12.
  • Seven Ukraine affiliates coordinated a collective effort and signed on to a protest letter on behalf of TMPCWA workers and sent it to the Japanese ambassador.
  • Indian affiliates have coordinated mass demonstrations planned at Japanese embassies throughout the country on September 12. For instance, INMF in New Delhi, SMEFI in Mumbai, TNEEU (an affiliate of the INMF) and the Working People Trade Union Council will hold an action in Chennai. Also, delegates representing workers from across India’s automobile industry unanimously adopted a Joint Resolution Calling for the Reinstatement of Illegally and Unjustly Dismissed and Suspended Workers and for Full Respect of Trade Union Rights, citing the Toyota Philippines case in particular.
  • In Sri Lanka, IMF affiliates SLNSS and JSSMF will demonstrate on the grounds of the Japanese embassy on September 12 in Colombo.
  • IMF affiliates BMF and the BML in Bangladesh will mobilize in Dhaka at the Japanese embassy on September 12.
  • Nordic IN sent letters of protest to the Philippines’ Department of Labour and Employment and Toyota management.
  • IMF affiliates from the South-East Europe representing metalworkers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia have signed a collective petition both in English and Serbian, which will be handed over to the Japanese Embassy on September 12 by IMF affiliate in Serbia (Nezavisnost).
  • In South Africa, over 400 NUMSA members will protest in front of the Japanese embassy on September 12 calling for a resolution to the situation facing 136 unjustly fired TMPCWA workers.
  • IMF French affiliate, CGT, sent a strongly worded letter to the Philippine ambassador asking him to use his influence in bringing a just and fair outcome for the TMPCWA members illegally fired.
  • Affiliates from Latin America and the Caribbean are sending letters of solidarity to their respective embassies on September 12.
  • IMF affiliate, the Shipbuilding Workers’ Union of Russia have sent a protest letter to the Japanese ambassador.
  • Korean affiliate, the KMWF, will send a letter of protest on September 12 to the Japanese ambassador in Korea.

Click here for more information about the IMF’s campaign to REINSTATE THEM NOW.

The union has suspended its strike until 12 September, when it will hold talks with the company.

Brazil– September 07, 2006: After a week-long strike, workers at the Volkswagen plant, Anchieta, in Sao Bernardo do Campo, agreed to suspend their strike after the company postponed making 1,800 workers redundant.

Union leaders and company representatives met yesterday to try and negotiate an agreement. The union later held an assembly in the factory yard to discuss new ways of continuing their fight.

The German company said it had decided to seek alternatives to the redundancies but that it had not abandoned its plan. “Volkswagen reaffirms the need to reduce its workforce by 3,600 in the coming years, although it is open to discussion on how this should be implemented”, said the company’s Labour Relations officer, Nilton Junior.

Talks will continue until 12 September when management and union will meet to try and negotiate a solution to the company crisis.

According to the president of the National Metalworkers Confederation of the CUT, Alberto Grana, “there has been significant progress with regard to the situation created by the company. We are going to resume negotiations in the belief that Volkswagen will use its common sense. The workers will remain mobilised.”

The dispute began last May when the vehicle manufacturer announced restructuring plans involving redundancy for 3,600 of its 22,000 workers in Brazil.

The strike began seven days ago when the company wrote to 1,800 workers explaining they would be made redundant on 21 November, when a “job security agreement” reached with the unions terminates.

The Korean manufacturer found to illegally use dispatch workers disguised as subcontracting, supplies equipment to many automakers.

KOREA– September 06, 2006: A recent trade union fact-finding mission on workers’ rights violations in Korea, in which the International Metalworkers’ Federation participated, expressed deep concerns over the treatment of the workers belonging to the Kiryung Electronics Workers’ Union Local of the KMWU. Kiryung Electronics discriminatorily terminated contracts and dismissed members of the union beginning in July 2005.

Despite a Korean Ministry of Labour ruling that Kiryung Electronics had been illegally using dispatch workers disguised as subcontracting, the government and the company have failed to ensure affected workers are regularized as required.

The company has also filed huge damage compensation suits against the union members, most of whom are women that earned minimum wage levels prior to their dismissal. This has put enormous financial duress on them, as well as aggravated the situation instead of moving it towards a resolution through negotiation and dialogue.

There have also been reports of physical violence perpetrated against the women workers who participated in a union sit-in, including by Kiryung-hired Hana Entertainment agents.

Violations of worker and trade union rights at Kiryung Electronics are included in a recently filed complaint to the ILO by the IMF, KMWF and KCTU.

The company, which manufactures satellite broadcast receivers, digital satellite radios and global positioning systems for automobiles and other uses, supplies equipment that is installed in many vehicle models of major automakers offering Sirius satellite radio.

Deadline for applicants is October 1, 2006.

GLOBAL – September 06, 2006: The Global Labour University is offering two special master programmes on Labour and Globalisation for trade unionists. The programmes are targeting (potential) trade union experts and seek to strengthen the analytical, research and policy development capacity of trade unions.

The Labour and Development programme starts in January 2007 and is offered by the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. The University of Kassel and the Berlin School of Economics in Germany are offering in September 2007 a course on Labour Policies and Globalisation.

Interested trade unionists should apply now. The deadline for submission is October 1, 2006 for South Africa and March 1, 2007 for Germany.

The courses are taught in English. Women are strongly encourages to participate. Applicants should, as a rule, not be older than 40 years of age. A limited number of scholarships to applicants from developing and transition economies are available. Scholarship applicants need to have the endorsement of a trade union and the grant is conditional on a contribution of 1,500 Euros from the supporting trade union or another donor.

Click here for more information.

Workers in Chile accept a nine million peso (US $16,791) lump sum and a five per cent pay rise.

CHILE– September 05, 2006: Two thousand workers at Escondida copper mine have ended a strike called in support of a pay rise and improved conditions. The 25-day strike ended on Thursday 31 August after workers accepted the company’s proposals.

A secret ballot was held on the company’s third offer on Thursday afternoon. The offer consisted of a 5 per cent pay rise, a lump sum of 2.5 million pesos (US $4,664) to end the conflict and a further lump sum of 6.5 million pesos for each worker in recognition of the high price of copper. In the secret ballot, held at the mine’s Sports Centre in Antofagasta, 1,729 of the union’s 2,052 members voted, with 1,607 workers approving the company’s latest offer, 121 voting to continue the strike and one blank vote. This brought to an end the strike at Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine. Signature of the 40-month contract will formally conclude the mobilisation.

The end of the dispute, which affected copper production, was preceded on Wednesday by a “pre-agreement” between the union’s negotiating committee and the company, which is controlled by the British-Australian company BHP Billiton.

Workers began the legally convened strike on 7 August in support of a 13 per cent pay rise, a 16 million peso lump sum (US $29,850) and additional benefits for each worker.

The next 24 hours will see the mine’s operations return to normal. The mine will be operating at full capacity by Monday at the latest. The company issued the following details of the contract to the country’s media:

“Payment of a 9 million peso lump sum to end the strike and in recognition of conditions in the copper market, a zero interest loan of 2 million pesos, plus a real increase of 5 per cent on the basic wage. The company agreed to increase these benefits as part of the final agreement in return for the union agreeing to extend the duration of the contract and approving a new atypical 4×4 shift pattern until 2013.

In addition, the new contract includes significant improvements in health, education and housing benefits for workers and their families, in comparison to the previous agreement.

Health benefit improvements include 100 per cent cover for hospital and outpatient services (associated with a closed system), an annual 957 million pesos dental fund and an increase in the current health re-insurance scheme from 1,000 to 5,000 Promotion Units (Unidades de Fomento).

Education benefits include an increase in the level of grants for children, through from pre-school to university, and up to one million pesos for the education of each worker.

Housing benefits include the establishment of a 6,800 million peso housing fund. Other benefits include a 25 per cent increase in maternity, marriage and death benefits; an annual holiday bonus of 80 per cent of the basic wage; and an annual seniority bonus of 20 per cent of the basic wage.

The concept of productivity bonus has been introduced. Bonuses will be changed to better reflect the performance of workers. Annual amounts will vary with a maximum amount of 11.2 million pesos. A professional standard football pitch with a synthetic surface will be installed at the Escondida mine Sports Centre in Antofagasta.”

Complaint details worker rights violations against subcontracted workers from 2004 to the present.

KOREA – September 05, 2006: The Korean Metal Workers’ Federation, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the International Metalworkers’ Federation have jointly lodged a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO) against the Korean government for neglecting to protect, and facilitating violation of irregular workers’ right to freedom of association, collective bargaining and collective action in breach of Conventions 87 and 98.

The complaint to the ILO is another step in a long fight by unions demanding that the Korean Government fully respects and enforces basic worker rights. It documents rights violations dating from 2004 to the present at Hyundai Motors plants in Ulsan, Asan and Jeonju, as well as at Hynix/Magnachip, Kiryung Electronics, and KM&I.

Despite Labour Ministry rulings that these principal employers have illegally used labour dispatch disguised as subcontracting, the government has failed to redress the matter by regularizing the workers and has permitted their dismissal. At the same time, the Korean government has criminalized trade unions by broadening application of “Obstruction of Business” to victimize irregular workers trying to achieve bargaining with principal employers and to forestall future union activity. This has led to the imprisonment of union leaders.

The complaint details how precarious workers in disguised employment relationships who try to form and join union are subject to recurring retaliatory dismissal and collective dismissals; compensation suits used to threaten union members into withdrawing from the union and punishment to those who do not; physical assault; and principle employer refusal to bargain.

“As a consequence, even the most poorly-paid, insecure workers in the most vulnerable positions are systematically subject to the full force of criminal Obstruction of Business, imprisonment, provisional seizure of assets, and ‘compensation claims,’ simply because they tried to promote bargaining with the principal employer, “ the complaint states.

Employer increases steelworkers’ pay and benefits and recognises Napoleon Gomez as union leader

MEXICO– August 23, 2006 : The 146 day strike has been lifted at the Sicartsa steel plant in Lazaro Cardenas, where two union members were killed last April and 50 injured when police opened fire on workers occupying the plant.

Workers went on strike following the government’s illegal removal of Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, general secretary of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSRM).

More than 2,300 workers will return to work after hard won gains including:

  • a 6 per cent increase in pay, plus 2 per cent increase in benefits retroactive to May 1,
  • full pay for the time they have been on strike,
  • a 7,500 pesos (US$700) bonus payment per worker,
  • the lifting of all of legal action against the striking workers, and
  • recognition of Napoleon Gomez as leader of the SNTMMSRM.

“No doubt this is an important achievement of unity and leadership in a very unfair and difficult fight against corrupt federal authorities and employers who thought they could take over a very traditional union for personal interests,” said Gomez in a statement about the victory.

The Sicartsa plant, owned by Grupo Villacero, is one of Mexico’s largest steel exporters.