IMF NewsBriefs No. 3/2006


IMF to take action against Toyota, after the company fails once more to restore the rights of Filipino workers dismissed in 2001 for supporting the establishment of their union.

PHILIPPINES, [February 16, 2006]: After months of difficult negotiations, the Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation has again failed to make a satisfactory offer to the Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Workers’ Association (TMPCWA). The situation has been further complicated by a second certification election held at the plant today, February 16.

The TMPCWA first sought certification as the bargaining agent at the plant in February 1999, a move vigorously opposed by the company. Eventually certified in October 2000, the TMPCWA submitted a collective bargaining proposal to the company. The company once again appealed the certification. During the hearing the workers staged a peaceful protest. In response the company dismissed 227 union officers and members.

Despite a Supreme Court decision and International Labour Organisation (ILO) rulings in the workers’ favour, the company continues to overlook the workers’ rights. The company’s most recent offer includes compensation and training but refuses the reinstatement of the dismissed workers, to the dissatisfaction of the TMPCWA.

A second certification election, held on February 16, to consider a petition for an alternative union to become the workers’ bargaining agent has further complicated the matter. The IMF is now taking steps to increase the pressure on Toyota for the restoration of the workers’ fundamental rights.


The decision on February 15 by French President Jacques Chirac to recall the toxic warship Clemenceau back to France underlines the depth of the crisis in the global ship-breaking industry, says the IMF and other Global Unions partners.

GENEVA, [February 16, 2006]: The decision on February 15 by French President Jacques Chirac to recall the toxic warship Clemenceau back to France underlines the depth of the crisis in the global ship-breaking industry. The aircraft carrier, containing tonnes of asbestos and many other hazardous substances, was due to have been broken at the Alang ship-breaking yard in India, however decisions by Indian and French judicial authorities led to the French government’s change of course.

“This case shows just how serious the lack of decent global standards is in ship-breaking”, said Marcello Malentacchi, General Secretary of the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), adding that “thousands of workers in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere face daily exploitation and exposure to life-threatening hazards due to the inability of the international system to establish and enforce standards”.

The IMF and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has been sharply critical of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) blocking of a process involving the IMO, the International Labour Organisation and the Basel Convention to harmonise shipbreaking guidelines. The IMO’s stance at a December 2005 meeting on harmonisation is believed by the IMF to have set progress back by as much as five years.

“There have been grave doubts as to whether the Alang facility is properly equipped to handle the asbestos and other toxic substances in the Clemenceau, but this one ship is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of workers at Alang and similar yards in a number of countries depend on ship breaking for their livelihoods, and to date little if anything has been done to ensure that they are able to earn a decent living in safe and hygienic workplaces,” said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder. “Governments, international agencies and in particular the global ship breaking industry have a responsibility to sort out this mess,” he added.

A substantial proportion of the workers at the Alang yard are paid less than US$1 per day, and the great majority are employed on a daily or sometimes monthly basis. Local trade unions are working with the workers, many of whom are migrants from other parts of India, to help them organise to improve the working conditions and increase their incomes, however resistance from employers and lack of enforcement of labour laws makes this particularly difficult.

The IMF will be continuing its support to the local trade unions in their efforts to organise the workers and is, with the ICFTU, the ITF and other Global Unions partners, step up pressure on governments, international agencies and the companies involved, to bring the world ship-breaking industry up to acceptable employment, health, safety and environmental standards.


Reviewing supplier compliance with the Bosch International Framework Agreement is one of the next implementation steps agreed to by Bosch worker representatives at the Bosch World Council.

GERMANY, [February 15, 2006]: Implementing the International Framework Agreement (IFA) with Bosch was top of the agenda at the Bosch World Conference as it opened in Abstatt, Germany, on February 15.

Initial steps discussed for the implementation of the IFA included:

  • intensifying the exchange of information on the situation and developments in labour relations
  • consistent expansion of a network to cover as many Bosch locations as possible
  • comprehensive education of personnel on the IFA
  • review of known Bosch suppliers regarding their compliance with the IFA

Almost 30 trade unionists from around the world including representatives from Australia, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa and USA joined the 40 strong European Works Council group in the discussion.

The framework agreement with Bosch was signed in 2004 and states that the company will pursue its economic objectives with consideration for social and environmental factors. The principles of the agreement are based on the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation.

Bosch is a Germany multinational company active in the areas of automotive, industrial and construction technology operating in 32 countries.


Examining how strategic research can support trade union struggles in a globalised economy was the subject of a three-day conference in New York, attended by the IMF.

USA, [February 13, 2006]: How trade unions can take a global approach to strategic research, collective bargaining and organising was the theme of a three-day conference in New York from February 9 to 11.

In a series of presenations and workshops the conference showed that influencing transnational corporations requires detailed knowledge of the company gained through strategic research in conjunction with trade union organising and collective bargaining actions.

With over 500 delegates, the conference brought together trade unionists and academics to analyse past campaigns, review corporate research and build networks for future trade union campaigns.

The IMF participated in two sessions on international framework agreements and chaired a session with the United Steelworkers on developing a global strategy for Alcoa.


The union is in talks with company management and a representative of the Colombian government’s Ministry for Social Protection.

COLOMBIA, [February 10, 2006]: Workers at Cerro Matoso, the world’s leading nickel producer, in Montelibano, Cordoba province, Colombia, are on strike alert, and close to announcing the start of a strike, says Nairo Guerra, union leader and member of the negotiating committee. At an assembly held on 3 February, 300 of the union’s 500 members voted to go on strike if an agreement is not reached. Guerra explained that the union has ten working days from that date in which it can legally declare a strike. However, he maintains that the union is being very prudent and prefers to reach a negotiated settlement.

He is currently in negotiations with company management and a representative of the Colombian government’s Ministry for Social Protection. “We are in the process of preparing the formal petition with a list of our demands, to present at the negotiating table,” said Nairo Guerra.

He added that there has been “a lot of resistance from the company”, mainly on the issues of employment contracts. The union wants employees to have permanent contracts so they have access to legal benefits and are not open to exploitation. The union also wants access to medical services extended to the families of workers and the whole community rather than be restricted to company employees.

Another important demand is for a 10 per cent pay increase. The company has offered six per cent. The union points to the profits made by the company in recent years as a justification for this demand.

The union leader said the company has increased production recently and profits have been high. He indicated that the cost of the demands put forward by the union represents 4.5 per cent of the company’s total costs.

He also stated that the union is asking the company to increase its social investments in Montelibano, which is located in the north of the country and has 60,000 inhabitants.

Referring to the dispute, José Carmona, union president, said: “We are ready to reach an agreement. We know how harmful a strike would be both for the company and the workers.” He said the union was determined to see its demands met given that the company has been doing very well recently and making big profits.


The IMF Regional Office has written to company management rejecting the “insensitive attitude” it has displayed during negotiations with the union.

COLOMBIA, [February 10, 2006]: Colombian trade unions have recently been the target of a series of attacks by the government and transnational companies. The Cerro Matoso trade union, affiliated to UTRAMMICOL, is on the verge of calling a strike due to the intransigence of the transnational company BHP Billiton, which is refusing to reach an agreement with the union in the current round of negotiations.

The IMF Regional Office wrote a letter of protest to Marcelo Bastos, President of the Cerro Matoso company, Montelibano, Colombia, rejecting the insensitive attitude displayed by the company during negotiations with the union. The company’s attitude has led workers to call a legal strike “in response to the company’s refusal to negotiate a more equitable distribution of its profits.”

The letter, from the IMF Regional Officer, Jorge Campos Miranda, urged management to “use the final stages of the negotiations to seek a fair solution to the differences between the two sides, in order to avoid a strike that would deepen the rift and that would be communicated to all other BHP-Billiton workers around the world and our international office in Geneva, Switzerland.”

The Regional Office also called on affiliated unions to join the solidarity campaign on behalf of workers at Cerro Matoso, by sending protest letters to the company.


Workers at Tower Automotive U.S. factories vote to authorized strikes by their unions if a federal court grants management’s request to cancel the company’s labour contract.

USA, [February 06, 2006]: Workers at Tower Automotive factories in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana have voted to authorize strike actions by their unions if a federal court grants management’s request to cancel the company’s labour contracts with members of the UAW, the United Steelworkers and the IUE-CWA.

“We have a strong coalition of three unions who have been working together to find solutions to the problems faced by Tower Automotive,” said UAW Vice President Bob King, who directs the union’s Independents, Parts and Suppliers (IPS) Department. “We want to preserve U.S. manufacturing jobs and keep Tower as an active participant in the U.S. automotive industry.

“Unfortunately, Tower’s reorganization plan is a recipe for failure — it takes money from workers, enriches executives and does nothing to really fix the company. We will have no part of it.”

“The company is demanding wage and benefit cuts and insisting on plant closings, with no commitments whatsoever to retain jobs or make new investments, said Jon Geenen, USWA director. “They plan to use our wage cuts to close our plants and finance their overseas operations.”

“We will not pay for our own demise,” said Geenen. “We hope this strong and unified vote by members of the UAW, the USW and the CWA will be a wake-up call to Tower management, so they will come to the table to work on a solution that benefits all parties.”

Tower Automotive declared bankruptcy in February 2005, and filed a Section 1113 motion seeking to cancel its labour contracts in January 2006. A hearing on the Section 1113 motion is scheduled for Feb. 27, with a ruling expected 10 days after. If the bankruptcy judge grants Tower’s request to cancel the company’s labour contracts, workers would have the right to strike at any time.


Agreement with Arcelor on core labour standards must be maintained, argues IMF in response to Mittal Steel’s hostile takeover bid.

GLOBAL, [February 05, 2006]: The IMF expressed concern about Mittal Steel’s bid for Arcelor this week, wanting assurances the International Framework Agreement (IFA) on respecting core labour standards signed by Arcelor and unions will be maintained or extended.

Last month, Mittal Steel, the world’s largest steel maker, made an unsolicited bid to buy out European steel maker Arcelor. Speaking on the issue, Rob Johnston IMF director for steel said the stakes for workers are high because there is a genuine fear of what the future will hold.

“In their dealings with both companies unions have had both good and bad experiences. However the IMF has successfully negotiated an IFA with Arcelor. This agreement gives us greater confidence that Arcelor will respect core labour standards in its operations throughout the world,” said Rob Johnston.

“While many of our affiliates tell us that their experience of Mittal Steel has shown the company to be fair and reasonable, in some cases Mittal’s ownership has precipitated job losses,” he said.

“Despite a difference in opinion on the bid between European and North American unions, all IMF affiliates agree that job security and workers’ rights remain the most critical issues,” he said.


The strike at Boeing in the U.S. ended February 2, after members of the machinists voted to ratify a new contract. Boeing workers in Australia remain on strike as the company still refuses to negotiate a collective agreement.

AUSTRALIA & USA, [February 03, 2006]: The strike at Boeing in the U.S. ended February 2, after members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) voted to ratify a new contract.

The 1,500 workers employed in Boeing’s Rocket Space and Defense Facilities first walked out on November 2, 2005 after the company refused to change its offer in collective agreement negotiations.

According to press reports the ratified agreement includes average increases of $13,700 over the life of the agreement, which expires in October 2008.

In Australia 27 workers employed by Boeing at the Williamstown Royal Australian Air Force base in New South Wales are continuing their strike over the company’s refusal to negotiate a collective agreement. The striking workers are members of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) and have been on strike for more than 250 days.

Workers and unions in Australia fear that the situation at Boeing will become commonplace in Australia under the new labour laws, which include no enforcable legal right to collective bargaining.

To find out more about the situation at Boeing in Australia please see the AWU protest webpage.

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