IndustriALL Headlines #26


IndustriALL Global Union

IndustriALL Headlines #26 – January 17, 2013


ELECTROLUX IMPRISONS THEN SACKS WORKERS IN THAILAND

January 17, 2013:  Refusing to negotiate with workers’ representatives, Electrolux management in Thailand locked up over 100 workers for 8 hours, including a pregnant woman, then sacked 127 workers including the local union president of the Rayong plant.

In a letter addressed to the company management in Sweden, which is signatory to an International Framework Agreement on workers’ rights, IndustriALL Global Union joined with Swedish union IF Metall in expressing outrage at the unjust and anti-union actions of Electrolux Thailand.

On 11 January 2013 Electrolux Thailand management called a meeting of all workers at 8am and announced a two-month bonus, but then refused to discuss the workers demands for fair wage increases and permanent employment for agency workers after 6 months.

Instead the managers forcibly removed the union president, Phaiwan Metha, from the meeting throwing him onto the street and dismissing him. When the gathered workers learnt of the dismissal they continued to sit on the floor and demanded his reinstatement and return.

Management then called security and police and surrounded the workers, preventing them from leaving for 8 hours, including a pregnant woman in her sixth month who tried to leave. At 5pm the workers were released, one by one by the security guards. The workers returned to work on 14 January to find written dismissal notice for 127 workers.

The dismissals followed more than a month of efforts by the union to negotiate on the new minimum wage and annual wage adjustments due to be implemented by 25 January 2013. The management had refused to accept the proposals by the union and instead attempted to impose wage adjustments that had not been agreed to.

In the letter to Electrolux IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina states that the company’s actions “constitutes a crystal clear union-busting attempt to force upon workers an unfair collective bargaining process”.

“I strongly urge you to use your influence to immediately reinstate the dismissed workers and union members and return to the collective bargaining table to achieve a fair and just resolution of this conflict as well as create a constructive relationship between labour and management,” writes Raina.

The union at the plant in Thailand was formed in 2010 at which time it managed to negotiate a collective agreement that is due for renewal this year. The products of the Electrolux plant include washing machines, refrigerators and other electrical appliances for European and Asian markets.

The dismissed workers are now fighting against the management’s unjust union busting tactics and have submitted their grievances to the Parliament’s Labour Commission.


UNIONS PREPARE FOR MEXICO DAYS OF ACTION

January 17, 2013:  Preparations are continuing for actions around the world marking the 2013 Mexico Days of Action, 18-24 February.

In the Mexican capital, national unions will march with international and North American trade unionists on 19 February and further actions are planned throughout the country during the week.

During the Days of Action IndustriALL affiliated trade unions, together with transport workers and others, will revisit the Mexican Ambassador to their country and push for action on:

  • The outstanding ILO complaint no. 2694 on Protection Contracts
  • Pasta de Conchos justice
  • Rejecting the recent regressive labour law reforms

One of the current key conflicts involving democratic trade unions in Mexico is at the Finnish-based auto parts multinational PKC in Ciudad Acuña, where eleven members of the national Mexican mining union Los Mineros Section 307 ended a six-day hunger strike on 14 January protesting the severe union-busting campaign against them.

The hunger strike was called off once Los Mineros achieved a new round of workplace voting to be held at PKC-Arneses next month. This follows an 18 October election marred by intimidation and threats from management leading to a tight defeat for Los Mineros to yellow union CTM. It is clear that the workplace would elect Los Mineros in a free and democratic election.

The hunger strikers were illegally dismissed between 14-20 December 2012, when PKC-Arneses management forced 122 workers involved in organizing the workplace to resign. These 122 workers must now be reinstated. 

The new workplace representation election date will be fixed at a meeting on 31 January. International solidarity is now focussing on ensuring there is no repeat of the repression conducted before the October election by management, with full complicity of the local authorities and paid thugs. The company also financed a massive media campaign through local TV, radio and press in the lead-up to the October election discrediting the Mineros union.

The group of workers have struggled for four years to organize and officially form Section 307 of Los Mineros. The list of daily violations of workers’ rights at PKC-Arneses indicates what the management fear from a democratic representative trade union at the factory. Under the watch of the yellow CTM union management has got away with paying poverty wages of less than 100 Mexican pesos a day (6 Euros), running illegally long work shifts of 10 hours a day with 5 minutes break, and abuses of the workers’ leave and other benefits.


  

MILITARY PAID TO INTIMIDATE NIKE WORKERS IN INDONESIA

January 17, 2013:  Workers at a Nike shoe factory in Indonesia alleged that the factory paid military personnel to intimidate them to work for less than the minimum wage.

In a shocking development on 15 January 2013, ABC News reported that workers at the Nike factory in West Java city of Sukabumi were allegedly intimidated by military personnel to sign a petition supporting the employer’s petition to be exempted from paying the new minimum wage. It is important to note that in 2012 millions of workers protested demanding an increase in minimum wages, social security and for better working conditions. In response to the workers’ protests the government increased wages by 46 per cent to IDR 2.04 million (US$220) from the current IDR 1.4 million (US$145).

However, companies were allowed to apply for exemption from paying new wages by providing information on the company’s financial condition and consent from workers. In this backdrop, the Nike factory at Sukabumi allegedly paid military personnel to intimidate its workers to support their application for exemption from paying new wages. Workers were also told that “inside the factory there were a lot of military intelligence officers”.

Trade unionists and social activists expressed serious concern over involvement of military personnel to intimidate workers.

A subsequent news report in Jakata Globe indicates that Nike has since revoked its application for exemption.


    

SIGN WHITE HOUSE PETITION ON PRECARIOUS WORK IN KOREA

January 17, 2013:  Korean Metal Workers’ Union petition the U.S. White House to demand that Chung Mong-Koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Company, accept the Supreme Court ruling to grant permanent employment to precarious workers.

Korean Metal Workers’ Union petition the U.S. White House to demand that Chung Mong-Koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Company, accept the Supreme Court ruling to grant permanent employment to precarious workers.

On 22 July 2010 the Korean Supreme Court made a verdict in favour of a Hyundai Motor subcontract worker’s suit, submitted by Choi Byeong-seung in 2005, ruling the worker be promoted to a permanent employee status. Hyundai again appealed the landmark Supreme Court ruling of 2010, but Choi Byeong-seung won the final and definitive decision on 23 February 2012.

This decision established a precedent for change in the Korean automotive industry, which continues to make extensive use of a subcontracted workforce to extract additional profits. Now Hyundai is claiming the decision only relates to the individual worker and refuses to apply the principle to other workers in the exact same positions at Choi Byeong-seung.

The precarious workers have been carrying out strikes at Hyundai Motor in Korea and protest actions, symbolized by the aerial protest on top of a pylon in front of Hyundai Motor plant in Ulsan demanding implementation of the court decision: http://www.industriall-union.org/korean-workers-stage-protest-against-hyundai

Please sign the petition to ask the White House to take a stand on Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-Koo’s non-compliance with the Supreme Court precarious workers’ ruling.

If 25,000 signatures are collected between 10 January 2013 and 8 February 2013, the Obama administration will need to take a stand on this crucial struggle of precarious workers to seek accountability from the transnational corporations using illegal work arrangements to circumvent responsibility for their employees.

The Petition to White House can be accessed by clicking here.   Additional detailed instructions are available at the KMWU website.


TRIPARTITE EFFORT ON FIRE SAFETY IN BANGLADESH
January 17, 2013:  Government, employers, and unions sign onto a tripartite statement regarding fire safety in bangladesh and agree to jointly develop a national action plan by the end of February 2013.

Mourning the loss of 112 workers lives, as well as the injuries suffered, during a terrible fire at Tazreen Fashions on 24 November 2012, the agreement, commits government, employers and workers’ organizations to working together to develop, promote and implement collaborative, participatory and transparent mechanisms to ensure fire safety in Bangladesh.

IndustriALL Global Union welcomes this commitment to fire safety and pledges its support to ensure more is done to protect the safety and health of workers in the textile sector in Bangladesh.

Signed on 15 January 2013, the agreement recognizes that occupational safety and health requires the full involvement and recognition of workers and their representatives.

The signed statement, published here, call on the International Labour Organization for technical support and assistance from development agencies, brands, buyers, donor agencies and non-government organizations.

Monika Kemperle, IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary, who previously demanded government action on fire safety, welcomed the agreement and said,

“Fire safety in the textile industry must be ensured by government and delivered by employers and tripartite approach, involving unions, is the only way o ensure that the disaster that claimed more than 100 lives in November last year does not occur again.