IndustriALL Headlines # 29 – February 7, 2013

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union

IndustriALL Headlines # 29

60,000 Workers March Through Mexico City 

February 7, 2013:  The 31 January mass demonstration brought together working people and activists from many sectors including mining, energy, aviation, teaching, telephone and agriculture calleng for a new economic and polication direction for Mexico.

The 60,000-strong mobilization denounced the injustice handed down by the country’s Supreme Court on 30 January against Mexico’s oldest democratic union the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME). That decision overruled an appellate court ruling taken in line with national labour legislation that clearly passes employer responsibility to a company that takes over operations of another company, as occurred for SME members. There is no way to interpret this unjust Supreme Court ruling that runs contrary to Mexican law, other than as an effort by the ruling elite to crush the SME electrical workers’ union.

The SME General Secretary Martín Esparza in his address to the demonstration that climaxed in the national Zócalo plaza asked if marchers would accept the Supreme Court decision and give up their three-year struggle for reemployment. The loud, unified shout back was “NO!”

Pressure is building on the new President Enrique Peña Nieto that his PRI Party government cannot continue the repressive policies of the previous PAN Party government and must end the establishment’s repression of social movements.

A similar call for changes was made in a letter to the Mexican President sent by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and all Global Unions on 6 February 2013.

The ground is prepared for a strong Global Days of Action for workers’ rights in Mexico on 18-24 February. IndustriALL Global Union affiliates around the world are linking up with trade unionists from other sectors to demonstrate the international indignation at the concerted union-busting in Mexico.

Unified action in Mexico will be carried out by all democratic national unions, supported by international colleagues. Actions there will include a joint press conference, a public meeting, embassy visits, a solidarity caravan, a commemoration silent march in memory of the Pasta de Conchos victims, and a large-scale march through the capital.

The Tri-National Solidarity Alliance of unions in Canada, Mexico and the US are playing a leading role in planning activities in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New Orleans, New York, Ottawa, Portland, Raleigh, Seattle, Tucson, Vancouver, and Washington DC.

Unite the Union in the UK is hosting a public meeting on 20 February in partnership with the TUC and other groups.

See here the 6 February joint letter to President Enrique Peña Nieto from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and all the Global Union Federations.

The four main demands of the Global Days of Action 2013 are:

  • Justice for the families of the 65 miners killed at Pasta de Conchos on 19 February 2006;
  • End the use of employer dominated protection contracts, which deny the worker the right to democratic representation and collective bargaining
  • Repeal of the Labour Law enacted on 1 December 2012 that encourage dismissal of union activists, increases subcontracting and lead to massive expansion of precarious employment
  • Reinstate unlawfully fired union activists from SME, PKC, Vidriera de Potosi/Grupo Modelo; Honda; Calzado Sandak /Bata and allow free and fair elections at PKC, Excellon, Honda, Atento.

Get involved, take action and follow the campaign on IndustriALL website here.  Here you will find more material, new videos, and new ways to take action and support the campaign over the next few weeks.

Indonesian Unions Demonstrate Their Strength in Unity

February 7, 2013:  One day after a massive rally in Jakarta, the leaders of 11 Indonesian unions affiliated to Industri ALL Global Union met and decided to create the IndustriALL Indonesia Council.

Gathered on 7 February 2013, the leaders discussed common challenges, the IndustriALL Action Plan and took the decision to create the IndustriALL Indonesia Council as a platform for coordinating struggles and implementing the IndustriALL plan of activities.

The meeting was result of the leadership forum held in November 2012 where the affiliates agreed on the points of solidarity and kunited action, as follows:

  1. Campaigning for changes to social security
  2. Improving labour legislation and stopping union busting and the criminalization of labour leaders
  3. Reducing the prevalence of precarious work
  4. Fighting for a national minimum wage   
  5. On organizing and collective bargaining

The meeting elected a co-ordinator, vice co-ordinator and 4 members of a steering committee, who will meet soon to strategise the action plan and discuss the timetable.

The meeting was chaired by Vonny Diananto, a Regional Officer of IndustriALL based in South East Asia and Fernando Lopes, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL, who closed the meeting saying that a important decision had been taken that would certainly contribute to the strength of the unions and IndustriALL in the country and the region.

One day before the meeting, the IndustriALL representatives participated in a 50,000 strong rally in downtown Jakarta organized by The Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers’ Union (FSPMI). The workers were demanding improved health care insurance and pension system and an increase of the minimum wage for all Indonesian citizens as part of FSPMI’s 14th anniversary celebrations.

The elected IndustriALL Indonesia Council structure is as follows:

Chair: Sjaiful DP (President of KEP CITU)

Secretary: Eduard Marpaung (General Secretary of LOMENIK KSBSI)

Steering Committees Members:

CITU: Suparno, B. (General Secretary of FSPMI)

KSBSI: Elly Silaban (President of GARTEKS)

KSN: Pandi Wijaya (Head of Training Department of FSP2KI)

KSPSI: Chandra Mahlan (Head of Training Department CEMWU)

People Before Profit is the Call at Africa’s Mining Indaba

February 7, 2013:  Outside Africa’s annual meeting of mining corporate and senior government officials, activits protested the exclusion of civil society that represent the actual owners of the continent’s huge mineral wealth chanting, “nothing about us without us”.

In its 19th year, the Indaba is no small affair; 7,500 participants and representation from 1,800 companies have gathered in Cape Town, South Africa for the event taking place from 4th to 7th February.  Delegates come from 100 countries and in addition to those representing mining and government, there is a good sprinkling of services representation, in particular those representing financial firms. 

South Africa is keen to portray  that it is ‘business as usual’ after the Marikana incident in which 34 mineworkers were shot dead by police in August last year, related violence and high levels of industrial unrest in the mining sector for almost all of the second half of 2012.

‘No more Marikanas please’ is what government is asking of business.  Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, gave business the assurance that South Africa will not nationalise the mines and called for an end to discussions and debates on nationalisation. That’s government holding up their end to rebuild investor confidence, but business needs to keep up theirs, which Shabangu spells out as labour conditions at the mines must improve and industrial unrest needs to be avoided.

It seems quite a gentle approach but Shabangu has been criticised for not being soft enough on mining companies, badly bruised by the events of 2012, in particular her firm objection to Anglo Platinum’s intention to retrench 14, 000 workers. Anglo Platinum, which recorded a loss for 2012, is expecting workers to bear the brunt of this, laying blame on workers for the two month strike at its Rustenburg operations. However, Anglo Platinum was on a poor trajectory before the industrial unrest, as a result of high cost inputs, in particular of electricity and water and low platinum prices. Anglo Platinum controls most of the world’s platinum production aqnd so can increase demand and the price of platinum by reducing its output. The company intends to do just that by closing two of its mines and selling another.

A billboard as you enter Cape Town from the airport, tells you how Anglo Platinum is keeping its promise to build 26,000 houses. There should be one next to it saying ‘Amplats giveth and Amplats taketh away’, telling you of the families that could potentially be made homeless when 14,000 breadwinners lose their jobs, assuming that they have houses to lose in the first place.

The need to balance the well resourced spin on corporate social responsibility with a good dose of reality, is one of the principle reasons why civil society working on issues of the extractives sector gather at an Alternative Mining Indaba. It is a side event to the big show; the entrance fee to the Mining Indaba is designed to be out of the reach of civil society, hence ensuring its exclusion.

Civil society draw attention to policy issues as well as actions and impact of mining companies that undermine workers, communities and the environment.  This year has delved deep into the underlying issues that Marikana brought into the public eye and much attention is being paid to the poor conditions for communities living next to the mines; absolute poverty at the coalface of absolute wealth. 

Five Cement Workers Killed at Ambuja-Holcim in India 

February 1, 2013:  IndustriALL Global AUnion affiliated cement contract workers trade union PCSS in India reported a deadly accident on 31 January that killed five workers in Bhatapara, Chhattisgarh India.

Sudha Bharadwaj, a legal adviser of the contract workers union PCSS Stated:

“On hearing of the accident, Shri Kalyan Singh Patel, PCSS General Secretary immediately sent two members (whose names are being withheld for their protection) along with a legal advisor to the site.  Since no persons including journalists were being permitted inside the plant, there was heavy police deployment and the Collector and Superintendent of Police though present on the spot were not receiving call, only preliminary fact finding could be conducted on the basis of discussion with workers, farmers of Arjuni and Bhadrapali and the relatives of the deceased workment.”

PCSS reported that the accident took place sometime between 10.30 and 11am on 31 January 2013. The fly ash hopper situated on the 5th floor collapsed, crashing through 4 floors. The air was thick with dust for hours.

The five workers to have died are:

  1. Roshan Verma, apprentice, Arjuni Village
  2. Poshan Verma, apprentice, Arjuni Village
  3. Suresh Shukla, permanent worker, Ambuja Colony
  4. Kamleshwar Singh, permanent worker, Bhadrapaali Village
  5. Durgesh, contract worker, Saiha Village

Reports suggest that the capacity of the hopper was 170 tonnes but it was overloaded, possibly to about 300 tonnes. The hopper was in a dilapidated condition and in fact had possibly been sealed by the authorities during a raid a number of months ago.

There was no fire protection in the plant and no specially trained rescue officers to deal with this accident. In fact for the rescue, trained personnel had to be called from the nearby plant of Ultratech cement.

The company had poured water on the fly ash making it set and making it difficult to remove the dead and injured from under the debris. The workers who had rushed to help were all ordered to go away. Family members were not permitted to go to the spot and were also not shown the bodies of the deceased.

Villagers of Arjuni and Bhadrapaali had gathered at the gates and were demanding to be let in. One youth scaled the gate and was badly beaten up by the company security. On seeing this, the villagers became agitated and started shouting slogans. They were forcibly dispersed. It is clear that despite making enormous profits the company clearly cuts corners on maintenance and wages.

A PCSS team visited the accident site on 2 February and managed to initiate a criminal case against the management, leading initially to the arrest of a security officer, and then to three other arrests under laws governing negligence with machinery, endangering life or personal safety and causing death by negligence, those arrested included Ambuja Vice-President Sanjay Kumar Badopadhyay. The arrests though were made light charges and all detainees were able to post bail and leave custody within a single day.

The PCSS team visited families of the deceased workmen in Arjuni and Bhadrapali. Holcim has frozen production at the plant and agreed to compensate victim’s families financially plus by employing a member of each victim’s family, as well as the statutory compensation.

See Swiss-based trade union affiliate UNIA’s 6 February press release on the accident in French here.

Dismissed Maruti Suzuki Workers Face State Repression

February 7, 2013:  Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) organized an all-India day of solidarity action on 5 February 2013 to condemn the state repression and demanding release of arrested workers and reinstatement of all dismissed workers of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL).

After the 18 July 2012 biolent incident, in which a manager at Manesar plant of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) was killed, workers are facing increased state repression. Currently 147 workers including all office bearers of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) (Registration No. 1923) are in jail without bail for more than 6 months. In addition 66 more workers have been issued non-bailable arrest warrants.  In response to the 18 July incident, the MSIL management terminated 546 regular and nearly 2,300 contract workers. 

The workers’ struggle is led by a Provisional Working Committee (PWC) as the MSWU has been dereistered and all the office bearers are in Gurgaon Central Jail. The struggle has taken various forms like rallies, demonstrations across all districts of Haryana and in Delhi, mass hunger strikes. The MSWU and PWC also sought to foster solidarity with contract workers in the entire NCR industrial belt with an Auto Workers Convention. They have recently taken out a Justice Rally across all districts of Haryana, which culminated in a mass demonstration of over 5,000 people in Rohtak on 27 January 2013. MSWU alleges that police and intelligence officials are arresting any activist who is coming forward to lead the agitation. Consequently workers under fear psychosis and scared to mobilize openly.

The Political Secretary of the Chief Minister of Haryana assured the demonstrators that the Chief Minister would meet them on 13 February, to discuss their issues.

In this critical situation MSWU announced the all-India day of solidarity action on 5 February 2013 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Around 150 representatives of 23 All India organizations comprising of trade unions, student unions and human rights organizations participated in the solidarity demonstration. Memorandums were submitted to the local elected representatives and to Bhupinder Hooda, Chief Minister, Haryana.

Demands of MSWU include:

  • Institute a high-level independent impartial proble into the incident of 18 July 2012;
  • Immediately release all arrested 147 workers;
  • Immediately reinstate all terminated workers, including 546 permanent and around 2,300 contract workers;
  • Stop the flouting of labour laws, and implement the right to form a union in all auto companies in the region; and
  • Stop the illegal contract labour system in permanent nature of work in the industrial belt. 
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