IndustriALL Headlines #31 – February 21, 2013

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union


February 21, 2013:  This week the attention of trade unions around the world is focused on Mexico. 10,000 activists from different regions, cultures, industrial sectors and backgrounds, are speaking in different languages through different actions. Their message is clear and united: “We will not give up until Mexican workers get full trade union rights”.

The days of action are encompassing the struggles of a range of different groups of workers in Mexico. Their stories are all inspiring for trade unionists throughout the world. This stirring video message sent by IndustriALL Executive Committee member Michele O’Neil, TCFUA National Secretary, to the locked-out shoe workers at Bata Sandak well reflects the sentiment of the global campaign.

The grand, historic Mexican union Los Mineros has been attacked in vicious persecution by Mexican authorities and employers over a period of six years. Their fight is always central to the international campaign for trade union rights in Mexico. The global days of action are held in the week of 19 February to mark the industrial homicide of 65 mineworkers at the Pasta de Conchos mine six years ago, and justice at Pasta de Conchos is a central demand of the campaign.  

The Mexican days of action started solemnly in Mexico City on 18 February with a silent march from the Monumento da la Revolucion to the Angel de la Independencia mourning those 65 miners. Mineros carried 65 symbolic coffins and placed them at the monument where mineworkers from all sections and locals held an overnight vigil. SME, UNTTYP, Continental Tires Workers, FAT, CAW, USW, UE and IndustriALL Global Union participated in solidarity with Los Mineros.  

Other gross injustices facing Los Mineros include the conflicts in Ciudad Acuña, Cananea, Taxco and Zacatecas, and of course the false criminal charges keeping General Secretary Napoleón Gomez Urrutia in exile in Canada. Napoleon will be participating in a demonstration at the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver today, 21 February.  

Other main struggles include those of the SME, SUTEIVP, and Bata. The Bata Sandak workers received several hundred solidarity messages through IndustriALL’s online petition, as well as video messages from overseas trade unions representing shoe workers. PKC workers in Ciudad Acuña have been supported by 9,000 messages to the Finnish-based management through Labourstart.  

Click here to see in more detail the actions taken in various countries marking the global days. Extra-notable pages are Mexico, South Africa, Switzerland, and United States.  

Affiliates of UNI Global Union will take actions marking the global days on 22 February at Mexican Embassies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and USA.


February 21, 2013:  The historic two days general strike called by Indian central trade unions on 20 and 21 February received unprecedented support among workers across India affecting all vital sectors bringing life to a standstill.

The trade unions’ 10 point demands include measures to contain price rise, employment generation, strict enforcement of labour laws and universal social security cover for organized and unorganized workers.  

The  demands were jointly made by eleven Central Trade Unions namely BMS, INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, AICCTU, UTUC, TUCC, SEWA, LPF and Independent Federations of Workers and Employees as decided in the National Convention of Workers in 4 September 2012.  

Claiming that the general strike is total in all sectors by all workers, in a press release issued on 20 February, 2013, unions stated that, “the unprecedented response to the call of strike throughout the country much beyond our expectations reflects truly the anger of the people against the persistent increase in the prices of diesel, gas, coal, electricity and other essential goods for the bare need of the common people.”  

With vigor and determination and undaunted by police repression and government and employers’ threats, the General Strike continued on the second day, 21 February 2013.  Workers from all the major and strategic sectors participated, such as banks, insurance and other financial sectors, oil & petroleum, road transport (both public and private sectors) in many states, defence (civilian), postal, telecom, govt. employees in several states, several departments of Central govt., port & dock, coal & non-coal mines, power and plantation sectors. There was also a large presence of unorganized workers in the protest demonstrations.   

The two days of general strike is a continuation of joint efforts by Indian trade unions that started in 2009. Since then to express resentment over anti-labour policies and government’s inaction to protect workers’ interests, cutting across political ideologies, major central trade unions have come together in a single platform and taken a number of actions.  

However, further indifference of the government of India forced unions to intensify their efforts and call for general strike for two consecutive days on 20-21 February 2013 to pressure the Government of India to address some of the basic human and trade union rights issues faced by workers across the country.  

At the final moment on 13 February labour minister convened a meeting and appealed to withdraw the strike call. On 17 February, the Prime Minister of India appealed to withdraw the strike and on the evening of 18 February senior ministers held meetings with the trade union leaders. However, as the panel of ministers failed to provide any concrete proposal on even a single demand, trade unions went ahead with the two days general strike.

Ten points union demands are:  

1.Measures to contain price rise,  
2.Measures for employment generation,  
3.Strict enforcement of labour laws,  
4.Universal social security cover for organized and unorganized workers and creation of National Social Security Fund,  
5.Stoppage of disinvestment in Central and State Public Sector Undertakings,  
6.No Contractorisation of work of perennial nature and equal payment of wages and benefits,  
7.Amendment of Minimum Wages Act to ensure universal coverage irrespective of the schedules and fixation of statutory minimum wage at not less than Rs 10,000/- linked with cost price index,  
8.Remove all ceilings on payment and eligibility of Bonus, Provident Fund; Increase the quantum of gratuity,  
9.Assured Pension for all, and  
10.Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days and immediate ratification of the ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98.


February 21, 2013:  In the early hours of 17 February, Central Security Forces stormed workers conducting a sit-in at the Portland Cement Factory in Alexandria, injuring dozens of workers. 18 of the striking workers remain in detention.

The workers were performing dawn prayers when the raid was launched. The workers were severely beaten by the security personnel and attacked by dogs leaving dozens injured and 4 in intensive care.  Workers were jumping from the third and fourth floor of the building to escape the dog attacks.

450 workers began the strike action on 14 February demanding the company honour the promises it made in January to provide permanent job contracts and improved pay and bonuses. The workers had already stopped work in one department and were threatening to stop feeding ovens from 17 February.  

Almost 100 workers were arrested, 18 remain in detention, including 2 who sustained serious injuries during the attack according to trade union sources. The workers are facing charges of hindering foreign investment and detention of hostages (management) at the factory.  

IndustriALL has written to the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, calling on him to intervene and ensure the immediate release of all detained workers.  

“IndustriALL Global Union condemns and deplores the blatant disregard of the human rights and trade unions rights of workers, who were peacefully raising their legitimate demands for decent working and living conditions,” writes Raina.


February 21, 2013:  More than 500 electricity workers from across Russia gathered in central Moscow on 20 February to demand 25 per cent wage rise.

All-Russian Electric Trade Union (ARETU), an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, held a massive rally in central Moscow on 20 February to demand 25 per cent wage hike and raise awareness about perisistent problems in the energy sector.  

ARETU is in the process of signing a national collective agreement for 2013 with the employers’ association, however, the negotiations are stalled.  

The wages in the industry have been stagnant for many years, with a sharp decline in real income, sometimes up to 30-40 per cent. Average wage of electricty workers in Russia is just 500-800 USD, contrary to the Ministry estimates of 1300 USD.  

Leaders of union locals from different Russian regions — Caucasus, Central and Northern Russia, Siberia, Far East — expressed their anger and frustration over the same problems: inadequate wages, lack of proper equipment repair, constantly rising workload.  

“Everyone seems to think electricity is a given, like sunshine. Just plug your lamp and here’s your light,” said one speaker.  

This is not the first public action for ARETU in the current negotiations round. On 15 November 2012, the union held a rally and two pickets in Moscow, as well as a press conference.  

On 19 February IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina wrote to the Energy Minister as well as Prime Minister of Russia, expressing his concern over the problems in the energy sector, extending his solidarity to ARETU’s demands and urging the authorities to act on the problems of the sector.  

As a show of solidarity, leaders of the Miners’ & Metallurgical Workers’ Union of Russia (MMWU) and the Russian Chemical Workers’ Union (RCWU), both IndustriALL affiliates, attended the rally.  

“Strikes are not prohibited in our sector. In certain conditions, they are indeed a possibility. We are ready to take that step,” commented ARETU president Valery Vakhrushkin to the central union newspaper Solidarnost (Solidarity) after the rally.


February 21, 2013:  More than 600 workers stopped production at the Gerdau plant in São Leopoldo for more than 2 hours on 19 February, demanding action after a severe workplace injury occurred on 16 February.

Ivanes Dos Santos, a Gerdau worker at the plant, lost a leg at work during the night of 16 February 2013. Ivanes is 43 years old and has 16 years of seniority.  

The workers representative in the Joint H&S committee at the plant had told Gerdau in previous meetings that this accident was waiting to happen. The speed of production is too high due to reduction of personal and measures to decrease costs.  

Valmir Lodi, coordinator of the Gerdau network in Brazil, said that this is the third serious accident in Brazil in the last year.   

Workers demonstrated outside and inside the plant because the employer called the police and closed the gates. After the demonstration the union met with the employer and, among other claims, demanded a single master agreement for Gerdau for all Brazil. The employer agreed to continue the conversation in Sao Paulo.  

The unions also demanded the reinstatement of the labour leader who was suspended in January from the Gerdau plant in Pindamonhangaba, Brazil. Marcos Alves Corrêa, coordinator of the stewards at the plant, was suspended after a verbal fight with a Health and Safety supervisor that did not want to allow Marcos to be part of a safety visit.  

The Gerdau Workers’ World Council, one of the most active worker networks of IndustriALL affiliates, defends the right to have a decent life and decent work in all countries where it represents workers. This week the network actively participated in the Mexico Global Days of Action at Gerdau plants in 8 countries.