IndustriALL Headlines #33 – March 7, 2013

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union.


U.S. NISSON WORKERS AT GENEVA MOTOR SHOW

Workers from a Nissan plant in Mississippi, in the United States, held a tree planting ceremony in front of the Geneva Auto Show on 7 March calling on visitors to Show to “look beneath the shine of Nissan”.

March 7, 2013:  Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, opened the ceremony and explained that while Nissan plants are organized all over the world, this is not the case in the U.S.  

Nissan USA is denying workers in its Mississippi plant a fair union election and using a campaign of fear to discourage employees from considering a union.  

Speaking at the ceremony, Mississippi Nissan workers Michael Carter and Willard “Chip” Wells Jr. described the situation that they face.  

“Nissan let’s us know, they don’t want a union in Mississippi,” said Michael Carter.  

“They try to scare you about unions. They imply the plant will close if we support a union. We need a fair process so that workers can make up their own minds,” he said.  

Nissan has run a fear campaign to prevent workers from organizing a union, which has included:  

  • Holding anti-union meetings and roundtable discussions to create an atmosphere of fear  
  • Showing plant-wide, anti-union videos on TV monitors during the workday  
  • Implying to workers that unionization results in plant closure or lay-offs.  

Also speaking at the ceremony, Nissan worker Chip Wells said, “We want to work together with Nissan. It is a good company that makes good cars. With a union representing us we can make better cars and be more productive.”  

The workers, supported by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate UAW, were joined by members of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), an organization representing clergy, elected officials, civil rights activists and students.  

A delegation of the workers, clergy and UAW organizing staff are in Geneva 5 to 10 March to highlight the violations of labour standards and ask visitors and members of the press attending the Geneva Auto Show to “look beneath the shine of Nissan.”

http://www.beneaththeshine.org/



50,000 BRAZILIANS MARCH FOR LABOUR RIGHTS

The march organized by Brazil’s trade union centres and social movements highlighted the need to strengthen the internal market in order to make progress on pay, employment and labour rights.

March 7, 2013:  More than 50,000 demonstrators marched down the Esplanade of the Ministries in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, on Wednesday 6 March in support of working class demands for greater public investment in infrastructure and social services, a stronger internal market, the redistribution of income and against neoliberal-inspired attacks on labour rights.  

With the participation of samba schools and groups of Bahian dancers, the seventh march of the trade union centrals and social movements for Citizenship, Development and Recognition of the Value of Work paid homage to the recently deceased Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez. Workers also attended the vigil in front of the Venezuelan embassy in honour of President Chavez, who the demonstrators called “the biggest defender of labour causes”.  

The march took more than 3 hours to reach the National Congress and was organized by unions affiliated to the Central Única de los Trabajadores (CUT), Força Sindical, the Central de los Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de Brasil (CTB), the Unión General de los Trabajadores (UGT), the Nueva Central Sindical de Trabajadores (NCST) and the Central General de los Trabajadores de Brasil (CGTB).  

Most IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in the metalworking, textiles and shoes, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, oil, paper and plastics sectors are affiliated to either Força Sindical or CUT. Both centrals value the unity of the trade union movement and this was the driving force behind the march, which united 50,000 demonstrators, including workers, students, men and women, in brief, the Brazilian people.   

The unions are calling for:  

  • A 40 hour week without a reduction in pay  
  • An end to cuts in the value of pensions  
  • Equal opportunities for men and women  
  • Support for pensioners  
  • 10% of GDP for education  
  • 10% of the national budget for health  
  • Changes in income tax rates  
  • Ratification of ILO Convention 158  
  • Regulation of ILO Convention 151  
  • More public investment

TRADE UNIONS ARE BATTLING IN NEW YORK FOR THE STATUS OF WOMEN

Union women from around the world are gathered in New York for the United Nations’ 57th Session on the Commission on th eStatus of Women (UNCSW57), starting on 4 March 2013.

March 7, 2013:  Focusing on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, the trade union delegation to UNCSW57 will call on all member states to take all necessary measures to immediately and without further delay prevent and remedy violence against women and girls.

More than 6,000 representatives of civil society have registered at this annual event organized by the United Nations in New York to examine the status of women.  Global Union Federations such as PSI, UNI and EI are present at the conference as well as national centers and national unions, including IndustriALL Global Union affiliate from Canada CEP.

According to a report by the World Bank, which was quoted at the conference, women aged between 15 and 44 are more likely to die a violent death than of malaria, AIDS or cancer combined.

This year the International Labour Organization (ILO) is also highlighting the issue of sexual harassment to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March. The ILO’s statement to the Commission associates the ILO’s fight for decent work with the fight against violence. The ILO has policies and programs to eliminate sex discrimination at work, including sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Exact data are hard to come by, but some estimates indicate that 40 to 50 per cent of women in the European Union experience unwanted sexual advances at work. For Asia-Pacific countries it is 30 to 40 per cent. Whenever vicious discrimination is allowed to continue, society needs to step up its fight against gender-based violence. Trade unions include clauses on sexual harassment in collective agreements and tackle it through grievance procedures.

Diplomats in New York are afraid that conservative governments will once again block the final statement of the conference, claiming that religion, customs and traditions prevent them from combating violence against women. They restrict women’s health and reproductive rights and even their integrity by insisting on “traditional” and “moral” positions and attacking human rights which are already enshrined in international instruments.

Women who dare to transgress the values espoused by conservative governments, fundamentalists, paramilitaries or extremists suffer physical violence, marginalization, intimidation, defamation. The women’s rights activists who are present at UNCSW57 are fighting hard to ensure that the achievements that women fought so hard for are not diminished.

Women’s economic empowerment was a major theme at the session on Violence against Women and HIV in Africa. Speaking at the session were Ministers for women and gender equality from Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Malawi as well as a sister from the Namibia Women’s Network of Women Living with HIV.

Participants agreed that the post-2015 development agenda, after the end of the Millenium Development Goals, has to include equality for women. Women’s economic dependence on men makes them vulnerable to gender-based violence and HIV transmission. Economic empowerment translates into decision-making power, greater capacity to refuse sex or negotiate for safe sex, less time spent on seeking food, energy and water and more time spent on education and social and political engagement. Education, decent work and access to clean water were some of the priorities emphasized to achieve women’s economic empowerment in Africa.

One of the conclusions is that more women have to be recruited into the police, as blue helmets and as judges. The fight against violence against women needs to be one priority of sustainability, peace and security. And trade unions need to play more their role as legitimate stakeholders in the fight to eliminate violence. The final conclusions of UNCSW57 will be adopted on 15 March 2013.


SLOVENIAN LAW CHANGES TO RESTRICT PRECARIOUS WORK

Unions in Slovenia have been part of negotiations that have resulted in stronger limitations on temporary and agency work.

March 7, 2013:   On 5 March a new law passed in Slovenia to make temporary work more expensive, and therefore less attractive, for employers.  Currently, workers in the same position for 3 years must be given an ongoing employment contract.  The new law means that an employer cannot have a position that is temporary for more than 2 years, regardless of how many people have occupied that position.  If the employer does not convert the position to permanent after a 2 year period, severance pay must be paid to the worker.  In addition, unemployment tax for workers in this situation is 5 times higher than for regular workers, a strong disincentive for employers to rely on temporary work.

The second legal change introduces a quota for agency work.  Temporary agency work must now not exceed 25 per cent of an employer’s total workforce and not be used for more than 2 years.  An employer cannot use agency workers to break strikes, nor if there have been redundancies within the last 12 months.  The new law also introduces joint liability for employers and agencies: if an agency does not pay a workers’s salary, the employer at the place of employment must pay it.

This positive result came after a government proposal to allow student, pensioners, and unemployed people to work in temporary jobs outside the protections of the employment law was defeated by referendum in 2011.

 

 

 

 


SACTWU STEPS UP THE FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE

The Southern African Clothing and Textile Worker Union (SACTWU) put together national sectoral demands and an agressive programme of action based on the 16,000 living wage demands collected from its members.

March 7, 2013:  The living wage demands were consolidated at the SACTWU Annual National Bargaining Conference from 28 February to 3 March in preparation for the 2013 round of substantive negotiations.  

SACTWU’s President, Themba Khumalo opened the Conference by reminding delegates that workers join unions for particularly one main reason: to improve their lives, the lives of their families and that of the communities from which they come. He reminded the 200 delegates that to realize these aims workers and their leaders need to be united and militant.  

Delegates supported the government’s view that the clothing textiles and footwear industries had stabilised after 15 years of decline in employment in the sector. Delegates appreciated the acknowledgement of this by South African President Zuma in his recent State of the Nation address, where he also mentioned the governments clothing support scheme that has helped to prevent closures and saved many jobs.  

The conference convened specialist commissions to develop concrete support for the Living Wage Campaign and to seek ways to address challenges faced by the union and members in the current political environment as well as those in the sector.  Delegates also re-affirmed commitment to strengthen the union and centralised bargaining and provide solidarity support for other COSATU affiliates’ living wage, recruitment and organizing campaigns.  

A day of action was held on 1st March, with three protest marches, one to the South African Revenue Services to protest against the continued flow of illegal imports into South Africa, which undermines local jobs and leads to de-industrialisation.  

The other two marches were directed at Capitec Bank and the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR). These were organised to protest against the involvement of Capitec’s chairperson, Michiel le Roux, in financing efforts to attack workers’ basic rights. This includes funding the campaign by Newcastle sweatshops to stop vulnerable workers being covered by minimum wages, for which CSSR produced what the union calls, “blatant propaganda and employer agenda-driven research.”   

SACTWU delegates challenged the main architects of the report to live off the illegally low wages which they are prescribing for Newcastle workers. “In this regard, we handed them R278 [USD32] in cash, which is the typical take-home wage which many Newcastle qualified machinists’ earn for a 45 hour week.”  

See a previous report here.