IndustriALL Headlines #34 – March 14, 2013


IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union


32,000 INDIAN STEEL WORKERS ORGANIZED SINCE 2010

Through IndustriALL Global Union’s organizing project known as “More members, fewer unions” two Indian affiliates, the INMF and SMEFI, organized over 32,000 new members between 2010 and 2012.

March 14, 2013:  The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) Meeting of the India Steel project, held in Kolkata on 25-26 February 2013, commended the hard work of both INMF and SMEFI to organize over 32,000 steel, iron ore and sponge iron workers in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarhi and Orissa between 2010 and 2012 and recommended to continue supporting and consolidating these remarkable results.  

The India Steel Organising project is supported jointly by IndustriALL Global Union’s Swedish affiliates IF Metall and Unionen through donor the LO-TCO and Finnish affiliates Metalli and Pro through the donor SASK. The project is built around three central principles: Non-competition; Building cooperation; and Building sustainability.  

The project target for 2010-2012 was to recruit 20,000 members, at the end of December 2012 over 32,000 new workers had been organized, a majority of these being precarious or contract workers. As one of the affiliates pointed out during the meeting “even though these workers have precarious work contracts and may be dismissed tomorrow, now that they have understood the benefits the union can get for them, when they find a new job they will seek us out to organize their new workplace”.  

Furthermore all these new members are now organized in companies where there were no unions before, so now there is only one union representing all the workers, thus also complying with the project’s aim to have “more members, fewer unions”.  

In India the main steel and iron ore companies are established in the conflict areas, called the Red Corridor and one of the major factors contributing to the success is the solidarity and involvement of IndustriALL’s affiliates at every single level of the implementing structure put into place, meaning that all project interventions at District, State and National levels are carried out by the affiliates’ members and union leadership. Clearly only strong unions can enter these regions to organize, directly confronting the local mafias and employers.  

Despite this huge achievement in organizing, INMF and SMEFI consider that 90% of the current workforce in this industrial sector remains unorganized and the PAC meeting strongly recommended continuing the organizing drive during the 2014-2016 project period.   

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina stated:

“The achievements of INMF and SMEFI prove that cooperation and non-competition can lead to great results on the ground, as IndustriALL we must now extend this effort to the extractive and energy sectors in India and build up our affiliates’ capacity to progress workers’ rights in more industrial sectors.” 


ETUC ACTION DAY:  NO TO AUSTERITY!

Austerity is not working!  Ahead of the European Summit, the European Trade Union Confederation (RTUC) is organizing an European trade union action against austerity and for jobs for young people.

March 14, 2013:  The European Union (EU) needs to have a strong social dimension that is why the ETUC is organizing a European trade union action on 13-14 March 2013, ahead of the European Summit scheduled for 14-15 March. Thousands of workers, union representatives and citizens from Europe will call for the suspension of the EU’s austerity policies, which have had a terrible impact on the economy.

On 13 March, national mobilizations were organized in several European countries. A European trade union rally will take place in Brussels on 14 March, trade union delegations from all over Europe will be there to demand a change of direction. ETUC leader Ignacio Fernández Toxo and general secretary Bernadette Ségol will give speeches along with other union leaders.

Unions won’t be alone to mobilize against austerity policies. NGOs, associations and social movements gathered within a coalition, “For a European Spring.” also have a program of initiatives and their demonstration will meet with the ETUC’s in Brussels on March 14, with the slogan “Our democracy against their austerity!”

Austerity is driving the economy into recession and forcing the most vulnerable citizens into poverty. Only a change of economic and political governance can improve employment and growth. One of the priorities of the ETUC action will be to focus on young people who are paying the heaviest price for the crisis and austerity.

Where? At the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels

When? On 14 March, 2013 from 2pm to 4pm.


SOUTH AFRICAN STATE UTILITY HIT HARD BY STRIKES

Strikes at the construction site of its new power station Medupi and at coal operations of Exxaro Resources add to power company Eskom’s woes to address power supply challenges.

March 14, 2013:  Poor industrial relations are contributing to the already long delays in completing Medupi needed to address power supply concerns in the country, with the first power from the station still expected to come on line by the end of the year. Strike action started in January when some workers protested the calculation of their year end bonuses. Workers are also unhappy with some of the terms of the project labour agreement.

Eskom responded by closing the site shortly after the strike started, which worsened the situation as others joined in aggrieved by the lockout, an action that was challenged in court by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa). The strike has had some violent protests and a number of workers have been arrested.  

Unions organising at Medupi, including the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Numsa, reached an agreement with site contractors, through the intervention of the Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba. Eskom ended the lockout on 6 March. However failure to meet the terms of the agreement resulted in workers downing tools again, days after the agreement which was signed on 8 March.  

Eskom’s power supply is facing a more immediate threat, having to rely on coal stockpiles as a result of unprotected strikes at six coal mines of one of its major suppliers Exxaro Resources. More than 3,500 coal miners have downed tools as they did not receive their bonuses, usually paid in February, on the basis that production targets have not been met.  

The NUM supports the demands of striking Exxaro workers as they were not made aware of production targets and bonuses at the company have never been linked to targets in the past. The strike, if not resolved quickly, could affect three stations that generate 20 per cent of South Africa’s power.  


SRI LANKAN GARMENT WORKERS RALLY TO KEEP JOBS

On 10 March more than 400 garment workers, members of IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate FTZ-GSEU, demonstrated and demanded that the Sri Lankan government collaborate with unions to keep their industry in the country.

MArch 14, 2013:  The Free Trade Zones and General Employees Union, FTZ-GSEU, called on the government to commit special attention to fake investors who use Sri Lanka’s workers and then flee the country without paying wages, and putting thousands of workers into unemployment and destitution. The Sri Lankan government has not shown sufficient action to develop a strategy to retain the garment industry, even though it represents 60% of the country’s exports.  

Garment workers in Sri Lanka have often made huge sacrifices to leave their homes and jobs in tea plantations to work in garment factories. IndustriALL joins FTZ-GSEU in calling on the Sri Lankan government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take measures to protect these vulnerable workers.  

IndustriALL participated in the 10 March demonstration and extended its message of international solidarity with the workers’ struggle to keep their jobs. In IndustriALL’s address to the rally, the vital importance of international solidarity between workers was put forward.

“The trend is too common around the world that when unions fight to improve the appalling conditions of garment workers, brands and suppliers threaten to leave the country. This happens in Cambodia, where workers work to exhaustion without sufficient food due to their low wage, in Lesotho where women are denied birth rights and given only one week of maternity leave, Bangladesh and Pakistan where workers go every morning into a death trap without knowing what will happen to them during the shift. To stop the abuse of garment workers, and the fleeing of brands and suppliers to countries that provide the lowest working conditions, IndustriALL works towards strengthening the international coalition and solidarity of workers in the sector. IndustriALL calls for garment workers to speak in one voice while demanding better conditions.”


SOCIAL DIALOGUE AND TRADE UNION NETWORKING AT UNILEVER

The consumer products multinational corporation Unilever’s huge profits continue to grow but so does the company’s pressure on its employees’ trade unions around the world.  IndustriALL participated in sessions of international social dialogue and trade union networking on 4-7 March, building on the trade union response to this trend.

February 14, 2013:  IndustriALL Global Union and the International Union of Food Workers IUF met Unilever senior head office management on 4-5 March. That discussion was mainly about precarious workers and union rights. Occupational health and safety was also discussed. Within the Unilever family, some plants operate with zero contract and agency labour, and others are almost entirely staffed in that manner.

Union recognition issues were discussed, with indications that Unilever was willing to investigate and address some of them. Employment of women was also discussed. A working group on this, and on occupational health and safety, was proposed for further discussion at future meetings.

Recent events and meetings, including the Unilever meeting referred to above, confirm that supply chains issues are not just a Unilever problem. Indeed, it is clear that loss of control by multinational companies of their incredibly (and unnecessarily) complex networks of suppliers, contractors, subcontractors, sub-subcontractors, and so on has reached a critical point. It is questionable whether corporate head offices really have the capacity to find out what is going on in their supply chains – even within those companies that care to know.

The Unilever Union Networking Meeting in Eastbourne followed the meeting at Unilever House, and confirmed that the increasing use of precarious work arrangements continues within Unilever. This is a company that needs strong unions and a strong global union network, whether it is to respond to union busting in Colombia, plant closure in Brazil, contracting out of work in Indonesia, or outsourcing to Sodexo in the Netherlands.

The most important outcome of the networking meeting was the closing Declaration (follows):

Representatives from Unilever unions around the world, meeting in Eastbourne, UK on 6-7 March 2013 have confirmed the alarming increase of pressure on our workplaces and on our trade union organizations. While Unilever grows its sales, profits, and returns to shareholders, we experience continuous restructuring, continuous pressure on jobs, pay and benefits, continuous insecurity, continuous outsourcing and continuous pressure on trade union rights. Workers and their communities have been brutally left out of the company’s “sustainable living” plan.

We insist on sustainable workplaces, sustainable employment and guarantees of rights for current and future Unilever workers. We have therefore agreed to strengthen our solidarity and mutual support, and have agreed on a series of practical measures to build that solidarity through international trade union organization so that workers may share in the benefits of the company’s growth, rather than paying for it with the loss of our jobs, our health and our rights. And we have today pledged to begin this work now.