IndustriALL Headlines #35 – March 21, 2013


IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union in Geneva, Switzerland


PETROTRIN WORKERS FORCED BACK TO WORK AFTER STRIKE

On 13 March, thousands of employees of the state-owned oil company Petrotrin, members of the Oil Workers Trade Union (OWTU), affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, stopped work and demonstrated in front of the company’s offices in Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago, to protest at the company’s failure to comply with the terms of the collective agreement signed one year ago.

March 21, 2013:   On the second day of the strike, OWTU leadership attended the demonstration. Union president general, Ancel Roget, said the company had agreed to fill 800 vacancies, make casual workers permanent, make the work environment safe and settle outstanding payments for the period 2009-2010. These commitments have not been enacted by the company.  

Roget regretted that the press has only focused on the payment arrears. He said:  

“This struggle is not mainly about money, although that is important; it is about honouring the collective agreement.  

The workers say that Petrotrin, which supplies petrol and oil to Caribbean and Central American countries, is not honouring its agreement to pay them a percentage of the profits generated by the industry. The company said it did not make a profit in the last financial year and so there were no profits to share with employees.   

Workers are calling on the company to comply with the terms of the collective agreement and other bilateral agreements reached with the union one year ago.  

After one week on strike and several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate, Petrotrin’s lawyers have won an injunction against the OWTU forcing the workers to return to work.   

Ancel Roget said that the court action would not solve the crisis at Petrotrin: “Workers will go back to work feeling demotivated and demoralized. An injunction doesn’t take care of poor management and nepotism.” He added that workers will continue to fight for a safe working environment.  

IndustriALL Global Union salutes the strong campaign of OWTU in demanding respect for the collective agreement at Petrotrin and decent working conditions for its members.


IRAQI JUDICIARY USED TO PERSECUTE TRADE UNION

In a clear reprisal attack for trade union activism at the state-owned South Oil Company (SOC), Hassan Juma’a Awad the head of IndustriALL’s affiliate, the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), now faces criminal charges launched by the authorities.

March 21, 2013:  IndustriALL Global Union is angry about this persecution of trade union freedoms in Iraq. Hassan Juma’a was summoned before the Basra Court on 20 March and will now face trial accused of organizing a strike and demonstration by SOC workers in February 2013.

The February mobilizations by SOC workers, members of the IFOU, were valid. Workers had been pushed to take strike action as management had repeatedly rejected calls for dialogue regarding non-payment of benefits from 2010, 2011 and 2012; the right to housing; permanent employment contracts; and an end to corruption at the company.

The workers, who work in the fields of al-Ramlia north and south, al-Berjesia, Gharb al-Karna, and Bab al-Zubair, gathered in front of the main door of the South Oil Company in Basra calling for the expulsion of corrupt employees and the dismissal of the company director. The manifestations were held on 13 and 19 February.

Hassan Juma’a did not organize the strike but has now been targeted for being an active trade unionist as part of a government effort to slander and undermine him and the unions. The 20 March court hearing postponed the case until 7 April due to the absence of a witness, and to enable Hassan to hire a lawyer. If found guilty Hassan would face up to five years in prison.

Eight other workers at SOC were also targeted by the General Inspector’s Office in the Ministry of Oil in order for the Ministry to investigate their role in recent demonstrations in Basra.

The Iraqi constitution guarantees freedom of association and peaceful demonstrations, yet over the years, the Ministry of Oil has repeatedly taken disciplinary action against union activists. These attacks on freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively reflect the government of Iraq’s intention to hold on to repressive laws and policies issued under the Saddam Hussein regime.

The South Oil Company (SOC) produces more than 80 per cent of Iraqi oil and is responsible for the oil in the south of Iraq.

It is essential that a fair and just ILO-compliant labour law that respects workers’ rights and guarantees freedom of trade union organizations, assembly and demonstration and strike is enacted as a matter of urgency and that all unions in Iraq are involved in any discussion relating to such a law.

IndustriALL Global Union extends its support to the Iraqi trade union movement and calls on affiliates to condemn all attempts of the Iraqi Government to trample on trade union rights.


DUTCH ELECTRONICS MULTINATIONAL NXP LOCKS OUT THAI WORKERS

Hundreds of union members were forced to leave the production line at NXP Manufacturing in Laksi, Bangkok at midnight on 27 February. The workers were given only two choices: to sign a company form to accept a new work system and keep their job, or leave.

March 21, 2013:  Since October last year the union and management had conducted negotiations in which NXP was pushing the union to accept a continuous production schedule which requires workers to work four consecutive days with two days off which can fall on any day in a week; no overtime pay for weekend work; compulsory overtime without advance notice; the reduction of annual holidays from 12 days to eight days; the elimination of a negotiated pay structure and positions of daily wage workers, to be left in the hand of management alone to decide.    

The union president at NXP Manufacturing, Thailand, Wanlop Chujit, said the company has been interfering in union collective bargaining by threatening and forcing workers to accept the new work schedule:  

“NXP Manufacturing workers in Thailand were told that if they do not accept the new system, they would lose their jobs as the company would move production to other countries. We were furious to hear of management forcing out workers from the factory in the middle of the night with total disregard for their safety, particularly of the women workers, some of whom were pregnant.”  

NXP are threatening to move production to facilities in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Philippines.  

A woman worker at the factory stated:  

“This factory has been operating for 38 years. Most of us have worked here for more than 10 years. Most of the workers have families. The new work schedule proposed by the company means we lose weekends and time with our families.”  

On 1 March, union members went on strike and demonstrated outside the plant gate to voice workers’ problems including forced overtime, reduction of wages and the company’s discriminatory practice against daily wage workers.  

On 13 March, the unionized workers demonstrated outside the Netherlands Embassy in Bangkok together with the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee under leadership of Chalee Loysoong.  

NXP Manufacturing in Thailand employs 3,200 workers, the majority of whom are women. The average wage at the factory is 345 Baht (9 Euro) per day. NXP is the world leader in the design and manufacturing of integrated circuits used in smart labels, and supplies Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Dell, GM, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Audi, and a number of airlines.  

The Thai NXP Manufacturing Workers’ Union will soon officially become part of the IndustriALL Global Union affiliated TEAM, Confederation of Thai Electrical Appliances, Electronic, Automobile & Metalworkers.


SOUTH AFRICAN UNILEVER WORKERS’ SOLIDARITY FOR DUTCH COLLEAGUES

Members of the IndustriALL-affiliated CEPPWAWU trade union in South Africa conducted a one and a half day work stoppage on 15 and 18 March, in a strong demonstration of international solidarity with Unilever workers in the Netherlands whose jobs have been outsourced.

March 21, 2013:  The Dutch workers, including cleaners, catering workers, security and receptionists, are members of fellow affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, FNV Bondgenoten. The Anglo-Dutch food and chemical giant Unilever signed a deal with Sodexo in 2012 over the outsourcing of the company’s facility management services in Europe. Unilever rejected key demands of the Dutch workers being transferred to Sodexo to maintain core benefits including pensions and work guarantees.

South African workers at Unilever, members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union, CEPPWAWU, stopped work in Boksburg from 1pm on 15 March and all day on 18 March urging Unilever management to negotiate a reasonable transfer agreement with FNV Bondgenoten.

The other reason for the Boksburg action is that a draft recognition agreement has recently been proposed by the local Unilever Boksburg management to be implemented, bringing serious changes to job classification and re-evaluation of the general operator position.

A CEPPWAWU shop steward at Unilever stated:

“Also the solidarity action was an opportunity to show management our strength and unity given the current challenges that we are facing in South Africa. Amongst our challenges are concerns of salary cuts being implemented as part of restructuring efforts which effectively is a demotion of certain grades of workers, who carry on doing the same job as before.”

Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union conveyed the International’s full support to the Boksburg workers’ strike action.

Unilever is a giant global conglomerate of consumer products, whose profits continue to rise. However trade unions throughout the world are being targeted with increased pressure from the employer, in a concerning global trend. International trade union networking of Unilever workers is acting to respond to this new aggression.


CHILEAN COPPER WORKERS ANNOUNCE NATIONAL STRIKE

The Federation of Copper Workers (FTC), affiliated to IndustriALL, has called a national strike at state-owned CODELCO in support of demands for job security, dignified pensions and renationalization of the copper mines.

March 21, 2013:   At the end of an extraordinary congress of the federation on Friday 15 March, Raimundo Espinoza, FTC president and IndustriALL executive committee member, announced that the strike will take place within the next 30 days. Meetings to plan the strike will start on Thursday at the Chuquicamata division and will continue with meetings at other units in the country.  

The FTC issued a communiqué stating that it was suspending relations with the company administration because it was tired of company management’s overbearing, arrogant and shamelessly inefficient attitude to its workers and the country. The union is unhappy about mistakes made by company management, privatization of its health system, outsourcing of some jobs and the company’s failure to develop the potential of its mines.  

Espinoza said the union will not backtrack on its decision about the strike, which will last 24 hours and will be extended depending on the company’s response. The unions communiqué states:  

“We demand a new authentic mining and energy policy for Chile. We demand full respect for our rights and agreements, especially the fundamental right to health. We demand that CODELCO management reverses its decision to secretly embark on a bid to privatize health services.”  

The FTC will now focus on developing its action plan and maintaining a united front with the trade union central CUT, the federations and unions in the strategic mining, energy and manufacturing sectors, and with the international trade union movement through IndustriALL Global Union. They will also coordinate action with sectors of civil society, including students, regional movements, environmentalists and pensioners’ associations.