April 11, 2013: Locked-out workers at the Friguia aluminium plant of Russian-based multinational Rusal have been picketing with their families in front of the local authorities’ offices for several days, calling for a reopening of the plant.
Management vindictively responded to a workers’ strike action one year ago by forcibly halting production, leaving 1,030 permanent employees and 2,000 outsourced workers without pay since April 2012. Three of the IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Guinea, mining federations of CNTG, USTG, and ONSLG national centres, organize the Rusal Friguia workers.
Since 2011, the Rusal Friguia management had refused to engage in collective bargaining with union representatives pretexting the difficult economic situation of the company. Management aggressively followed a tactic of intimidation and provocation of plant-level trade union representatives and workers. On 4 April 2012 Rusal Friguia’s workers launched a strike in protest of the management intransigence. Rusal Friguia immediately suspended its operations in the cities of Fria and Conakry, locking-out workers. In parallel, Rusal pressured the local Labour Court to declare the strike illegal.
Government-arbitrated negotiations resulted in June 2012 in Rusal Friguia workers agreeing to lift the strike. But Rusal refused to end the lockout until unions accepted responsibility for the company losses during the strike, to which clearly workers refused.
What subsequently became apparent was the Rusal ambition to exploit the rich bauxite deposit called Dian Dian. In negotiations with the Guinean government, Rusal evidently demanded exclusive access to Dian Dian as a condition to reopening its Friguia operations.
Finally, early 2013, Rusal was awarded the contract to operate Dian Dian. The government announced publicly the imminent reopening of the plant in Fria. But as of today the situation remains unchanged.
The government provided financial compensation to workers for the last three months of 2012. But before that date, and since January 2013, workers have not received any income, many of them having to sell their belongings to survive. Workers are not the only ones affected by the crisis, with them the 120,000 inhabitants of Fria, living mainly thanks to the Friguia plant are plunged into a precarious situation.
IndustriALL denounces the plight of Rusal Friguia’s workers and residents of Fria and joins its affiliates in Guinea in calling for a quick and fair industrial settlement.
April 11, 2013: IndustriALL affiliates in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) express support to Iraqui oil union leader Hassan Juma’a Awad, who faces criminal charges for organizing strikes. MENA unions pledge to step up efforts on organizing, networking and workers’ rights.
The regional conference of IndustriALL Global Union in the Middle East and North Africa took place on 4-5 April 2013 in Beirut, Lebanon. 50 delegates from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen and Iraq were joined by representatives of partner organizations from France, Turkey and Australia.
The majority of delegates highlighted problems with trade union rights in their countries. Hassan Juma’a Awad, head of IndustriALL affiliate the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) informed the conference of his upcoming trial, where he is accused of organizing a strike and demonstration in February. Workers of the South Oil Company (SOC) took action after the management had rejected calls for negotiations on unpaid wages and benefits, precarious work and putting an end to corruption.
MENA union leaders expressed their full support to Hassan Juma’a and urged the Iraqi authorities to stop the persecution of Juma’a and other unionists. International solidarity action is underway ahead of the court session which has been postponed till 15 April.
The regional conference supported IndustriALL’s decision to revitalize the campaign to reform Iraqi labour laws from the Saddam Hussein era. The laws ban unions in the public sector and violate the right to organize, collective bargaining and industrial action.
Concerns were expressed about developments in Egypt. In addition to a new constitution that treats unionists like criminals, President Morsi in November 2012 signed a decree which allows the labour minister to hand-pick replacements to over 60-year-old union leaders. As a result, at least two out of four leaders of IndustriALL affiliates in Egypt have been replaced.
This intervention raised a lively debate about the requirements on independence from employer and government influence in IndustriALL’s statutes. The unions have been asked to explain and document the developments, before the matter is brought to IndustriALL’s global Executive Committee at the end of May.
At the same time, IndustriALL will carry out a mapping and training round of activists with the new independent unions in Egypt.
Some positive development in Tunisia was reported by Tahar Berberi, leader of the metalworkers’ union and member of IndustriALL’s Executive Committee. The tripartite social pact signed in January demonstrates the willingness of the government, unions and employers to contribute to building a democratic society through constructive social dialogue.
Guests from Turkey, France and Australia made inputs on organizing techniques, global framework agreements and union networks in multinational companies (MNC). A number of MNCs are already operating in the region, especially in Maghreb countries, where IndustriALL will support networking with its European affiliates.
April 11, 2013: Enough is enough, Colombian trade unionists continue to live under constant threat of assassination, in a country where 4,000 union leaders have been murdered in the last 25 years. On 1 April a notorious paramilitary group released a list of murder targets including dozens of trade union leaders in the IndustriALL global family.
Trade unions around the world have been expressing solidarity with Colombian colleagues since the extreme right-wing paramilitary group “Los Rastrojos” public statement promised to “hunt and kill” the list of prominent Colombian trade unionists.
Industrial relations are tense at a number of key mining and manufacturing sites in Colombia. The powerful groups that stand to benefit from a weakening of the trade unions in these negotiations are strongly suspected to be linked to the death threats. The complicity of the state authorities throughout years of trade union assassination allows the murderers to continue with impunity, and must be condemned in the strongest terms.
In 2012 over 280 death threats were made to trade unionists in Colombia, with 20 murders. Already in the first three months of 2013 four murders have been carried out.
The 1 April hit list includes IndustriALL Executive Committee member Igor Diaz, President of Sintracarbon and president of the IndustriALL’s affiliate council in Colombia. Diaz and three of his Sintracarbon colleagues also on the list are central figures in their community and the wider social justice and democracy movement. Sintracarbon’s trade union official Heli Arregoces Ibarra survived an assassination attempt on 7 April, when two men on a motorbike fired a gun at him on the street in the city of Riohacha.
IndustriALL is equally concerned about the targeting of leaders at other affiliated organizations Sintrametal, Sintraelecol, Utramicol, USO, and colleagues at the national centre CUT and partner trade union Sintramienergetica.
IndustriALL leadership lodged the organization’s serious concerns over trade union rights violations in the country at the Colombian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva on 4 March. Despite promises made by the Colombian ambassador of government action, the reality is different.
Apart from a number of trade unionists, the hit list includes several targets working for human rights NGOs, lawyers, religious leaders, and even a senator who all work for social justice.
Write your appeal to President Juan Manuel Santos and send via fax to 0057 1 596 0631.
April 11, 2013: On 27 March, IndustriALL Global wrote to management at Honda Mexico’s El Salto plant in Jalisco, including the head of its health and safety department, to condemn the death of Armando Arana Torres, a victim of unsafe working conditions.
IndustriALL demanded that the company undertake an immediate and thorough investigation to determine the causes of the fatal accident and provide the worker’s family with financial compensation.
Jose Luis Solorio, general secretary of the Honda Mexico workers’ union, STUHM, announced the death of Armando Arana on 25 March. He died while painting a loading ramp, crushed by a cargo container. He had worked for the company for 14 years and had complained on several occasions about unsafe working conditions. The company responded by harassing him and punishing him by assigning him work away from his usual area, the pressing area. The STUHM leader explained that:
“He was ordered, along with other colleagues, to paint the unloading ramps in the motorbike plant yellow. They were ordered to move some containers and work in a space measuring approximately 1 metre. The workers asked the company to put up safety signs, given that they were being asked to work in the container loading and unloading area. Management said this was not necessary and told workers they would be sacked if they didn’t do the work, so the workers did not protest.”
“Around 2.30pm, on the orders of management, a driver reversed into the area to attach a container to his trailer. While completing the manoeuvre, the container crushed Armando Arana who was painting the ramp“. Jose Luis Solorio said that the colleague was a “victim of Honda Mexico’s carelessness and failure to take safety measures” and added that “this crime must not go unpunished”.
STUHM has called on Honda to explain why company managers harassed Armando Arana and why they refused to take the minimum safety measures that could have avoided this tragedy. But more than two weeks after the worker’s death, the company continues to maintain a criminal silence.
There has been widespread media coverage of protests by trade unions and civil society organisations. The National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union (SNTMMSRM), the Electricity Workers’ Union (SME) and the trade union research centre, CILAS wrote to the company, condemning its attitude. They also wrote to the federal and state labour authorities, calling on “the Labour Secretary and other federal and local labour authorities to identify those responsible for this case of industrial homicide, conduct a detailed inspection of the work area, insist that Honda Mexico take measures to protect the life of workers in high risk areas and prevent further acts of negligence”. See article (in Spanish).
Japanese unions affiliated to IndustriALL have expressed their shock and sadness and contacted Honda’s head office to request a detailed investigation of the case. IndustriALL calls on the company and the Mexican authorities to take action and supports the union’s demand that this crime does not go unpunished. Finally, it calls on all affiliated unions to ask the company to carry out a fair and responsible investigation into the death of our Mexican colleague.
April 11, 2013: Finally the sham case keeping the head of Mexico’s Los Mineros, Napoleon Gomez, on the Interpol Red alert list has been scrapped after years of legal campaigning.
Since 2006 and Napoleon’s strong condemnation of the Industrial Homicide at Pasta de Conchos, the mineworker leader has been persecuted by the corporate-government alliance and forced to lead the union from exile in Vancouver, Canada. IndustriALL Global Union is celebrating this positive and long awaited decision from Interpol, which will now allow Napoleon to travel to and take his seat on the international executive committee of IndustriALL.
After a long, bureaucratic internal process at Interpol which has included numerous stages of examination of the case lodged against Napoleon by the previous right-wing PAN party government of Mexico.
In a parallel case, as has been reported, the Magistrates of the First Collegiate Tribunal for Criminal Matters of the First Circuit, Juan José Olvera Lopez, Luis Perez de la Fuente and Jose Luis Villa Jimenez, unanimously resolved to grant the injunction ordering Interpol Mexico Interpol to take action to cancel the red notice that had been issued.
The decision by the international Interpol authority overrules the Mexican branch and vindicates the long standing Los Mineros claim that the previous two governments of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon abused their power over the Mexican Interpol branch to run a sham case against Napoleon in the interest of discrediting him and keeping him in illegal exile.
Napoleon stated: “It’s terrible that international Interpol has found it necessary to make it clear that these Mexican authorities abused the international instrument of the red notice for political ends and unethical business interests.”
A new book authored by Napoleon Gomez called Collapse of Dignity will be launched internationally on 17 April. IndustriALL Global Union is excited by and fully supportive of the book launch.
Collapse of Dignity is Napoleon’s powerful account of the union’s fight, mounted in the face of traitors, armed aggression, death threats, and a political alliance going all the way up to the level of the president.
“Gomez’s story is one of outrage, but also of hope. Through Collapse of Dignity lays bare sickening injustice and inexcusable aggression against the Mexican working class, it is at its core a fervent call for a global workers’ movement that will represent the fundamental rights of every person who works for a living.”
Visit the Collapse of Dignity website and order your copy online.