IndustriALL Headlines #39 April 18, 2013

IndustriALL Headlines is produced by IndustriALL Global Union



April 18, 2013:  Workers from all over Europe were outside Holcim’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Switzerland, in protest against the Europe-wide job cuts and plant closures at Holcim sites.

On 17 April at Holcim’s AGM in Dübendorf, Switzerland, over 200 employees from all over Europe (Italy, Belgium, France, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Romania, Germany and Switzerland) held a protest to send shareholders a strong message that their CHF 1.5 billion profit target for 2014 at the expense of the workforce is unacceptable.  

Katty Noël, member of IndustriALL Belgian affiliate Syndicat des Employés, Techniciens et Cadres de Belgique (SETCA), participated in the Holcim AGM with Uwe Barkmann, European Works Council (EWC) Secretary and member of IndustriALL Affiliate the Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie (IG BCE). They both addressed shareholders to express their discontent with the company’s plans.  “As you must have noticed on your way in, a large number of my colleagues have joined us from many countries in Europe to express our discontent and our determination to make difference,” said Katty Noël, EWC vice-secretary in her address to Holcim shareholders.  

Noël and Barkmann were welcomed by Holcim Chairman Rolf Soiron, who disagreed with their views. “There will be plant closures,” said Soiron, “if the market is no longer there, we have to reduce capacity.”  

Protesters urged management to at least observe the applicable laws and regulations if the company absolutely has to generate extra profit at their employees’ expense.  

“We have gathered here to tell management to stop insisting to gain extra profits by dismissing people and without proper information and consultation from the responsible bodies,” said Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL Director for Mechanical Engineering and Materials Industries, in front of Holcim’s AGM.  

The EWC of Holcim and the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) call on management to:

  •  comply with and carry out a fair information and consultation procedure in due time, as prescribed by the binding European Directive and the agreement with the EWC,  
  • desist from any carrying out any further redundancies before the information and consultation procedure has been completed at the European and local level, and  
  • improve the agreement with the European Works Council in order to meet demands.

See Katty Noël’s address to Holcim AGM

See Uwe Barkmann’s address to Holcim AGM


April 18, 2013:  Click here to send your message to the Iraqui government and denounce the vindictive criminal charges facing trade union leader Hassan Juma’s Awad.

International solidarity and indignation are rising as trade unions around the world call for the sham charges filed by the Oil Ministry against Hassan Juma’a to be dropped immediately. Hassan is the president of IndustriALL Global Union’s Basra-based Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) and is charged with “Harming the interests of the state” under outdated repressive legislation.  

This is the first time an Iraqi trade unionist has been charged under penal code 111-1969, an archaic law that the Saddam Hussein regime used to repress state employees. The court hearings for Hassan have been postponed from 20 March to 7 April to 15 April, and now again to 2 May. The postponements are mainly due to the lack of evidence against Hassan, charged with organizing a strike and demonstrations on 13 and 19 February that allegedly caused damage at the Southern Oil Company.  

The ongoing industrial relations conflict between the Southern Oil Company and the IFOU brought over 1,000 oil workers from several worksites to demonstrate at the company headquarters on 16 April.  

The major demonstration kicked off at 10am on Tuesday in a strong show of unity between workers from oil fields in North and South Rumaila fields, Berjsiyya and other locations (see video here).  

Management had repeatedly rejected calls for dialogue regarding non-payment of benefits from 2010, 2011 and 2012. As the 16 April demonstration grouped outside management offices chanting slogans, the General Manager came out again and informed the angry protesters that he had met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Al Shahristani, who authorized him to release 50% of the unpaid production bonuses from 2010, 2011 and 2012. He also promised to resolve issues that were within his authority.  

The wider context of heavy repression of trade union rights in Iraq, especially in the oil industry, underlines the importance of the international campaign for a just labour law in the country. Repressive Saddam-era labour legislation has to be replaced through a process that includes national trade unions and establishes laws in line with international standards and fundamental principles of the ILO.


April 16, 2013:  Major European retailers C& A, KiK and El Corge Inglés will contribute to a compensation plan for the victims of the Tazeen Fashions fire in Bangladesh.

The brands made the commitment at a meeting held on 15 April in Geneva to discuss a 5.7 million USD compensation plan for the victims of the Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh, which killed 112 workers and injured about 120 in November 2012.  

The meeting was hosted by IndustriALL Global Union and attended by major European retailers, a leading Bangladesh trade unionist, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Worker Rights Consortium.  

In an outrageous display of indifference to the suffering of Bangladeshi families, major US corporations Walmart, Sears/Kmart and Disney refused to pay any compensation to the victims and failed to attend the meeting. Walmart was apparently the largest buyer from the Tazreen factory. The companies, which failed to enforce their own worker safety standards, have claimed to be deeply saddened by the deaths.  

Major European retailers C&A (Netherlands), KiK (Germany) and El Corte Inglés (Spain) attended the meeting and agreed to make substantial contributions to the compensation plan for the families of the dead and for the injured. The Italian clothing brand Piazza Italia did not attend but has agreed to participate in the package.  

“We have agreed on confirming the concrete amounts that each of these brands will contribute by the end of this month,” says IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina. “The families and the injured have already waited far too long.”  

Other companies that were sourcing from Tazreen and failed to attend include Hong Kong based trader Li & Fung, Teddy Smith (France), Edinborough Woolen Mills (UK), Dickies (US) and Karl Rieker (Germany).  Li & Fung has however agreed to paying compensation.  

The compensation plan, developed by IndustriALL and its affiliates in Bangladesh and supported by international labour rights groups, is based on the compensation formula used in other recent fires. These include the December 2010 fire at That’s It Sportswear, a factory producing for Gap and other US brands, and the fire this January at Smart Export Garments, which was producing clothes for Inditex and others.  The details of the plan will be worked out in a subsequent meeting to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  

Says Ineke Zeldenrust from the Clean Clothes Campaign, “We once again call upon Walmart and the other major companies sourcing from Tazreen to aid the families of the dead and the injured workers. Their refusal to do so indicates a shocking lack of concern for the rights and well-being of the workers who make their clothes and who, in this case, were injured or killed in the process.”


April 17, 2013:  Despite a significant increase in productivity in 2012, Honda Mexico has announced a reduced profit share payment to workers, prompting an immediate strike.

The workers at the Mexican plant of multinational company Honda began an indefinite work stoppage on 16 April after the company announced a reduction in this year’s state mandated profit sharing bonus (RPTU).  

In an initial meeting, management offered a profit share of 300 Mexican pesos (less than US$25) per worker for the year 2012 and a separate bonus of 8,500 Mexican pesos (US$630). This compares with profit sharing of 67,500 Mexican pesos (US$5,500) for 2011 and 48,000 Mexican pesos (US$3,900) for 2010. However, production and sales were higher in 2012 than in 2011. In fact 45,390 CRVs were produced in 2011 versus 65,256 in 2012.  

In addition management of Honda Mexico is refusing to negotiate with the union that the workers want to be represented by, Union of United Honda of Mexico Workers (STUHM), and management continues to negotiate with and recognize the protection contract union called SETEAMI.  

“Our response to this offer is disbelief,” writes the STUHM union in its press release, adding, “the profit sharing should similarly increase – it should at least increase by 60 per cent. Obviously, there is no believable argument to justify the company denying workers a fair profit sharing payment.”

STUHM reports that the workers were so upset by the company’s announcement that an immediate consensus was reached to stop working on the day shift, and that those on second and third shifts would join the strike later. Already 1,500 workers of the approximately 2,400 at the plant have stopped work.  

“We believe that the strike is necessary and legitimate in the fight for our workplace rights. We invite you to join us at the plant in El Salto on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at dawn to be witness to the awakening of thousands of workers in response to management constantly attacking our rights,” writes STUHM.  

IndustriALL Global Union is closely following Honda’s actions in Mexico where a worker died at work last month, on which the company has remained silent to the concern of the workers.  

IndustriALL demands that Honda workers in Mexico are allowed to exercise their right to decide freely and democratically which union they want to represent them, without any interference from the company.


April 18, 2013:  The Zimbabwe Electricity Workers’ Union (Zewu) scored a landmark victory against Zesa Holdings on 8 April after the court found that the company had contravened the Labour Act by not complying with the registered collective bargaining agreement.

Zesa, the electricity parastatal in Zimbabwe, had reneged on a collective bargaining agreement which compelled it to pay the lowest paid worker US$275 per month. As a result, Zewu took Zesa to a criminal court over the non-compliance. The state prosecutor argued that Zesa had deliberately refused to give workers their dues, saying the company had committed a crime by contravening the Labour Act.

The magistrate said in his ruling: “We have found Zesa guilty of non-compliance to the SI 50 (registration of the CBA) which compelled it to pay workers salaries increment for 2012. Facts against Zesa are overwhelming. When the CBA negotiations were being done in 2012, Zesa was part of the table and was fully aware of the creation of SI 50.With this and all other facts tabled before this honourable court, the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that ZESA is found guilty.”

The court ordered Zesa to pay a fine of US$400, comply with agreement and make restitution, requiring Zesa to pay workers US$60 million in salary arrears, failure of which property would be attached.

After the ruling there was jubilation among the 3,000 Zesa workers. Commenting on the ruling, Zewu President Angeline Chitambo said, “this serves as a great lesson to employers who are after overworking workers but underpay them…justice has prevailed over evil forces.”

Chitambo was unfairly dismissed last year by Zesa for allegedly inciting workers to embark on industrial action over the company’s non compliance with the bargaining agreement. Together with her union, ZEWU, she continues to fight for her reinstatement.