IndustriALL Headlines #41 – May 2 , 2013

 IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union

15 May Deadline Set for Bangladesh Safety Plan

April 30, 2013:  IndustriALL and international clothing brands commit to a 15 May deadline to finalize an agreement on fire and building safety that will make the garment industry of Bangladesh sustainable. Funds will be made available for inspections, training and upgrades of dangerous facilities.

IndustriALL Global Union and its NGO partners Clean Clothes Campaign and Workers’ Rights Consortium met on 29 April in Eschborn, Germany with a group of international brands and retailers sourcing from Bangladesh and with the ILO to outline an agreement on fire and building safety in Bangladesh. The parties agreed on a 15 May deadline to finalize the text and commitments.  

The meeting was hosted by the German Agency for Development Cooperation, GIZ.  

The agreement will support the national action plan that was confirmed on 24 March by the Bangladeshi government, employers and unions.  

Talks in Eschborn follow the collapse of a building near Dhaka which contained several garment factories. So far more than 400 bodies of workers have been dug out of the rubble, but the final number of casualties is likely to be much higher.  

The agreement, building upon an earlier memorandum of understanding, will include principals on governance, inspections, remediation, training, a complaints process, transparency and reporting, supplier incentives, financial support and dispute resolution.  

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina stated in Eschborn that brands and retailers had to develop mechanisms for paying more to their suppliers to guarantee living wages and enable technical upgrades. He demanded the participants to renegotiate their supplier contracts so that they would include a requirement for raising wages considerably from the 3000 taka (38 USD) minimum wage.  

Bangladeshi garment producers’ association BGMEA today agreed to cooperate with IndustriALL on the sustainability issues including safety and living wages.  

Raina also demanded that the brands contribute to freedom of association in the garment industry where union presence at the local level is virtually non-existent because of government and employer resistance:  

“You cannot create a safety culture and functioning labour-management
relations without worker participation and union presence.”  

The US$24 billion garment sector accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s exports. Suppliers to international brands and retailers employ four million workers in almost 5,000 factories.


Help the Humanitarian Relief Effort in Savar

May 2, 2013:  Please make a financial contribution to the relief efforts of the killed and injured garment workers of the Rana Plaza industrial homicide via a new dedicated bank account set up by the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.

IndustriALL’s affiliates and supporters can make solidarity contributions for the humanitarian relief effort for victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy through the bank details below. The account has been expressly set up by the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, through which all affiliates in the country coordinate their joint work. This follows numerous requests received by IndustriALL from those wanting to provide support to the victims and their families of the Rana Plaza industrial homicide.  

The IndustriALL Bangladesh Council reports that the conditions on the ground and of the injured workers are beyond belief, as unions and NGOs participate in the effort to supply drinking water, food and medical care in extreme circumstances.  

While urgently required, this humanitarian relief does not and will not remove the need for the Western apparel brands, local employers and Bangladeshi government to provide compensation to the over 427 dead and 2,500 injured and their families.  

IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina told Al Jazeera on 31 April that “There is blood on these cheap t-shirts and it is time for change now”.  

Raina told Al Jazeera:  

“This latest tragedy just illustrates the completely unsustainable business model
that the international brands and retailers have been driving in Bangladesh based
on extreme exploitation of workers, wages of US$38 a month, long working hours,
lack of freedom of association, and over 1,000 workers who have died in factory
fires and collapses during the past seven years.”  

IndustriALL Global Union will continue to fight for the payment of compensation for the affected workers, as in the cases of the recent Tazreen Fashion and Smart Fashion disasters. But it will also continue to fight for proper trade union rights in the Bangladeshi garment industry to empower organized workers to force improvements in safety, conditions and wages.  

In May Day marches in Geneva, India and Uruguay IndustriALL rallied behind the call for justice for the over 427 murdered garment workers in Savar, Bangladesh. The May Day march in Dhaka combined mourning and anger, after garment workers took strike action last week demanding improvements in safety and justice for those directly responsible for the Rana Plaza collapse.  

The bank details for solidarity contributions:  

Account name: IndustriALL Bangladesh Council Account number: 0010-0210020054 Bank name: NCC Bank Ltd. Branch name: DHANMONDI Swift code: NCCLBDDHDMB Email: nccbdhan@yahoo.com  

Address of the Bank  

National Credit and Commerce Bank Ltd. Dhanmondi Branch Quality Center (1st Floor), 744 Satmasjid Road, Dhanmondi R/A Dhaka 1209, BANGLADESH   Address of the Account Holder  

IndustriALL Bangladesh Council
House # 20, Road# 11, (Old) 32,
Dhanmondi R/A
Dhaka 1209, BANGLADESH


Airbus Refuses to Respect Workers’ Rights in Tunisia

May 2, 2013:  In Fouchana, a suburb of Tunis, the female workers of Latélec, a subsidiary of French Group Latécoère, which is a sub-contractor for Airbus, demand that their trade union rights be respected. As a result the company threatens to leave the country.

On 29 April, IndustriALL affiliate the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), representing the workers of Latélec, demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in Tunis to demand the respect of trade union rights at Latélec.  

On 15 April, five workers were dismissed illegally; three of them were active union representatives. “We want to keep our work without losing our dignity,” said Sonia Jebali Secretary General of the UGTT company union at SEA Latelec Fouchana.  

SEA Latélec relocated part of the production from France to Fouchana in the suburbs of Tunis in 2005. Since 2010, the workers got organized and ever since have been exposed to systematic anti-union repression including layoffs, attempted bribery, insults, abusive sanctions, isolation, sexist remarks and death threats.  

When the workers refused to bow their heads, the French managers imposed a lockout for a month in September 2012 and the temporary transfer of production to France. 200 temporary jobs were lost between October 2012 and April 2013 and 200 more will be made before the end of the year.  

The company now threatens to leave Tunisia as it refuses to obey Tunisian labour laws and to allow any trade union activity in the plant.


Valentin Urusov Receives International Rights Award

May 2, 2013:  Russian unionist Valentin Urusov who was recently freed from prison received the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights 2013. IndustriALL Global Union supported his nomination for the award.

“Urusov has become symbolic of the struggle for workers’ rights and freedom of association in Russia,” says Leif Sande, committee chair of the award and head of the IndustriALL’s Norwegian affiliated trade union Industri Energi.  

Urusov was jailed in 2008 under what many call a fabricated case in reprisal for his successful attempts to organize workers at diamond mines in the northern province of Sakha in Russia.  

In March 2013 the local court in Sakha, Russia, ordered Valentin Urusov to be freed from prison. He will pay a fine and do community service instead of serving the rest of his 5-year term.  

While Urusov was still in prison, IndustriALL joined the IUF in asking the jury to nominate him for the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights 2013 for his courageous and praiseworthy union work.  

The Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights is awarded to individuals who, or organizations which, have made noteworthy efforts to promote the work of trade unions and workers’ rights nationally and internationally.  

IndustriALL congratulates Valentin Urusov, a heroic Russian trade unionist, in receiving this prestigious international award, and thanks all the organizations and individuals who contributed to the campaign for his release from prison.


Intimidation and Violence in Swaziland on May Day

May 2, 2013:  May Day actions in Swaziland were called off after police unleashed violence on workers that had gathered at a rally organized by labour federation Tucoswa.

Workers were trying to resist confiscation by police of a banner demanding the recognition of the labour federation, the Trade Union Confederation of Swaziland (Tucoswa). The second layer of leadership of Tucoswa decided to call off the rally. Why them? Because senior leadership of Tucoswa had been placed under house arrest by police for the day.  

The President of the federation Barnes Dlamini and First Deputy Secretary General Mduduzi Gina were arrested at a raid of the Tucoswa offices in the morning of 1 May, taken first to the police headquarters and then to their homes. In total five of the federation’s leaders were placed under house arrest including Secretary General, Vincent Ncongwane, Second Deputy Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga and Deputy Treasurer General Jabulile Shiba.  

Police also tried to prevent workers gathering for the rally by offloading TUCOSWA supporters from buses at roadblocks set up throughout the country.  

Tucoswa had gone ahead with plans for a May Day rally despite being unable to secure an urgent interdict against police disruption of the event. Leadership of TUCOSWA maintains that the court did not rule that they could not have a rally, just that the court could not give protection as the state refuses to recognize the federation, despite the court having urged government to do so.  

A previous court ruling on the legality of TUCOSWA denied legitimacy to the federation on the basis of the lack of law to guide the court regarding registration of a federation in Swaziland. The ruling stated that Tucoswa should wait for amendments to the law and until such time, the government should reach an agreement for recognition with Tucoswa through a memorandum of understanding. Tucoswa leadership reports that the Swazi government has refused to enter into such an agreement.  

There has been a surge in human rights abuses in Swaziland in the last month. On 12 April, the day that the Swazi King declared a state of emergency now 40 years old, Wonder Mkhonza a trade unionist and political activist was arrested on charges of sedition for allegedly being in possession of pamphlets promoting the banned political party Pudemo. Mkhonza has been denied bail and is being held in a lengthy pre-trial detention at a maximum security prison. There are fears for his safety as the Swaziland police are known to use excessive force including torture.  

At least three other political activists have also been arrested in April on similar charges. Also in the same month, Swaziland Independent Publishers and its editor Bheki Makhubu have been fined about Euro 40,000 or a two year prison sentence for scandalizing the court in two articles criticizing the judiciary on its treatment of fundamental rights.