Union leaders representing nearly 50,000 ArcelorMittal workers in Kazakhstan and Ukraine recently met in Kiev to discuss common problems and joint solutions at the world’s largest steel producer.
The regional meeting held on 4-5 September was called for at a July global meeting of ArcelorMittal unions in Luxembourg after reports by IndustriALL Global Union Ukraine affiliates PMGU and KVPU and Kazakhstan affiliate Kazprofmet about the company’s anti-union practices. There have been strikes at both Ukraine and Kazakhstan ArcelorMittal operations over the last year.
ArcelorMittal reports 37,800 employees and contractors in Kazakhstan and 29,100 employees and contractors in Ukraine. In Kazakhstan, it operates a steel mill in Temirtau along with iron ore and coal mines in the surrounding region. In Ukraine, it operates a steel mill and iron ore mines in Kryviy Rih.
PMGU and KVPU have been struggling for a new collective agreement since 2017, but had been undermined by the HR director for ArcelorMittal Ukraine.
“Since our global union meeting in Luxembourg and dialogue with ArcelorMittal global management, we’ve had positive dialogue with the company. The Ukraine HR director is no longer involved in our negotiations and the company is responding to our information requests. There is no longer a campaign of false information spread about the union,” reported Natalia Marinyuk, chair of the PMGU trade union committee at ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih Ukraine.
Kazprofmet leaders said they have not yet seen this positive change at ArcelorMittal in Kazakhstan. They reported that ArcelorMittal has not fully implemented the 30 per cent salary increase it agreed to for underground mine workers to resolve a strike last year.
Participants had a chance to raise their concerns with ArcelorMittal CEO for CIS Paramjit Kahlon, who agreed to IndustriALL’s request to speak at the meeting.
Kahlon discussed challenges of operating in the region. He also expressed ArcelorMittal’s commitment to high health and safety standards, to partnering with unions, and his personal willingness to work with unions in the region.
Ukraine union representatives reported that ArcelorMittal management listens to their health and safety concerns and that they have well-functioning joint health and safety committees. Kazprofmet said there are no functioning joint health and safety committees in ArcelorMittal’s Kazakhstan mines.
The unions unanimously committed to continuing to work together as a regional network within the global ArcelorMittal union network. Marinyuk will use her seat on the ArcelorMittal joint global health and safety committee to raise concerns from the region.
“IndustriALL applauds PMGU, KVPU and Kazprofmet for forming a regional union network at ArcelorMittal. IndustriALL is committed to supporting this network. We also applaud ArcelorMittal for both partnering with IndustriALL on this meeting and on beginning to work through some of the many industrial relations challenges in the region. We hope to grow that partnership,” stated IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan.