Following the first joint mission in October 2007, ICEM and Rhodia again visited the company’s Chinese operations from 19-21. This second visit came within the context of the Global Framework Agreement (GFA) that was signed in 2005 and renewed twice since. The objective of such missions is to monitor implementation of the principles and indicators set out in the GFA. Such joint missions by ICEM and Rhodia have also been made to Brazil in 2008, the US in 2009, and to South Korea in 2010.
The ICEM was represented by its General Secretary Manfred Warda and Director of Industry and Corporate Affairs Kemal Özkan. Rhodia had Jacques Kheliff, Group Vice-President for Sustainable Development, and Jean-Christophe Sciberras, Group Vice-President for Industrial Relations, on the mission. Rhodia’s Asia & Pacific Zone Chairman, Michel Ybert, Chinese General Manager Michael Zhu, and Asia & Pacific Research and Development Director Pascal Metivier accompanied the joint mission.
The trip coincided with 95% of Rhodia shares being tendered by Belgian-based chemicals company Solvay. Rhodia and Solvay together will create a chemicals company that will have €12 billion in sales, with 40% of that generated in emerging markets. Rhodia will become the third sector of Solvay, in addition to its Chemicals and Plastics segments. This situation also made possible Olivier du Roy de Blicquy, President of Greater China of Solvay Group, being present during the first day of last week’s joint mission.
The mission first received a briefing at Rhodia’s zone headquarters in Shanghai. Employing over 2,800 workers in the zone and producing 23% total sales, Rhodia has sites in China, South Korea, India, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand, and Vietnam. The zone’s sales in 2010 increased 36% over that of 2009. Rhodia also has shown rapid development in China where the chemical industry has grown on average by 24% from 2005 to 2010. The recent takeover of Feixiang Specialty Chemicals gives Rhodia a leading position in the amines and surfactants markets in China.
ICEM’s Warda and Özkan met with the chairperson and board members of the local trade union organizing employees of Rhodia at the Shanghai campus. Chairperson Jie Dong, who also serves as union representative for the Asia-Pacific region of the ICEM-Rhodia Global Safety Panel, gave a review of union activities at all plants of Rhodia, preparations for collective agreements, and social dialogue initiatives.
She gave a specific attention to the joint training sessions between union and management representatives, which were launched through the GFA. Jie Dong’s report stated that the local union committee got authorization from employees for collective consultation in early June. A questionnaire for getting views and demands of employees was answered with a high percentage. Salary and income (62.5%), insurance and welfare (62%), and rest and vacation (58.7%) were priority topics.
She also reported that workers elected 35 representatives from each workplace section to prepare and negotiate a collective agreement. The collective agreement is expected to be signed at the end of 2011.
ICEM and Rhodia representatives later met with the representatives of Association of International Chemical Manufacturers (AICM), which regroups multinational companies in China. Discussion focused on the Responsible Care initiative. The meeting then welcomed representatives of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) from the Minhang area and Xinzhuang Industry Park. The parties exchanged information about union activities at multinational companies.
The second day of the mission saw ICEM and Rhodia representatives travel to the city of Feixiang, where Rhodia recently acquired a plant that has been placed in its Novacare business. Warda and Özkan met with union leaders and union members of the plant in a separate meeting where current topics were reviewed.
During the mission’s final day, representatives drove to a Rhodia plant located in Zhenjiang, where union delegates explained work conditions, union activities, and labour-management relations. This was followed by presentations on the site, business activities, employment-related matters, and how the GFA has been implemented at this site.
Warda noted that there has been improvement and progression in union activities in the Chinese operations of Rhodia since the 2007 visit. “The situation in China demonstrates how a GFA can prove instrumental in improving labour relations, even in China. Our clear hope and expectation is this good model of global industrial relations extends to the Solvay Group in the future.”