10 April, 2011
Two weeks after a pair of Norwegian unions, together with ICEM and the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) signed a Global Framework Agreement (GFA) with Norsk Hydro ASA, two workers’ representatives of the aluminium and energy company’s board of directors journeyed to Pará state in northern Brazil to brief workers and trade union leaders there.
Sten Roar Martinsen, a process operator and full-time union representative from the Kopervik extrusion plant, and Billy Fredeagsvik, also an operator and union representative at Hydro’s Høyanger aluminium smelter, met with workers’ representatives of Brazilian trade unions on 30 March and 1 April. Martinsen and Fredeagsvik are representatives of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) on Hydro’s 11-member board.
Sten Roar Martinsen Billy Fredeagsvik
The mission, according to Norsk Hydro’s website, was to brief Brazilian workers at a former Vale bauxite mine and aluminium smelter and refinery on the structure and principles for trade union dialogue at Hydro, as well as the impact and significance of the GFA that was signed on 15 March.
In late February, Norsk Hydro concluded the purchase of Vale assets in northern Brazil for US$3.5 billion. Those assets include a 51% stake in the aluminium smelter Albrás in Barcarena, Pará state, 57% of the Alunorte refinery, and a 61% stake in the future Companhia de Alumina do Pará (CAP) alumina plant, which will start up in 2012. A Japanese consortium of 17 companies holds the minority stakes in these companies.
Also, on 30 March, Martinsen and Fredeagsvik met with union leaders at the former Vale bauxite mine Paragominas. As part of the deal, Hydro bought 60% of the 9.9 million tonne mine, as well as other bauxite mineral rights of Vale in Brazil. Hydro will now call its Brazilian mining assets Mineração Paragominas. Hydro will purchase the remaining 40% in 2013 and 2015 for US$200 million in each year.
The Norwegian board members also discussed local issues with Pará state workers including access to housing in the rural areas, and health and education.
“This was an important first step,” said Martinsen, “towards establishing the right framework for including our Brazilian colleagues in Hydro’s internal arenas for dialogue, to ensure that the interests and views of all employees in Hydro are represented in the appropriate forums and decision-making processes.”
Added Fredeagsvik, “Through these initial meetings, we have created a solid foundation for further work together. The meetings have been interesting, positive, and highly constructive.”
Besides ICEM and IMF, Norwegian trade unions IndustriEnergi and Fellesforbundet are signatory to the GFA.