Autoworker unions convene to address restructuring challenges in the global auto industry
SÃO PAULO: Almost 200 delegates from 27 countries met on 16-18 June 2008 for the 12th IMF World Auto Council to address fundamental challenges of industrial and enterprise restructuring process sweeping the auto sector. "Solidarity and Sustainability - Responding to Global Auto Industry Restructuring" was the theme of the council proceeding at which delegates focused both on strengthening and building upon existing responses and presenting innovative strategies.
Ron Gettelfinger, president of the UAW and the IMF Automotive Department, said in his keynote address that "We will either succeed or fail together in responding to the global restructuring of the auto sector by building union strength at the workplace, within our respective national political structures, and by exerting our influence over international trade and development agreements and policies," going on to emphasize that "we must develop a pathway to build union strength at the major global auto producers and suppliers."
In an overview of what has taken place in the sector during recent years, IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi underscored that "the strength of IMF trade union affiliates in responding and ultimately protecting the interests of affected workers and their families have mattered tremendously. Yet the continuing challenges of restructuring means more must be done to ensure socially acceptable and equitable outcomes for all workers and their communities."
Proceeding of the World Auto Council focused on three main topics:
- Employment practices, precarious work and quality jobs: trade union challenges & responses.
- Competitive sourcing in a neo-liberal world: global union responses to attempts to pit workers and communities one against the other.
- Ensuring a greener environment, good jobs and safe work: designing, building and using motor vehicles in ways that protect workers and the environment.
To confront precarious work challenges, delegates urged a range of industrial, legal / political and international actions such as extending exiting collective agreements and full union membership to precarious workers and negotiating with principle employers. Among other recommendations were the use targeted recruitment campaigns, international framework agreements provisions, and mobilizing toward the Global Day of Action from on October 7.
The Council delegates highlighted the importance of organizing in responding to competitive sourcing challenges that could include company-level, multi-plant campaigns. Building means for stronger cross border coordination of collective bargaining, and the expanded use of networks to support these activities, were also included among the Council's recommendations.
Delegates stressed that green work should be unionised work that provides stable jobs with good salaries and safe working, and that the development, production and use of new and innovative clean vehicle and fuel technologies are integral to the industry's evolution. Sustainable development for the sector means that the protection of the environment, and public and workplace health and safety advances with a stronger employment base and deepened skills foundation.
In concluding remarks, Marcello Malentacchi stressed that "when we talk about precarious work, we are not aiming to reform precarious work or simply regulate it. The final goal is to eliminate precarious work in all its forms. What we need are jobs that are permanent, well paid, safe jobs on which we can build up our future."
After the close of the proceeding on June 17, delegates participated in a rally of solidarity with workers at the Cummins Engine plant in Guarulhos, calling for a general end to precarious employment conditions and demanding all workers are ensured their rights, quality jobs and decent lives worldwide.
All the documents for the meeting, including Recommendations of 12th IMF World Auto Council, are published on the IMF website.