The need for solidarity to defend trade union rights and challenge violations in global supply chains underlined discussions at IndustriALL’s Executive Committee Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on 26 and 27 April.
The meeting heard from trade union leaders directly affected by government oppression in Belarus and Algeria. There were also calls to better implement global framework agreements (GFAs) in companies that violate fundamental workers’ rights.
“We must use GFAs to confront companies with what they say in public and how they operate. However, they are not a guarantee, we need to show solidarity at the same time,” said IndustriALL President Jörg Hofmann.
In light of President Trump's recent imposition of high tariffs on steel and aluminum, Jörg Hofmann called for trade policies that benefit the many and not the few:
“Protectionism is not the solution to protect jobs and livelihoods…We want free trade but it should also be fair trade. We need to define fair trade - and define how to achieve it as well.”
Low growth rates, an increase in precarious work, and digitalization continue to affect unions. Discussions on Industry 4.0 highlighted the need for national and global strategies to prepare today’s workers for tomorrow’s jobs.
“We need a strong policy for energy transition and a Just Transition especially in the oil and gas and coal mining sectors,” said IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches.
He also emphasized the need for IndustriALL to adopt a cross-sectorial approach to its work and focus on global supply chains, where sectors are increasingly overlapping, particularly with Industry 4.0.
The meeting passed two resolutions. The first resolution, in support of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, followed a demonstration by the Executive Committee outside the United Nations, demanding his release from prison. The resolution repudiates his incarceration which is designed to stop him running for the presidency.
During the week of the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013 that killed 1,134 garment workers, the Executive Committee passed a second resolution on occupational health and safety, marking 28 April, International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers.
The resolution calls on IndustriALL to renew and continue its campaigns for healthy and safe workplaces for all workers within all industries - including its campaigns for the ratification of the ILO Convention on Safety in Mines (C176), safe workplaces in Bangladesh, and campaigns against asbestos, sandblasting, and occupational cancer.
The Executive Committee also approved a proposal from South African unions to host IndustriALL’s 2020 Congress.
The Executive Committee meeting heard from Raouf Mellal, President of Algerian energy affiliate SNATEGS, who told of the political persecution of trade unionists in Algeria. Mellal is facing a total of 17 months in prison on a series of trumped up charges.
Gennady Fedynich, chairman of the Belarusian Radio and Electronics Industry Workers’ Union (REP) and IndustriALL Executive Committee member, joined the meeting by video conference as he was denied permission to leave the country. Fedynich said the Belarusian government is trying to disband his union, because it has great respect among blue-collar workers.
IndustriALL recently led a mission to Belarus aimed to stop criminal proceedings against REP leaders and offer solidarity. “Only through joint efforts shall we succeed in protecting the rights of our members and organizations,” said Fedynich.
The next Executive Committee meeting will take place in Mexico City on 29 and 30 November 2018.