Trade unions from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, UK and USA representing workers at General Electric met in Geneva, Switzerland on 29-30 November 2017 to discuss the development of the General Electric trade union network.
The union representatives shared their experience on the common labour issues they face at General Electric, a giant US multinational. The company operates through various industrial sectors such as energy, oil, gas, aviation, healthcare, transportation, energy connections and lighting in 170 countries with more than 330,000 direct employees.
The company officially announces that “GE promotes respect for fundamental human rights (including the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work) and views them as a key component of responsible corporate citizenship”, and it is consistently ranked as one of the world’s leading corporations.
However, the union representatives reported at the meeting that management has intensified its attacks on the workers’ rights in various countries and disrespected the long-term commitments made with employees and communities where it operated. The company has also engaged with investors known as specifically focused on short-term profits.
For example, in Europe, the company management short-sighted strategy entails serious risks for workers and society, resulting in disrespect of the commitments made at the time of Alstom Power’s acquisition. In North America, management decisions to close and curtail productive facilities have broken social agreements with communities. The unions in Europe (See industriAll European Trade Union press-release “General Electric: Shareholders first, workers last”) and US are taking actions against management with the view to protect the interest of workers and communities.
The delegates agreed that the company should fully implement the fundamental workers’ rights, especially freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, covering all company operations throughout the world without exception. The unions believe that GE management must work together with trade unions representing GE workers with the view to achieve a fair and just social business model.
The unions attending the meeting adopted a joint statement to unite GE trade unions around the world to increase workers’ collective power and call on the company to recognize and engage in dialogue with global union network.
The GE trade union network will:
- Develop cross-border union cooperation and solidarity to implement and monitor fundamental workers’ rights at all workplaces and to achieve fair and just working conditions for all workers.
- Create a mechanism of social dialogue at global and/or regional levels with management, to make workers’ voices heard in General Electric.
- Protect and promote sustainable jobs, social and economic justice, and democratic global governance of the company, which enables constructive industrial relations leading to global level negotiations, including the limitation of precarious work and encompassing the principles of Just Transition.