From 19 to 22 May, the Gerdau Workers’ World Council held its eighth meeting in Peru. The delegates assessed the progress made since the last meeting and agreed on the need for experience sharing to carry out the negotiations required to improve workers’ situation in each country.
The 8th meeting of the Gerdau Workers’ World Council in Chimbote, Peru, was attended by representatives from United Steelworkers (USW) of Canada and United States, CNM-CUT Brazil and SIDERPERU (Mining, Metal and Steel Workers’ Federation of Peru), all affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union. Each union representative reported on the situation at Gerdau (specializing in long steel in Latin America and North America) in their countries and how it is affecting the workers.
The spokesperson for CNM-CUT Brazil explained that Gerdau is under investigation for tax evasion and may have to pay fines of US$1.5 billion. He said that this will most probably lead to a restructuring of the company, which will mean subsequent difficulties for the workers. It was agreed that IndustriALL would coordinate with the Gerdau trade unions in Brazil to help them strengthen their operations.
In the case of Peru, Gerdau has shut down the blast furnace. In addition, it is investing more in port logistics than in the steel plant, reflecting its intention to continue importing from China and Turkey, given the difference in costs. Another country faced with very strong competition from China and Turkey is Canada, where the Gerdau plant in Ontario has been affected to the point that it is only producing at 50 per cent of its capacity.
The Gerdau plant in California, US, is at risk of closure following its failure to comply with environmental standards. 300 workers would lose their jobs. The information shared and the points in common demonstrated the need to maintain continual contact with a view to finding joint solutions. Delegates decided to set up a communication network to ensure more regular contact between the countries integrating the Council, as well as to create a database to enable them to compare the collective agreements in the various countries.
Despite brush-off from the company, council shows its support for the workers
Part of the meeting included a visit to the Gerdau plant. The Council was disappointed at the company’s decision to suspend the visit due to internal problems, after having made the delegates wait for two hours. The Council nevertheless decided to go to the plant to meet the workers when they finished their shift. The delegates also took part in a march supporting the national day of protest called by the Mining, Metal and Steel Workers’ Federation of Peru.
The next meeting will be held in Montevideo, Uruguay, in the next 12 months. Until then, they will continue working on the plan approved at the previous meeting, which includes conducting a survey based on which a comparison can be made of the purchasing power of Gerdau workers, and that the coordinators would follow up on the plan adopted.
“It was a positive meeting on the whole, despite the absence of Chile and Colombia, as those who did attend undertook the commitment to continue with the network. A course was set towards strengthening it,” concluded Héctor Castellano, projects coordinator for IndustriALL in Uruguay.