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Global health and safety initiative delivering results

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11 March, 2013IndustriALL Global Union witnesses a huge transformation after returning to the ArcelorMittal Lázaro Cárdenas steel plant on 4 to 7 March, previously visited by the ArcelorMittal Joint Global Health and Safety Committee (JGHSC) in 2009.

The recent revisit to the ArcelorMittal Lazaro Cardenas steel plant provided the perfect opportunity to see an example of international solidarity that’s working. The plant that was previously visited by the ArcelorMittal Joint Global health and Safety Committee (JGHSC) in 2009 has undergone a huge transformation in standards. Although still a work in progress the results on site are impressive and credit for that must fall to Los Mineros and local management with the help and support of the JGHSC.

One outcome from the original visit was to set up a safety-mentoring scheme between Los Mineros and the United Steelworkers (USW). Both the USW and Mineros have had a long history of close cooperation, particularly following the relentless attacks on Los Mineros Leader Napoleon Gomez. The scheme, which has included regular revisits to the site, sharing resources and educational exchanges, has strengthened both unions. 

Sherman Crowder, District 1 United Steelworkers (USW), has been visiting Lazaro Cardenas for the past 5 years. During that time he has seen both unions benefit from the experience, saying, “I’m proud of what we have achieved and the links we have built with Los Mineros. Each time I return you can see improvements on site. Our support helps to maintain the momentum for change.”

The next exchange will take place in April when over 100 USW members will attend a memorial rally in Lazaro Cardenas. During the activities members of the JGHSC will also revisit the site, carry out safety training programs and continue to build their alliance.

As part of a Health and Safety Lead Team Meeting (HLST) held in Lazaro Cardenas participants carried out a site visit to check on progress. The results overall were good with a few areas identified for improvements these included machine isolation, installing ladder backs and consistent use of personal protective equipment.

Prudencio Perez Chavez, General Secretary of the Los Mineros local union, explained that later this year the union would begin collective bargaining with the company for a new contract. The union has already begun preparations for the negotiations and had also just concluded actions in support of the global week of action on Mexico.

ArcelorMittal Lazaro Cardenas is Mexico’s largest steel plant and has both a blast furnace and electric arc furnace. It has approximately 6,500 employees on site and the majority are union members of Los Mineros.

Despite the ongoing efforts of the ArcelorMittal JGHSC the company had 30 fatalities in 2012. Rob Johnston, Joint Chair of the JGHSC said, “Until we have no fatalities we can not be happy, our unions want to aggressively target those areas which we know will improve performance. We can not let anything slow us down in that aim. This is about saving workers lives.”