6 July, 2017Union leaders from around the world held a loud protest at the gates of steel producer, Ternium, in Guatemala City on 5 July to demand the company obey the law and negotiate with the union at the plant.
They had just concluded the annual meeting of the Tenaris – Ternium Workers’ World Council, which ran from 3 to 5 July. The Council brings together unions at Ternium, which has steel manufacgturing plants across in Latin American and the US, and steel tube producer Tenaris. Both companies are held by the Luxembourg based Techint with over US$15 billion in 2016 sales.
The Council scheduled the protest after Ternium management failed to respond to the Council’s repeated requests for a meeting. Instead of management, the Council was met at the plant by a couple of dozen armed guards, police and military police. They were also joined at the shift change by dozens of Ternium workers and supporters from other Guatemalan unions.
Participants in the Council meeting from eight countries at Tenaris and Ternium again called on the companies to formally recognize the Council and work with it collaboratively in areas of common interest including health and safety. There were three worksite fatalities at Tenaris in 2016.
Participants discussed strategies for dealing with current challenges including unfair international trade and new technologies that reduce employment levels. A recurring question was why Ternium refuses to negotiate with IndustriALL affiliate FESTRAS’ Sintraternium union at its Guatemala plant even though it recognizes unions at its other operations around the globe.
Guatemala’s Vice Minister of Labour Guillermo Gándara met with the Council earlier in the week and committed to call on Ternium to meet with Sintraternium if the company doesn’t do so within thirty days.
IndustriALL Director Fernando Lopes denounced the Government of Guatemala at the June International Labour Conference for failing to enforce the law requiring Ternium to bargain collectively with Sintraternium, five years after the union’s registration.
Sintraternium leadership said Ternium “has created a climate of terror” in Guatemala. The company illegally fired the entire union organizing committee and refused to reinstate them until the Supreme Court ordered them to two years later. Ternium is illegally denying paid leave to union activists and making it difficult to collect union dues from members’ paychecks in an attempt to deny the union necessary resources and expertise to function.
Support action by the Committee helped union Sintratucar achieve recognition from Tenaris after facing a similar union-busting campaign in Colombia in 2010.
“It’s disgraceful what Ternium is doing to its Guatemalan workers, and equally disgraceful that the Guatemalan government is doing nothing to prevent it,” said IndustriALL Base Metals Director Adam Lee.
“IndustriALL and the Tenaris – Ternium Workers’ World Council call on Ternium to end its anti-union campaign, recognize Sintraternium and negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement. We have committed to support this struggle at the Council’s worksites, at the ILO and in Luxembourg until the company does so.”