IndustriALL Global Union has lodged an OECD complaint against multinational steel producer Ternium for refusing to recognize and negotiate with a trade union at its operations in Guatemala.
Sitraternium, which is affiliated to IndustriALL through the FESTRAS trade union in Guatemala, has been struggling for recognition at Ternium since it was officially registered in March 2012. Workers came together to unionize after they were threatened with dismissal for raising concerns about long working hours, low salaries, lack of proper vacation and insufficient health coverage.
Initially the company sacked all Sitraternium’s 27 founding members but was eventually forced by the courts to reinstate them. The company made repeated attempts to block recognition of the union until finally the Guatemalan Supreme Court confirmed the legitimacy of Sitraternium in February 2015.
Despite the ruling and numerous appeals for dialogue from the Ministry of Labour, Ternium is breaking the law by refusing to negotiate with the union. While the Ministry says it is sympathetic to the union, it has failed to penalize Ternium for its illegal behaviour. Guatemala is listed as one of top ten worst places for workers’ in the International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Rights Index 2017.
In February this year, an inspector from the Ministry of Labour found that Ternium had wrongfully implemented a compulsory alcohol and drug testing policy after workers were informed that they would be suspended if they didn’t take the test or sacked if they failed it. A day after the Ministry wrote to the company commanding it cease the policy, Ternium fired three workers who refused to be tested.
Unions belonging to the Tenaris Ternium Workers’ World Council are shocked by the treatment of Sitraternium as Ternium and Tenaris generally have normal relations with unions at their plants in other countries. Both Ternium and Tenaris are owned by the Techint conglomerate.
Ternium, which is headquartered in OECD member-country Luxembourg, is one of the biggest steel companies in Latin America with more than 19,000 workers at production facilities in Guatemala, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, as well as the United States.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
Ternium says it wants to be the leading steel company in the Americas. Clearly, they are not showing leadership in the way they’re treating their workers in Guatemala. Ternium has tried every measure under the sun to avoid bargaining with Sitraternium. By filing an OECD complaint, we mean to show that workers at Ternium in Guatemala cannot have their rights violated any longer.
The complaint is being filed at the OECD National Contact Point in Luxembourg by IndustriALL, Sitraternium and the Canadian branch of IndustriALL’s North American affiliate, United Steelworkers (USW).