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Union power taking off in aerospace industry

2 July, 2015The world conference for aerospace industries held in Berlin on 1 – 2 July, saw delegates from around the globe discuss building union power and confronting global capital in the sector.

Close to 100 delegates from 16 countries representing 25 unions met for the two-day aerospace world conference in Berlin in the first days of July. The theme was building stronger unions and confronting global capital in the growing industry.

Jürgen Kerner, Treasurer of IG Metall welcomed the delegates to Germany and expressed solidarity with the global family of aerospace workers.

As part of the opening ceremony, Holger Schilenkamp, German Federal Ministry Economic Affairs and Energy, underlined the importance of what in Germany is called co-determination, saying it is in the interest of both workers and employers.

In his opening statement, Tom Buffenbarger, Vice-President of IndustriALL, President of IAMAW, and Chair of IndustriALL’s aerospace sector, said that the global industry is at a cross roads and must choose between two paths:

“One is where workers are forced to give up the fundamental right to strike and where workers are blamed for management failures.

“The other embraces aerospace unions, where management recognizes the value of a unionized workforce able to freely engage in collective bargaining.”

In the USA and Canada alone, more than 600,000 aerospace jobs, nearly 50 per cent of the sector workforce, have disappeared in the last 20 years. As in many other industries, aerospace companies are increasingly relying on contract workers.

During the two days’ panel debates, participants discussed ways of defending workers’ rights and countering anti-union activities. Global framework agreements (GFAs) were recognized as an important tool for strengthening labour rights in the sector.

"We must demand aerospace companies to enter into global agreements which honour international labour standards," said Tom Buffenbarger.

Plan for action

Participants agreed to launch a number of company networks, to exchange information but also to build workers’ solidarity in the sector.

An action plan was adopted with concrete steps to confront global capital, defend workers’ rights, fight precarious work, and ensure sustainable industrial employment.

The world conference also adopted a resolution reiterating IndustriALL’s stance of solidarity with workers of affiliated unions who are facing prison for striking in 2010.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“We will continue to organize workers and support our unions in the aerospace sector. In a global industry, we are fighting austerity while defending and advancing workers’ rights.

“Workers’ rights are non-negotiable and we must find solutions that protect all workers in all parts of the global supply chain.”

The conference re-elected Tom Buffenbarger to leadership of the section together with an action group that will play a role in implementing the action plan with the secretariat.