12 September, 2016On 8 September 2016, unions from the United States and Canada representing workers in the rapidly changing cement sector met in Washington D.C. to discuss future cooperation.
At the invitation of IndustriALL Global Union and hosted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representatives of the Teamsters, the United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers from the US and Canada, had a comprehensive one-day discussion on ways to improve their coordination in the cement industry.
This coordination is necessary due to rapid changes reshaping the sector through a series of acquisitions, mergers and takeovers. The latest examples of the changes in the sector are the LafargeHolcim merger with consequent growth of CRH in Canada and the United States and the takeover of Italcementi by HeidelbergCement. These processes led to an enormous concentration of market power in Canada and the US in the hands of only two transnational corporations.
This was the first coordination meeting in many years. The atmosphere was very good and all the participants openly exchanged information and talked to each other in good faith. Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL director for materials industries and mechanical engineering, attended the meeting. Impressed by the commitment of all the participants Hartwich said,
What we saw here today was a very good starting point. If we all do what we promised this network will not only become a success itself, it will also produce added value for all the participating trade unions and their members. IndustriALL supports this network meeting and will connect it with other existing regional cement networks and company networks on global level.”
The participants also made a solidarity visit to the rally of coal miners in Washington D.C, who are fighting to safeguard their health insurance after retirement. In solidarity with the mineworkers and their demands all the participants joined the rally.
One of the meeting participants stated, "We have had a productive meeting. We will have an open exchange in order to be better prepared to respond to management strategies and anti-union activities. This network strengthens our work in the cement sector. We will make it a success for the sake of the workers in the cement and connected industries in North America”.
All participants took over specific tasks in order to contribute to the network. The North America cement network participants also made it clear that they would continue their work. Next network meeting will take place in spring 2017.