Photo of union action in front of the building where LafargeHolcim annual shareholders meeting took place, May 2017

Photo of union action in front of the building where LafargeHolcim annual shareholders meeting took place, May 2017

Unions worldwide demand LafargeHolcim honours its commitment for a global agreement

01.02.2018

73 union leaders from 39 countries addressed a joint letter to CEO, Jan Jenisch, demanding the company honour its commitment and sign a global framework agreement.

In their letter, leaders of unions representing workers at LafargeHolcim reminded the company’s leadership of a signed memorandum of understanding in July 2017 with IndustriALL Global Union and Building and Wood Workers’ International, in which the company firmly committed to signing a global framework agreement in January 2018. However, later LafargeHolcim informed global unions that it “had revisited the need for a formal Global Framework Agreement”.

The union leaders, supported by the workers they represent, wrote:

“We are outraged that LafargeHolcim has broken its word and refuses to meet its commitment to sign a GFA. A GFA would help to build positive industrial relations throughout the company and address some of the company’s most serious problems, including an excessive reliance on precarious work and the high number of workers killed at your operations every year.”

Scores of workers are killed at LafargeHolcim operations every year. Just as the letter was being sent to the company, another worker was killed at the company’s operation in India. And once again it was a contract worker who lost his life. The union representative reported that even after the worker was killed, there was a similar incident in exactly the same place, fortunately without any injury.

LafargeHolcim is notorious for its excessive use of precariously employed workers at its operations. The company is yet to release the fatality figures for 2017, but in 2016, 86 workers were killed at LafargeHolcim operations worldwide, most of them precariously employed contract and third-party workers.

The unions offer a solution to the company, whose programme “zero fatality target” is clearly not delivering in the absence of proper union consultation and the involvement of workers’ and their representatives in health and safety and other issues worldwide. All of these could be covered as part of a global framework agreement.

In light of the LafargeHolcim’s intransigence in denying a proper dialogue with unions and company’s violation of its commitment to sign a global framework agreement, the unions raise questions about whether the company “can be trusted as a reliable partner in any of the countries where our unions represent LafargeHolcim workers.” The unions ended their letter by expressing the hope that the company would honour its commitment and further action would not be necessary.

Valter Sanches, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union said,

“This letter is proof that the LafargeHolcim workforce will not let the company escape its commitment. One can’t keep killing people and say they are respecting human rights. LafargeHolcim, it is time to honour your commitments. LafargeHolcim, respect workers’ rights!”

Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the Building and Wood Workers International said,

“It’s time for LafargeHolcim to clean up their act. Empty rhetoric and ineffective rules on health and safety are wholly inadequate to prevent accidents and ill health in the company. There is clearly a serious and widespread problem with the number, selection and management of contractors in LafargeHolcim.