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US labour authorities seek bargaining order for Novelis with USW

13 May, 2014Labour board finds company engaged in “serious and substantial unfair labour practice conduct”.

The General Counsel of the highest labour authority in the U.S., the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), on May 6 asked the Board to order Novelis to recognize and bargain with the United Steelworkers (USW) at its aluminum plant in Oswego, New York.

Responding to the General Counsel’s order, USW District 4 Director John Shinn said: “The NLRB’s decision to seek a bargaining order sends a clear message to the management of Novelis and the Aditya Birla Group – we welcome your investment to create jobs in the U.S., but not at the expense of our basic rights.  We urge Novelis to sit down and bargain a fair contract with its workers in Oswego.”

Novelis is a subsidiary of Hindalco, which is part of the India-based Aditya Birla Group.  Last December, the company announced a $120 million investment that would add 90 jobs at the Oswego plant.

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina declared:

IndustriALL calls on all unions at Novelis, Hindalco, and the Aditya Birla Group to demand that the company treat its workers in Oswego with respect and immediately enter into contract negotiations with the USW.

In January, a majority of workers signed USW membership cards.  But in an election conducted by the NLRB on February 20 and 21, workers voted against USW representation by a 287-273 margin.  However, the NLRB found that in the days before the election, Novelis management committed multiple violations of U.S. labor law, including:

■ interrogating employees about their union membership, activities, and sympathies;

■ impliedly threatening employees that the plant would close if they selected the Union as their bargaining representative;

■ threatening employees with a reduction in wages if they selected the Union as their bargaining representative;

■ threatening employees with more onerous working conditions, including mandatory overtime, if they selected the Union as their bargaining representative;

■ threatening employees that if they elected the Union, Respondent would lose business;

■ prohibiting employees from wearing union insignia on their uniforms while permitting employees to wear anti-union and other insignia; 

■ selectively and disparately enforcing company no-solicitation rules by prohibiting union solicitations and distributions, while permitting nonunion and anti-union solicitations and distributions in employee work and break areas and on bulletin boards;

■ disparaging the Union by displaying a redacted Board letter and telling employees that the Union had filed a charge regarding the restoration of the Sunday premium pay and employees’ use of personal time on Sunday as time worked, at a time when no such charge had been filed;

■ threatening employees that the company would have to rescind Sunday premium pay and overtime benefits if it pled guilty to the Union’s charge.

The NLRB concluded that:

The serious and substantial unfair labor practice conduct described above . . . is such that there is only a slight possibility of traditional remedies erasing their effects and conducting a fair election.  Therefore, on balance, the employees’ sentiments regarding representation, having been expressed through authorization cards, would be protected better by issuance of a bargaining order.