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Aerospace unions aim to take global solidarity to next level

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29 October, 2019The world’s most powerful aerospace unions, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, met in Singapore from 23-25 October 2019 and developed a comprehensive global strategy to take solidarity to the next level.

The aerospace industry is worth almost US $850 billion, employs five million workers, and is expanding to new countries. Expansion is driven by a desire for an increased global presence, by local content requirements of states, as well as a drive to increase profit margins through lower labour costs.

“We expect continued strong growth for the industry, particularly in Asia. The big players have all put strategies in place to develop into real global companies. This will lead to rapid growth of new locations of all types - manufacturing, research, maintenance, training - mainly outside Europe and the US,”

said IndustriALL assistant general secretary Atle Høie.

The president of the Machinists’ Union (IAMAW) Bob Martinez spoke about union busting at Boeing in the US, saying these tactics were now spreading across the world.

“The global aerospace industry finds itself at a crossroads. One direction takes it down a path that ignores the simple fact the workers are the most valuable factor in the company’s success. This is a path that leads to failure. Unless the world’s aerospace unions take action now, more and more companies will go down the anti-union path.

“The industry must choose a path that recognizes that a proud union workforce is the engine that drives a company’s success.”

While the industry is dominated by manual operations, it is starting to apply new production technologies based on digitalization and artificial intelligence.

“The race for lower costs and the increased use of precarious employment is extremely dangerous in an industry where safety standards that are only at 99 per cent can have severe consequences for people’s lives,”

said Georg Leutert, IndustriALL Aerospace director.

Unions committed to cooperate to ensure decent working conditions and pay everywhere, and to stop workers being pitted against one another due to global competition.

They plan to:

  1. Establish and develop a global union network and employee forums at company level, in particular at Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Safran.
  2. Cooperate closely with unions and other partners in emerging aerospace economies to ensure global labour standards are applied, especially in India, Mexico, Morocco, Tunisia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
  3. Establish an expert group on automation, digitalization and artificial intelligence to ensure transformation is socially responsibly.
  4. Coordinate globally through the steering committee, with regular full committee meetings and smaller meetings related to projects.
  5. Intensify the fight against anti-union policies by companies, politicians, pressure groups and others in the US, particularly in the US South.
  6. Engage with the growing aerospace industry in China and related trade union issues.
  7. Make sure all affiliated trade unions with significant aerospace membership are re-integrated into the sectoral work.
  8. Develop strategies to increase gender equality, and to involve more young trade unionists in activities.

At its meeting in January 2020, the steering committee will develop these commitments by defining measurable criteria with objectives and timeframes to ensure sufficient progress is made by the time of the next global meeting in 2021.