2 June, 2008
Prior to IF Metall’s First Ordinary Congress in mid-May, ICEM’s Swedish affiliate held a charged and enthusiastic two-day conference entitled “Decent Working Conditions for All – Fair and Just Globalization.” The conference, held 11-12 May in Stockholm, brought together hundreds of local Swedish trade union representatives with international union leaders.
In opening the conference, IF Metall National President Stefan Löfven stressed that the 400,000-member union favours global free trade, but only if free trade ensures good and favourable work conditions for all. The conference heard from Jan Eliasson, chairman of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party’s Foreign Affairs Advisory Committee, and Kari Tapiola, Assistant Director-General of the ILO.
IF Metall President Stefan Löfven
It also featured a number of workshops on day two, including “Trade Union Solidarity in a State of Change,” “Global Cooperation in Practice between Companies and Trade Unions,” “The Political Platform of the EU – Today and in the Future,” and “The State of the International Trade Union Movement – a Challenge and Need for Change.”
Participating on panels across those workshops were ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda; General Secretary Neil Kearney of the Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF); Horst Mund, Head of International Department, IG Metall, Germany; Göran Färm, Swedish Member of the European Parliament, representing the Social Democratic Party; and Ingrid Schullström, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for H&M, the Swedish department store chain.
Earlier, on day one, International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) General Secretary Marcello Malentacchi delivered an address on “Activities of the Global Union Federations,” emphasizing that today, international trade union work is a part of everyday life on the local level. He shared a session with AB Electrolux President and CEO Hans Stråberg, called “The Role and Task of Multinational Companies in a More Global World, Their Contribution Towards a Fairer Globalization.”
During IF Metall’s Congress proceedings, Malentacchi and the union’s International Secretary, Mats Svensson, denounced Swedish multinational Ericsson AB’s contract labour practices in Bangladesh. Recently in Bangladesh, a contract worker fell into an unprotected zinc and acid tank. Ericsson manufactures components for telephones in Bangladesh.
IF Metall International Secretary Mats Svensson
IF Metall and IMF used a press conference to insist that Ericsson go beyond its own code of conduct by engaging in discussions toward a Global Framework Agreement with the IMF. “It’s clear in this case that (Ericsson’s) unilaterally adopted rules for the environment and security of employees is not working,” stated Svensson.
He added that if decent work conditions are to become real, there must be cooperation between multinationals and employees’ global union representatives. “An agreement signed between a multinational and an international trade union organisation is a tool for social justice,” said Svensson. “The company puts itself at the negotiating table, and creates a tool that ensures” proper and decent work conditions are observed.
At the Congress itself, IF Metall’s 300 delegates ratified initiatives supporting Global Framework Agreements and for Sweden to adopt ILO Convention 94, the Labour Clauses (Public Contracts) Convention. Fifty-nine countries have ratified the 1949 Convention, which calls for social and labour clauses to be inserted into public procurement clauses, but Sweden has not.
Raising of the Flag: Solidarity, Socialism, Equality
In other Congress business, IF Metall delegates called for a change of government in Sweden’s next elections, and criticised the centre-right coalition that currently rules the government for its sharp reductions in unemployment insurance.
The Congress reaffirmed its approach on sustainable development, that an integrated approach must take hold that includes research, innovation, new technology, and lifelong learning and skills development. The Congress also called for a halt to the decommissioning of nuclear power facilities.
President Stefan Löfven was re-elected President, and Veli-Pekka Säikkälä won election as the new National Bargaining Secretary. The Congress featured an address by the President of Colombian ICEM affiliate Sintracarbón. Jaime Deluquez Diaz thanked the Swedish union for providing strength and knowledge to his 4,000-member coal miners’ union in Colombia.