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ICEM, Rhodia Global Safety Panel Hold Second Meeting in Russia

15 August, 2011

Following an opening meeting in October 2010, the Global Safety Panel of ICEM and French chemicals company Rhodia under the Global Framework Agreement (GFA) held its second meeting at a Rhodia operation called Sertow in Serpukhov, Russia, on 19-20 July.

The safety forum was included in an amendment to the GFA in February 2010. The safety panel has duties to monitor Rhodia’s health and safety policies and practices, as well as to continue ongoing dialogue between the company and its workers and make recommendations on improvements.

The Sertow plant is part of the group’s Acetow company and makes cigarette filters for the global tobacco industry. Operated by Rhodia since 1994, the plant uses cellulose acetate flakes as a key raw material. The plant does stress the importance to health and safety issues since a fatal accident happened on 12 September 2000. The plant since has gone for over ten years without a lost-time accident.

The ICEM delegation was composed of Juarez Nogueira of Sindquim, Brazil; Scott Harrington of the United Steelworkers (USW), US; Maurice Tritsch of CFDT, France; Jie Dong from China; and Kemal Özkan and Brian Kohler from the ICEM headquarters. The delegation first met with the elected representatives of the site concerning industrial relations and the health and safety situation.

Local level labour relations were set up using the example of the German Works Council system as it exists at Acetow’s centre, located in Freiburg, Germany. There is close collaboration between the workforce leaders of both operations, and the Sertow Works Council is actively involved in labour-related matters such as collective agreements, personnel health improvement, support of sporting events, and involvement in renovation of the social room. The Works Council has regular meetings with management as part of social dialogue.

Following presentations about Rhodia, Acetow, and the Sertow plant with key figures presented on economic, social, and personnel-related matters, the meeting received a report on Rhodia Way, the company’s integrated management system regarding sustainable development.

The participants also heard a report from Rhodia managers on the five-year plan of personal safety that covered records of 2011, as well as projections for the period of 2011-2015. The report put forward a plan to significantly reduce the number of irreversible and chemical accidents until 2015. The targets cover Rhodia’s temporary and sub-contact employees and its own staff.

Having made comments on the report, the ICEM’s Kohler presented his health and safety recommendations to plant-level and corporate management. A specific discussion was made on Rhodia’s investigatory method named after the “Casual Tree" accident. The meeting also received a presentation from the Sertow management on practices and results regarding safety compliance. The participants later toured the facility.

The meeting was finalized with an assessment of the discussions and future activities. It was agreed to deepen co-operation for reflecting the work of the Global Safety Panel to workplace level in all of Rhodia’s operations worldwide.