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Lafarge’s Proposed Health Coverage Cuts in State of Missouri Brings Global Resistance

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8 September, 2008

ICEM US affiliate, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB), has gained the support of the Global Union Federation (GUF) in its resistance to retiree health care curtailments at Lafarge’s cement manufacturing plant in the state of Missouri. IBB Local D-27 in Sugar Creek, Missouri, has been in contract talks with Lafarge on behalf of 55 staff since spring 2008. Local management is seeking major changes in cement workers’ health care coverage.

The two sides will return to bargaining on 10 September. A prior four-year labour agreement expired on 30 April.

In a letter to Lafarge’s European senior managers, ICEM General Secretary Manfred Warda expressed the 20-million-member federation’s concern “that cutting existing benefits without justified economic reason is against recognized international standards.” Warda noted that Lafarge’s North American cement sales has risen 17% in the first half of 2008 compared to the first half of 2007, while operating income has increased 19% between the same periods in 2007 and 2008.

The ICEM, along with another GUF, the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), is signatory to a Global Framework Agreement with French-based Lafarge, an agreement signed in September 2005 that holds the company to an international code of labour principles, as well as social responsibility standards.

Lafarge has proposed that new hires be excluded from retiree medical coverage in a new labour accord, while insisting that existing workers be placed in a separate medical insurance plan upon retirement. In that plan, out-of-pocket health care costs would likely double for retirees. At present, all current workers and retirees are in the same plan, one in which participants pay US$254-per-month for family health coverage.

Caray Allen, IBB’s Cement, Lime, Gypsum, and Allied Workers’ Division Director, said Lafarge workers in Sugar Creek have set records for production and safety. “This is a strange way to reward your workforce,” he stated.

The ICEM, in urging French senior managers to intervene to preserve the current plan, argues that Sugar Creek workers should not be penalized over health coverage, especially because IBB Local D-27 has previously aided the company financially by changing to 12-hour, rotating shifts.

The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine, and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) is a Geneva-based labour union federation consisting of 467 national trade unions in 132 countries.

For further information, contact: ICEM Materials Sector Officer Phee Jungsun, +41 22 304 1846, +41 79 734 9041 (mobile), or [email protected]; IBB CLGAW Director Caray Allen, +1 765 720 2000, or [email protected].