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First global network at Saint-Gobain is created

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29 October, 2015At a meeting in Paris on 27 – 28 October, trade unions from France, Belgium, Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia and India committed to create a global union network in French multi-sectorial multinational company (MNC) Saint-Gobain.

Saint-Gobain calls itself the “reference in sustainable housing”. Although the company commits to social dialogue and good employer-employees relations, a lot of conflicts remain unsolved. Today, the company states that they are always open for dialogue, but insist at the same time on the principle of “subsidiarity”. This is an excuse to not take action if local management does not abide by good practices as being conducted in Europe.

Especially in India, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, delegates report that local management does not respect ILO core conventions but rather harasses and dismisses trade union activists instead of entering into dialogue. Some country managers seem to govern by fear and harassment, which is unacceptable in a company that declares the respect for workers’ rights as one of their core principles.

The company’s labour relations director explained the company’s view on social dialogue. However, this system of regionalized dialogue which the company calls “subsidiarity”is not sufficient in the eyes of the delegates. Also the idea that the company “regionalizes” not only the social dialogue but also the application of labour rights is absolutely not enough, having in mind that in many countries legislation is far weaker than i.e. ILO core conventions.

One of the core demands of the global network is the setup of a global union committee and the establishment of a Global Framework Agreement (GFA) to establish conflict resolution mechanisms that really can help to solve open issues on global scale, when local social partners cannot come to a solution.

Although appreciating Saint-Gobain’s efforts to establish good worker-employer relations, this concept is not sufficient from a trade union point of view. Unilateral declarations of values and principles and principles of conduct will not do, and neither will corporate social responsibility activities without trade union involvement. Partnership needs agreements and involvement,

said Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL director for materials industries.

After the discussion with the management representative, delegates discussed their own work plan for the following years.

The new network elected Dominique Bousquenaud, general secretary of IndustriALL’s French affiliate FCE-CFDT as global network coordinator, and also installed a steering group that will govern the network together with the coordinator and IndustriALL. The network adopted an ambitious agenda and work plan for the next years in order to bring forward workers’ rights and social dialog with real employees’ involvement within an MNC which says in its company statement: “The way we achieve the results is as important as the results are themselves.”

Saint-Gobain was created 350 years ago, as royal glass manufacturer who delivered glass and mirrors for the royal castle of Versailles. Today, Saint-Gobain employs more than 180,000 worldwide. The group is present in 66 countries and reaches an annual turnover of €41 billion per year.

Here you will find more photos on the meeting.