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Henkel uses scabs in US to break workers’ strike

30 November, 2017Since 16 October 2017 over 80 members of the IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) working at Henkel Aerospace Bay Point in Pittsburgh, CA have gone on strike due to their employer’s reluctance to address the issue of workers’ safety and other shop floor concerns.

The strike at Henkel Aerospace in Pittsburg producing adhesives for Boeing and other airline companies, started in response to the deadlocked negotiations with management over a new agreement, which would improve safety procedures at the Henkel facility.

However, the company’s response to the conflict has been retaliation and discrimination against union leaders and members at the plant. In an effort to destroy the union, Henkel employed scab workers through a union replacement/strike breaking company Strom Engineering. Reportedly Henkel is now spending millions of dollars on these temporary replacement workers.

Henkel is a well unionized company throughout Europe. However the state of affairs in the USA is far from was is described in Henkel’s sustainability report for 2016, where the company says that “An in-depth exchange of views and consultations with the management take place both at the operational level, for example, with the local works councils, and across companies with the trade union.” In the same report the company also claims to “promote the health and vitality of our employees to help create an agile and high-performance organization.”

In 2013, 26-year-old David Eleidjian, a temporary worker died after being pulled and crushed to death while working a chemical mixing machine. In result of the subsequent investigation made by the US California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) numerous violations were found, and the company was fined for US$200,000.

Since then workers have managed to negotiate their first contract with the company. The contract however failed to address numerous safety issues continuing to be ignored and contested by Henkel.

Over the past 6 months, several severe steam burns have occurred, due to the lack of scheduled maintenance recommended by the current safety committees. One injury caused third degree burns over 30 per cent of an IAM member.

The Machinists Union have submitted a number of Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) claims and Cal/OSHA has cited and penalized the company. According to IAM, the current ULP’s filings regard violation of grievance timelines, mandatory five 12-hour day work schedule and training of nonunion employees to perform IAM work while the union was still in negotiations. The union is also preparing new ULP claims.

IndustriALL German affiliate IG BCE was the first one to express their solidarity and support to Henkel workers. Michael Mersmann, director for globalization and European policy at IG BCE comments,

“The use of scabs is unacceptable and we express our solidarity with the Machinists. IG BCE, together with the German works council, have engaged into discussions with management, but an appropriate solution is yet to be found. We hope and support, that both sides get back to the negotiation table and find a proper solution!”

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches addressed a solidarity letter to the Machinists,

“IndustriALL Global Union fully supports the strike, which is the result of the intransigent stance of Henkel Aerospace. Your 80 proud production workers have every right to demand a safe and healthy working environment, and a constructive social dialogue with the company. No company should be able to deny responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their workers, and refuse to take responsibility for a tragic death on their premises.” 

“We demand that Henkel Aerospace negotiate a fair contract with the union to address basic urgent safety and health issues, effective grievance procedures, as well as the implementation of the negotiated system of advancement and training. Furthermore, Henkel Aerospace should redress any unfair labor practices, and act in full accordance with the decisions of Cal/OSHA.”