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IndustriALL raises steel workers’ concerns in OECD

2 October, 2017Dozen union activists and leaders attended the OECD steel committee meeting on 28 and 29 September in Paris, France and made workers’ voice heard about the alarming consequences of overcapacity, restructuring and other worrisome steel market developments continously impacting workers and their families’ lives across the globe.

During the meeting, the Executive Committee member of the Steel, Metal & Engineering Workers' Federation of India as well the co-chair for the Base Metals section of IndustriALL Global Union Sanjyot Vadhavkar took the floor as a member of the Trade Union Advisory Committee of the OECD delegation.

In her speech Vadhavkar spoke about labour market developments in the steel industry and the necessity to add the voices of steel workers and their unions in order to get a their full understanding.

Despite the recent modest improvements in steel production and pricing reported by the OECD Steel Committee, as well as certain improvements for workers, including fewer plant closures and less job cuts than a year ago, Vadhavkar raised some worrisome labour market developments.

Vadhavkar referred to a memorandum of understanding recently announced by Tata Steel and ThyssenKrupp to combine their European steel operations in a 50-50 venture, which wiould result in the loss of 4 thousand jobs.

She also said, “Many of our unions continue to have members out of work after being displaced by restructuring caused by dumping and other unfair trade practices. We take note that the OECD Steel Committee mandate includes a commitment that governments work to reduce the social costs that arise from capacity reductions in the steel industry. Unfortunately governments have simply not met this commitment. With the sole exception of Sweden, our affiliates report that workers displaced by steel restructuring have little hope of finding comparable employment and income in a reasonable amount of time. Income support and retraining benefits are generally inadequate.”

Vadhavkar also reiterated, “Our unions are aware of reports that China has begun capacity reductions in response to external pressure and in order to reduce pollution. We call on China to take all necessary measures to reduce the impacts of these capacity reductions on Chinese workers. We also urge OECD Steel Committee to use its expertise to guide China on how to effectively reduce these impacts on workers.”

In the same time Vadhavkar expressed solidarity with Chinese steel workers, “We demand that China respect freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, and allow independent and democratic trade unions to operate. We demand this of all countries. This Committee should do the same.”

Besides, Vadhavkar raised concerns over the reports of trade unions from Latin America, where there is a disturbing trend throughout the region of neoliberal governments pushing for greater labor market flexibility, meaning less job protections and less protection of workers’ rights.

Follow the link to read text of the full speech.

After intervention by IndustriALL, the OECD Steel Committee Chairman’s statement from the meeting re-iterated the importance that committee members provide greater support for steel workers displaced by structural adjustment.