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IndustriALL sets priorities for ICT, Electrical & Electronics sector

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6 June, 2017Some 44 participants from 12 countries took part in the the IndustriALL Global Union Steering Committee Meeting on ICT, Electrical & Electronics took place in Bogor, Indonesia from 22-23 May. 

Fourteen unions from Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, UK and Vietnam were present, with women making up 41 per cent of participants.

Prihanani Boenadi, co-chair for the sector stated in her opening speech: “We are facing new challenges in a fast-changing industry. We need to develop an effective strategy against companies behaving badly, like Samsung and others exposed in the ITUC’s End Corporate Greed Campaign.”

IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary, Jenny Holdcroft, reported on IndustriALL’s updated Statutes and Action Plan 2016-2020 which were adopted at the Rio Congress in October 2016. She also said the sector needs to focus on supply chain strategy and could learn from the textile and garment industry on how to gain union leverage in dealing with multinational companies (MNCs).

Global trends and sectoral activities

In the ICT, Electrical and Electronics sector, 70 per cent of the world’s top 20 MNCs (by annual revenue) originate from three countries namely USA, South Korea and China where freedom of association (ILO Convention No.87) and the right to collective bargaining (ILO Convention No.98) are not respected. They continue expanding their business all over the world without the presence of democratic trade unions.

Meanwhile, labour intensive production in the sector continues shifting into ASEAN countries and India, where wages are low. The ratio of precarious workers in the workplace keeps rising throughout the supply chains in these countries. Changes to manufacturing such as Industry 4.0 are already having a massive impact on employment and the industrial relations, resulting in an increasing number of unorganized white-collar workers who are not protected by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Creating and developing trade union networks in MNCs is becoming more important tool for tackling these issues and to increase the power of unions vis-à-vis the MNCs at national, regional and global levels.

Anne-Marie Chopinet, chair of ICT at industriAll European Trade Union, provided an overview of the situation in Europe, highlighting political turmoil and increase in poverty. She also reported on industriAll Europe’s political demands concerning the digital transformation of industry and potential risks and opportunities for the workers. 

Judy Winarno, president of SPEE FSPMI, spoke about their current activities and challenges in the ICT EE industry in Indonesia, particularly precarious workers and the social security system. Unions in Indonesia have set clear organizing targets and want to increase the number of CBAs.

Organizing and building union power

A five-year organizing project supported by the European Commission is in its fourth year. In the last three years, 1,671 trade union activists and workers (of whom 30 per cent were women) have participated at training sessions under the project in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. It has achieved positive outcomes in reaching out to unorganized, precarious, migrant, women and young workers, in order to include them in the protection of a collective agreement. More than 12,000 new members joined IndustriALL affiliated unions and the number of CBAs has been increased.

The EIEU Northern Region also reported on success of an organizing drive and training scheme under the EC project. VUIT, Vietnam, and CNTM, Brazil, spoke about the situation of workers in the industry in their countries, while JEIU, Japan, reported on their efforts to promote long-term employment for short-term contract workers

Precarious work and supply chain strategy

The ICT EE industry is highly competitive, innovative, fast changing and operates with short production cycles. At the same time, it is fuelling a rise in precarious work. Permanent workers has been pressured into precarious positions. Unions are struggling to reach out to the rapidly increasing numbers of agency, contract and outsourced workers, as well as migrants, who have little or no chance to bargain collectively on their terms and conditions of employment.

Lomenik, Indonesia, and TEAM, Thailand, reported on their struggle against precarious work, which focuses on supply chain workplaces. ETU, Australia, reported on issues of precarious work and the current building code from a construction/contracting perspective as electrician. (See Section 3 ETU, Australia presentation)

GoodElectronics explained their relationship with IndustriALL and shared their experiences and opportunities to jointly address precarious working conditions and workers’ rights issues.

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), responsible mining and e-waste are also big challenges in the sector, especially due to the lack of corporate responsibility by multinational companies throughout the supply chain.

Future manufacturing and promoting sustainable industrial policy

Unions shared their activities on sustainable industrial policy and the issues and challenges that they face to encourage it. The future impact of Industry 4.0 was a big focus for the discussion as smart technology and systems could also lead to extensive control and monitoring of workers’ behaviour and performance. Unions must be prepared for the massive impact on employment, working conditions and workers’ rights, and concentrate on activities towards a Just Transition.

Unite the Union, UK, and Co-industri, Denmark, spoke of the speed and complexity of the current technology changes and addressed issues and challenges on the future of manufacturing. UWEEI, Singapore, shared their structure to develop economic strategies for the future, such as the Committee of Future Economy, which includes unions, business chambers, public agencies, companies, and educators.

Creating and developing trade union networks in MNCs

As stated in IndustriALL’s Action Plan, unions in the sector need to engage in active dialogue with MNCs to build strong industrial relationships that enable union concerns to be raised at all levels of the company and promote cross-border exchange and coordination of workers at locations worldwide. This sector needs to focus more on developing and advancing the processes of creating strong trade union networks at all levels, and strengthen solidarity among affiliated trade union organizations.

Siemens Workers Union, India, reported on their activities to expand the company trade union network in India and to tackle the issue of precarious workers by using the Global Framework Agreement with Siemens and the network.

Follow-up sector action plan and future activities

The Steering Committee agreed on the strategic planning for 2017-2018 and the areas that needed strengthening in order to meet the Action Plan adopted at the World Conference 2015, such as the fight against precarious work, supply chains, trade union network, OHS, cooperation with NGOs, and sustainable industrial policy

Takahiro Nonaka, co-chairperson for the sector, insisted in his closing remarks:

“The ICT, Electrical & Electronics industry has an important role and mission to contribute to a better life for people. Therefore, the leading global companies of this industry must earn the respect from citizens the world over. Companies need to change their mind-set from ‘win global competition’ to ‘put people first’ by eliminating precarious work and poor working conditions.” 

The meeting was followed by a plant visit to PT Honoris Industry, which employs sector co-chair Prihanani Boenadi. The company makes various products such as LED lights, printed circuit boards and plastic injection products. The delegation met with the local union leaders and the management and learned the history and constructive relationship between the union and the management.