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IndustriALL urges Holcim shareholders to push for workers' rights

4 May, 2022Holcim has declared a zero-harm target for the workers creating the company wealth, but the reality paints a very different picture. As one of the world's biggest cement producers holds its annual general meeting, unions are calling on Holcim to take responsibility for its workers, regardless of employment status, and recognize the global unions as legitimate partners.

“Holcim shareholders cannot stay indifferent to how their money is invested. The company claims to conduct business with integrity, but our members tell a different story. Our recent World Union Council of Holcim, a forum for workers’ representatives from all over the world, urged Holcim to engage in genuine social dialogue with BWI and IndustriALL,”

says IndustriALL assistant general secretary Christine Olivier.

“Representing those who create Holcim’s wealth, we demand recognition of global unions as legitimate partners, full respect of fundamental workers’ rights, including health and safety, and the establishment of a clear protocol for conflict resolution with a commitment by the CEO for a global framework agreement.”

Holcim’s growing use of sub-contractors undermines the company’s ambition of a zero-harm target. Workers in Holcim’s cement plants are continuously exposed to dangerous working conditions, excessive working hours, lack of personal protective equipment and unpaid leave.

More than 200 workers have been killed since the merger in 2015. In January this year, three workers died and eight were critically injured in a fire at Hima Cement, a Holcim subsidiary in Uganda. The fire erupted during installation works on a diesel oil tank.

Workers are unsafe and die at work, with most of the victims being subcontractors or third-party workers. In Asia, more than 80 per cent of the workers remain without permanent contracts despite Holcim’s increasing production capacity. Holcim has cut its own and direct employment from 135.000 to less than 68.000 workers.

"The severe incidents at Holcim and its subsidiary plants and contractors are unacceptable. Holcim must create or revive the inactive joint health and safety committees,”

says Ambet Yuson, BWI general secretary.

“We have repeatedly called on Holcim to engage with unions as truly safe workplaces can only be obtained through the participation of workers. No further delay is acceptable to recognize occupational health and safety as a fundamental worker’s right.”

Workers’ rights are violated in Davao, Philippines where 141 workers were unfairly dismissed. Holcim must execute due diligence to ensure compliance with international core labour standards.

Global unions are insisting on a genuine social dialogue at all levels. In the last years, Holcim has made significant divestments in the global south, often without prior information to workers' representatives – failing to respect workers’ rights in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Zambia and again of putting profits before workers’ lives.

“It is Holcim’s directly employed and thousands of sub-contracted workers who create the company’s profits and future development – they deserve to be respected and included in the process of transformation,”

says Tom Deleu, EFBWW general secretary.

“Results are up, and the board is proposing a ten per cent increase in dividend, which will be decided on in today’s AGM. This increase is made at the expense of workers and their families who contribute most to Holcim.”