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Madagascar workers fighting back against Sherritt

14 July, 2015IndustriALL Global Union affiliates and independent unions in Madagascar are hitting back against Canadian mining and energy multinational Sherritt, which they accuse of violating trade union rights and breaching national legislation. 

Unionists at an IndustriALL workshop on organizing and building union power in Antananarivo, Madagascar, painted a graphic picture of Sherritt’s trade union busting tactics and intimidation of workers at its multi-billion-dollar Ambatovy nickel mining operation in the country.

Affiliates at the IndustriALL Sub-Saharan Africa regional workshop on 29 and 30 June shared stories of systemic threats of dismissals and the promotion of yellow unions against established unions.

Unions say Sherritt has violated the labour law of Madagascar by unilaterally announcing the layoffs of 900 workers for six months, without prior consultation with the company’s Comité d’Entreprise (workers committee).

IndustriALL has been given a mandate by the trade unions at local, regional and national level in Madagascar, as well as the trade union Confederation and the independent union organizing at Ambatovy, to take up the unacceptable labour relations situation at Ambatovy with Sherritt’s headquarters in Canada, the local Sherritt management in Madagascar and the government of Madagascar.

IndustriALL, together with its Malagasy affiliate trade unions, FESATI, FSTEM, SVS and SEKRIMA, committed to collaborate to put pressure on Sherritt to re-instate the 900 workers, including union leaders.

The trade unions have given IndustriALL a set of demands to present to the parties concerned with the crisis at Ambatovy:

  • A request for financial and other necessary documents from Sherritt to check whether the retrenchment of 900 workers was necessary.
  • The reintegration of 15 staff representatives wrongfully laid off at the Ambatovy plant noting that in Malagasy labour law, Recommendation No. 143 offers "recognition of a priority to be given to the continued employment of 
workers' representatives in the case of reduction of staff.”
  • Demand that Sherritt works with the union and the existing Comité d’Entreprise, which it is trying to have replaced, to find an agreed solution at the plant.  

IndustriALL has been asked to mobilize international solidarity in the event that Sherritt fails to respond, or retaliates and victimizes union members and their representatives.

The workshop took place against the background of a fragile industrial relations environment in Madagascar, often characterized by tension, fear and anxiety amongst workers. This is caused by the combative and hostile employer and government collaboration that is aimed at crushing trade unions.

Employers are suspected of having infiltrated trade unions in Madagascar, which has resulted in infighting, disunity and suspicion amongst each other, making them weak and vulnerable.

The objective of the workshop, which was funded by Swedish affiliate IF Metall’s union-to-union organization, was to clarify and deepen understanding of the law and trade union rights in Madagascar; highlight the global perspectives in organizing; and to share collective bargaining experiences in the region.