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MENA region forms chemical network

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25 September, 2023The right to unionize, health and safety, social dialogue and developing visions about Just Transition, were topics debated at the establishment of the regional network of chemical unions in the Middle East and North Africa region, MENA. This network aims to unite union efforts, develop strategies to confront common issues and exchange experiences.

On 5 September about 40 unions from Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Morocco, Bahrain and Kuwait attended this meeting. Also in attendance were representatives from German Chemicals, Mining and Energy union IGBCE, the Turkish union Petrol-IS and union leaders representing workers in multinational companies including Unilever, Sanofi and Dow. 

Tom Grinter, IndustriALL’s chemical sector director said:

“The sector is expanding and this is a great opportunity to increase the membership size and grow employment. There will be important technological developments, in this sector, like the development of the bioplastics industry and digitization and artificial intelligence and unions need to be prepared for this.”

Ahmed Kemal, IndustriALL regional secretary for the MENA region said:

“This sector is expanding in the MENA region. Unions are carrying out intense work at the national level, which is strong motivation for developing regional work and improving networking and solidarity.”

Hannes Hauke Kühn, international secretary of IGBCE said:

“The German experience in the field of due diligence law may be very useful for workers because it guarantees many rights and holds companies responsible workers’ reality in supply chains.”

Riza Köse, representative of the Turkish union Petrol-IS stated,

“It is key that companies negotiate with unions and recognize their important role. Organizing and joining these meetings is beneficial for us.”

Representative from the National Union of Phosphate Workers, the Moroccan Confederation of Labour, Khalil Kanaan, said: 

“The phosphate sector is witnessing stable social dialogue, but there are several problems related to digitization and market fluctuations. The most prominent challenge is training 50, 000 indirect workers (handlers). Challenges can only be conquered by changing mentality and work methods.” 

Hakimi Youssef from the National Union of Phosphate Syndicate said:

“Changes in the world of work imposes many challenges on unions such as the lack of decent working conditions that is adopted in Morocco by multinational companies.” 

President of the Federation of Petroleum and Petrochemical Union in Iraq said:

“Right now the most important union task is restarting the giant petrochemical plant, which includes five factories. This will have positive repercussions on workers and the Iraqi economy.”

Marwa Farja, from the Petrochemical Workers Union in Lebanon said:

“The economic situation is reflected in the union because the continuation of union work is a challenge.”

Sohar Abdo, from the National Petrochemical Union in Palestine, said:

“There are several problems facing woman, like the minimum wage law. A high percentage of female workers in petrochemicals do not receive the minimum wage.”

Abdelmajid Al-Amouri, a union official in the Moroccan Confederation of Labour said:

“The petrochemical sector will witness great development in the coming years, which makes it necessary for unions to combine the increase in members with efficiency and good organization.”

Hassan Baji also from Morrocan Confederation of Labour said:

“Those affiliated with the sector also live in a difficult reality because of the rise in prices. Subcontracting negatively affects workers’ rights, especially since Moroccan legislation does not serve the interests of workers.” 

Salouan Smiri secretary general of the General Union of Petroleum and Chemicals, said:

“Tunisia is witnessing some fluctuations, but the unions were able to achieve gains. It is necessary for unions to make efforts to develop the joint regional network in the chemicals sector.”

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:

“Building union power through networks in our sectors is an important strategy for IndustriALL. It is a significant step to form a regional trade union network in chemicals. Because unity and solidarity are of great importance to change the balance of power in favour of workers in the face of capitalism. There are no other alternatives for unions to create their own future so that they are not part of a future in which they do not participate.”