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Organizing along the battery supply chain

12 July, 2021Given the workers rights' violations and a low union density, coupled with an expected increase in battery demand in the next ten years, IndustriALL and affiliates have started developing a strategy for workers along the supply chain.

On 28 and 29 June, IndustriALL affiliates participated in a workshop to discuss the next steps in developing a strategy on battery supply chains.

“We need to use our leverage along the battery supply chain, which starts in the mines, goes through chemical industry with the refineries, the packing of batteries, into end use,”

said IndustriALL assistant general secretary Atle Høie.

“We need to use our influence in the best way we can, and we need the active involvement of our affiliates.”

With the demand for electric cars rapidly increasing, the project will focus on the auto industry. The level of organized workers is high at many auto manufacturers, but it decreases along the supply, the further you get from the end product. IndustriALL’s global networks will be central to the work, with increased cooperation between the different sectorial networks along the supply chain.

Legislation plays an important role and new due diligence laws have been introduced in some European countries. The laws provide increased transparency for governments and the general public and gives space for raising the voice of workers. The OECD’s due diligence guidelines and principles are important for leveraging in the supply chain. Participants from Belgium told the meeting that their union has started training members on due diligence to fully benefit from what due diligence brings.

Following the battery supply chain starting with the mining of the raw material for batteries underground, the number of working women increases as it goes above ground. Trade unions have a key role to play to ensure that gender issues, including gender-based violence, are explicitly investigated in due diligence processes, and that they are addressed by companies.

The two-day meeting was an important step in preparing for the start of an FES-funded project on the battery supply chain. It is a pilot project where IndustriALL will collaborate with companies, NGOs and other stakeholders to strengthen trade union work. The battery supply chain is the fastest growing supply chain with demand outgrowing supply, and the project aims to understand how it works, to increase organizing, and to improve working conditions along it.

“There is a strong political will to push for batteries and the value of the battery supply chain is enormous. To distribute this value, we need a supply chain policy to tell the world what is happening. For this project to be successful, we need or affiliates to be involved, to help us map the supply chain and use the leverage we have along it,”

said Atle Høie.