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Philippines: Lafarge-Holcim unions consolidate forces

12 February, 2015Anticipating the merger of the two cement giants Holcim Ltd. and Lafarge S.A., unions organizing employees from both companies in the Philippines join forces. The unions are voicing their demands for job security and the protection of freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Coming together through a national stakeholders’ meeting on sustainability of the cement industry in the Philippines and in the context of the Lafarge/Holcim merger, the local unions affiliated to IndustriALL’s affiliate, the Philippine Cement Workers Council (PCWC), discussed the potential impact of the merger on working conditions.

The 9 February stakeholders’ meeting held in Quezon City took place immediately after the announcement made by Holcim and Lafarge about a project to sell assets to Cement Roadstone Holding (CRH), an Irish construction materials group, in the context of the planned merger, which includes the assets in the Philippines.

According to information, shares of Lafarge Republic, Inc. (LRI) have been offered to buyers. Several specific assets so far in the possession of the Lafarge group are to be sold to potential third party buyers.

The stakeholders’ dialogue provided an overview of the global situation of the cement industry and the state of play in the merger process of both giant multinationals. It was highlighted that workers must be on board in the discussion at different levels, especially in securing workers’ rights in line with the global campaign “No Merger Without Workers’ Rights” being conducted by IndustriALL, the Building & Wood Workers International (BWI) and the European Federation of  Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW).

There must be genuine dialogue that is based on a relationship of mutual respect and good industrial relations,

stated Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, present at the stakeholder meeting in the Philippines.

The buyer of the divested cement plants in the Philippines must ensure that social policy has to be in place through proper information, consultation and negotiation process,

Özkan added.

The process of dialogue between the unions and Holcim remains dismal. “It is quite unusual that Holcim maintained to be mum, since last year unions at the four Holcim plants requested for a dialogue with the management, but to no avail”, said Macario Noble, President of PCWC.

Present at the meeting, a Labour Official stated that the merger must not result in the displacement of workers and committed to call for a tripartite dialogue to further discuss sustainability of the industry in a balanced approach.

To conclude the meeting, the participating unions in concert demanded that “there should be no merger without taking into account workers’ rights”, if the merger process must move forward then the negative impact has to be minimized, if not totally prevented. “We strongly urge our government to step in and take appropriate measures ensuring that workers are not the ones that will be on the losing side of this project that cares more about the interests of shareholders rather than employees worldwide”, said Noble.