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Shipbuilding and shipbreaking unions will focus on organizing Precarious Workers

20 November, 2013At IndustriALL Global Union’s Shipbuilding-shipbreaking Action group meeting on 12-14 November in Denmark, unions prioritized their activities on organizing and fighting precarious work and will start mapping Multinational Coorporation’s (MNC) in order to the possibilities of creating new trade union networks.

IndustriALL’s Shipbuilding-shipbreaking Action Group(AG) meeting took place on 12-13 November 2013 at Metalskolen (Metalworker’s school) in Jørlunde, Denmark and was hosted by Co-industri/Dansk Metal. 38 participants from 21unions were present.

IndustriALL affiliates from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan ROC, UK and USA actively discussed the following agenda items:

  • Global Trends in Shipbuilding and Shipbreaking Industries
  • Organizing and Fighting against Precarious Work
  • Promoting Sustainable Industry
  • Creating Trade Union Network
  • Developing Future Activities as IndustriALL Global Union

At the beginning of the AG meeting, all participants remembered the victims of the disaster (super typhoon HAIYAN) that hit the Philippines, including Cebu Island, where some major shipyards, are located by having a minute of silence.

The global shipbuilding industry has been facing over capacity of shipyards since 2008 and the world new orders in 2012 have declined – 77.6 per cent from 2007. As a result of severe competition, social dumping is rampant in the industry and precarious work is increasing globally in workplaces. At the same time, precarious workers are over 130,000 in shipbreaking industry in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan while shipbreaking will continue to increase in next 25 years. In both the shipbuilding and shipbreaking industry, there are still large numbers of workers who have little or no chance to bargain collectively on their terms and conditions of employment. 

Promoting a sustainable industry has become an important matter in the industries. Unions from traditional shipbuilding countries/regions are seeking a way to survive and maintain the shipbuilding workers’ jobs by shifting to high value-added products and services such as off shore and eco-friendly areas by demanding sustainable industrial policies to governments and the employers.

As many shipbuilding companies are now operating globally, there is need for cross-border union solidarity to increase the bargaining power on implementing workers’ rights, improving working conditions and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), and tackling issues of precarious and migrant workers. The AG agreed to start seeking possibility to create new Trade Union Networks of transnational companies in the shipbuilding industry such as BAE, Navantia, STX, Keppel, Damen, etc.

As summary of the discussion, the AG agreed that all the unions will continue to follow up the conclusions of the IMF-EMF Global Conference on Safe, Sustainable and Green Jobs in Shipbuilding-Shipbreaking in 2011 and agreed on the following 10 priorities for 2014:

Organizing and Fighting Precarious Work

  • Strengthen and organize precarious workers (especially sub-contracted workers, foreign and migrant workers) and improve their working conditions through collective bargaining.
  • Strengthen communication between the unions in the sector on precarious work, unions will get actively involved in IndustriALL’s STOP Precarious Work Campaign.

Promoting a Sustainable Industry

  • Develop IndustriALL’s Sustainable Industrial Policy and strengthen activities against the government in cooperation with national centres and other industrial unions in their own countries.
  • Contribute to the process of making a new draft code of practice on Safety and Health in shipbuilding and repair developed by the ILO.

Creating Trade Union Networks

  • Start mapping MNCs in shipbuilding in the commercial and naval sector to seek possibilities of creating new networks.

Women Participation

  • Achieve more than 30 per cent women participation in the meetings and conferences of this sector.
  • Improve agenda and programme of the sectoral meetings to attract women participation.

Shipbuilding workers in Greece, members of IndustriALL affiliate, the Panhellenic Metal Workers’ Federation (POEM), have been suffering from severe attacks by their Government. For over a year workers in Greece have been facing severely deteriorating working conditions. The AG adopted a resolution on to call to a STOP to the attacks on the shipbuilding workers in Greece and also call for Solidarity with POEM. IndustriALL, together with IndustriAll European Trade Union will take action to call on the government to drop the charges against Greek trade union activists and to find a fair and just solution for the Skaramanga workers.

The process of election of the chairperson was also discussed and unanimously agreed. In the case there will be two or more candidates for the position, the election by voting will be conducted at the IndustriALL Global Union World Conference on Shipbuilding-shipbreaking in 2014, with one vote per participating country at the conference. The participants also confirmed that the World Conference is planned to take place in Nagasaki, JAPAN in autumn 2014.  

On 14 November, the participants of the AG visited MAN Diesel & Turbo located in Copenhagen, one of the world's leading suppliers in shipbuilding. Participants learned about the industrial relations and the plant’s activities on designing and testing engines for ships and it’s production of key components. 50 per cent of diesel engines of the world’s existing ships are designed and supplied by MAN Diesel & Turbo.