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Solvay GFA: This is what global level labour relations look like

30 July, 2015The Belgian-based chemicals company Solvay is the market leader in terms of labour relations. This week the Solvay Global Framework Agreement was at work in Geneva with a range of meetings including with the ILO.

Together with IndustriALL and Solvay, the Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ACTRAV, presented the industrial relations with Solvay to various departments of the International Labour Organization, ILO, on 28 July.

The advanced industrial relations between IndustriALL and Solvay represent the second generation of global framework agreements. Whereas the first decade of GFAs in the 1990s generally focused on commitments to standards and norms, the next generation strives to commit parties to stringent procedures for enforcing the agreement and proactively solving problems before they escalate.

Joint monitoring and evaluation missions are conducted twice a year, and three missions to China have already taken place. The third revision of the Solvay GFA in 2011 added a global safety panel.

Importantly, through the agreement Solvay expects its suppliers and sub-contractors to respect fundamental principles. The company counts employees and subcontractors the same in terms of industrial accidents.

The company already received warm commendation from IndustriALL in March this year for establishing a new Global Forum with participation of union representatives from different continents. The Global Forum negotiated this year a global performance sharing scheme totaling EUR 10 million, which represents a new development in global level social dialogue.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan negotiated each revision of the GFA over ten years:

What we are doing with Solvay is a benchmark for the chemicals industry. We have real, genuine social dialogue and employee involvement in all CSR processes. We respect each other and appreciate the channel that we have.

The Solvay China activities have set an industry-level standard, with elected worker representatives and negotiated collective bargaining.”

Jean-Christophe Sciberras, Human Resources Director for Solvay told the ILO meeting:

“We believe in social dialogue, trust and transparency. The GFA is the constituency of our relationship. It is not only about rights, our agreement is strong because of its implementation and compliance.

Being challenged by an independent organization can only bring us further. For us IndustriALL is a strong challenger. If we cheat they will know. We talk, we exchange, and together we improve.

The Secretary of the Solvay Works Council, and IG BCE member, Albert Kruft said, “It takes time to establish and build mutual trust. Our EWC is 20 years old now and it is right that Solvay workers have global level representatives as we have a global level framework agreement.”

IndustriALL currently has 46 Global Framework Agreements, and together with partner organization UNI, the two global unions have 80 per cent of all GFAs. Half of IndustriALL’s GFAs come from the automotive and energy sectors, and the most common home countries are Germany then France.

Solvay recently acquired US-based company Cytec to boost its presence in composite and adhesive materials for the aerospace and automotive industries and reinforce its mining chemicals business. Making most of its sales in North America, Cytec has 4,600 employees worldwide and annual sales of around US$ 2 billion.

In 2014, Solvay’s net sales were EUR 10.21 billion with 26,000 employees at 119 sites in 52 countries worldwide.