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Strengthening the bargaining power of cement unions in South East Asia

1 March, 2017Sixty cement union leaders and activists from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines came together at the Citeureup (Indocement/HeidelbergCement) plant in Indonesia for an IndustriALL Global Union regional meeting on 27 and 28 February to improve the situation of workers in the cement sector.

The cement unions agreed an action plan to expand their bargaining power. One of the steps included in the plan is to organize and recruit precarious workers (i.e. contract workers) in the cement industry.

Matthias Hartwich, director for the materials industries and mechanical engineering at IndustriALL presented milestones of the campaign for respect of workers’ rights at LafargeHolcim. Hartwich also informed participants of the recent positive developments towards concluding the Global Framework Agreement with LafargeHolcim.

However, there are still unresolved issues at LafargeHolcim, including a lockout in Canada, a conflict in India over land and the right to employment, and the threat to many jobs in Indonesia, due to the implementation of a Regional Business Service Centre project.

HeidelbergCement’s European Works Council chairman Giel Beks, connected via video conference, addressed the audience and answered questions from the participants regarding the social dialogue system in Europe and especially in HeidelbergCement.

Beks referred to the usefulness of Global Framework Agreements for all unions of the group around the world. At the end of the meeting, Beks expressed the wish that the company would honour not only shareholders, but other stakeholders, including especially the workers who create revenue for the company and hence also for the shareholders.

During the meeting participants appreciated the unique opportunity of a direct communication with local leadership of Indocement (HeidelbergCement) and Holcim (LafargeHolcim) who attended the second day of the meeting and spoke with workers about challenges in the cement industry of Indonesia. Chairman of the Cement Employers' association, Widodo Santoso also attended the meeting and spoke about general trends in economy and cement market.

In addition, Feliciano Gonzalez, head of labour relations and social policies of LafargeHolcim globally, spoke to meeting participants by telephone. In the course of this exchange, union activists raised burning issues including the future industrial footprint of LafargeHolcim in Indonesia, alleged union busting, the influence of Industry 4.0, the use of alternative fuels and wage levels.

Participants embraced the idea of sectoral wage bargaining and committed to work towards this together. Representatives of the cement unions agreed that it is important to organize precarious workers in their companies. They composed an initial plan of action, which includes steps on collective bargaining, campaigning in support of the Global Framework Agreement, occupational health and safety and further organizing efforts to include precarious workers.

Concluding the meeting, Matthias Hartwich said,

“This was a wonderful  workshop. I find it encouraging that our colleagues from Indonesia and hopefully also Thailand and the Philippines have come to the decision to organize precarious workers.

“We have made good progress in the global coordination of cement unions, especially at LafargeHolcim and also HeidelbergCement. The cooperation with the respective European Works Councils helps a lot. Also, starting the process of negotiating the Global Framework Agreement with LafargeHolcim is a good signal to move forward and extend our activities to other multinationals in the sector, especially HeidelbergCement.”