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Syngenta: Pakistani court again finds employment practices unlawful

9 July, 2015IndustriALL Global Union is congratulating its Pakistani affiliate PCEM on another good legal victory in its long struggle for workers’ rights at the Swiss giant of agrochemicals and seeds.

On 29 June the Pakistani National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC) declared that nine contract workers at Syngenta must be awarded permanent employment contracts at Syngenta’s production plant in Karachi. A total of 25 cases of contract workers legally deserving regularized employment were lodged with trade union support on 17 June 2014, with the remaining 16 cases still pending before the court. All 25 have worked at the plant since 2012.

This latest victory continues to set a positive precedent for the Syngenta Employees Union and on becoming regularized the nine workers will officially be able to join the union, which is part of the national PCEM.

Mass outsourcing at the facility has been carried out in retaliation to the workers forming a union. On these grounds the Syngenta workers’ union lodged a separate court case in December 2014, in which the court has instructed the company not to continue outsourcing while the case is pending. However Syngenta flouts that instruction.

There are 84 permanent workers and 80 contract workers at the plant. Including the latest nine, 71 of the permanent workers are union members. Union members work in the Formulation, Filling and Packing of the agrochemical products.

The union general secretary Imran Ali told IndustriALL,

This is a big achievement of Syngenta Employees Union in their struggle for regularizing / increasing the membership of the union.

However if Syngenta follows its past record the company will appeal the decision. Meanwhile management refuses all dialogue on this issue with the union.

While the PCEM continues to campaign for the reinstatement of dismissed general secretary Imran Ali, Imran continues to represent the union in bargaining with Syngenta. The latest bargaining failed and the union served strike notice.

The priorities in bargaining for the union that management refused to discuss are the reinstatement of Imran Ali, the withdrawal of a case against the union vice president Zafar Iqbal, the payment of a number of outstanding allowances, and the demand that all production must happen at the plant. 

Not just in Pakistan, but Syngenta is disrespecting its workers even in Switzerland where it is headquartered.

While making over US$ 15 billion turnover in 2014, the company is also causing big trouble to its workers and unions in its home country, with 116 jobs being cut at its facilities in Monthey, Canton Valais. The site is seen as Syngenta’s key factory where new products are made for the first time before production is shifted to factories around the world.

IndustriALL’s two Swiss affiliates Unia and Syna condemn the job cuts that were announced around the same time as another announcement, that shareholders will receive payouts of US$ 1.5 billion.

“Syngenta must stop its arrogant and unacceptable behaviour against its employees and their unions,” said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union. “As I called on the management in the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting of Syngenta earlier this year, let us discuss together in a mature fashion and in good faith so that Syngenta workers can have a voice in the workplace”.