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Tenaris/Ternium: Unions escalate struggle as chairman indicted in bribery case

28 November, 2018IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from around the world developed a plan to counter Tenaris and Ternium workers’ rights violations as the billionaire chairman of both companies was indicted in a bribery case.

Unions from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Romania and USA participating in the Tenaris-Ternium Workers’ World Council met outside of Mexico City on 26-27 November. It was the tenth anniversary of the council.

SINTRATUCAR President Walberto Marrugo updated the council on Tenaris attacks on workers in Colombia. Tenaris has terrorized leaders of SINTRATUCAR and illegally filmed union activities, potentially putting union members’ lives at risk in the world’s most dangerous country for trade unionists.

Sitraternium described the slow progress being made in discussions with Ternium in Guatemala. Ternium sacked dozens of Sitraternium leaders and refused to negotiate after the union was registered in 2012. IndustriALL together with USW and Sitraternium filed an OECD complaint against Ternium in September 2017. The company began talks with Sitraternium in March 2018.

METAROM reported that Tenaris recently increased pressure on the union in Romania. METAROM organized a series of protests that received national media attention after Tenaris refused to make a fair wage offer. The union achieved a wage agreement but many disputes remain.

Tenaris and Ternium, which are both held by Techint, are violating workers’ rights, provoking wage disputes and threatening to relocate plants to lower wage countries despite earning over US$1.5 billion in profits in 2017.

On the second day of the meeting, Tenaris and Ternium chairman and majority shareholder Paolo Rocca was indicted as part of a bribery case in Argentina. The judge in the case charged Rocca after Rocca testified that one of his company’s executives paid cash to government officials from 2009 to 2012 in order to speed up compensation for a unit nationalized by Venezuela. Rocca claimed he was not involved in the payments.

Techint has also been implicated in the massive Lava Jato corruption scandal in Brazil and has a history of avoiding taxes by moving its headquarters and establishing offshore companies.

“Companies that abuse workers are often irresponsible across the board, and Tenaris and Ternium are no exception,” said IndustriALL's base metals director Adam Lee. “The Tenaris-Ternium Workers’ World Council demands that the companies change course and enter into social dialog with unions globally.”

The unions committed to raise concern about Tenaris and Ternium anti-union practices with shareholders and customers to pressure the companies to live up to their claims to being socially responsible.

The Council demanded that Tenaris and Ternium not take advantage of the current authoritarian political environment in Brazil to harm workers.

The Council dedicated the meeting, which was hosted by IndustriALL affiliate Los Mineros, to UOM member Gabriel Palermo, who was fatally injured at Ternium’s plant in Rosario, Argentina the previous week. The unions discussed ongoing health and safety problems at the companies’ operations and resolved to make improving health and safety a key priority of the world council.