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Unions at ArcelorMittal demand that company puts workers first

29 November, 2023Health and safety, undermining collective agreements, lack of investment, weakening social dialogue, precarious and dangerous working conditions were key issues on the agenda at the ArcelorMittal global network meeting held on 16 and 17 November.

The meeting took place in the aftermath of a horrific incident at the Kostenko coal mine in Kazakhstan, where 46 workers lost their lives in a devastating blaze. This is not an isolated incident and reflects a broader trend of neglect and underinvestment in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards by ArcelorMittal.

Unions stressed the need to be included in the current independent investigation commission, in Kazakstan, into these deaths.

Over the last ten years 307 workers have lost their lives at ArcelorMittal operations across the world, the highest numbers in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and South Africa.

The company’s finance driven approach which often takes priority over workers’ health and safety was highlighted. This prioritization alongside a glaring deficit in OHS investment and commitment consistently exposes workers to excessive risks. 

Ukrainian unions expressed their frustration about ArcelorMittal’s refusal to extend the collective agreements, stating that this was a form of collective agreement blackmail.

Unions from Mexico, Canada, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and South Africa raised concerns over the company’s lack of desire for social dialogue and union consultation which puts a strain on relationships. Brazilian and South African unions emphasized workers’ exposure to dangerous working conditions and extreme heat. 

There are strong calls for ArcelorMittal to prioritize workers’ health and safety over financial objectives. Unions said that there is an urgent need for substantial investments in safety infrastructure and effective social dialogue. 

Christina Olivier, IndustriALL assistant general secretary says:

“The recent meeting revealed the stark realities and challenges that workers face at ArcelorMittal. As a global union, we stand united and resolute in our demand for immediate and substantial change.

ArcelorMittal must take our demands seriously and respond positively to our calls for enhanced safety measures, genuine investment in worker welfare, and meaningful engagement with unions. If the company continues to sideline these critical issues, they should be prepared to face a strong, coordinated global response.

We will not shy away from taking assertive actions to ensure that the safety and rights of every worker are upheld. Now is the time for ArcelorMittal to step up and demonstrate a real commitment to its workforce.”

IndustriALL plans to meet with ArcelorMittal management to discuss enhanced safety measures and union engagement, as well as a possible global safety awareness campaign and continued dialogue among unions to strategize and coordinate future actions. 
The meeting included 80 participants from 37 trade unions from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Fiji, Canada, Suriname, Liberia, Zambia, South Africa, Mexico, Morocco, and Luxembourg.

Photo: Shutterstock