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Unions at Tenaris and Ternium take solidarity action on Guatemala and Colombia

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27 November, 2014The Tenaris Workers’ World Council and the Ternium Trade Union Network met in Vespasiano, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on 19-21 November to examine the situation at the companies’ plants in various countries and to formulate an action plan.

The meeting was chaired by Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL’s Assistant General Secretary and attended by delegates from unions in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Italia, Japan and Rumania representing employees of Tenaris and unions in Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala representing employees at Ternium. Both companies are owned by the Techint group.

The meeting began by analysing the economic situation in the world steel industry and the fight between Techint and Nippon Steel for control of Usiminas in Brazil. The trade union research institute DIESSE made a presentation, which concluded that growth is slow in the industry worldwide. However, the Techint Group continues to make important investments in several countries, showing that it is optimistic about the future. The confrontation with Nippon Steel has created a lot of uncertainty and doubts among workers at Usiminas and in the unions that represent workers in the group in general.

The meeting went on to evaluate the activities of the committee and the network since the last meeting in Argentina in 2013. Attention focused on two issues in particular. First, solidarity action taken to try and secure compensation and a pension for Rubén Montoya, a Colombian worker who was injured at work. Second, freedom of association in Guatemala, where the company does not recognize the union, Sintraternium (leaders dismissed, legal attacks, difficult to conduct trade union activity inside the plant).

Discussions showed that, in general, the two companies have similar practices and policies and that there is a greater difference between countries than between companies. Tenaris and Ternium have a more liberal attitude in countries that have stricter laws and more rigorous monitoring and inspection regimes.

The meeting discussed ways of developing a better system for comparing the situation in the plants with regard to the various issues of interest to delegates. It was proposed that the coordinator of the committee should create a spreadsheet to monitor developments and that each country should nominate a representative to provide input. The aim would be to update the information every three months.

The meeting discussed the situation at the plants, the main problems that workers have in common and opportunities for future joint  work. On the final day of the meeting, delegates discussed how to take the work forward and formulated an action plan for the period up to the next meeting.

The action plan’s main activities are solidarity with Sintraternium in Guatemala and the fight to win compensation for the Colombian worker Rubén Montoya. The unions will also focus on publicising the existence of the Tenaris Workers’ World Council and the Ternium Trade Union Network as a way of achieving company recognition.