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Unions demand global labour relations with HeidelbergCement

6 November, 2018The global union network at HeidelbergCement held two days of intensive discussions and exchanges on 1 and 2 November in Frankfurt, Germany, about the situation in different countries where the company is present.

Thirty delegates from 15 different countries representing HeidelbergCement workers across the world, met at the headquarters of the German construction union, IG BAU, upon invitation of IndustriALL Global Union and Building and Wood Workers’ International with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Although invited, the company’s management did not attend the meeting, and the trade unions reiterated their invitation for next year.

Delegates raised a number of issues workers face in the company, including worker rights’ violations, lack of communication with country or local company management, extensive use of outsourcing, and other types of precarious work. Health and safety is also an issue that needs to become part of a proper and systematic approach from the company in which workers’ representatives must have their word. A functioning social dialogue on the global level is in the interest of the workers and the company, besides, some issues can simply not be solved on local level.

At the meeting, the trade union network considered HeidelbergCement’s efforts to improve the group’s social, ethical and environmental profile through their statement “Human Rights Position of the HeidelbergCement Group”, released on 07 December 2017 as a positive step.

However, the delegates unanimously agreed that the document fails to address a number of shortcomings. In this regard the participants adopted a special declaration stipulating the following:

  1. There is no genuine, meaningful trade union involvement in this position paper
  2. Workforce representatives must participate in joint monitoring of compliance with human rights, this cannot be outsourced to third parties but must be a joint effort of management and global unions
  3. There must be meaningful involvement of workers and their representatives in health and safety committees, policies, management systems, workplace inspections, training, and all matters concerning workers’ health, safety and welfare within all HeidelbergCement plants

Finally, the union network urged HeidelbergCement corporate management to enter into a dialogue with the European Works Council and the global unions in order to work on the points raised in the spirit of good practice and fruitful social dialogue.

Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL’s director for construction materials said, “This second meeting of our union network was a great success. We deepened contacts between ourselves and will use them in future to inform each other about ongoing fights and struggles that our brothers and sisters are facing everywhere in the world. It is indeed a pity that management did not to talk to us. We expect more from HeidelbergCement in the future, especially in the light of their ‘Human Rights Position’ paper”.

HeidelbergCement is one of the world’s leading cement and construction materials companies. It employs close to 60,000 people in around 60 countries.

Photos from the meeting are available on Flickr.