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Croatia: SGH recovers unpaid wages by threatening industrial action

16 August 2017:   In late July 2017, workers at the Croatian company Hidroelektra - niskogradnja d.d. found that the salary they had just received for their June work month had been cut by 30% with no explanation. Members of the Croatian construction union Sindikat graditeljstva Hrvatske (SGH) demanded that they be paid their salary in full and threatened industrial action if there was no progress on the matter.

"Our members cannot survive on an unexplained 30% paycut, making ends meet is hard enough as it is", said SGH President Janeska Vuksic.. "We do not threaten industrial action lightly; however we have an agreement with the company and if they do not comply with its terms it is only right that we exercise the options available to us. We are pleased that we didn't have to take such action on this occasion."

Once the problem had been identified SGH initiated the conciliation/mediation process, and SGH representatives met with company management on three occasions. Each conciliation meeting was followed by SGH shop stewards meetings to ensure all workers are fully informed about the management proposals.

Throughout this process, workers have consistently confirmed their support to their representatives to engage in conciliation. Janeska noted that their hard work and dedication during this period was extremely beneficial in resolving the dispute peacefully. "In this way we have shown that we are struggling and fighting for our rights through collective resistance."

Source:  Building and Wood Workers International--BWI uniting 12 million members in 328 trade unions in 130 countries

Latin American and Caribbean road transport workers to boost organising

Road transport workers from ITF unions across Latin America and the Caribbean have agreed to strengthen their organising processes to deliver strategic responses to automation and harmful labour reforms in multinationals.

15/08/2017:   The twenty-five union leaders were participating in the ITF road transport regional conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 8 August.

They pledged to pay special attention to the involvement of young and women transport workers in boosting their organising in each country.

They agreed that automation implemented without proper dialogue and a strong collective bargaining agreement could generate unemployment and precarious working conditions, which would have serious repercussions for transport workers and society in the region.

Julio Sosa, a member of the ITF executive board who took part in the conference, said: "Unions need to generate analysis and in-depth discussions to be prepared for the current and future challenges facing transport workers. These include automation, which is prioritising profits over workers' safety and labour conditions, increasing the risk to passenger security."

ITF head of inland transport Noel Coard commented that it was vital that all ITF unions joined together to create strategies to face these new global challenges. In particular, he said unions must fight against the changes in labour legislation that are designed to benefit multinational companies and eliminate unions.

The conference was attended by ITF unions from Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and Uruguay.

Pablo Moyano from Sindicato Camioneros in Argentina was re-elected chair of the road transport regional committee and stressed its commitment to the fight against governments and companies who forget their obligation to generate more jobs and promote social justice.

Source:  International Transport Workers Federation--ITF representing over 16.5 million transport workers in 654 unions from 148 countries

SITT gains recognition in Atos Romania

14 August 2017:   On August 10, the Romanian IT union SITT (Sindicatul IT Timisoara) received official recognition from the Romanian authorities as the legal representative of workers in Atos Romania, which has more than 2,000 employees in the country. Per Romanian labor law, a union must represent at least 50% +1 of the membership to be recognized and to bargain collectively with the employer.

SITT is also recognized in other major IT companies in Romania such as Accenture, Nokia (Alcatel-Lucent), and Wipro. The success in Atos is another testament of the union's determination to break through and change the rules of the game in the Romanian IT sector.

Said Florentin Iancu, President of SITT: "The success in Atos Romania marks a very important step for unionizing in the Romanian ICTS sector. It shows that with the use of strategic organizing tools, unions in Romania can reach this high level of membership needed to gain legal recognition."

However, he also noted that "to really show workers that unionizing makes a difference and to create momentum within other companies towards unionizing, our organizing efforts must be complemented with successful collective negotiation."

SITT's organizing drive in Atos has been supported by UNI ICTS and UNI SCORE.

Source:  UNI Global Union--UNI represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions worldwide

Global unions call for release of the union leader in Belarus

10.08.2017:   IndustriALL Global Union and International Confederation of Trade Unions (ITUC), addressed a joint letter to the President of Belarus expressing deep concern and indignation over the recent searches in the offices of independent unions as well as the detention of a trade union leader.

In their letter to the Belarusian president, global unions said the work of trade union organizations in the country was in jeopardy after authorities have raided many trade union offices and seized the hard drives of computers along with personal property of union leaders. Futhermore, the chief accountant of the REP union, Ihar Komlik, has been arrested.

ITUC and IndustriALL said: "We have serious reasons to believe that these actions are aimed at undermining the activities of the independent trade union movement in Belarus in retaliation for the active civil position of trade union leaders and the activities of independent trade unions to protect the social and economic interests of the working people of the Republic of Belarus."

The global unions called these recent attacks on trade union leaders and their unions by the Belarusian authorities, an "interference in the internal affairs of the trade unions, which is a grave violation of ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association." The global unions are demanding the government "stop interference of state structures in the internal affairs of the REP and BNP unions and adopt urgent measures to ensure normal conditions for the work of trade union organizations in accordance with the obligations of the Republic of Belarus under ILO Convention No. 87."

The ITUC and IndustriALL also made a strong protest and called for the "immediate release of Ihar Komlik, to stop criminal prosecution of Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik, the leaders of the Belarusian trade union REP, and to remove all groundless accusations against them."

In the letter, IndustriALL and ITUC reserved their right to inform the International Labour Organization, European Union and other competent international institutions of the on-going violations.

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union--IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

Haiti textile workers denounce violations of ILO conventions

09.08.2017:   Workers employed in the free trade export zones in Haiti have denounced violations of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 by Interamerican Wovens and Sewing International SA

Workers' organizations in Haiti, including GOSTTRA, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, have been taking action since May to demand their labour rights. However, employers have taken reprisals in response to worker denunciations of injustices and calls for decent work.

GOSTTRA says that Interamerican Wovens (IW) and Sewing International SA (SISA) are refusing to negotiate agreements that will improve pay and working conditions, even though they are well aware of the high cost of living. The union also says that protests have led to brutal police repression, the confiscation of union members' telephones, the abuse of pregnant women and the dismissal of many workers for taking part in trade union actions.

The unions decided to seek a meeting with President Jovenel Moïse on 20 July at the National Palace to try to identify the problems that are affecting the textile sector and seek solutions. President Moïse said he was surprised to find that workers' conditions in the free trade zones were unacceptable and promised to provide social welfare support to workers.

IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, wrote to IW and SISA company directors Gilbert Durand and Alain Vilard, condemning the company's union busting operations and grave violations of the right to freedom of association (C87) and collective bargaining (C98):

"We should remind you that Haiti, on ratifying ILO Conventions 87 and 98, undertook the commitment to respect and implement these conventions. Likewise, your company, on joining the Better Work programme, also undertook a commitment to respect all the fundamental ILO conventions," he wrote: "IndustriALL Global Union stands in solidarity with the struggle of our Haitian colleagues and will support and assist their trade union organizations in all the legal actions taken at national and international level to defend their rights."

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union--IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

Workers tell U.S. Congress about unethical practices at Santander

7 August 2017:   Front-line employees from Santander Consumer U.S.A. Holdings recently met with members of the United States Congress to discuss overly aggressive loan collection practices at the Spanish-owned bank that harm consumers and bank workers.

The Dallas, Texas-based workers, members of Communication Workers of America's Committee for Better Banks (CBB), briefed U.S. regulators and members of Congress, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken national leader on financial issues. Bank employees argued that a union would help reform the company's high-pressure collections practices.

Workers' trip to Washington corresponded to the release of a new report called Wheeling and Dealing Misfortune. The report, authored by the AFL-CIO and the National Employment Law Project (NELP), exposes a culture in Santander's automotive lending operation that pushes high-interest loan modifications and hidden fees on millions of Americans. Workers say they must aggressively collect on delinquencies or risk losing their jobs.

Santander is one of the biggest lenders to U.S. auto consumers with poor credit histories. These customers often have low incomes and are especially hurt by the high interest rates and fees.

Arnise Porter, a Committee for Better Banks organizer based in Dallas, said, "Santander capitalizes on low-income consumers' desperation with high-interest loans designed to drive borrowers deeper and deeper into debt. And then they exploit their pressured workers by forcing them to push predatory loan extensions and hidden fees on customers when they inevitably default."

"The behaviour outlined in this report is troubling and, if true, shows that predatory practices boost profits for banks and their executives while hurting customers and workers," Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the US Senate's banking committee, told Bloomberg News about the report. "It's critical workers are empowered to speak out if their company is harming them or its customers, and I urge Santander to respect the rights of these workers to elect union representation that will give them those protections."

Workers' revelations about Santander's practices come at a time when the banking industry is still reeling from the Wells Fargo scandal. Wells Fargo has drawn increased regulatory scrutiny to the financial sector after bank employees revealed that they were forced to create millions of fake accounts to meet unrealistic performance goals.

Christy Hoffman, Deputy General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said, "Banks should not feel that they have a blank check to mislead consumers. Santander workers, with CBB's support, have been courageous in speaking out about a high-pressure U.S. culture which creates financial and emotional distress for employees and customers alike." "This report shows why unions are so important at Santander and in the finance sector generally. Because when workers have a union, they can resist unethical practices without fear of retaliation," Hoffman continued.

UNI Finance is supporting Santander workers' drive to form a union. Read the report here.

Source:  UNI Global Union--UNI represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions worldwide

Belarus: Repression Against Independent Unions

4 August 2017:   The ITUC has expressed its concern over harassment of two trade unions in Belarus, after officials seized documents and equipment from the offices of the Radio Electronic Union, REP, and Belarusian Independent Union, BNP, and interrogated leaders and staff of the two unions for several hours on 2 August.

The two unions are affiliates of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, BKDP. The officials, from the Department for Financial Investigations of the Committee for State Control, justified their actions by stating the unions received solidarity support from outside the country, claiming that the funding was personal income of the union leaders and accusing them of non-payment of taxes on the funds.

For many years, Belarus been the focus of ILO procedures for consistent and systematic violations of trade union rights. An ILO Commission of Inquiry in 2004 issued 12 recommendations to the government, including a call to amend Decree No 24 concerning support to unions from abroad. To date, these recommendations have only been partly implemented.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said, "these actions constitute state interference in the activities of independent trade unions. They have interrupted the work of the two unions' secretariats and created an atmosphere of repression and fear. Belarus must bring its legislation into conformity with its international obligations and implement in full the recommendations of the ILO Commission of Inquiry, including on external aid, and cease using existing legal provisions like these to harass trade union leaders. Earlier this year we witnessed mass protests against a law that effectively branded more than 400,000 Belarus citizens as social parasites, and independent unionists were at the forefront of the protests. This is a case of retaliation by the authorities against unions which are simply standing up for fundamental principles and the people of Belarus."

Source:  International Trade Union Confederation--ITUC represents 181 million workers in 163 countries and territories and has 340 national affiliates

International fashion brand leaders call on Madagascar to respect international labour standards and reinstate workers

The Government of Madagascar is coming under increasing international pressure to resolve a major industrial dispute at the ICTSI Port of Toamasina. Today, local union leader Lucien Razafindraibe will deliver a joint letter from international fashion brands to the Madagascan Labour Minister in the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo.

03/08/2017:   Paddy Crumlin, president of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and chair of its dockers' section today welcomed news that Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) member brands Marks and Spencer, Skins Ltd, Next Plc and Men's Warehouse UK have joined the campaign to help end the exploitation of Madagascan dockworkers.

"These major international brands join Levi's and Esprit in demonstrating leadership and recognising that the transport workers, who move their clothing from the factory to stores around the world, deserve to be treated fairly.

"ITF challenged global brands sourcing from Madagascar to step up and support the rights of dockworkers at the Port of Toamasina, and the response has been positive. We've seen concrete steps to support these workers, with brands writing directly to the Government of Madagascar calling on them to enforce international labour standards, reinstate 43 unfairly dismissed dockworkers and allow SYGMMA to represent workers at the port.

Category Leader of Apparel and Textiles at ETI, Martin Buttle, said "Not only were we concerned for the dock workers themselves, we were also concerned that action against legitimate union activity would deter investor confidence in Madagascar as a future sourcing market."

"In the letter to the government, we confirmed that our members wanted to continue sourcing from Madagascar but equally had to consider obligations to comply with international standards. With the full support of our members, we therefore asked that the government of Madagascar take steps to enforce its labour laws, ensure that the 43 dock workers were reinstated and allow the union to organise at the port."

Mr Crumlin added that, "The success of the public campaigning and private engagement shows quite clearly that for transport companies, like ICTSI, labour rights abuses may be part of their business model, but for fashion brands labour rights violations in their supply chains represent such a significant risk to the value of their brand that they are prepared to use their market influence to advocate for these workers."

The garment industry is the largest employer of workers in the formal economy in Madagascar, employing 30 per cent of the formal workforce. As a result, this intervention from leading brands cannot be ignored by the Government of Madagascar.

"ITF is looking to the Government of Madagascar to show leadership, and step in to defend these workers' basic human rights against ICTSI's aggressive campaign to drive down their wages and conditions. These workers have waited long enough." Mr Crumlin said.

Source:  International Transport Workers Federation--ITF representing over 16.5 million transport workers in 654 unions from 148 countries

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