Global unions seek answers, dialogue
THREE GLOBAL LABOR unions affected by the merger of the world’s two largest cement companies, Lafarge and Holcim, are working together to promote the fair treatment of the conglomerate’s more than 100,000 workers worldwide, including cement industry Boilermakers belonging to eight local lodges in North America.
At a conference in Hyeres, France, October 17-19, those three unions —IndustriALL Global Union, the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers and the Building and Woodworkers International Union — discussed strategies to open dialogue with LafargeHolcim concerning its plans and policies.
Nearly 60 delegates from countries around the world participated in the conference, including representatives of the Boilermakers, Steelworkers and Teamsters.
The Lafarge-Holcim merger brings together two multinational companies with different corporate cultures. French-owned Lafarge has been somewhat open to dialogue with unions representing the firm’s employees, particularly in Europe. Prior to the merger, the company was signatory to a “global framework agreement” that spelled out the company’s position on labor matters. However, Swiss-owned Holcim has been less open to collaborative dealings with labor unions.
At the October conference, mid-level management representatives from the newly merged company took questions from labor representatives about layoffs, a safety and health policy, sustainability, the use of “precarious” workers and other issues.
Precarious workers are those hired by contractors on a part-time or temporary basis who typically lack job protections and benefits and are often paid much less than full-time, union-protected workers. They are of particular concern for unions globally. Such work arrangements not only exploit people; they also threaten the jobs of permanent union-represented workers. The use of precarious workers has been growing worldwide.
Participating in the conference and the questioning of LafargeHolcim management were Boilermaker representatives Tyler Brown, COS/ED-ISO; Mark Garrett, D-H&SS; and Mike Linderer, D-CD. The Boilermakers have been involved with global unions for more than a decade to protect the membership from unfettered multinational corporations. International President Newton B. Jones currently chairs the Materials Sector of IndustriALL Global Union.
“The merger of major global companies like Lafarge and Holcim could have a direct impact on the livelihoods of our members in the cement industry,” said Brown. “It’s critical that we stay engaged through our affiliation with IndustriALL. This is about global solidarity and labor’s ability to apply pressure to multinationals that otherwise might trample on worker rights without restraint.”