Union cement network examines state of industry

L. to r., seated, Jonathon Wolfel, USW Dist. One Rep; Rob Lauzon, IBB AD-ISO (Canada); Jim Pressley, IBB IVP-ISO; Warren Fairley, IBB IVP-SE; and Jackie Judy, IBB consultant. Standing, l. to r., Sean Kirchhofer, USW Dist. One Rep; Sean Gilchrist, USW Strategic Campaigns; Tyler Brown, IBB Training Coordinator; Steven E. Brady, USW Dir. of Allied Industrial Affairs; Carey Allen, IBB D-CLGAW; Phee Jungsun, ICEM Materials Sector Section Officer; Mark Garrett, IBB D-H&SS; and Mark Kelly, IBB IR-ISO.

Employers describe belt-tightening efforts

INTERNATIONAL STAFF MEMBERS from the Boilermakers and Steelworkers met in Pittsburgh Oct. 21-22 to discuss the state of the industry with cement employers and to examine global developments impacting labor unions involved in cement and building materials production.

It was the third meeting of the National Association of Cement and Building Materials Union Network (NACBMUN), which was formed in 2008 to provide information-sharing through a collective bargaining database. The Teamsters union is also part of the group. NACBMUN is the first industry network created under the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine, and General Workers Union (ICEM), a global affiliation of unions representing more than 20 million workers worldwide.

Attending the NACBMUN meeting for the Boilermakers were IVP-ISO Jim Pressley, IVP-SE Warren Fairley, D-CLGAW Carey Allen, AD-ISO (Canada) Rob Lauzon, D-H&SS Mark Garrett, IR-ISO Mark Kelly; and consultant Jackie Judy. IVP Pressley and Steven Brady, Chairman of the USWA Cement Conference, co-chaired the meeting.

The meeting drew four cement-making firms: Lafarge, CEMEX, Essroc, and St. Mary’s. Company representatives spoke about the status of the market and how the recession has impacted their operations. All agreed that the industry is in tough shape, especially with the decline in new construction. Most reported that plant closings and layoffs have occurred.

I think this is a good weapon for our unions.

Phee Jungsun, ICEM

Despite the gloomy market news, employers reported that they believe labor relations are generally good and that pent-up demand will begin to open up markets down the road.

Following the joint session with the companies, the IBB and the USW met with ICEM Materials Sector Section Officer Phee Jungsun to explore world-wide labor and management issues. One of the key topics was the proposed merger of three global international unions, including the ICEM, the International Metalworkers Federation, and the International Textile, Garment & Leather Workers’ Federation. If consummated, the merger could create a stronger, unified labor body with greater influence.

Another important development is the United Nations Principles on Business and Human Rights, which became effective Sept. 16. “We are quite impressed with the document,” said Jungsun. “Although it’s not binding, and there are no enforcement mechanisms, we can now lodge labor complaints with the U.N. I think this is a good weapon for our unions.”

Union participants also stressed the need for more regular contact with human resource managers — especially regarding subcontracting issues — and reviewed proposed language changes for a global framework policy agreement between Lafarge and international trade unions.