3.4.1 Strengthening union solidarity and cooperation across sectors and TNCs
A key role of the IMF is to build effective solidarity and cooperation among affiliated unions present in metalworking TNCs to ensure an equal playing field for workers, which goes far beyond minimum standards. To achieve this, the IMF and its affiliates must actively engage workers in TNCs and their supply chains and give them an opportunity to actively participate in day-to-day trade union work and cross-border activities.
Building relationships and strengthening solidarity on an ongoing basis with trade union representatives from different countries enhances the affiliates' ability to act jointly in crises, such as when the rights of workers are violated, during collective bargaining negotiations, when mass layoffs are carried out, or in the event of restructuring to prevent workers being played off against each other. The IMF uses global union networks and the IMF world company councils to build greater capacity for working together in defence of workers' interests across national boundaries.
Whenever a TNC announces redundancies or a decrease in working conditions in a given country and the workers and their unions directly affected are actively resisting these changes, the IMF will coordinate solidarity actions involving all countries where that TNC operates. Solidarity actions will include among other initiatives: information campaigns targeting workers and the society at large; the commitment by all unions not to accept the transfer of production from the country in conflict to another one; protest demonstrations in the different countries of operation of the TNC, and wherever possible interruption of production and/or of supplies. In those solidarity campaigns a decisive role will be played by the home country trade union
This is particularly important to build solidarity with workers in countries like China, where they strive for workers' rights and independent and democratic unions. In this context, it is also important to engage with non-IMF organisations such as the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and its metal industry-organisations.
Another step is to institutionalise networks and IMF-world company councils in order to create representative, functioning, financially viable and organised global structures of workers' representation. In this respect, the IMF will resort to the experience made with company-related international cooperation in all regions.
The IMF continues to seek to establish IMF world company councils in TNCs. Whenever possible, financing of such councils will be negotiated with TNC management without compromising union inclusion and control. Management should play a role in these councils through regular meetings and providing information about the company's situation, policy and investment.
These IMF-world company councils shall be underpinned by union networks made up of the responsible trade union coordinators from different countries and / or local areas in which plants of the TNC are located. These networks shall assure that all unions can be part of the information exchange process.
At companies such as Volkswagen, Daimler, SKF and Rolls Royce world employee representations/world works councils have already been established, which consist of employee representatives. They were negotiated with and are funded by the respective company. Trade unions may be involved through an agreement or supportive trade union networks. IMF affiliates seek to engage with those councils to pursue IMF policies.
The most important benefit of this company-related, national, regional and international cooperation is the fact that trade union representatives from the company level can exchange information and reach agreed positions. In so doing, activities of national or local workers' representations may be coordinated internationally. Thus, the networks, world works councils and IMF-world company councils are a way of building solidarity and overcoming competition between workers in different plants of the same company.
The IMF will support and organise training measures that equip union representatives at company level and union officers in charge of TNC with international and intercultural competences. Here, the goal is to efficiently foster cooperation at the company level. The communication between company union representatives and their national trade union must be organised according to the practices in the respective country (e.g. by union officers in charge of certain sectors or companies).
Trade union networks, world employee councils/world works councils and IMF world company councils have the potential to develop into negotiating bodies. The IMF can support this where there is sufficient trade union strength and provided that it is mandated by the trade unions and trade unions are involved and clear IMF guidelines are adhered to. Building on previous experiences and debates, guidelines for the work of company networks need to be discussed and defined by the IMF. Consideration should be given to focusing resources and efforts in a number of key companies balanced across different sectors and countries.
Trade union networks, world works councils and IMF world company councils work within the broader context of IMF sectoral activities and must take into account the varying structures of production chains, and competition in the metal industries. Sectoral work brings together workers from companies that compete with one another to discuss developments and seek shared positions and joint strategies. These strategies should address management attempts to create competition between workers in the sector.
The IMF's regional sector-based meetings improve coordination by combining company and sector-level forums for workers, in support of global level activities. Developing sectoral and regional work around consistent responses to the challenges facing the industry's workers will be facilitated when it is done in concert with strengthening trade union links at the enterprise-level, based on an evaluation of the work done already.
In some countries, potential leverage to engage TNCs is available to unions through workers' capital in the form of pension and retirement funds. IMF affiliates, particularly those in TNC home countries also have a variety of national means to influence corporate governance. These tools can be used to promote and protect worker and trade union rights across global production chains, to fight corporate corruption, and to push for greater social accountability by corporations.
Global campaigns against TNCs that consistently violate worker and trade unions rights are essential to furthering the interests of workers. This requires the support of IMF affiliates, world councils, actions groups and networks, and making use of possible workers' capital and communication strategies.
To achieve strengthened union solidarity and cooperation across sectors and TNCs the IMF will:
- Pressure TNCs to take responsibility for working conditions in their operations and in their supply chains and to remove barriers to freedom of association;
- Build mutual understanding among affiliated unions present in metalworking TNCs to ensure an equal and level playing field for workers that goes far beyond minimum standards;
- Develop a TNC network strategy, working methods and tools, based on a critical analysis of the current networks, councils and available resources in each of the major TNCs. The strategy will include guidelines, to be developed by the Executive Committee, for the work of company networks. These will cover the roles of home country unions, IMF and other affiliates, avoiding co-optation by the companies, building the role of national unions, and tools/protocols for communication and action. The strategy will focus resources and efforts on a number of key companies that are distributed across different sectors and countries;
- Assist affiliates to form and coordinate global union networks at TNCs and/or the sectoral level through which employee representatives from the plant level and national unions can engage in a cross-border exchange of information and consultation on a regular basis;
- Coordinate activities and develop training and information material to build mutual trust and solidarity under the motto "United we stand - divided we fall!";
- Develop networks for information exchange and action that aim to be efficient, timely, accurate and accessible;
- Gather, analyse and distribute information on the metalworking industries, with particular focus on companies and industrial sectors where workers and members are concentrated, covering collective bargaining, technological changes, innovations on how production is organised, working time, pay and classification systems, and industrial actions;
- Work through TUAC and the ITUC to further strengthen mechanisms to influence corporate governance and socially responsible investment plans of pensions and retirement funds; and
- Work jointly with other GUFs, the ITUC, and TUAC to have structures of union representation in companies at the global level, together with rights to consultation and information, explicitly recognised by the ILO and in international laws and regulations.
IMF affiliates will:
- Provide technical and political support to build and strengthen networks and for successful international coordination of information coming from the national and regional levels; and
- Engage members at the national level to build mutual trust and solidarity to ensure an international approach towards worker and trade union rights when confronting corporate strategies including during transnational restructuring processes.
Jun 19, 2009 – Alex Ivanou