GM Latin American workers meet in Sao Paulo!

General Motors trade unionists from Brazil, Argentina and Colombia met in Sao Paulo

WORKERS from General Motors plants across Latin America met in São Paulo, Brazil, last week to discuss and take action against workforce casualisation within the firm.

GM unions from Argentina, Brazil and Colombia came together to discuss the situation as the company, which produces cars, trucks and engines, is currently ‘restructuring’ at various plants and undermining employees’ rights in the process.

At the start of the year, GM leaders issued a memo threatening to shut down operations in South America unless they could find ways to return to profit, even though sales were on the rise.

Workers at the meeting said that GM is not in the midst of any kind of sales or production crisis.

Instead, it decided to restructure as part of its strategic objective to turn in higher profits than its competitors.

GM is also looking to generate working capital in order to create new, innovative products such as electric and self-driving cars.

One way the firm is looking to do this is by cutting labour costs, resulting in more precarious working conditions.

At the meeting, participants made a solidarity pact and agreed to take united action against the GM casualisation and restructuring which has also tried to pit the plants against one another.

They also said that workers have a right to be kept informed about what GM is planning for its various Mercosur plants.

They stand ready to negotiate but will ensure that workers’ rights are safeguarded and strengthened in the process.

They also agreed to work towards collective bargaining and said that they would not negotiate on points that would worsen their working conditions.

And if GM does not agree to engage in a dialogue with the unions, they will organise a day of action and campaigning.

Finally, IndustriALL Global Union’s regional secretary, Marino Vani, said: ‘The meeting was great. We have started working as a network of General Motors employees, which is one of IndustriALL’s priorities.

‘The unions were very well represented in the discussions.

‘IndustriALL and the unions will invite GM and other global affiliates to take part in the ongoing dialogue and in regional negotiations.

‘This will enable us to set out the workers’ needs and demands so that together we can find solutions and reach minimum agreements that safeguard workers’ interests.’

  • Tuesday 20 August, marked the 500th day that former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva has been a political prisoner.

The clamour for his release has not stopped, and nearly 100,000 people have signed the recently launched petition: 500 days a political prisoner: Free Lula Now! calling for the annulment of the corrupt and bogus trials that sent him to prison, despite the lack of evidence.

In reality, Lula was jailed to stop him standing for President against far-right extremist Jair Bolsonaro, because the polls clearly showed he would have won the election.

He was jailed to prevent the people overturning the legislative coup that had removed his successor as President, Dilma Rousseff.

And he was jailed to prevent the continuation of the pro-poor, pro-environment policies Lula and Dilma introduced.

The UN Human Rights Committee also called for Lula to be allowed to stand in the Presidential elections.

But the Brazilian elite knew that they could not win at the ballot box which is why Dilma was deposed and Lula jailed.

Workers in Brazil are now paying the price, with social justice measures being rolled back, insecure employment promoted, and unions being attacked.

The Bolsonaro regime is attacking the environment, women and LGBT communities, and grovelling to Donald Trump in the USA.

The ITUC’s Brazilian affiliates supported a global day of action last Tuesday, 20 August, to draw attention to Lula’s status as a political prisoner.

  • After 12 long years of strike action, Grupo Mexico has finally paid workers their share of profits. This is a major victory for Mexico’s Los Mineros union, an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union.

30 July 2019 marked 12 years since the strikes began in three mines run by Grupo Mexico, in Taxco, Cananea and Sombrerete. Back in 2007, some 3,000 workers took action against Grupo Mexico after the company refused to amend their collective agreement or to improve health and safety conditions at the three mines.

One of the union’s demands was payment of profits for the period from January to July 2007. Grupo Mexico had said that it would only make the payment if workers agreed to take it as severance pay or to leave Los Mineros.

But on 2nd August 2019, Grupo Mexico finally made the payments. In Mexico, profit sharing is a constitutional right, with companies required to pay their workers a percentage of earnings.

Los Mineros president Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, who is also a Mexican senator and IndustriALL’s co-president for Latin America and the Caribbean, has called the payment, which came after a lengthy legal battle, a major victory for workers and for union representation.

Workers at the three mines are continuing their strike action in the hope of finding solutions to other unresolved issues. They are calling on Grupo Mexico to put in place adequate health and safety measures, as there have been repeated incidents over the years.

One of the worst incidents was the industrial homicide at Pasta de Conchos on 19 February 2006, in which 65 workers lost their lives. And on 6th August 2014, a spill caused 40 million litres of copper sulphate acid to run into the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers, resulting in an environmental disaster that seriously affected the health of local communities.

The most recent incident, on 9th July 2019, occurred at a port in Sonora State, in north-east Mexico, with 3,000 litres of sulphuric acid ending up in the Gulf of California.

At a press conference, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, announced that he would summon Los Mineros and Grupo Mexico for a round of negotiations in order to reach an agreement over the strikes. He also said that a full inquiry would be held into the 2014 and 2019 spills and those responsible would be punished.

IndustriALL’s regional secretary, Marino Vani, said: ‘We wish to congratulate Los Mineros, the workers and their families. Persevering in a battle is the only way to achieve victory and dignity. And your struggle is a true example of teamwork and integrity. We hope that Grupo Mexico will show respect for its workers and help to find solutions to this injustice by engaging in dialogue and negotiation in order to reach a fair agreement for the workers.’

  • Dockers’ unions in Peru have committed to unite under the ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) flag to fight for fair wages and decent conditions for dockers worldwide.

Representatives from the ITF Dockers’ Section and ITF Americas regional office have been on the ground over the past week working shoulder to shoulder to strengthen and activate Peruvian dockers’ unions.

‘As multinationals try and force a race to the bottom in terms of dockers’ rights, we must increase our industrial muscle through global organising to combat these attacks.

‘Dockers unions in Callao recognised the capacity within the ITF to organise dockers globally, and now want to join the ITF family’ said Enrico Tortolano from the ITF Dockers’ Section.

ITF America’s acting regional secretary, Edgar Diaz, also acknowledged the progress at the Port of Callao which will see all unions at the port become part of the ITF family if the affiliations are successful.

‘It’s an historic day in Latin America where two key dockers’ unions at Callao’s DP World terminal, SUNESPORT and SUTRADPWORLD, took the decision to join the ITF and fight back against multinational companies like DP World and APMT, that don’t want to promote fair wages and decent conditions across the region,’ said Diaz.

‘Building collective power and bargaining leverage through strong trade unions and strong international solidarity is vital to protecting workers’ pay and conditions. DP World’s outrageous attacks on wharfies in Australia is a clear example of this.

‘Dockers unions in Callao understand the importance of being part of an international federation, and are ready to be active and provide support for our brothers and sisters anywhere in the world where solidarity is needed,’ said Diaz.

  • Iranian Government spokesman Ali Rabiyee has strongly dismissed setting up any special channel for talks with the US, and stressed the need for Washington to end its economic terrorism and sanctions against Tehran.

‘We have officially announced our view that economic terrorism should end,’ Rabiyee said on Monday.

Asked if a channel had been opened up for talks with the US, he said that the only channel is the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests in Iran.

Rabiyee also referred to the US sanctions imposed on Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and said that he is slated to leave for Paris within the next few days and the sanctions are in fact sanctioning the US itself from dialogue.

In relevant remarks in July, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif blasted the US for practicing economic terrorism against Tehran, saying that it had targeted the country’s ordinary people.

Speaking to reporters before the annual meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York, Zarif said that the US had engaged in an economic war against the Iranian nation.

‘The economic war Trump takes pride in has targeted civilians,’ he said.

‘The war has targeted ordinary people, as it is a terrorist move to push political plans and this should be halted,’ Zarif said, noting that translation of terrorism in legal terms is intended ‘to change a country’s policies or make the public change their ways.’

This is exactly what the Americans are doing, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said himself that this is a terrorist policy and ‘we will never talk to terrorists’, he stated.