BWI denounces massive dismissals of Etex Group in Argentina

The Building and Wood Worker's International (BWI), which brings together 12 million workers in the construction, wood and building materials sectors in more than 130 countries worldwide, expresses its strong support to the strike that has been sustained for more than 10 days by its affiliate Ceramic Workers' Union of the Republic of Argentina (FOCRA) in Plant Azul – a plant of the company Cerámica San Lorenzo, which belongs to the Belgian Etex Group. 

Since mid-2015, FOCRA has internationally denounced the process of massive dismissals of ceramist workers carried out by the company Cerámica San Lorenzo in Argentina. Until today, 143 workers have been laid off in complete disrespect not only to the National Collective Bargaining Agreement that applies to all ceramist industry in this country, but also to the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises established by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

In response to this situation, both BWI and FOCRA presented on February 19th, 2016 an international complaint to the OECD, arguing not only the lack of evidence of the economic crisis that the company uses as a justification for the layoffs, but also denouncing the company’s unwillingness to reach an agreement with FOCRA, despite multiple meetings with the union and the Ministry of Labour of the Republic of Argentina in order to solve the conflict. 

“As workers celebrate May Day, the BWI is in solidarity with the striking workers at Cerámica San Lorenzo in Argentina,” stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI. He continued, “We strongly call on the Etex Group and its subsidiary, Cerámica San Lorenzo to negotiate with FOCRA to immediately resolve the issue at hand. In addition, we are deeply concerned that the Etex Group is broadening its restructuring process throughout Argentina without any consultation with the trade union. Noting this, we call on the Etex Group to engage in constructive and continuous dialogue with FOCRA to ensure that workers are not unfairly dismissed.” 

The BWI will continue to support FOCRA struggle against the Etex Group. Clearly the company’s actions are unacceptable for a global company that has a long history and extensive portfolio in the construction sector. In addition, these anti-trade union activities do not correspond to the image of a socially responsible company that has been used to increase profits at the expense of its workers.