Global Cement Conference: Freedom of association, Collective Bargaining are the main challenges

A study implemented to 113 cement companies in 40 countries who cover most regions of the world, confirms the difficulty of the industry to integrate unions in its policy, "even when the sample of the plants studied is atypical," said SECAFI Groupe Alpha, the entity who performed the analysis.

The sample consulted in this study covered a wide variety of plants. 20% are new; 60% are old but renovated and 20% are old and becoming obsolete, as workers' representatives evaluated.

The study prepared as a request of the Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI), related to key issues to their members and to workers in general, is an analysis tool and an input to strengthen the demands agreed by the unions. The research covers the fundamental rights of freedom of association, collective bargaining agreements; safety and health of workers; outsourcing; climate change; remuneration and additional social protection.

Of the 13 companies that participated in the survey, 12 are members of the Cement Sustainability Initiative - CSI: CEMEX, Heidelberg Cement, Italcementi, InterCement, LafargeHolcim, Siam Cement Group, Taiheiyo Cement, Titan Cement, Votoratim, Except CRH, etc. Three other companies of the CSI participated, such as: Aditya Birla Ultratech-Argos, Shree Cement and Buzzi-Unicem an Italian multinational.

On trade union rights and labor relations, the study shows that most companies confused the respect of trade union rights with internal communications to employees and job satisfaction surveys. The communication about collective bargaining agreements coverage to employees is varied. Only 7 companies communicate this topic. Two thirds of the employees of these companies (about 133.389) are covered by a collective bargaining agreement and a third of them (68.312 employees) is not.

Among the workers interviewed in the plants, three types of outsourcing policies were identified. Plants that do not outsource or do it in a low range any kind of function except general services. These are mostly in Africa, the Middle East and Russia. Plants with selective or regular outsourcing of certain operational functions such as: quarry, logistics and maintenance. This feature is found in many plants in Europe. Plants with a high level and structural policies subcontracting or outsourcing of all activities of the company. This trend is more pronounced in Asia.

"The assessment of the conditions of subcontractors is negative, especially on the field of labor relations and even more in the coverage of collective bargaining agreements," notes the research.

Regarding to health and safety, the highest risks identified are the occupational diseases, which are the most numerous, and fatalities are common. The frequency of fatal accidents increases with outsourcing.

The evaluation of outsourcing "is particularly troubling", especially in the field of labor relations "and even more negative" on the coverage of collective bargaining agreements. "And this assessment is even more negative when it extends to subcontracting", says the research.

Climate change is an issue that is listed as a "priority" for the industry, but is not an issue for labor relations. "It is only on the 40% of the plants. There is no difference between regions. This practice is less developed in domestic enterprises and new multinational", the study says.

Finally, on remuneration and social protection, there is a difference of working hours among plants that participated in the survey. These periods are shorter in Europe (41 hours for most of the countries) and are longest in Asia (44 hours in two-thirds of the country).

"In most plants, collective labor agreements observe components of remunerations for employees (wages, benefits and/or bonuses). Meanwhile, the assessment of additional social protection (health, retirement, disability) offered by the companies is contrasted (half of the plants are in the intermediate range)”.

Half of the plants that participated in the survey are located in the worst countries for workers, according to CSI. However, some countries are absent in research such as China, Mexico and the United States in particular.

An extensive discussion of the study took place among participants of the Conference in Panama in preparation for the second day of the event that brought together representatives of the cement industry worldwide.