On 30 September – 2 October 2019, the first Faber-Castell Global Union Network meeting was convened at Steinbach and Nuremberg/Stein, Germany. Participants from seven countries and eight Faber-Castell plant units were present at this meeting coordinated by BWI and IG Metall with support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).
Participants exchanged experiences in a workshop that was followed by a visit to the company’s Head Office and production facilities at Stein with interaction between the representatives of the management and General Works Council and IG Metall Union members.
“We have been socially engaged before unions even existed. For the Graf Anton Faber-Castell, the first priority was the workers, before the extended family and the core family.” said Countess Mary Faber–Castell who welcomed the BWI delegation and expressed the legacy of the family whose principles are now tested in a transition phase of the company that has made its fortune by producing high-quality writing utensils.
Being faced with low-price competitors, Faber-Castell tries to live up to its reputation as a socially responsible employer as one of the first transnational companies to have signed an International Framework Agreement (the “Social Charter”) with Building and Wood Workers’ International and IG Metall in 2000. A key instrument to reveal and address violations of the Social Charters’ principles has been social audits and subsequent constructive dialogue between the management, unions and works council.
The next test case for both the commitment of the management and the power of the global network will be to resolve the unsatisfactory high percentage of temporary workers in its India operation and to implement due diligence with regards to freedom of association and working conditions in Faber-Castell suppliers at the global level.
The Faber Castell Global Union Network expressed solidarity with ongoing concerns at the F-C India unit and submitted a joint statement to the Faber–Castell drawing urgent attention for commitment to the Social Charter. The management responded by promising to look into the situation and engage with the local union in India.
The meeting concluded with participation at the General Assembly of the IG Metall, West Central Franconia. The General Assembly expressed solidarity for international trade union work and discussed F-C operations and experiences with social audits at different locations.
The network laid out a common goal and plan of action to take its work forward.
“We are very happy that trade union representatives from Faber–Castell plants from three continents discussed how to strengthen union power. The exchange of experiences and the dialogue with the company’s management has been fruitful and enriched our mutual understanding about the importance of workers’ rights worldwide, and bringing our solidarity from worker to worker to a higher level” said Bern Hager, Chair of the General Works Council and IG Metall shop steward of Faber Castell in Germany.