27 May 2019: Over 120 trade union leaders from 39 trade unions in 31 countries convened in London for the Second Global Conference on Multinational Companies and Global Agreements.
The conference chair, General Secretary of CCOO Construccion y Servicios, Vicente Sanchez welcomed the opportunity for BWI affiliates to discuss and debate with management from twelve multinational companies in the BWI sectors --- Acciona, Argos Cement, BESIX, DEME, FCC, Hochtief, Inter-IKEA, Ingka Group, Royal BAM, Schwan Stabilo, Schwan Cosmetics, and VINCI--- about changes in the industry, industrial relations. Sanchez spoke of the important commitment of BWI to negotiate international agreements with multinationals as reflected at our Congress in Durban in 2017.
Len McCluskey, General Secretary welcomed the conference participants in a video message. He stated, “Current political and economic situation in the UK is driven by Brexit initiative which is used by the government and business as an excuse to cut jobs and wages. Workers should not pay for the political decisions. The only response to such policies from unions could be organizing and solidarity. We know that well organized sites with decent working conditions are more productive and profitable. UNITE members are committed to solidarity among workers in MNCs across borders on the principle of an injury for one – injury to all”
International Solidarity was reiterated by Gail Cartmail, Assistant Secretary General for UNITE. She stated, “The BWI is a family – and our task is to organise and grow. That includes coordination across national boundaries, standing up for one another, doing the right thing by using our influence the pull up standards of living not allowing standards to be pushed down. That is our challenge – solidarity is our strength.”
Keynote speaker John MacDonnell, Labour Party Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer called for a challenge to neo-liberal capitalism in the United Kingdom. “Today the UK has 14 million people living in poverty, 4,5 million of them are children. This is the result of brutal neo-liberal policy, that was imposed in the country for the last decade. It’s time not only to challenge this policy, but to reverse it completely. Fair tax measures in the benefit of workers, end of trade wars, transparent procurement system, just transition to the green jobs are among measure that should be immediately undertaken by the government for the better life of the people in the UK.”
Marcelino Fernández Verdes, of Hochtief; Anders Schonstrom of Inter-IKEA; and Franck Mougin of VINCI shared the perspective of their companies on digitalization and innovations in technology and their assessment of the impact of these changes in their workforce. The session provided a platform for direct and sector-focused dialogue between BWI affiliates and their counterpart MNCs on innovations, actions around digitalization, human resource policies and share perspectives in future of work.
The afternoon session debated various instruments and mechanisms that workers and trade unions can use ensure the respect of their rights based on international labour standards. included Martin Thuermer, of Schwan-STABILO Cosmetics; Ana Benita, of FCC; Geert Aelbrecht, of BESIX GROUP; and Peter Latham of PEFC discussed instruments at their companies and within global value chains.
In closing the day’s proceedings Per Olof Sjöö, BWI President thanked the company representatives and BWI affiliates for their participation, “Global dialogue between trade unions and Multinational Companies strengthen commitment to decent work. We will consider the outcomes of this dialogue in the International Framework Agreements, Social audits, and International Certification Schemes. BWI affiliates are doing incredible job to sustain these global commitments at the workplace, to improve working conditions and wages.”