Saturday, October 31, 2009


CANADIAN LABOUR/INTERNATIONAL LABOUR:
VALE INCO SOLIDARITY IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC:
As Molly has mentioned before the United Steelworkers who are on strike against Vale Inco in Ontario and Newfoundland have been busy building international solidarity across 4 continents, amongst other workers who are employed worldwide by this corporation. The following item from Radio Australia tells about their recent visit to New Caledonia ( known as Kanaky amongst the locals) where Vale Inco also operates. In previous posts Molly has mentioned the fact that, considering we live in an age of the internet and 'teleconferencing' that it may be perceived that sending certain privileged members of the USW on worldwide jaunts might "come back to haunt" the leadership of the USW, especially if the strike ends as something less than an obvious victory.The membership could easily perceive that these trips were a frivolous use of the strike fund, and maybe they are.
Here's another thing that may later come back to haunt the leadership of the USW. As previously mentioned the USW has had a previous solidarity agreement with the USTKE in Kanaky as per unions representing workers employed by Vale Inco across the world. The USTKE has ties with both the anarcho-syndicalist CNT-F and the ex-communist CGT in France. Despite the fact that the previous agreement was with the USTKE the Steelworkers' travelling solidarity/vacation delegation decided to accept an invitation from the colonial branch plant union in New Caledonia of the French Force Ouvriere (FO) union confederation. Molly has discussed the various union confederations in France previously on this blog. The FO may legitimately be characterized as a 'right wing' union federation, from its origin as a split from the CGT (perhaps engineered by the CIA), through its continued existence as an alliance of right wing social democrats and right wing Trotskyists whose major (only ?) raison d'etre was to oppose the CGT.
Now, this may not have as great an influence in Canada as the possibility that, if the strike ends up as even a partial failure, that there will be questions about the money spent on the various foreign trips. Still, it should have at least some relevance. The USW has ignored the previous requests for solidarity against state repression from the USTKE, and now they have bypassed them entirely on their tour in favour of a union that was not part of the original solidarity agreement, a union that might be seen as an "agent" of the present conservative French government in its attempt to suppress a more militant alternative in one of its colonies. I'll leave the literate reader to suggest an appropriate word for such actions on the part of the USW. In any case, here's the story from Radio Australia.
ILILILILILILILIL
New Caledonian unions back Canada's striking Vale workers:
Unions representing ( some of the -Molly ) workers at the Vale Inco nickel mine in New Caledonia have agreed to back strike action taken by their counterparts in Ontario, Canada. The Worker's Force trade union has hosted two of the workers who have been on strike for three and a half months, as well as a representative from the United Steel Workers (USW) union. It's part of a global push for support by the union, which has also held talks with Vale workers in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales. The visit comes just weeks after the Worker's Force union sent a letter to the president of New Caledonia, asking him to investigate reports that workers at the local Vale Inco mine were over-worked and under-trained. They've also raised concerns about a series of environmental issues at the plant, which they believe has jeopardised the safety of the workers. Speaking to Helene Hofman from the capital Noumea, the research director for Canada's United Steel Workers union, Charles Campbell, said the Canadians employed by the Brazilian miner had similar concerns.
Presenter: Helene Hofman
Speakers: Research director for Canada's United Steel Workers Union, Charles Campbell
CAMPBELL: The experiences have definitely point to similarity and when in Australia and here, we have definitely found when we describe our situation, the workers nod their heads and raise similarities that they have seen since Vale bought their company in case of here in New Caledonia, its 2006, in Australia, its 2007. Again they have seen many of the same efforts and practices on the part of the company to roll back things that workers have fought for over the years.
HOFMAN: I understand those things are, for example, pensions and I know there have been some concerns in New Caledonia that under training and under working employees. Are those the kind of problems you are talking about?
CAMPBELL: That is definitely among them, I mean the tension system in Canada is so completely different that it is not an exact parallel, but the problem that Vale Inco is trying to operate its facilities without giving people the proper training or adequate staffing. What we here from the people of New Caledonia definitely matches up with what we see happening back in February, where for the first time in Inco's history, they say they are going to start production without our 3,000 members, who normally make the mines, the mills, the smelters work. They started training people who either un union or people who are members of our union, but under a different agreement for the office workers and so they are training the office workers to do the work in the mines and the smelters. It's actually hard to believe that they are serious about that, but if they are serious about it, they could have the same kind of problems in February that they have had here in New Caledonia with the workers not being properly trained.
HOFMAN: So from your end, you've now garnered the support of these workers unions in New Caledonia and also in Australia. What have you been able to give them in return?
CAMPBELL: For now, it's principally, the exchange of information, the commitment to stay in touch, the commitment that when if they find themselves on strike or otherwise in conflict with Vale, that we will definitely provide whatever support we can and to continue building ties for the long term as well. Because in a world where Vale and for that matter other companies are more and more operating internationally and they certainly coordinate their policies between Canada and Australia and New Caledonia. We need to be equally active in making sure that the workers on their side are doing everything they can to support each other.
HOFMAN: And then I guess in New Caledonia, the Vale Inco facility does not go into production until January. I suppose that is what you have heard from their case, it is probably then that they are going to need your support?
CAMPBELL: Vale Inc has announced that their mine here in New Caledonia will start production in January. What we've found in general here, both from the workers who work here and also from others in the community is there is a lot of scepticism as to whether that will really happen between the concern about the acid leak and other events there and indications that the process is not working nearly as well as the company would have hoped. It is not clear to us that they really are going to start in January. It may well and among the points of similarity, I mean time will tell on this, but we begin to see indications that when they say they are going to start production in February with people who don't know how to do the work, or they say they are going to start production in January in New Caledonia, and it's widely thought that that just is not technically possible, that they may be doing more in the way of trying to propagandise and scare our members into accepting concessions that they are just not going to accept as opposed to really setting out what is going to happen.

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