Friday, January 13, 2012

Global solidarity for 'courageous strikers' at CertainTeed

Bravely standing by the barrel.
(UPDATE: Changed headline to reflect that ICEM is a global union based in Switzerland.)

Words of solidarity and a promise of help came today from Switzerland for the 90 brave Teamsters striking against CertainTeed, a French-owned roofing-supply company in Norwood, Mass.

Local 25 President Sean O'Brien received a letter from Manfred Garda, general secretary of the Geneva-based International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM):
I write to extend the solidarity of the 20-million-member ICEM to the 90 courageous strikers at this wholly-owned subsidiary of the French multinational Saint-Gobain. I also write to tell you the ICEM has informed our French trade union affiliates of this dispute and in unison, we intend to bring your struggle to the attention of senior executives of Saint-Gobain in Paris.
The strike has been going on for almost a month now. The company wants to reduce health coverage for its workers, leaving them financially unprotected from illness or injury.

The Teamsters are one of 255 trade unions in 94 countries affiliated with the ICEM.

Warda also wrote that adequate health care coverage is important to a manufacturing employer "if an enterprise expects to maintain a workforce that is fit and able to perform the rigorous demands of production." (Duh-oh!)  And this:
Please tell them that the ICEM will exert every effort in bringing this dispute to the attention of bosses at the highest level of corporate leadership in France.
The ICEM posted the following statement on its website as well:
The ICEM vehemently supports 90 members of the affiliated Teamsters Union (IBT) in the US, who went on strike last month in Norwood, Massachusetts, at CertainTeed, a roofing materials subsidiary of French multinational Saint-Gobain. Members of IBT Local 25 in the Boston area walked off their jobs when their contract expired on 19 December over unreasonable demands to reduce their health insurance benefits.
In an ICEM letter today to Local 25 President Sean O’Brien, General Secretary Manfred Warda said the dispute would receive the Global Union Federation’s highest priority and would be brought to the attention of French trade unions and senior executives at Saint-Gobain in Paris.
CertainTeed, a wholly-owned subsidiary with multiple plants in the US that manufacture asphalt roofing shingles, gypsum wallboard, and insulated fiberglass products, proposes to reduce the amount of health insurance it pays on workers, leaving them largely unprotected financially from illness or injury.
“The company has become the epitome of greed, treating its workforce unfairly without regard for health and welfare and job security,” said O’Brien, the principal officer of 11,000-member IBT Local 25. In order to preserve the joint union-management run health care plan, the union proposed costs savings to the company on a pension plan that would not reduce workers’ retirement benefits. But CertainTeed wasn’t interested.