Even though all subsidiaries of Daimler have committed to respect universal labour rights and recognise the right of employees to a collective agreement, management in Cugir has acted as if social dialogue was a foreign word.
It was a tough fight that workers at the Cugir plant fought under the leadership of Calin Giurgiu, who leads the branch union ICA at the Start Transmission plant. SindICAtul Liber Independent (ICA) is a member of our Romanian affiliate, industriAll-BNS trade union. Just one year ago, 650 of the nearly 1,200 employees of the plant that produces engine components, had come together to join a union. When they demanded a collective agreement, they were threatened instead with a transfer of production to Russia. The colleagues did not give up, however. They stuck together, fought together and finally won together.
During this difficult time, they were reassured and able to count on the support of industriAll Europe and industriAll Global Union. Anti-union behaviour had made an intervention of industriAll Europe necessary to remind local management that the Global Framework Agreement signed with industriAll Global Union was binding for companies in the entire Daimler family. The workers successfully took their case to court and finally, in spring 2020, despite the COVID-19 partial lock down, elected a trade union committee to negotiate the first collective agreement in 20 years.
Management signed a ‘declaration of willingness’ to start collective bargaining in July 2020 and committed to conclude negotiations by the end of August 2020. The union was provided with a meeting room and an office on company premises. The office was not more than a bare room with a table and some chairs, which is a far cry from adequate working premises and equipment, but it nevertheless represented progress in the eyes of the trade union colleagues. A computer was provided by the ICA union and a start was made.
"It is an important stage victory so far." underlined Calin Giurgiu. "Even though all subsidiaries of Daimler have committed to respect universal labour rights and recognise the right of employees to a collective agreement, management in Cugir has acted as if social dialogue was a foreign word."
It appears that local management, made up of several German expats, still needs to learn that the language of social dialogue is also spoken in Romania and not just in Germany. Not only did they fail to turn up with their own draft agreement at the first negotiation meeting, as it had been agreed, they also tried to shift responsibility for reducing manpower, due to Covid-19 related drops in production, to the union. Furthermore, they deny the trade union committee their right to speak to the workers and insist to treat most information confidentially, even if it has already been published in the media.
The fight therefore continues, and the demands are clear: the workers want a collective agreement and the trade union committee calls for access to the workers.
Luc Triangle, industriall Europe’s General Secretary says: “The workers at Star Transmission can be assured of our support in their fight for a collective agreement. Especially in times of economic difficulties, social dialogue and worker participation are crucial to find sustainable and acceptable solutions. To allow the local union to play their part in this exercise, they must be able to regularly exchange with the workers. It is the basis for fair negotiations with management.”