Fifty “Sindicatul Liber Independent (ICA)” trade union activists from the Daimler Star Transmission plant in Cugir, Romania (STC) and partner trade unions are gearing up for their next tasks. To this end, they met at a “hybrid” seminar. The Romanian participants were on-site in a seminar centre in Cugir, while their international colleagues joined in via video conference. Preparations are already under way for the next seminar.
The ICA STC is not yet two years old and it already has a turbulent history behind it: after almost twenty years without a trade union and no collective agreement, the majority of workers at the plant joined forces to form a trade union in 2019. However, they were met with huge disapproval and even open hostility from the management. The difficult pay negotiations, therefore, only produced mixed results. But the workers fight on. They have been encouraged not least by the enormous amount of international solidarity they have experienced.
The global backing was clear right at the start of the seminar when the general secretaries of IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union, Valter Sanches and Luc Triangle, gave impactful speeches expressing their admiration for the courage and energy shown by their Romanian colleagues and at the same time pledged their full support for the future. However, workers from Daimler and IG Metall were also strongly represented: Michael Brecht, the chair of the World Employee Committee and the European Works Council spoke first followed by Roland Schäfer, the vice-chair of the works council at the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim.
When introducing themselves, the participants not only gave their names and where they work. They also said why they joined the trade union and were pretty unanimous in their reason: "because we want to defend the rights of workers that are not respected by management!"
The first group workshop was all about taking stock of the situation. Once again the group was in agreement regarding the main problem: the attendees are discriminated against by management due to their function as trade union representatives and constructive dialogue with the works management is not possible. A particularly glaring problem mentioned is the severely limited opportunities for communication the elected shop stewards have during working hours. The annual quota of 2,000 hours for the 70 senior shop stewards (from all three shifts) is firstly insufficient, and secondly can only be used subject to an application. This makes spontaneous communication or dealing with urgent problems impossible. After all, the plant employs more than 1,000 people. In particular, the discrimination against the site president, Calin Giurgiu, who is completely excluded from paid leave, was highlighted.
In the second working period it became clear that there is still much to be done with a view to the pay negotiations at the start of 2022, so that they take place with the union on an equal footing with the management. The colleagues are compiling a list of the most urgent tasks and topics to ensure that lasting positive change can be brought to the employees’ situation. A basic requirement for this is a significant intensification of and improvement in communications with members and prospective members, despite the above-mentioned difficult general conditions. To this end, another meeting is planned for the very near future to develop concrete methods and strategies. The friends from the rest of the world immediately pledged their full support! The next seminar will deal with issues relating to union communications. Preparations are already in full swing.
Luc Triangle says IndustriAll Europe stands with the workers of Startransmission who are campaigning for union representation of their interests. They can count on international solidarity. Strong trade unions survive as a result of their members’ cohesion. Fair regulations governing absence for union work are required for colleagues to be able to prepare for collective bargaining.
Valter Sanches promises that IndustriALL Global Union will adopt a two-pronged strategy with its partners: firstly, we shall continue to insist that Daimler complies with the Global Framework Agreement. Secondly, we shall provide concrete help to colleagues with training so that, at the latest after the pay negotiations, everyone knows why a trade union is important and that it can bring about concrete improvements.