The 90th session of the OECD Steel Committee on 22 September focused on global steel market prospects and key issues in the steel sector, including global overcapacity. TUAC, IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union used the opportunity to raise awareness among OECD member countries and steel industry associations of the importance of global minimum standards for steelworkers, based on the core ILO Conventions, as well as reiterate the importance of responsible business conduct in the steel sector, as set in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
Trade unions reminded the Committee that the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and that all workers, including in the global South, must have access to COVID-19 vaccines and that workers and their union representatives must play a key role in shaping the steel sector after the pandemic.
Although many sectors using steel have recovered faster than initially expected as global demand has increased, the global tendency to increase steelmaking capacity above actual steel demand puts the global recovery for the entire steel industry at risk. Increasing global overcapacity could exasperate pre-existing pressures on the steel market: price-dumping leading to lower ecological standards and to decreased wages and social conditions.
Judith Kirton‒Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll European Trade Union, said:
‘’Trade unions stand united in calling for an end to global overcapacity and for a global level playing field which is fair for all workers. We must stop this aggressive race to the bottom for the lowest cost that negatively impacts workers and slows down the much needed work towards the decarbonisation of the sector.’’
Trade unions called on OECD member countries to embrace a strategy that will ensure the enforcement of global minimum standards for steelworkers, including ILO core conventions and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. This includes freedom of association and health and safety for all workers amid a steady increase of fatal accidents at steel sites over the past year, which is completely unacceptable.
Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL Global Union’s Director for Mechanical Engineering and Base Metals, declared:
“It is imperative that steelworkers can go to work knowing they will return home at the end of their shift. The recent increase in fatal accidents is wholly unacceptable and we call for urgent action. Quality steel making depends on high social, labour, environmental and decarbonisation standards and we call on OECD member countries to ensure adequate global minimum standards for steelworkers. Every government, every steel producer and every organisation who is willing to work in this direction, can count on the support of the unionized workforce.”
TUAC, IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll European Trade Union recognised the vital role that the steel industry plays in limiting global warming and insisted that investments in clean technology must be accompanied by upskilling plans and Just Transition schemes for steelworkers. They noted that this can only be achieved via fair and open negotiations between governments, steel companies, the workforce, and their unions.
Given the complexity and broadness of the challenges the steel sector is facing, TUAC encourages the Steel Committee to work closely with other OECD bodies (including the Economic Committee, the Environment Policy Committee, the Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Committee, the Investment Committee and its Working Group on Responsible Business Conduct) to advance dialogue and offer viable solutions.