The challenges facing the global steel sector were discussed by governments, employers, trade unions and other stakeholders at the 93rd Session of the OECD Steel Committee, on 13-14 March in Paris. Trade unions took to the floor to raise concerns about current labour market reforms in Ukraine and to call for companies and governments to support and invest in their workers and to ensure that there is a Just Transition in the steel sector.
The session began with an update of developments in Ukraine and impacts on the global steel market in light of Russia’s ongoing illegal war. While the global steel market continues to be impacted by energy shortages and issues accessing raw materials, TUAC raised the impact on all workers in light of the government’s attempts to reform labour law and curtail trade unions’ activities, including weakening collective bargaining.
Veronica Nilsson, Interim General Secretary of TUAC, said:
"Ukrainian workers and trade unions are on the forefront in confronting the illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine. We urge the Ukrainian government to ensure that labour conditions and collective bargaining rights of those still in work, as well as those who will return, are maintained. They should not be weakened through rushed labour market reforms. The right to collective bargaining representation and social dialogue are fundamental European values that must be preserved and enhanced on the Ukrainian path to EU accession."
Various experts provided updates on the global steel demand and production, with the outlook for 2023 remaining uncertain following generally positive years in 2021 and 2022 at global level. While China, the world’s largest steel producer, is not an OECD member, trade unions welcomed the update on developments in the Chinese steel industry, noting that global overcapacity remains a major issue. The risk of a global excess capacity crisis has increased with the gap between global capacity and crude steel production currently standing at 632.0 mmt in 2022 (516.9 mmt in 2021). As global excess overcapacity drives down steel prices and leads to an unlevel playing field, trade unions again call on increased joint action at international level to tackle this.
Christine Oliver, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said:
“The transition cannot and must not rest on workers’ shoulders alone. Multinational companies must take their full responsibility by investing in decarbonization and in workers. It’s a matter of social and environmental justice.”
Following TUAC’s presentation on ensuring a Just Transition at the last OECD Steel Committee, the topic of decarbonisation of the steel sector was back on the agenda with updates from representatives of the G7 and G20. IndustriALL Europe, reminded OECD governments and employers that the green transition must be a Just Transition and set out concrete trade union demands to prevent workers or regions being left behind.
Judith Kirton‒Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll European Trade Union, said:
“The decarbonisation of the international steel sector is a global challenge, and we welcome the OECD’s increased focus on this topic. Steel workers are at the heart of the green transition and they must be involved at all stages of the transition, this means quality social dialogue at all levels and proper planning and anticipation of change to ensure that no worker or region is left behind. Nothing about us without us!’’.
The OECD Steel Committee further discussed the possibility of launching a supply chain observatory due to the current energy and raw material crises which continue to cause uncertainties, price increases, rerouting of materials and sometimes stoppages in steel production. The OECD aims to provide a deliverable by the end of 2023.