For one year now, ReAct has followed and supported the unions of STMicroelectronics – a French-Italian microprocessor (chip) company –to increase their collaboration throughout its production, design and packaging sites. These efforts culminated this year during the week of the STMicroelectronics Shareholders Meeting in May 2016. Then, in Muar, Bouskoura, Paris, Grenoble, Castelletto and Agrate, the workers came together to demand a change in the company’s strategy and the global respect of workers’ rights.
This collaboration between unions and ReAct first began in France and Morocco, before being extended to the Italian, Malaysian and Maltese sites. In each site, the unions (UMT in Morocco, CGT-CFDT in France, CGIL-CISL and UIL in Italy, EIEUSR in Malaysia and GWU in Malta) shared each site’s stories of struggle and victory, and gave an overview of their demands in the past and present. All highlight the increased workload, the hard to achieve targets and the questionable respect of workers’ rights. In April and May 2016, this led to an international campaign organized between the Moroccan, Italian, French and Malaysian unions on the theme of:
ALL TOGETHER TO CHANGE ST STRATEGY
In Morocco, company management laid off twice in a row workers who tried to organise unions. Only in 2010, after years of fighting for their rights, the group of workers organised under with the UMT confederation successfully organized workers in Bouskoura. This success stemmed from strong local efforts and pressure as well as the support from the the European Work Council. The UMT is now made up of more than 1,600 members, represents 89% of the employees, and has organized several successful negotiations with the management since 2010, including: maternity leave, the freedom to form unions, seniority rights, transportation service improvements, and health and safety improvements. However, the unions are still not permitted to sign collective conventions or form local company committees.
In France, the unions point out the difficult and victorious strikes of Rousset (2008 and 2012) and Crolles (2015) in particular, which allowed employees to earn bonuses and oppose increasingly stressful and exhausting work organization. However, since May 2015, restructuring and lay-off plans are among the unions’ main concerns. In summer and autumn of 2015, in collaboration with the Italian unions, they called for the French and Italian governments – each stakeholders of 13.5% of STMicroelectronics – to pay attention to the short-term financial strategy that the lay-off decisions represent. In January 2016, the company announced that the advanced digital line would be discontinued. This led to laying off 1,600 people throughout the world, including 420 in France Despite the high development costs for the digital product line – those affected by the restructuring plan – the market they target is undergoing expansion and thus why the unions believe it was a strategically bad decision to make. Since January, unions have fought to stop the lay-offs, which in April 2016, were transformed into voluntary leave packages, combining voluntary leave, internal transfers, and requalification projects.
In Italy, it was mainly the absence of a renewed company agreement and the uncertainty about the inter-branch national metalwork agreement that have brought the unions to mobilize. In April 2015, a major strike shook up the sites, while in April 2016, the ST unions helped to mobilize the metalwork industry in order to fight for the national metalwork agreement. The unions also face the problem of promised investments that have failed to appear in Catane and Agrate.
In Malaysia, workers first spoke about the stories of union repression following the first attempts to create a union. But since 2010, the EIEUSR achieved a significant victory (57% of employees voted in support of the union) and became the first union for the electronics sector in the southern region of Malaysian. The presence of the union has enabled workers to successfully negotiate with management. For example, regarding work organization, 12-hour shifts are now counted as 8 hours of contract work and 3 hours of overtime work; regarding work conditions, the union has made several victories related to benefits and allowance (working with dangerous products, health benefits, etc.) as well as gained access to facilities (a prayer room, a room for coffee breaks, etc.). However, an accident struck the site in October 2015 and killed one worker whilst it severally wounded another. The union is currently fighting for improvements to site safety, especially through investment in less dangerous machines and reorganization of the site.
Following these meetings and exchanges, the unions published a joint statement highlighting their shared demands on April 1, 2016. It called for:
- Suspending dividend payments and putting a stop to cost reduction measures
- Returning to development and investment strategies in all sectors – in advanced digital, analog, and mixed technologies – in all countries
- Cancelling the lay-offs and job suppression measures throughout the world announced on January 27th, made possible by the industry stimulation plans
- Establishing proper salary and social policies and respect for union rights in all countries.
In order to have these demands met, the unions organized actions and gatherings during the months of April and June that brought attention to the need for change. The first demand was dividend reduction and suppression, which will free up a portion of the funds necessary for strategic investment in the company. In Bouskoura on April 20th, Muar on May 22nd, Paris on May 23rd, Agrate and Castelletto on May 24th,, and Grenoble on May 25th (see the article in Mediapart here and the article in Echoes here), everyone came together and demonstrated their desire for change. See the article from Industri’ALL here.
Agrate, Muar, Grenoble, and Castalletto on May 23-25, 2016, before the Shareholders Meeting.
Since these actions took place, the unions, Industri’ALL Global Union, and ReAct held an international meeting in Geneva where the French, Moroccan, Italian, Malaysian and Maltese unions all came together to decide on follow-up for these actions, to establish their shared demands, and to continue fighting together to improve work for everyone. See the article from Industri’ALL here and the unions’ collective declaration here.