Trade unions representing workers at General Electric from across North America, Europe and Asia have pledged to make workers’ voices heard at the company, at a meeting of the IndustriALL’s General Electric Trade Union Network in Toronto, Canada, from 7-8 May 2018.
General Electric (GE) is one of the world’s largest multinational companies operating in 170 countries with more than 310,000 direct employees. The company proudly promotes its social responsibility credentials having been awarded various global ethical accolades, such as Best Place to work, Most Ethical Company, and 100 Best Companies for working mothers.
However, unions at the network meeting revealed that GE has walked away from the workers and communities that built the corporation, destroying jobs and the opportunity of secure work for coming generations, and leaving illness clusters, environmental damage and devastating local economies, especially in North America and Europe.
In Europe for example, unions reported that GE seems ready to scrap everything they and their workers have achieved for the sole purpose of generating short-term cash and shareholder value. In North America, Unifor and UE have united to launch the ‘General Electric Commit to our Communities’ campaign to transform the labour movement based on democratic, social unionism and international cooperation between American and Canadian workers. (See “Workers unite to take action against General Electric”)
The meeting also focused on the consequence of GE operations on occupational health and safety and the environment. The Unifor delegates presented a report that showed workers at the GE plant in Peterborough, Ontario, have been exposed to more than 3,000 toxic chemicals, including at least 40 known or suspected human carcinogens. The delegates agreed to investigate the possibility of joint activities and campaigns around certain issues including occupational health and safety (OHS), and sustainable industrial policy.
Unions attending the meeting re-confirmed that GE management must work together with trade unions representing GE workers with the view to achieve a fair and just social business model. The delegates unanimously adopted a meeting statement to take joint action against General Electric to develop a clear strategy to support collective activity across the network to secure our objectives, including taking concrete steps to implement GE Trade Union Network Strategic Plan 2018-2020.
The GE trade union network will focus on the following activities:
- To coordinate our collective efforts to organize GE workers across the globe, building union power and strengthening collective bargaining. To support developing unions in their efforts to organize and to force the company to recognize and comply in full with ILO conventions and core labour rights across the globe;
- To set up and stage joint activities to ensure that the voice of GE workers and our communities is heard by the company and the public. To identify, for coordinated activity, key decision makers within GE including: board members and shareholders; clients, customers and public administrations procuring product from the company, particularly those who are themselves unionized where broader alliances can be built;
- To develop a strategy to pressure the company management to positively address our concerns and to recognize the Trade Union Network as the legitimate global voice for GE workers;
- Pursue a Global Framework Agreement with the company to establish mechanisms for regular social dialogue at a global and regional level to enable constructive industrial relations and sustainable jobs at GE.
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