Egyptian Union Organizes with Global Support

by Paul Garver

Mondelez

Update:

Following the reinstatement of all 5 executive members of the Cadbury Alexandria Union under their former conditions, elections were held on August 29 for the executive council of the union.

The leaders were once again elected as the principal officers of the union and supporters of the leadership fill all 9 positions on the executive.

160 members attended the meeting where the elections took place including 48 members from the other Mondelez factory in Alexandria at Burj el Arab. 3 of the elected executive members work at this factory where membership continues to grow.

Background
In July 2012, more than two years ago, the Egyptian division of Mondelez International (previously Kraft Foods International) suspended five members of the executive committee of a union in Alexandria that dared to declare itself independent. The same American-owned and managed global food company also disciplined union activists at Mondelez plants in Tunisia and Pakistan for similar reasons.

In response the IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide) organized a global “Screamdelez” campaign joined by its member unions on every continent. From Pakistan and Tunisia, through North America and Western Europe to Eastern Europe, Mondelez workers and their unions demonstrated to support their Egyptian counterparts. Hundreds of supporters around the world sent protest messages through the LabourStart international website to Irene Rosenthal, Mondelez CEO.

As a result of this campaign, Mondelez agreed to negotiate with the IUF, and following a meeting in Alexandria on July 9th the five executive board members were reinstated to their jobs with full retroactive back pay and benefits. Elections for the new term of the union executive committee at the plant will take place shortly. All five former union executive committee members will be entitled to stand.

In a last effort to avoid reinstating the union officers, local management argued:”But we don’t know how to reinstate them since no company has ever had to do that in Egypt before!” But the Egyptian result may become a precedent for Mondelez workers in other countries. The IUF and Mondelez International jointly stated that:

“This brings the long-running labour conflict in Alexandria to an end. Both local parties have committed to seek to resolve future challenges in a good-faith and constructive manner and, beyond Egypt, Mondelez International and the IUF have agreed “to discuss the lessons learnt from this conflict.”

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One lesson for all trade unionists is the power of global worker solidarity, in winning campaigns that can even transcend sharp national conflicts.  During the Screamdelez campaign delegates at the IUF EECA regional meeting, held in Kyiv {Kiev} on November 4-5, 2013 concluded their discussion on trade union development by a symbolic action in support of the struggling Mondelez workers in Egypt, Pakistan and world-wide. The participants included union leaders and activists from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

How a Leftist Labor Union Helped Force Tunisia’s Political Settlement

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by Sarah Chayes
Democracy and the Rule of Law Program
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

[Editorial note:  Over the last three years, Talking Union has run several articles on the constructive role that independent labor unions have played in creating  the underpinnings for the emerging democratic society in Tunisia,which continues to be  a positive accomplishment of the Arab Spring – Paul Garver]

Summary
Without the muscular involvement of a powerful labor union, it is unlikely that Tunisia’s remarkable political settlement would have come about.

On a Saturday afternoon last October, in an ornate, scarlet-draped convention center bedecked with flags and white flowers, Tunisian labor leader Houcine Abbassi presided over a signing ceremony that would mark his country’s destiny and perhaps that of the Arab world. “Thank you for heeding the nation’s call,” he told the leaders of two dozen political parties, before each stood to sign what has come to be called the Road Map.

The event almost came off the rails. Some politicians were shocked to discover upon arriving that they would be forced to sign the document in front of television cameras—and thus be bound by its terms. On a tight calendar, the text called for three giant steps: the resignation of Tunisia’s entire cabinet and the appointment of a nonpartisan prime minister tasked to put together a new one, the formation of an independent election commission, and the modification and approval of a draft constitution.

With handcuffs like these lying open before him, the head of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, balked. The Road Map, in his view, was merely a “basis for discussion.” For three hours, as participants and witnesses and journalists grew confused and impatient in the main hall, Abbassi tousled with Ghannouchi offstage, at last extracting an agreement to sign.

And what was a labor union doing in the thick of politics? Everything, it turns out.

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Tunisia: ITUC welcomes new constitution, a “crucial milestone” on the road to democracy

ITUC OnLine

ugttThe adoption of a new constitution in Tunisia is a “historic moment for the country and the region as a whole, and I would like to congratulate the UGTT for the key role it has played in reaching this crucial milestone on the road to democracy and respect for fundamental rights”, said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC joined with the people of Tunisia in applauding this achievement, which guarantees fundamental principles such as the separation of powers, an independent judiciary, freedom of association, the right to organise and the right to strike. The ITUC also welcomed the equally historic decision to introduce the principle of gender parity in elected bodies. Continue reading

Tunisia: ITUC condemns killing of Mohamed Brahmi

ITUC OnLine

Mohamed Brahmi

Mohamed Brahmi

The ITUC [International Trade Union Confederation] has firmly condemned the killing on 25 July 2013 of Tunisian opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi, general coordinator of the People’s Movement, a member of the National Constituent Assembly and a leading figure in the Popular Front coalition, and expressed its full support for the general strike called for 26 July by its Tunisian affiliate, the UGTT.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) considers the situation in Tunisia to be unacceptable, as armed militias are being allowed to sow terror on the streets of Tunisia without any reaction from the public authorities, without consequential measures being taken against the perpetrators of the violence and without justice being served. Continue reading

Global Solidarity with Egyptian, Tunisian and Pakistani Workers Abused by American-based Corporation

Mondelezshareholderby Paul Garver

Mondelez International, the global corporation that is the object of the protest by American workers in this image, is not a household name. But its portfolio includes several billion-dollar brands such as Cadbury and Milka chocolate, Jacobs coffee, LU, Nabisco and Oreo biscuits, Tang powdered beverages and Trident gum. Mondelez International, until recently called Kraft Foods, Inc., has annual revenues of approximately $36 billion and operations in more than 80 countries.

This recent protest at its annual shareholders’ meeting in Chicago, comprised largely of members of Local 1 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), was led by Ron Oswald, the general secretary of the IUF (International Union of Food Workers). The BCTGM was joining with food workers’ unions around the world in supporting Mondelez workers in Egypt, Tunisia, and Pakistan, whose unions were facing repression from Mondelez corporate management. Mondelez employs some 100,000 workers throughout the world. Almost all of its unionized workers are members of unions affiliated internationally to the IUF. Continue reading

Different Seasons of the Arab Spring: Reports from Morocco and Tunisia

By Carl Finamore

Tunisian union leader Habib Rjeb

Tunisian union leader Habib Rjeb

In northern Africa, winters are usually mild and summers normally dry and hot. The glorious Arab Spring revolts in this part of the world can also be measured in this same way – sometimes hot, in fact, blazing hot; sometimes warm; sometimes mild and sometimes just plain dry.

The full range of contrasts were on display as several Moroccan and Tunisian trade unionists shared their political experiences at a April 22 public meeting sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

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Working Women Empowered: Making Democracy in Tunisia

Solidarity Center

March 5, 2013—In December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 23-year-old market vendor in Tunisia, self-immolated to protest deep-seated government corruption that made it impossible for him to earn a living. Following his desperate action, Tunisian women helped spur protests and end autocratic regimes in Tunisia and throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Today, Tunisian women remain in the forefront of ensuring democratic change in their country during the difficult years of government transition.

“As far as the revolution is concerned, we can say that just one hour after the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, the opening salvo was shot by a woman who shouted in front of the municipality: ‘Where are you men?’” says Souha Miladi, a school teacher and trade union member. “Immediately afterward, protests broke in the streets, and popular anger swept all the regions and reached the capital, prompting the fall of the dictator.”

Despite longstanding legal and social protections, Tunisian women only comprised 25 percent of the working population in 2010. And they were, and are, disproportionately represented among the most impoverished. Yet, working in large part through their unions, they formed strong networks and gained crucial leadership skills that helped them recognize their economic and political stake in democratic change.

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Union Members Stave off Attack on Tunisian Trade Union

Solidarity Center

Tunisian trade union supporters blocked attackers from entering the Tunisian Labor Federation building.

October 10, 2012—The offices of the Tunisian Labor Federation (Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, UGTT) in Tunis, Tunisia, were attacked at 8:45 a.m. today by up to 200 thugs wielding rocks and bottles. Union supporters, including a  Solidarity Center staff member, rushed to the scene and barricaded entry to the offices. Ever since last year’s elections, the UGTT has been repeatedly targeted with vicious attacks from groups hostile to the union. Firebomb attacks during the night of June 11-12 damaged three UGTT offices in Bousalam, Bengarden and Jendouba.

As the attackers “tried to force their way into the building, they threw rocks and bottles,” said Mohamed Najjari, a member of the UGTT’s tourism workers federation. “I’m glad no one was hurt.”

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Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt – the fight for workers rights intensifies

by Eric Lee

Remember the “Arab Spring”? It was supposed to mean a new era of freedom for workers. But in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, union leaders and activists are being jailed and sacked in brutal attempts to crush independent trade unions.

Global unions have launched online campaigns to protest and we need your support and the support of your fellow union members to put pressure on governments and companies in North Africa to begin to respect workers’ rights.

In Morocco, Said Elhairech, the general secretary of the Moroccan dockers union was arrested in Casablanca on false charges, including one relating to national security. Nearly three months later, he’s still being held, denied bail. The International Transport Workers Federation has launched a global campaign to demand his release. Send your message to the Moroccan government today by clicking here.

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Tunisia: Concern Over Attempts to Undermine UGTT

ITUC OnLine

International Trade Union Confederation

The ITUC has expressed concern over attacks on the Tunisian national trade union centre, UGTT, at a key juncture in the country’s transition process.   Efforts to undermine the UGTT’s leadership, by political forces within the coalition of political parties expected to form the government, appear to be an attempt to marginalise the organisation and destabilise it on the eve of its national congress.

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