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World's Goodyear Unions Press Company To End Anti-Labour Practices In Guatemala

ICEM Update, No. 16/2000, 1 March 2000

Tyre multinational Goodyear must rescind anti-union practices and sackings in its Guatemalan operations, the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) insisted today. The ICEM, which organises tyre workers worldwide, runs an international network of unions representing workers in Goodyear operations.

And American Goodyear workers have warned that the Guatemalan situation could "erode the collective bargaining process" with Goodyear in the company's home country, the USA.

"The Guatemalan Goodyear workers' union STGINSA has informed us of serious breaches of trade union rights by Goodyear Guatemala," said ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs. "We urge the company to investigate this situation immediately, and to ensure that its Guatemalan management respects both the company's global standards of labour relations and the universal trade union rights enshrined in the Conventions of the UN's International Labour Organisation. This is essential to the constructive relationship that we are striving to build with Goodyear at the global level."

The ICEM Goodyear network unions met members of the company's global corporate management in the US this January. "One of the issues raised during those discussions was the working conditions, and particularly health and safety, at Goodyear operations in Guatemala and Malaysia," Higgs recalled. "The company promised to look into the situation. We trust that it will do so, and that it will take all necessary remedial action without delay."

The Guatemalan union has told the ICEM that Goodyear Guatemala summarily dismissed 48 production workers and suspended the employment contracts of two members of the union's executive this February. This, the union points out, "breaches our collective agreement, the labour laws of this country and International Labour Conventions ratified by the state of Guatemala." The company has ignored rulings by the country's labour authorities that it should cease its anti-union action.

The union also says that local management has threatened to close the plant down. Goodyear Guatemala has recently been pressing for union concessions, notably on "labour flexibility", and STGINSA believes the company's real intention is to "submit workers to a state of slavery, by attempting to undo the gains won at such cost by the working class."

In a letter to Goodyear corporate management in the USA, the ICEM-affiliated United Steelworkers of America (USWA) warns that "the harsh actions reportedly being undertaken by Goodyear in Guatemala" will "ultimately erode the collective bargaining process that is critical to the relationship" between the company and the USWA. In his letter, USWA Goodyear Coordinator Ron Hoover says the company must "take the necessary steps to restore the proper integrity to the collective bargaining process and protect the company's 'Good Name'."

The USWA hosted this January's meeting of the global Goodyear union network, which is chaired by USWA Vice-President Richard Davis.