Governments around the world announce massive economic programs to stimulate the economy: good news for the world’s largest cement company, Holcim. Because whoever builds needs concrete.
At its General Assembly on Tuesday, the Swiss company sprayed confidence – despite sales falling 13 percent in the year of the pandemic. Shareholders can look forward to: Receive a combined profit of 1.2 billion francs.
A surprise, because the group is in the midst of a climate change. Cement production accounts for eight percent of global greenhouse gases. Therefore, producers should switch to carbon dioxide-free concrete. And this costs.
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First of all by reduction. Holcim sold its factories in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Singapore. Rumors are circulating that Brazil will soon hit too.
The company says these sales are the single most important reason for the workforce shrinking from 100,000 to 70,000 in the past five years.
Seven working days as a minimum wage
But the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) opposes. The new strategy is tougher: “The company is outsourcing whatever is possible,” says Ambet Yosson (55), Secretary-General of the International Building and Wood Federation. This included workers. Holcim is replacing more and more permanent employees with temporary workers. The group operates around 100,000 subcontractors worldwide.
This saves costs. Contract workers at the Holcim Factory in the Philippine city of Davao are paid two-thirds less than regular employees. As for this minimum wage, they work seven days a week. Unlike regular employees, they have neither vacations nor discounts and have to finance the expensive protective equipment themselves.
All went well for Holcim until a new law was passed in the Philippines restricting temporary work. In 2019, the authorities asked the company to hire Boizer in certain regions.
“Holcim is taking advantage of temporary workers!”
The company responded – and fired all 141 temporary workers at the Davao City plant on the island of Mindanao. “It was a shock,” says Gilbert Dossal, 31. The operator of the loading machine was, like his father, one of the dismissed. “Holcim is taking advantage of temporary workers!” “And now they also put us in front of the door.”
The company subsequently hired 30 people who were laid off. Note: Guild members are not among them. “It’s a math,” says Michael Ibanez (47) of the Davao Area Association. “This is how the company gets rid of unionized workers.” After mass layoffs, Ibanez organized strikes in front of the Davao factory.
Ibanez says Holcim boycotted the right to strike. They continued to call the police, who terrorized the demonstrators and drove them away. ”
More procedures are underway
There was a campaign against the strikers on social media. The thugs threatened them in front of the Holcim factory. Trade unionists urged the company to condemn the attacks. “But Holcim did nothing,” says Ibanez. “It is in the group’s interest to be silenced.” The group’s contradiction: “We have condemned these actions.” He affirms: “All employees and contractors affected by the restructuring have been dealt with and compensated appropriately.”
The expelled people see it differently and go to court. “There the group tried to transfer responsibility to the subcontractors,” says Ibanez. “According to international guidelines, the company is also responsible for temporary workers.” A Philippine Court of Appeals shared this view. The company was forced to reinstate twelve contract workers who had been laid off as permanent employees. Another procedure is still in progress.
The group mistreats its employees
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) also deals with events in the Philippines as part of the mediation process. It will publish its final report on this Monday.
But Davao is not an isolated case, says the International Builders and Woodworkers Federation. The exploitation of contract workers is a system – as is the suppression of trade unionists. “The group is abusing its workers and denies responsibility,” says Ambet Yosson, Secretary General of the International Building and Wood Federation. “This must stop.”
Holcim defends itself against the allegations: Not only has the workforce decreased by 30 percent in the past five years. “This also applies to subcontractors.” You are working in full compliance with the labor laws of the concerned country and international guidelines. “We maintain an open channel for dispute resolution and regularly share information about the company’s development.”
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