August 28, 2012

Workers Uniting strongly condemns the anti-union activities being used by the global multinational company Siemens to suppress a campaign by workers at its plant in North East, Maryland, USA to affiliate to the United Steelworkers.

The North East plant is a machine shop with 42 production employees.  The USW and the company have agreed to an election, conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), on 6 September.

The workers began organizing in response to:

  • Favoritism and disparate treatment: workers performing the same job are receiving different salaries and disparate wage increases.
  • Reduction of holidays by management.
  • A generally hostile attitude from the management.

In response to the organizing campaign, Siemens has hired two highly-paid union-busting consultants, Ken Cannon and Joe Brock, who are systematically intimidating employees in mandatory one-on-one and group meetings.

These consultants, along with Siemens managers, have engaged in anti-union actions including the following:

■ threatened employees that it would be futile to join the union
■ threatened employees that the Union would fire them for various reasons
■ removed union literature from non-work areas
■ prohibited employees from talking about the union
■ conducted surveillance of union activities (photographing employees who accepted union literature outside the plant)
■ threatened employees with the loss of customers if they organize (stating that a client would not do business with Siemens if the workers unionize)
■ pressured employees to sign an anti-union petition
The company’s anti-union message has been repeated in written communications to employees, including letters mailed to their homes.  

All of these activities violate the U.S. National Labor Relations Act.  The USW has filed multiple Unfair Labor Practice charges against Siemens with the National Labor Relations Board.   

In addition to the violations of U.S. law, Workers Uniting believes that the company’s actions violate ILO Convention 87.  

Further, we believe that the actions of Siemens management violate the International Framework Agreement (IFA) signed on 25 July 2012 between Siemens AG, the Central Works Council of Siemens AG, the IG Metall and the IndustriAll Global Union. Pursuant to this agreement, Siemens “explicitly acknowledges the fundamental employee rights defined in . . .  the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO)”.  Specifically, section 2.4 of the IFA states that:

The right of employees to form labour unions, join existing labour unions and conduct collective negotiations, is acknowledged. Members of employee organizations or unions will be neither advantaged nor disadvantaged on account of their membership (see principles of ILO Conventions 87 and 98). A constructive approach will be taken to cooperation with employees, employee representatives and unions on the basis of local law. Even in contentious disputes, the continuing objective will be to maintain effective constructive cooperation and to seek solutions with the aim of balancing our commercial interests and the interest of our employees.

If the level of protection granted to employees in a country in which Siemens operates fails essentially to reflect these principles, Siemens will nevertheless apply these higher standards to its employees.

The conduct of the Siemens management at the North East plant has in fact disadvantaged employees who seek union representation and has completely failed to live up to the company’s commitment to maintain a constructive approach.  The Company’s actions flagrantly and directly contradict both the spirit and the letter of the International Framework Agreement and belie the statement on the IndustriALL website that “Siemens again commits itself to fundamental workers’ rights such as equal opportunity and freedom of association and collective bargaining.”  

Workers Uniting believes that the following actions are necessary to uphold the IFA, ILO Conventions and U.S. law.

■ Siemens must immediately terminate its relationship with union-busters Ken Cannon and Joe Brock and cease the anti-union activities referenced above.
■ Siemens must call a meeting of all employees in the presence of senior management officials and USW representatives, and inform them that the company will take a neutral position, cease all anti-union activities, take no reprisals against employees on the basis of their union advocacy, and afford the USW reasonable access to the plant to communicate with employees.
■ The company should provide all employees with copies of the IFA.

We ask the global trade union community to write to Peter Löscher, CEO of Siemens, asking him to end the anti-union campaign and respect the agreement signed by Siemens.  A sample letter is attached.

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