At its meeting in Singapore on 30-31 August 2018, union representatives from BASF operations in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam took decisions to strengthen their regional network, adopt a new work programme and form a new coordination structure. The meeting also received reports from BASF operations in Japan and Singapore.
The meeting was conducted with financial and political support from IndustriALL’s long-standing strategic partner, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). The meeting focused on strengthening the network and building the appropriate structure for establishing social dialogue with the company at all levels.
The participants stressed that the unions should come up with a strategic reply to the challenges faced by workers; continuing digitalization of production and work, growing use of precarious work, and an overall growth of the company. The meeting also highlighted the promotion of gender equality and integration of young workers in building union density at BASF in Asia Pacific Region.
The meeting extensively analysed current trends in the global chemical industries at a period of major restructuring, including mega mergers. Other priority issues addressed were ways to protect worker rights and organizing around occupational health and safety at BASF sites.
The union representatives assessed progress on national action plans, and continued to map working conditions, wages, safety and health, as well as trade union organizing. Despite increasing profits and sales, BASF workers face serious challenges in the region, and there is still inequality of employment conditions between the countries.
The meeting welcomed an input from IndustriALL’s powerful German affiliate IG BCE, representing workers in BASF’s home country Germany. The union’s director of European and international affairs, Michael Mersmann, explained the german social dialogue and co-determination model, particularly in the context of BASF. Mersmann stressed the importance of coordinating collective bargaining, particularly at national level. He also explained how IG BCE can help unions in the region with a clear protocol on raising issues from the region to BASF corporate management in Germany.
The Asian network members paid great attention to a report from BASF Latin America regional network coordinator Airton Cano, who shared their 20-year experience and successes of social dialogue between their regional network structure and the company, with a particular reference to the collaboration with the Works Council in Germany. The network coordinated by Cano has established trust and respect from the company and regularly raises issues with management. Information shared by the company in social dialogue supports union work throughout the region. The support of IndustriALL and the BASF union leaders in Germany is equally important, and communication with them is vital, Cano added.
The meeting concluded with a new action plan for each country and the region as a whole. A new coordination committee was elected, under new regional coordinator, Raghuram Theramkudalu from BASF India. The committee will further develop regular communication and seek to include workers from other countries in the network. It was also agreed to deepen understanding of the impact of Industry 4.0 on BASF operations, and request disclosure of company information.
IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“This Singapore meeting clearly showed energy, appetite and willingness in keeping union networking in BASF Asia Pacific operations. We are certain that this will bring proper dialogue with company management in the future.”