Tata Steel unions to go global through transnational employee union

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MUMBAI: It has reported that as Tata Group aggressively expands outside India, the conglomerate’s largest revenue grosser Tata Steel may taste a different flavour of globalisation: its 81,000 factory workers across continents are seeking to join hands in solidarity through a transnational employee union.

“It is like how Karl Marx envisaged: workers of the world unite,” said Sudharshan Rao Sarde, director, South Asia, at International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) that is facilitating the meeting of Tata Steel workers from across the world.

On December 7, a rudimentary meeting of representatives of Tata Steel workers’ unions from different countries, including Australia, India, Great Britain, New Zealand and North America, took place in Jakarta under the banner of Tata Steel Network.

To be sure, never have Tata Steel workers in its close to a century-old history gone on a strike at Jamshedpur, where its Indian manufacturing operations are based.

Tata Steel, which contributes about $27 billion to the Indian conglomerate’s total revenues of $83 billion, has operations in 26 countries spread across five continents. Two-thirds of the company’s revenues are classified as international.

The internationalisation of Tata Steel started in 2005 with its acquisition of South East Asia-based NatSteel and gathered momentum with the takeover of Corus Group in 2007 for $12.2 billion. Along with Corus came 41,000 non-Indian workers.

JAKARTA MEET SET NORMS FOR ENGAGEMENT

The IMF-facilitated Jakarta meeting tried to define a framework for engagement and collaboration between workers. It also sought to secure a meeting with Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata and the Tata Steel management in March to seek recognition for Tata Steel Network.

“Such collaboration can help in more transparent sharing of information between employees and management and hopefully better collective bargaining powers for employees,” says IMF’s Geneva-based Executive Director Rob Johnston.

According to him, in 2009, UK trade unions sought the intervention of their Indian counterparts for better interface with Tata Steel management. The idea was to “restore good relations” with the management after workers and the company went on a warpath in the UK, where Tata Steel sought to either close down or keep production facilities idle in view of losses due to slowing demand in Europe and rising cost of raw materials.

(Sourced from Economic Times)

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