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Gemeinsames Seminar von GewerkschafterInnen bei Walmart und Lidl – in Chile und den Niederlanden

DHL GewerkschafterInnen in Chile im Mai 2014, Fotografin: Fresia SaldíasOrganisiert von TIE fand in den Niederlanden ein gemeinsames Seminar statt, an dem Gewerkschafterinnen und Gewerkschafter der Supermarktkette Walmart in Chile und Beschäftigte von Lidl in den Niederlanden sich beteiligten. Es war nicht zum ersten Mal, dass sich AktivistInnen des niederländischen Gewerkschaftsbundes FNV und der chilenischen Federation of Autonomous Trade Unions of WalMart-Chile trafen, weswegen das Treffen auch eine Möglichkeit war, Erfahrungsaustausch und Zusammenarbeit zu vertiefen. “Production mapping at work – Organised workers from Lidl-Netherlands and Wal-Mart Chile work together to improve their working conditions” ist der Titel des Seminarberichts von Anfang März 2016, worin sowohl die Bedingungen der Arbeit in beiden Ketten berichtet werden, als auch der inhaltliche Austausch der TeilnehmerInnen. Siehe dazu den Artikel über das Seminar und eine Dokumentation über Arbeitsbedingungen bei Lidl in den Niederlanden:

Production mapping at work

(Organised workers from Lidl-Netherlands and Wal-Mart Chile work together
to improve their working conditions)

Supermarket workers from Chile and Netherlands meet to learn

Since 2010, TIE-Netherlands has been facilitating an international trade union exchange program between organised workers in the Dutch and Chilean supermarket branches. From Chile, workers from WalMart-Chile participated, organised in the Federation of Autonomous Trade Unions of WalMart-Chile, as well as the organised workers from the trade union organising in the main WalMart-Chile distribution centre LTS. From the Netherlands workers from both LIDL stores and distribution centres, organised in the largest Dutch trade union FNV, participated. The exchange program specifically consisted of a series of trainings focussed on improving the self-organization of supermarket workers through the so-called production mapping methodology. Through this methodology workers themselves learn how to gather information on the way the production in organised in their workplaces, indicate and analyse the main problems in the organization of their workplaces and formulate plans on how to collectively solve these problems through union actions.

In the context of this international trainings program the supermarket workers from Chile and Netherlands have met each other several times in Chile and in the Netherlands to learn on the different phases of production mapping and teach each other on the successes and challenges of applying this method in their chains, and learn from each other’s trade union reality.

Production mapping at work in the supermarket branch

For several years the workers/trade union activists of WalMart-Chile have been using the production mapping method. And they have achieved some impressive results when it comes to enforcing better working conditions! For example, through production mapping more than 95% of the workers of the WalMart distribution centre LTS has been organised in a trade union. This high degree of organization gave them a strong voice in determining the workload and their wages. However also in the stores of WalMart-Chile the use of production mapping by the unions had some good results. For instance, the cashiers mapped their daily earnings and based on that information successful demanded a wage increase. This level of union organization and action stood in contrast with the Dutch trade union situation in the LIDL, where the level of union organization was way below the 10%, where especially the distribution centres where difficult to organise, where several problems regarding health and safety issues and high workloads were reported and where the collective bargaining negotiations between the trade union FNV and Lidl management has been on a standstill.

Campaign, Lidl: Lighten the Load of your Success!

Since 2010 the Chilean trade union activists from WalMart Chile have been teaching their trade union colleagues at Lidl Netherlands on how to use productionmapping and to improve their union organization and action. Since then worker organizations in the Lidl supermarkets and distribution centers grew in strength and the Lidl workers started to organize a first successful trade union campaign. Their first campaign, called Lidl: Lighten the load on your success!, was focused on health problems many Lidl workers experience because they are forced to carry high pallets and heavy boxes. In 7 LIDL supermarkets, workers start to use the method of production mapping to systematically collected data on how many workers were forced to exceed norms of weight, height and safety and which health consequences the workers experienced. With this process they identified that in these 7 supermarkets in a period of 8 weeks, there were 1256 pallets higher than the legal norm, 615 pallets heavier than the legal norm and a total of 28 pallets were so high and heavy that they fell down. They also identified the number of health complaints related to the issue and the costs of health treatments (surgery, medicines etcetera) necessary. Mapping these issues provided the workers with data and confidence to confront the management and show that this is not an incidental problem (as claimed before by the management) but a structural problem that should be tackled. Also, it led to an increased unionization in the supermarket sector. The number of trade union activists in the Lidl supermarkets more than doubled. They recently published a report and presented it to the management (see the brochure in English and German attached). The management, confronted with increased union power, gave in to the trade union demands formulated and improved health and safety regulations: New norms on maximum heights and weights regarding carrying of boxes were introduced, electric pallet trucks and pump trucks were supplied to the stores and more adequate protective clothing of better quality was supplied.

New stage in the collaboration

The process of Chilean trade union activists teaching their Dutch trade union colleagues at Lidl on productionmapping was so successful that the LIDL trade union activists became “more advanced” working with the method. Therefore a new exchange program started where the Lidl workers teach the Chilean trade union activists how they implemented their method, so the Chilean activists can learn back from them. In that context, during the first week of June a delegation from the Chilean trade union organizing in WalMart-Chile visited the Netherlands to further shape the campaign on workload in the Lidl supermarkets and distribution centers. The delegation from Chile consisted of Daniel Cabezas Ruiz and Rodrigo Gomez. Daniel is the president of the trade union organizing within the main distribution centre, LTS, that supplies the stores from WalMart Chile of products. Rodrigo is the president of a trade union organizing in one of the Walmart-Chile stores, where about 250 people work. They were assisted by Ivan Saldias, coordinator of the trade union training TIE-Chile. The Chilean delegation came together with the Lidl workers of the FNV trade union delegation in a trainings centre in the woods of Doorn where the main challenges and achievements of trade union organization in both supermarket chains (WalMart-Chile and Lidl Netherlands) were explained in detail.

Trade Union struggle in the supermarkets in Chile: lower work pressure and better pay.

In Doorn, Daniel explained how the union in the distribution centre systematically ‘maps’ the number of boxes that are processed by the distribution workers. By collecting this specific information on their own production, the workers gained a strong position in determining the workload and their wages in negotiations with the WalMart-Chile’s management. As a result, the union has been able to arrange a special bonus for all employees for stacking a certain number of boxes. This bonus is paid at a very minimal amount of boxes collected. As such the union achieved to lower the work pressure: after all, why would a worker pile more boxes if it’s economically not interesting to work harder. By lowering the work pressure in this way, the union also achieved to lower the amount of physical complaints and work related diseases.

Conditions at Lidl-Netherlands: High work pressure and high wages by unpaid labour.

On their turn, several members FNV, workers at Lidl-Netherlands, presented the successes and challenges of mapping production in Lidl Netherlands. Shopfloor steward Carin told about the successes of the, above mentioned, campaign Lidl, Lighten the load on your success. She also stressed the importance that the situation should be permanently monitored because not in all stores and distribution centers of Lidl the new standards have been implemented. Distribution centre worker Abdel told about the successful petitions that were presented to the Lidl management at the Lidl distribution centers in Heerenveen and Tiel. Through these actions the DC workers enforced more respect from management. ” Our bosses used to barely look at us, the workers, now they even greet us when we arrive at work .”

Fabien, another FNV shop floor steward of FNV at Lidl-Netherlands, made a presentation about their new campaign on the height production norms at Lidl Netherlands. In 2014 and 2015 the Lidl union group held a survey among fellow Lidl workers in which a total of 304 people participated. “Our research shows that 16% of respondents have problems with the pace of work. That is four times the national average (4.3%)! And the pressure is more than 3 times higher than the national average: resp. 26.5% and 8.2%. This unhealthy situation should quickly come to an end”, Fabien stated. In addition, the investigation showed that a high percentage of store managers and – assistants keep on working after their official working hours, unpaid that is, to meet the imposed production standards of Lidl-Netherlands. No less than 68% of the respondents indicated they have to keep on working in their free time to meet the production standards! (See the report and recommendations attached to this article). The Chilean union activists present in the training asked the following interesting question: “Have you calculated what these unpaid hours mean for the Lidl in terms of profit?”, asked Daniel. A quick calculation revealed that the unpaid hours of overwork to meet Lidl production standards amount to at least 3 million euro’s; money that the Lidl management earns out of the unpaid labour of its employees! The internal days of discussion at the trainings centre in Doorn, were concluded with a brainstorming session on how to improve the gathering of information on the production in the two multinational supermarket chains, and on how joint action can be taken to improve the situation regarding working conditions. For this, various plans were developed.

Campaign: “Less work pressure for an improved quality”

One of these plans was still carried out in the same week: a campaign to raise more awareness on the problem of high workloads within Lidl-Netherlands. Jointly the Dutch and Chilean trade union activists toured through the Netherlands to do actions in different Lidl supermarkets and distribution centers. Additionally a brochure on high work pressure and the union demands, was distributed to Lidl workers in the stores and distribution centers visited.  The first visit was made to the Lidl head quarters in Huizen. In the woods of Doorn, the FNV union activists practiced playing rhythms on percussion instruments. Upon arrival, the trade union activists walked in a circle around the headquarters while playing one of the rhythms. And with success: where the management with previous actions had made the union activists wait for hours, this time one of their representatives rushed out to receive the report on hearing all the noise. Upon presenting the report also several union demands where presented to lighten the work pressure at Lidl-Netherlands. The rest of the week, the union activists from Chile and Netherlands, visited dozens of Lidl stores and distribution centers throughout the Netherlands. Dozens of workers took the brochure and stated their willingness to help with mapping of the workload within Lidl-Netherlands and to contribute to solutions. See here for a video of the action week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9UA3N7CNsw externer Link . Months after the presented report, at the end of 2015, the Lidl management actually set new norms regarding the production at Lidl-Netherlands to counter the problem of unpaid overwork. As such the Chilean delegation contributed to quite a successful trade union campaign in the Netherlands.

Improved union organization in Wal-Mart Chile.

On their turn the trade union activists from Chile were inspired by the way the Dutch trade union activists in the supermarket sector had used the production mapping methodology. First of all, the Chilean union activists mainly used the methodology to map the production, to get information for the wage negotiations. To use the production mapping for improvement in the area of health and safety was something new and inspiring for them. They set out to start using the methodology for health and safety issues in the Wal-Mart-Chile stores and distribution centers in the future as well.  Secondly, the Chilean trade union activists were inspired by the way in which the FNV trade union members from both the Lidl stores and distribution centers collaborated together in a campaign to improve working conditions. In Chile the supermarket workers and the distribution centre workers are organized separately. As Daniel made clear: “Actually distribution center workers and supermarket workers have lots of problems in common. This became more clear to us by the FNV campaign on the heavy workloads; after all if the distribution center workers are forces to pile high and heavy boxes, this will negatively influence the situation of the workers in the stores, as they have to carry these boxes into the stores. In Chile we will start working more collectively with our comrades from the stores to build power collectively, as in the Dutch context”.  Lastly, in Chile the production mapping has been especially used in the distribution centers, the stores quite lack behind in organization. The visit of one of the union representatives from the Wal-Mart stores gave him extra inspiration to use the methodology as a union tool in the Wal-Mart stores in the future. “Here in the Netherlands we saw how the methodology can gave really concrete improvements also in the stores. Also in Wal-Mart Chile we experience similar problems as faced by our comrades from Lidl-Netherlands, so why not use the same tools to improve the situation in Chile. On returning to Chile production mapping has been part of collecting the information needed to make a successful collective bargaining agreement with Wal-Mart Chile at the end of 2015.  As such Chilean trade unionist concretely contributed to campaigning in the Netherlands for better working conditions and less workloads, and the other way around, the Dutch trade unionists inspired Chilean colleagues from the supermarket branch to improve their union organization and usage of production mapping methodology in Chile. In short: a great example of international trade union solidarity organized from the floor level!

Articles in Dutch press on the exchange project:

Blogs: http://fabianhettema.nl/ externer Link

SIEHE DAZU AUCH: LIDL: Mach dir für deinen Erfolg nicht den Rücken kaputt!”   – Bericht über die schädlichen Auswirkungen des zu hohen Stapelns und zu schweren Hebens über zu lange Zeiträume bei Lidl Niederlande (den es auch in mehreren Sprachen gibt – bei Interesse melden!)

Kurzlink: https://www.labournet.de/?p=95207
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