Published: 10/12/2010

The AFL-CIO has joined with the IUF and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) to urge the United Nations’ Global Compact to hold Roquette accountable for gross violations of fundamental trade union rights.

The French-based global manufacturer of sugar and starch derivatives has locked out 240 members of the IUF-affiliated BCTGM at its plant in Keokuk, Iowa since September 28.

Two weeks of “bargaining” for a renewed contract began on September 14 with 130 company proposals to destroy the existing contract, and ended with the declaration of a lockout on September 28 when the workers rejected a “last, best and final offer” which was essentially unchanged.”

Despite the union’s offer to continue negotiations, they remain locked out and are maintaining a 24-hour informational picket in sub-freezing weather.

On September 29 last year, Roquette CEO Guy Talbourdet wrote to UN Secretary-General H.E. Ban Ki-moon: “I am pleased to confirm that ROQUETTE supports the ten principles of the Global Compact with respect to human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. With this Communication, we express our intent to advance those principles within our sphere of influence.” The company also committed to ““making the Global Compact and its principles part of the strategy, culture and day-to-day operations of our company.”

The UN Global Compact describes itself as “a strategic initiative for business committed to aligning their operations and strategies with universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.”  Global Compact Principle Three states: “Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.”

This is news to the Keokuk workers – so on December 9 the IUF, AFL-CIO and ICEM brought  the matter to the attention of Global Compact Executive Director George Kell, demanding that the company to brought to task under the “integrity measures” for its gross failure to uphold the principles it signed on to.

“A company should not be able to claim in international fora that it supports the Global Compact while in reality it is systematically violating fundamental human rights”, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Companies cannot use negotiations as a cover for unilaterally dictating employee’s terms and conditions and resorting to a brutal lockout to force their will – that’s not what collective bargaining is all about,” adds IUF general Secretary Ron Oswald. “And under no circumstances can they be allowed to violate international standards while cynically promoting phony human rights credentials through the United Nations.“

The union organizations will be following up their letter to the Global Compact as part of their international efforts to lift the lockout and get genuine negotiations back on track in Keokuk.

You can support the Iowa Roquette workers by clicking here to send a message to French and US management.