Shift Stoppage on Global Day of Action Wins Concessions From Quebecor World

Workers at the Quebecor World (QW), Inc. facility in Recife, Brazil, shut down the plant’s morning shift today, winning an agreement by the company to negotiate on the union’s demands by Feb. 21, including recognizing the workers’ union and addressing longstanding health and safety problems that resulted in severe injuries to three workers this month and left one hospitalized.

The second-largest commercial printing company in the world, QW prints one of Brazil’s highest-circulation magazines, Veja, at the Recife site. As a result of the strike, plant management agreed to recognize the graphical workers’ union, Sindicato dos Trabalhadores nas Industrias Graficas do Estado de Pernambuco (SINDGRAF), and to release union dues the company had been illegally withholding for months. Managers agreed to meet with SINDGRAF regarding the reinstatement of two union leaders fired by plant management last fall.

Nearly 100 protesting union workers at the Recife plant were supported by a 20-member international delegation of union leaders, including a high-level Teamster official and staff. The delegation also was comprised of graphical union leaders from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Canada and the Union Network International (UNI), the global labor federation that represents QW workers in 16 countries. Also in the delegation were officials and workers from union locals at QW plants in the United States and Chile, and at Quebecor World’s plant in Montreal, the company’s headquarters city.

“Today’s overwhelmingly successful protest showed that worker solidarity is priceless,” said Iraquitan da Silva, General Secretary of SINDGRAF’s Pernambuco union local, which represents the Recife QW workers. “When we travel together, we’re on the road to victory.”

“We’ve been deeply concerned about workers at the Recife plant,” said Celia Petty, Teamsters Deputy Director of Organizing and delegation member. “We’ve received reports of dangerous conditions here, including workers losing limbs and fingers due to outdated machinery, lack of adequate training, and management’s forcing workers to run machines at a faster pace than they’re designed for.”

On January 14, a cleaning worker who was assigned to operate a sophisticated machine for which he was not trained suffered severe facial fractures when his head was sucked into the machine’s iron fittings. Other workers’ injuries came from repeated lifting of thousands of pounds.

“Today was a first step, and a powerful one, because the pressure from workers acting together has forced the company to recognize and negotiate with the union,” said Denis Fournier, president of GCC/Teamsters’ Local at QW’s plant in Montreal. “I’ve talked with workers on the picket line here and heard of how they’re working long hours without breaks and suffering injuries.”

“Union locals at Quebecor World’s Canadian plants have always enjoyed a mutually respectful relationship with the company and have been able to negotiate decent contracts with good health and safety conditions for our members. We urge Quebecor World to create similar working conditions, not just in Canada but in its plants around the world,” Fournier said.

Eight of QW’s nine Quebec plants are organized and the province has some of the strongest labor laws in North America.

“International companies are choosing to operate in Central and South America because they think they can get away with forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions and lose fingers and limbs, or suffer lost-time accidents due to repetitive strain,” said Barry Bryant, president of GCC/Teamsters Local 527M at the Quebecor World plant in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “Conditions here in Recife are among the worst I’ve ever heard workers describe. Workers here showed today that they’re willing to stand up for what they believe in. We’re here to tell our union brothers and sisters in Recife that we support them in this fight. There should not be one standard for how a company treats organized workers in the United States or Canada, and another for Brazil.”

Today’s protest at the QW Recife plant was part of a Global Day of Action at Quebecor World plants in 14 countries. Workers in France, Canada, and the United States participated in solidarity actions to protest Quebecor World’s anti-union tactics, job cuts, outsourcing, “scorched-earth” concessionary bargaining, unsafe working conditions and the corporation’s refusal to sign a global labor standards agreement that graphical unions worldwide are pressing for.

The Global Day of Action is part of a campaign that began in 2002 to improve working conditions and human rights at Quebecor World’s plants across the globe, spearheaded by the Union International Network (UNI) and the Graphic Communications Conference (GCC) of the Teamsters.

Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States and Canada.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Website >>>