From: Relazioni Internazionali;
Politica aziendale e risultati economici;
Documents in English
4th IWIS Conference Paris
4th IWIS Conference Paris, June 8-10,1989
Unionization and IWIS
1) FIGHTS AND STRENGTHENING OF THE UNIONS
Inside the country presentation we have already informed you
about the difficulties that IBM Italy Union must at present
Our real problem is to have new Union executives, just when we
need more of them to gain a better organisation for the lot of
work and initiatives we have to undertake.
As a matter of fact we have to admit that the greatest deter-
rent is the idea that one cannot, at the same time, work acti-
vely for the Union without seriously compromising his career
inside of the Company.
In IBM Italy merit salary is very seldom distributed to Union
executives so that the salary of a Union executive is about 30%
less than the salary of a worker with the same level and job;
in addition to that, career paths are closed for Union execu-
In this situation, the risk is that a worker can reasonably
think of becoming a Union executive inside of IBM just if he
has already, for other reasons, given up his career and salary
The basic motivations are therefore frustration or idealism:
the second is common to most of the Union executives in IBM
Italy, and generally guarantees good comrades : but idealism is
less and less popular between new hired workers, and that
explains the difficulty to find new union executives.
In addition to that we must take into account the fact that
also the number of Union members is decreasing in line with the
general trend in Italy.
Let me recall you that we in IBM Italy there are 1200 Union
members and 65 Union executives.
The situation is not a promising one, still from another point
of view we are strengthening, mainly at a national level, where
our National Committee is working better and with some good
A common fund has been established, and all plant councils
contribute proportionally to the number of workers they repre-
sent: the fund is used to cover expenses for national meetings,
common enterprises, Unionization activities, and so on.
As far as the relations with the workers are concerned, our
main problem is to show and persuade them that it is their
interest to join and support the Unions, and that the more we
are the more we can obtain : for example, the fact that in the
referendum for the approval of the platform of demands 60% of
the workers participated is a very encouraging signal for us.
We all recognise that the working conditions for most of the
IBMers are rapidly worsening, due both to the IBM policy to cut
expenses and to the lowering of the quality of the work. Day
after day benefits tend to disappear, and also the massive
introduction of videoterminals tend to isolate the workers from
And so control and repression, as well as workloads, increase
significantly for exempt and non-exempt workers.
Salary increases are becoming more selected, rarer and smaller.
Workers are more and more unsatisfied with IBM, and the
enthusiasm is progressively disappearing.
In this context the Unions have a great opportunity to re-focus
their image and their role inside of IBM : they can become a
steady reference for the workers, and they must take care of
the new problems, both general and individual, that the workers
have to face.
Problems related to the quality of life, to the dignity of the
people, to the health, to the working hours and to the social
aspects of life in IBM are of greater importance than ever.
IBMers want to express themselves, their ideas and their
aspirations; the IBM Unions must offer them the possibility to
The image and the essence of the Unions in IBM must be that of
a subject that steadily goes on, with precise objectives,
without hysterias and with great determination, giving a lot of
information to the workers and getting them involved in the
discussion as much as possible.
The basic direction in which we are moving as far as bargaining
is concerned is to present every 3 or 4 years a platform of
demands and to sign a contract after the struggles, and in the
period of time between a contract and the following to tackle
one specific problem at a time on which the complete attention
of the workers can be focused. For instance in Autumn this
year we shall interest the workers in the problem of the use of
cars (private, leased, rented) in the working activity, and we
will have a week in which, as a form of struggle, the workers
will be invited to use just public transportation.
IBM seems to be particularly vulnerable to these approaches
(which we used to obtain the free ophtalmic visits and the
implicit recognition that videoterminals can be dangerous for
In this direction we shall make more and more use of question-
naires and referendums, which involve so many workers we are
not able otherwise to involve.
Another way to improve our image and popularity is to have
Union executives elected by the workers into the Board of
Directors of the Company funds like the Retirement Fund, the
Insurance Fund and the Medical Expenses Fund, which distribute
a lot of money and concern all workers.
Another very important way of linking the workers to us is to
ask them to finance our activity in a continuous way and/or in
As far as the struggles are concerned, the strike, better if
together with a picket, is still a good way to get the workers
But an always good parallel approach is the attack of the IBM
image; this attack should be done outside and inside of IBM :
in our experience IBM can defend itself quite well when
attacked outside the Company, due to its influence on mass
media, but it is very vulnerable when attacked inside, and
often silence is the embarrassed answer to our analysis,
criticisms and challenges.
This attitude of IBM to refuse internal public confrontations
makes us more credible and reliable to the workers.
Legal actions are a formidable mean to put into great difficul-
ty the Company : they have given very good results and they
have a terrific impact inside and outside of IBM; of course
this approach must be used carefully and properly.
As a conclusion let us state that the Unions inside of IBM must
become a reliable reference for the workers, they must be like
the elder brother to which questions, advices and indications
A continuous effort must be done for better organising the
Union inside of IBM : we have not so many resources to waste;
moreover a good and efficient organisation gives the workers
confidence and trust in the Union.
Coming to IWIS, five years have passed from our foundation
meeting in Tokyo.
We think that this organism plays an important role for us all
in our countries.
Let us first of all spend two words about our logo : we propose
to officially declare our IWIS logo the one, coming from the
States, and showing a handshake over the inscription "An injury
to one is an injury to all".
This has already been used by the French comrades and we comple
tely approve their choice.
Up to now the main activity of IWIS has been the exchange of
information, and we consider this role still very important,
and under this respect we must thank and encourage the Swedish
friends for their unreplaceable activity and responsibility.
Here in Paris we have three new countries : Austria, Korea and
Spain. It is certainly a good result to have enlarged so much :
still a lot of work has to be done to try and have delegations,
if possible, from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil,
Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and United Kingdom,
countries where so many IBMers work.
We had already experience of some common enterprise and such
experience had been positive.
As we come from different countries with different laws, Un-
ions and stories, but as we all work in a multinational Com-
pany such as IBM, that tries to standardise itself all over the
world, a good approach for us could be the following : to ask
IBM for similar treatment in different countries, that is to
say to try to extend to other countries what has been already
obtained in one by law, by category contracts or by internal
So we could ask the complete transparency of the level and
salary system, of equal opportunities and of civil rights, we
could ask the right of Unions to organise everywhere in IBM
apart from local laws and restrictions (just think of USA and
of UK), we could ask the right to have meetings with the
workers inside of IBM, we could also approach the problem of
overtime work of exempt employees.
It is a challenging perspective, and something should be done
in this direction.
To involve much more the workers, we could think of letters or
petitions signed not only by us, but from thousands of workers
from different countries.
These are just some ideas; we think that we shall have to dis-
cuss and decide something.
IWIS is here to stay : the child is growing slowly but is get-
A brighter future stands in front of us.