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From: Relazioni Internazionali; Politica aziendale e risultati economici; Documents in English

4th IWIS Conference Paris
June 8-10,1989

         4th IWIS Conference                     Paris, June 8-10,1989

                             Unionization and IWIS



         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
         increase perspectives.
         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
         each other.
         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
         do that.
         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
         the sight).
         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
         specific collections.

         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
         are asked.
         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.

         2) IWIS

         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-
         ting stronger.

         A brighter future stands in front of us.