Alleged abuse of US communications workers by a German wireless company has sparked controversy among global workers.
The head of Geneva-based Union Network International (UNI) accused wholly owned Deutsche Telekom firm T-Mobile of abusing US workers and being "an anti-union employer when it thinks it can get away with it in another country".
UNI general secretary Phillip Jennings wrote to Deutsche Telekom chief executive Kai Uwe Ricke criticising T-Mobile's decision to end the employment of 100 unionised technicians while keeping management employees on its payroll as it buys Cingular's network in California.
UNI, which represents 15 million workers in 150 countries, promised to mount "a widespread protest".
Leaders of Ver.di, the German union representing T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom employees, have also expressed dismay at the alleged "trans-national double standard".
The workers are covered by a collective bargaining agreement between Cingular and the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which also entered the fray, filing an unfair labour practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on 9 November.
The complaint charged that T-Mobile is illegally discriminating against union workers by choosing to retain Cingular's non-union workforce, but requiring the technicians to reapply for their own jobs through an agency.
Even if hired, they would be employees of the agency and would lose their contractual rights and benefits, CWA said.
Jennings cited the "ironic fact" that T-Mobile might not even be able to operate in the US but for CWA's help in lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission four years ago.
"Company executives have even acknowledged that they couldn't get away with this kind of behaviour back in Germany," said CWA executive vice president Larry Cohen.
"This is an amazing example of corporate hypocrisy. We are seeing that telecoms workers worldwide are determined to hold the big trans-national companies to a global standard of workers' rights and fair treatment."
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