19 Dec 2016 Ferado

Nepal, Qatar rights bodies to promote workers’ welfare

Kathmandu:National Human Rights Commission and the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar today agreed on an 11-point activation plan for implementation of the agreement reached last year to protect the rights of Nepali migrant workers in the Gulf country, amid a programme in Kathmandu

NHRC Chairperson Anup Raj Sharma and Qatar’s rights committee Chairperson Ali Bin Samikh Al-Marri signed the activation plan on behalf of their respective countries.

A 10-point bilateral agreement was signed in November 2015 for the welfare of Nepali migrant workers in Qatar. The activation plan seeks to bring into effect the agreement in the wake of recently introduced new labour law in Qatar and the signing of labour agreement between the two countries.

The major points included in the 11-point activation plan are: appointing a contact person in the respective countries’ human rights agencies for exchange of information; imparting training to private foreign employment agencies; and providing legal support to Nepali workers in Qatar.

The rights bodies of the two countries would also study the problems faced by Nepali migrant workers in Qatar.

On the occasion, NHRC Chairman Sharma said the first ever understanding on migration was signed with South Korea in 2010 for the protection of rights of Nepali migrants workers there. He expressed his confidence that the agreement would play an important role in protecting workers’ rights.

Likewise, NHRC Qatar Chair Dr Al-Marri informed that his country had been receiving a large number of foreign migrant workers, including Nepalis, every year and the Qatari government had taken steps for their welfare.

19 Dec 2016 Ferado

Company pays under minimum wage, tries to charge woman after she quits early

JAPAN: A Tokyo company paid a woman less than the minimum wage, then illegally tried to charge her for training fees after she quit early, it has been learned.

“If you don’t pay within 10 days, we may take legal action,” read a certified letter that arrived in November last year to a 21-year-old woman living in Saitama Prefecture. The sender was a company managing a yoga classroom where she had worked until the previous month. She had quit because of her overbearing bosses, and now the company was charging her for on-the-job training she received. They were seeking 3,500 yen per hour of training, for a total of 140,000 yen, a penalty for her having quit the job early. She ignored the letter, and three weeks later a letter from a summary court arrived urging her to pay.

The woman had begun working for the company in a part-time position in October 2015. At the time she was still a student at a vocational school, and the job was one she had finally landed after struggling to find work. Once she finished training she would gain full-time employment. “Someone finally took me in,” she thought, as she resolved to work hard at the new job.

She was positioned at a workplace in Tokyo, with pay set at 870 yen per hour. It wasn’t until later that she learned this was less than the minimum wage, which at the time was 907 yen per hour in Tokyo. While performing duties like working the front desk, she received training to become a yoga instructor.

It was not long before she lost her will to apply herself to the new job. She was troubled by the manager’s overbearing attitude, and a male employee who would yell at his subordinates for an hour straight. She became scared to go to work, and three colleagues who were hired at the same time as her quit in succession. At the end of October she told the company she was going to leave as well.

It was after then that the company showed its true colors. Soon after quitting she received a phone call, in which the company demanded she pay for the training she had received. When she was hired, she had been made to sign a form saying that if she did not work for at least two years at the company she would have to pay the training costs. She refused to pay, but the company did not give up. She set her phone to reject calls from the company phone number, but then it called from a different number. Someone saying they were a department head at the company told her a letter would be arriving and hung up.
A woman who was charged 140,000 yen by her company for training fees after saying she was going to quit is seen in this photo taken in Taito Ward, Tokyo, on Nov. 16, 2016. She says there are many people who are similarly troubled. (Mainichi)

Terumasa Ishida of the Rengo Hiseiki Rodo Center says that this kind of behavior by the company violates the Labor Standards Act, which forbids setting up penalty fees for failure to comply with an employment contract. “This behavior is unforgiveable because it robs people of the freedom to leave their job,” he says.

The woman sought help from a labor union. The company argued that the woman was at fault for suddenly quitting, but after the union shot back that the company’s actions were illegal, it ended up apologizing, withdrawing its demand for the money and paying the woman the gap between what she received and the minimum wage.

The woman now works at a massage parlor geared toward women. She says, “Companies that don’t follow the law will never follow it. The more people are unquestioning of their companies, the more they will lose.”

Meanwhile, a lack of awareness of the minimum wage is a problem. Over 5 percent of workers at mid- and small-size businesses in Tokyo and Osaka are paid less than the minimum wage. The government touts that wages are rising at large corporations, but many workers, mainly those irregularly employed, are being left behind.

At the Sugamo Jizo Road shopping area in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, a restaurant advertised in a flier for a job paying 900 yen per hour. The man managing the restaurant said, “Until the newly hired person can do the job well, they will be paid 850 yen per hour.” When asked whether he knew the minimum wage in Tokyo was 932 yen per hour, he said, “Well I don’t know all the specifics …” He explained he used the wages at other businesses as a guide, and said, “I thought the minimum wage was in the 800s.”

An official at the Tokyo Labor Bureau says, “We want to focus our investigations on problematic employers and correct them.” However, lawyer Hideo Ogawa, head of a poverty-fighting section at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, says, “The minimum wage is enforced with punishments by the national government, and paying less than it is a crime. However, unless it’s reported the labor standards inspection offices won’t be aware of it. Businesses think they won’t be investigated for it anyway.

ニュースサイトで読む: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161219/p2a/00m/0na/023000c#csidx05c59ac927d3825b6f6f1abd9b27620
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19 Dec 2016 Ferado

Salt corporation workers threaten to lock bank branch

INDIA: Hit by severe cash crunch after demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, the contract and regular women workers of Tamil Nadu Salt Corporation Limited have decided to surrender their bank passbooks and lock the branch of Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) at Keezha Selvanoor to register their protest.

Working Women Forum (WWF) of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), which discussed the problem faced by the daily wage workers at the Corporation’s community hall at Valinokkam on Sunday, adopted a resolution to surrender the passbooks and lock the branch on December 26.

A large number of women workers who participated in the meeting, chaired by M. Mala, district convenor of the WWF, said the demonetisation move had badly affected their normal life as they could not draw money from the bank for the second month now.

The Corporation, which had been paying their salaries in cash before demonetisation, credited their salaries in their bank accounts after the cash crunch started, forcing them to stand at the bank branches for long hours for days together to draw a paltry sum of Rs. 2,000 from their accounts, they said.

The women, who worked from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. in salt pans, spent the afternoon by taking up farm work and other odd jobs to supplement their family income, but were now standing at the bank branches, H. John Soundararaj, CITU district president, who attended the meeting, said.

As the women could not draw money from the bank, the women folk struggled to purchase provisions, milk and vegetables for day-to-day living, he said.

Sivagaji, district secretary, would lead the agitation on December 26, when the workers would surrender their bank pass books, after which, he would lock the IOB Valinokkam branch, located at Keezha Selvanoor, Mr. Soundararaj said.

There were about 1,400 women workers employed in the Corporation and nearly 700 of them had their accounts in the branch, he added.

19 Dec 2016 Ferado

Zuma told ‘bogus union’ to spy on Amcu

Johannesburg – The leaders of a trade union that was allegedly established as a covert intelligence project claims they received instructions from President Jacob Zuma to spy on rival trade unions such as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

This is among the explosive claims made in a civil suit brought against Zuma and several government ministers and departments in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Thebe Maswabi, one of the founding members of the Workers Association Union (WAU), a new trade union registered in 2014, is suing Zuma and several government ministers and departments for R114 million. Maswabi has claimed that he’d been instructed to establish the WAU, partly with the assistance of agents from the State Security Agency (SSA). However, the funding provided by Zuma and the other defendants allegedly stopped, leaving Maswabi in debt.

According to Maswabi’s particulars of claim filed at court, a SSA agent facilitated the first meeting between him and other would-be members of the union and Zuma in September 2013. The alleged meeting took place at the Union Buildings. There were a total of four meetings with Zuma throughout September and October 2013, according to court papers.

The alleged meetings were held in the wake of the Marikana massacre in 2012 and in the context of the ongoing violent strikes in the platinum sector.

“The first defendant (Zuma) had indicated that the police, army and intelligence will work hand-in-hand with the plaintiffs (Maswabi and the WAU) to bring stability within the platinum belt for the interest of the national economy,” reads the particulars of claim.

The new union’s mandate seemed to be very much centered on destabilising Amcu.

Cash, cars for WAU members

According to the particulars of claim, it was decided at the meetings with Zuma that the WAU needed to “mobilise members who will be pro-negotiation for wages as compared to strike as envisaged within the operation of trade unions like Amalgamated Mineworkers and Construction Union (sic), hereafter referred to as ‘AMCU’.”

Maswabi and the WAU were allegedly also instructed “to acquire sensitive information from their rival trade unions especially on instigators and perpetuators of illegal strike within those unions’ meetings and plenary sessions and to provide digital or documentary proof of such attendance.”

The new union’s members would also “provide feedback and progress of intelligence work which would ordinarily have been carried out by the third defendant (state security minister David Mahlobo and the SSA),” according to the court papers.

Maswabi has also filed several attachments in support of his claim, including bank statements that show large amounts of money being paid into the account of a WAU member, and pictures of cars that were allegedly supplied to the WAU by members of the SSA.

News24 has sent detailed queries about Zuma’s alleged involvement in the matter to presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga. He has not provided us with a response.

Rapport and City Press first reported on the WAU earlier this year.

A “registration of a trade union” document submitted to the department of labour for the WAU’s official registration contained a cellphone number that was traced to Monde Gadini, husband of Bonisiwe Makhene, Zuma’s legal adviser.

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Tata Steel reaches pact with unions over Port Talbot plant

INDIA:Unions and politicians welcomed Tata Steel’s accord with unions which entails the steel giant derisking its pension liabilities and committing to secure jobs at its Port Talbot plant in Wales, at least until 2021.

The deal also includes plans to invest for a further five years.

Questions over the precise future shape of the plant and its 4,000 employees had hung over the firm since earlier in the year when Tata Steel stalled plans to sell the facility and began potential merger discussions with German steel producer ThyssenKrupp over its existing European assets.

“This is good news that secures the future of steel-making at Port Talbot for at least 10 years,” Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said on Thursday. “Earlier this year, I was very pessimistic about what the future might hold for steel-making. This agreement was achieved by a lot of hard work by everyone involved.”

“This proposal would secure jobs for years to come and brings serious investment not just to Port Talbot but to steel works across the U.K.,” Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community Union, said following the announcement of the deal on Wednesday evening.

The union said that it was a “significant shift” from Tata Steel’s opening offer, which didn’t include any commitments regarding jobs and Port Talbot’s two blast furnaces.

5-year commitment

Under the agreement reached, Tata Steel has agreed to keep both blast furnaces at the site open for at least five years, and will invest 1 billion pounds over a 10-year period to support steel-making, and it will avoid making compulsory redundancies for the next five years, similar to the one reached with workers in the Netherlands.

Crucially, the company has launched a consultation on replacing its defined benefit British Steel Pension Scheme with a defined contribution scheme, with maximum contributions from the company of 10 per cent and employees of 6 per cent. That shift had been considered previously but did not take place after unions and the company agreed on changes to the terms of the existing scheme last year. Union members are due to be balloted on the latest proposals regarding the scheme in the New Year. “This is not the end of the process and it will be for all our members to now vote on this proposal,” said Rickhuss.

Tony Brady of the Unite Union welcomed the “step in the right direction” but called for more steps from the government, specifically an industrial strategy, and a pledge that they would “hold Tata to their word.”

Koushik Chatterjee, Group Executive Director of Tata Steel and Executive Director for European business, said the changes would create a “sustainable” future for British steel in unprecedented times for the industry, while the changes to the pension arrangements would help de-risk the company and help achieve long-term sustainability.

“The delivery of Tata Steel U.K.’s transformation plan and generation of free cash flows will be the key enabler for the future sustainability of the business and we are very encouraged by early signs of the delivery of the plan,” he said.