13 Sep 2017 Ferado

Nurse’s Union RN Response Network Helping In Both Texas And Florida

National Nurses United’s RN Response Network is sending the second delegation of volunteer nurses to both Texas and Florida

to assist in treating hurricane victims. The nurse’s union’s Bonnie Castillo says these nurses will be there in a long-term commitment as residents recover from these monster storms.

[Bonnie Castillo]: “We don’t do the search and rescue, but what we do is provide the assistance in terms of hands on care in whatever capacity we can in the shelters.

And then also we know that it’s not gonna be cleaned up a week or two weeks or a few weeks. What’s happened here is gonna require a commitment. And we are making that commitment to go beyond what typically happens in the initial phase.”

13 Sep 2017 Ferado

Teachers and Government Employees of JACTO-GEO strike despite Judicial Stay Order

INDIA: JACTO GEO coordination committee replaced as rank-and-file workers leave old leadership;
Abolition of NEET included as part of demands;
Government’s victimisation of employees who participated in August 22nd strike and September 7th strike;
New committee pays respect to Anitha, the student whose suicide has spawned a massive spontaneous student protests across the state;

Over 300 members of JACTO-GEO (Joint Action Committee of Teachers’ Organization – Government Employees Organization) came together to protest at Chennai Ezhilagam on September 11th, for various demands including replacing the New Pension Scheme with old pension scheme, implementation of 7th pay commission, interim wage increase of 20%, abolition of various pay structures aimed at contractualization and abolition of National Eligibility and Entrance Test for students aspiring for medical education (NEET).

The strike has been called by a new leadership in JACTO-GEO after the former leaders had withdrawn from the strike following a meeting with Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. The strike is happening despite a judicial stay order given in Madurai High Court on September 7th where the bench has asked the workers not to strike. The State Government has also threatened to take repressive action against striking workers.

JACTO-GEO comprising of over 65 unions in public education and Government offices have been pressing for the following charter of demands:
Abolish the new pension scheme implemented for the workers who have joined after 2003 and replace with older pension scheme with guaranteed pension.
Remove existing anomalies in pay scales and implement 7th pay commission. Provide a 20% interim hike.
Remove the existing contracualization and outsourcing pay schemes and bring them under consolidated pay scale.

According to Comrade Sekaran of AIBOA who had spoken in the protest meeting, a committee was formed to resolve the issue of new pension scheme under then Chief Secretary, Shantha Sheela Nair. In a consultative meeting, the various public sector unions had steadfastly opposed the implementation of new pension scheme and called for old pension scheme. However, the committee became defunct after Shanta Sheela Nair resigned. Now the Government has reconstituted a new committee which is expected to give its recommendation by end of November.

However the unions under JACTO-GEO have been frustrated without any resolution on these long pending demands and had led a massive protest on August 5th in Chennai, which had been successful despite the Government’s effort at stopping the Teachers and Government employees from coming to the city. The committee announced one day strike on August 22nd and an indefinite strike starting from September 7th, if the Government did not resolve their demands.

After the one day strike, there was a high level meeting with Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisami in Erode on September 6th, after which then JACTO-GEO coordinators announced a withdrawal from the strike. According to Comrade Mayavan, current state coordinator of JACTO-GEO, the chief minister had only promised implementation of the new Committee recommendations. This seems to have prompted a major revolt as several unions vowed to continue with their planned strike. On September 7th, massive protests were organized all over the State. Comrade Aruna of Tamil Nadu Post Graduate Teachers Association says that the Government estimate of those who struck work was at 7 lakhs.

On September 9th, there was an executive committee meeting in Chennai and a new coordination committee has been announced with resolution to continue the strike in Tamil Nadu.

The new coordination committee has paid respects to Anitha, an medical aspirant who committed suicide after the State Government accepted NEET as the only eligibility test for admission to medical seats in Tamil Nadu . The new committee has also added a new demand on abolishing NEET. The committee has also appreciated the struggle of Sabarimala, who resigned her teaching position to support the ongoing protests against NEET.

Madurai High Court stays the strike

On September 7th, The Madurai Bench High Court had passed a stay order after a PIL was raised in the Court. According to news reports, The PIL had contended that the strike was not a basic right and the bench had stayed the strike observing ‘teachers should not use strike as a tool and could press for their demands through other means’. Responding to this threat, the protesting committee had changed the struggle from strike to protests on Friday, September 8th. However, after the executive committee meeting, the new JACTO-GEO committee has decided to initiate an indefinite strike starting on 11th September and hold various protests on 11th and 12th of September.

Leaders vow to continue the struggle

The protest on the 11th in front of Ezhlilagam, saw a gathering of over 300 workers, predominantly teachers and government employees,, attending the protest. Most of them were reluctant to speak on the issues and referred the leadership to speak on the issues. Comrade Aruna said that rank and file workers of unions who had chosen not to participate in the strike, had also come to participate in the strike.

Rousing slogans were raised and speeches were made against the current coziness between Central and State Governments, which are determined to privatize education, health care and public sectors and removing social justice programs for the marginalized. The slogans compared the new pension scheme to gambling as the scheme is aimed at investing the 10% contribution from employees and 10% contribution by the State in stock market. The protesters questioned the sanity of such a scheme which guarantees nothing to the workers, while taking their own money.

The struggle of JACTO-GEO has coincided with the the spontaneous protests involving college students, high school students, student movements and worker movements on NEET and the issue had remained conspicuously absent in the agenda of JACTO-GEO’s struggles. With the new leadership, solidarity with students demanding abolition of NEET has found prominence with this becoming the fourth demand of the committee Slogans were raised to demand abolition of NEET. The protesters demanded how there can be a single exam based on one curriculum when each state had their own curriculum and there was massive social and economic inequality with in the State.

The order by the Madurai High Court was criticized for its arbitrariness by various leaders. Comrade Mayavan questioned how the Madurai High Court could have issued a stay order without asking the inputs of the unions whose members are impacted by the order. He in turn posed if the High Court asked the Government on the demands and the issues raised by the workers and sought their response. As the threat of ESMA-TESMA loomed, the leaders also reminded the workers of 2003 struggle where over 1.8 lakh teachers were dismissed under ESMA after striking. The leaders said that those who were dismissed have not only been reinstated but continue to enjoy promotions in their career. Comrade Daniel, Chennai District Coordinator of JACTO GEO, said that the workers or unions have not been issued any notice and will respond legally upon receipt of the notice.

Various public sector unions including BEFI, AIBOA and DREU have also supported the strike and have demanded united struggle against the privatization of public services. The leaders of these unions addressed the gathering and extended their solidarity.

Government as the neo-liberal employer

The Government as a neo-liberal employer continues to lead the corporates in dismantling various worker welfare schemes, privatizing the public sector services and repressing workers struggles. Even before the August 22nd one day strike, the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu warned that workers who participated in the strike would be penalized. Reports have emerged of employees’ wages being withheld for participating in the strike. The State has threatened to take punitive action on striking workers and is said to be gathering details of the workers who have participated.

The Judiciary has continued to put forward its anti worker judgements just as it did in the case of public transport workers and private sector workers. Just recently, reports have emerged of JK Tyres getting a court order prohibiting assembly within 100 meters of their gate, after the workers won a struggle for right to unionisation. The approach of the Judiciary has been to give such orders impacting hundreds and thousands of workers(For more information, read the struggles of Greaves Cotton workers), without giving any chance for these workers to give their side of the story. The pro-state and pro-corporate stance of Judiciary has shown that justice cannot be attained at the doors of the courts anymore.

The breaking away of rank and file members of various unions as their leaders have toed to the Government line is an important milestone, This was crucial in the victory of the transport sector workers strike also, as workers belonging to the union affiliated to the ruling party struck work with other union members. This militant mood of the rank and file workers is mainly because they see the futility of delayed negotiation process that Government and Capitalists use to ensure that workers never get justice.

However, would the same Government employees realize that in the case of private sector workers, they themselves play the stumbling block in delaying these processes which work against these workers, who often do not even enjoy the level of wages, job security and rights that public sector workers enjoy?For instance, consider the case of Integra workers, Greaves Cotton workers and Noble Tech workers, where the apathy of Labour Department officials has led to these workers even losing their employment. The disbursement of social security to lakhs of workers in construction, domestic work, manual work have been woeful because of delay in processing of workers’ applications. This has led to even repeal of cess for Cine workers, salt pan workers etc. In all these cases, the rights to unionisation, social security for private sector workers have not been at best been delayed as the public sector workers have tended to confine themselves well within the rules of the law or at worst even deny due process because of contempt for such workers. Its time for these workers and unions representing these workers to rethink their alliance by understanding that only when every worker in this country comes to enjoy those rights that they claim, they themselves will be able to achieve it.

9 Sep 2017 Ferado

Yarn Expo to have special focus on green products

CHINA: Yarn Expo, the leading yarn and fibre business platform in Asia, will have a special focus on green products with a number of yarn and fibre manufacturers which have endeavoured to introduce green products into the early stages of textile production, displaying their innovations to seek buyers. The expo is to be organised during October 11-13 in Shanghai.

The event will host around 500 global yarn suppliers from 13 countries and regions.

Amongst a record number of exhibitors at this October’s Yarn Expo Autumn, the debut BCI Pavilion as well as the Sateri Pavilion and Birla Planet Pavilion that include eco-friendly products are amongst the highlights this year. Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a global organisation with more than 1,000 members including spinners, weavers and garment manufacturers throughout the entire cotton sector. It aims to promote sustainable cotton production, benefiting workers, customers and the environment as a whole. They will form the BCI Pavilion in Yarn Expo for the first time, with five spinners showcasing their cotton yarn manufactured with eco-friendly cotton.

Sateri is a well-known brand in China which specialises in viscose rayon. This natural and high-quality fibre is made from trees grown on renewable plantations. They are the largest producer of viscose fibre in China with three mills and an annual capacity of 550,000 tonnes, and also have Oeko-Tex certification. This October, nine other domestic exhibitors will form the Sateri Pavilion to demonstrate their comfortable textiles and skin-friendly hygiene products made from viscose fibre.

With over 50 years of experience in manufacturing cellulosic fibres, Birla Group strives to provide greener, purer and safer products to its customers. The Group has operated in China for three years now, and values Yarn Expo’s effectiveness in helping them to promote their brand and attract a wide range of buyers. “We managed to get connected with a number of downstream buyers at the fair. We have introduced our company and products to them that there is great chance for future cooperation.” said Peter Dong, senior manager of Aditya Birla Group. Coming back this year, the Birla Planet Pavilion will feature three of their highlighted fibres – Birla Viscose, Birla Modal and Birla Spunshades at the fair.

Six special display zones cater to latest industry trends.

The textile industry in China is undergoing a structural change with keen competition, so domestic suppliers have to develop innovative and quality products to satisfy the ever-changing markets. To match the specific needs of various buyers, Yarn Expo has established six distinct display zones gathering the leading domestic companies, namely Colourful Chemical Zone, Natural Cotton Yarn Zone, Fancy Yarn Zone, Quality Wool Zone, Green Linen Zone and e-Commerce Zone.

Not only are a number of chemical fibre products with innovative, eco-friendly and health and comfort properties on offer from exhibitors, but visitors can also gain insights into product trends in these areas from the 2017/18 China Fibre Trend Area and Innovative Textile Material Forum, both of which feature in the Colourful Chemical Zone. The Natural Cotton Yarn Zone is another highlight of the three-day show, where exhibitors will showcase their natural cotton yarn and a range of functional products. Around 50 suppliers will also showcase their latest collections in the expanded Fancy Yarn Zone.

Yarn Expo Autumn is organised by Messe Frankfurt (HK), the Sub-Council of Textile Industry, China Cotton Textile Association, China Wool Textile Association, China Chemical Fibre Association, China Bast & Leaf Fibres Textiles Association, and China Textile Information Centre. (SV)

8 Sep 2017 Ferado

Sanmina workers gherao DMS complex

Permanent workers of Sanmina Corporation in Oragadam blocked the Labour Commissioner’s Office at DMS on 31st August, to pressurize the Labour Department for not taking action on the industrial disputes raised by them. The management subsequently suspended two workers on 4th September on various pretexts. Workers have alleged that these were workers who had gone to the protest and the management was relentlessly pursuing a policy of victimization of workers who are merely exercising their rights.

Sanmina workers had asked the management to recognize AICCTU as their representative earlier this year. In an industrial dispute raised this year by AICCTU, the management has said that it has recognized and signed a collective wage agreement with INTUC, providing Rs 2000 as increment for the period October 2016 and September 2017. But the agreement failed to cover the period between April 2016 (when the previous agreement terminated) and Septerber 2016 (when the new agreement was signed) causing a loss of Rs 10000/- per worker. AICCTU representatives say that the Labour Department Conciliation officer has unilaterally termed the industrial dispute as illegal. According to AICCTU, the conciliation officer can either recommend INTUC as the representative or give a failure notice on the raised industrial dispute. He/she doesn’t have a jurisdiction to declare the dispute as illegal. That power rests with the labour court
Sanmina workers have been protesting since March this year demanding recognition of their union. However, the management has responded with repression on workers. It withheld upto 21 days of wages of workers for participating in a 4 day sit-in strike in March. Recently, the management installed, what it called an ESD discharge machine, near the toilets. Earlier, this machine was installed only in front of the factory. According to insiders, the workers need to swipe their cards in the machine before and after using the toilets and hence this is just used to monitor the time taken by workers in their brakes. As the number of toilets are less (10 toilets for over 400 workers), sometimes, the time taken by workers can be invariably long and yet, these workers are given showcause notices and suspensions. This is especially hard for women workers, who might need more time, during menstruation, say workers.
These acts of intimidation and inaction by the Labour Department in Irungattukottai have prompted the gherao protest by the workers. Workers say that there were about 100 workers who participated in the protest. The Labour Commissioner and Deputy Labour Commissioner at DMS held a meeting with AICCTU and worker representatives and have promised to transfer the industrial dispute from ACL to DCL after 5th September. They have agreed to take cognizance of the following demands and ensure speedy resolution.

All cases regarding Sanmina to be transferred to DCL after 5th September.
Ensure speedy resolution on wages withheld by Sanmina
Conduct enquiry on the collective wage agreement signed with INTUC and the time period lapse between April 1st and September 30th.
Recommend the management to negotiate with majority union AICCTU
Conduct a hearing on the issues of restroom breaks and mandatory rest periods under Unfair Labour Practices.

5 Sep 2017 Ferado

Employees of IT major WIPRO refuse to resign on employers’s pressure, unite to fight lay offs

INDIA: More than 20 employees of WIPRO gathered at Kuralagam in Parrys on 31st August 2017 to meet the Labour Officer before whom they have filed an industrial dispute alleging that they are on the verge on illegal termination. The workers refused to resign after HR managers pressurized them to resign on the pretext of ineffecient performance and opted to file an industril dispute. The dispute, filed under Section 2K of the Industrial Disputes Act, (as opposed to a 2A petition filed by individual workers) is a collective dispute filed by members of the New Democratic Labour Front (NDLF) who wish to bring to the attention of the government that what is happening in the IT industry is a pre-meditated, unlawful layoff and not just one-off complaints by a few disgruntled employees.

WIPRO, an Indian Multi-National has close to 1,60,000 employees and a presence in several locations around the world. The company boasts of integrity, and treating each person with respect. However, going by the narration of those who have been facing the illegal termination, it seems to have instead resorted to harassment and threats to throw employees out of the company throughout various offices in the country. The modus operandi – starting March this year, management began to give low ratings to employees who have 8-12 years’ experience (usually in B3 and C1 band ) during the appraisal process. These bands refer to the grade of the employees based on experience and skill. The appraisal process is completely unilateral and the employee, although given an impression of having a say, doesn’t even know the rating until it has been finalised. While early on, many employees felt that they had no choice but to resign, eventually unions like NDLF and FITE began to organise in several companies and call the practice what it is – illegal mass layoffs.

As awareness grew, employees have begun to resist and refused to sign resignation letters. “Despite the threats to blacklist us and create problems with our conduct/experience certificate, some of us refused to resign. Soon after our refusal we were ‘benched’”, said one employee who suddenly found himself on the verge of losing his livelihood .

Many of the employees that Thozhilalar Koodam spoke to said that they had received bonuses, appreciation letters, performance awards, etc. Nevertheless, to counter this show of resistance, the management would bench the employee and “lock her/his profile” in the software through which internal recruitment and assignment to projects takes place. This essentially means that the employee cannot apply to any project for which they have vacancies. Similarly, a manager who wishes to hire the employee for a project would not be able to do so and would be asked to “contact the HR.” NDLF’s IT Wing President Shyam Sundar explained “This practice essentially isolates the employee who will then be benched for months together and as per the company’s policy, will then be eligible for a ‘separation process’.” In fact, the company hurriedly amended its policy on 10th May 2017 to reduce the time that an employee can stay benched to legitimise the layoff process.

On this day, the fourth hearing before the Labour Officer, the WIPRO management, represented by their HR and in-house legal team, finally made an appearance. They received the memorandum of grievances by the employees, and have promised to reply by 18th September . The union has also submitted the names and details of 68 WIPRO employees in several other cities so that the government understands that this is a pre-mediatated and conscious move by the management. Another NDLF activist said that they were in touch with several employees who are slowly realising the importance of a union. The only reason that many others are not coming forward is the fear of getting blacklisted. Nevertheless, there is a steady growth in support for the union. NDLF is demanding that all benched employees’ profiles be released, allowances (deducted during the time that employees are on bench) be re-imbursed and their variable pay restored. In the meanwhile, they will continue to be paid their salaries. Similarly, the union is demanding that the employees who have resigned under duress be given their jobs back. Going further than the current layoff issue, they have also demanded that the union be recognised and that all policy changes must be discussed with the union or with individual employees who must consent to it.

In keeping with the practice resorted to by rest of the industry, WIPRO too is targeting the middle level employees with 8-12 years’ experience. Many of them are having a tough time finding another job. One such employee, in his 40s, who was let go in November last year, has been unable to find a job. “They look at the date of birth and if they see we are born in the 70s, we are immediately rejected”, he said. The HR head of the company, in an interview to Business Standard confirmed this. In response to a question on why it is employees with 10-15 years experiences who are facing ‘involuntary attrition’, Saurabh Govil said –

It is more (at that level) because as people grow old the ability to change is becoming lesser. Younger people are much more amenable to change, trying out new things and willing to unlearn much faster and there are people who find it tougher or people who grew very fast when the industry was growing and suddenly they hit a glass ceiling. And they know it.

WIPRO employees observed that Govil too, did not seem that young. Why does this ageism apply only to employees and not the management? By terming this as a “social issue”, the management is blatantly exposing its intent to make profit at any cost. As the pressure on the employers in the IT industry continue, they are coming up with innovative ways to counter the narrative that the industry is laying off workers for no other reason than to maximise profit.

Government turning a blind eye

Despite the overwhelming evidence that thousands are likely to lose their jobs due to the lay offs, the government continues its apathy. NDLF activists reported that on request from IT employees’ unions, the Joint Commissioner of Labour had called for a tripartite meeting with management representatives on the 28th August. However, on that day, some management representatives had gone in and told the JCL that they were not willing to participate in any dialog with the unions and left. The JCL, who then called the union leaders, said that he would gather information from each side separately and report his findings to the government. To this the unions took objection and said that the government was well aware of what was happening – NDLF has submitted detailed memorandums to the Labour Secretary in May. The JCL responded with irritation that he was not willing to talk as press persons were gathered to report on the issue and closed the meeting. With the state clearly giving the industry a free reign, unions have a long battle ahead. NDLF is contemplating filing similar disputes against managements of other companies who are also resorting to the same practices.