PAKISTAN: Shipbreaking Workers Union Gadani (SBWUG) called off their strike on 4 August after negotiations with the employers association yielded significant results, including a wage increase.
The 2016 oil tanker blast at the Gadani shipbreaking yard in Pakistan killed 26 workers and injured an additional 19. Despite promises from the employers, no improvements in working conditions have been made since the tragedy. Six more workers have lost their lives and many more have been injured in workplace accidents, workers’ wages have remained same and there has been no progress in social security registration for workers.
The SBWUG gave employers an ultimatum, calling for an indefinite strike at shipbreaking yards from 5 August if demands were not met. The union demanded 50 per cent wage increase, one week’s paid holiday, implementation of the shipbreaking code, health and safety measures, registration with the Employees Old Age Benefits Institution, and provision of social security cards.
An agreement was reached on 4 August, with a ten per cent wage increase for all categories of shipbreaking workers. In case of future accidents, cases will only be filed against employer or the management, not against supervisors or people in charge of workers.
Mr. Mushraf Humaionsaid leader of Ship Breaking workers Union , Gaddani said:
“This is an important victory for shipbreaking workers. The employers did not seriously address the issues. It is only after we called for a strike that the employers came to the negotiation table and agreed on our main demands.
“However, we have long way to go to improve the working conditions in shipbreaking yards, we need the cooperation of the government authorities and employers.”
Pakistan’s Gadani shipbreaking yard in Balochistan province is one of the major destinations for end of life ships in South Asia.
JAPAN: The BWI is extremely alarmed with the apparently first reported death, by suicide, in Tokyo 2020 Olympics National Stadium, touted as the centrepiece of the Summer Olympics. With the lawyer for the family of the deceased worker confirming that a case has been filed for workers’ accident compensation, serious concerns have been raised on health and safety of all workers employed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics infrastructure projects.
The unnamed male 23-year old construction worker who had gone missing on 2 March 2017 was found dead in April and the family attributed his death to “karoshi” based from The Japan Times news report. The Japanese government officially recognizes two types of “karoshi”, as deaths by overwork is known: cardiovascular illness linked to overwork, and suicide following mental stress related to work. Accordingly, the man had worked more than 200 hours overtime in the month before he committed suicide.
“This unfortunate tragic death of young construction worker is clearly an issue related to occupational health and safety in all Tokyo Olympics infrastructure projects”, said Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary.
Quoting from the same news report, the company, Taisei Corporation, “acknowledged letting him work beyond the limits set under a labour-management agreement concluded, based on Article 36 of the labour standards law. The accord allows the company to have employees work up to 45 hours overtime a month in principle and up to 80 hours in special cases”.
“Occupational accidents in Mega-Sporting Events can actually be identified and prevented as evidenced in London 2012 Olympics. This was made possible by direct involvement of trade unions in the identification, elimination and management of occupational health and safety hazards including stress and overwork”, added Yuson.
While extending condolences to the family of deceased construction worker, the BWI reiterated its offer to TOGOC to implement a joint Zero Accident campaign to avoid unfortunate case of this nature.
This is the second time that Taise Corporation has been marred with controversial issue; the first being that of importation and use of tropical plywood for concreting pillars from controversial sources in Sarawak, Malaysia.
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INDONESIA: Research into palm oil plantations in Indonesia reveals that workers and their families are paid illegally low wages, are exposed to dangerous pesticides and face routine abuse so that the US food and beverage giant PepsiCo can make world-famous products such as Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, Cheetos and Lay’s potato chips. Now international trade unions and environmentalists have joined forces in their fight for workers’ rights.
The US-based International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a 1.4 million-member multi-sector union has, along with the International Union of Food Workers, mobilised in the battle against widespread labour and human rights violations on plantations run by Indofood, a major Indonesian partner of PepsiCo.
“Solidarity between workers in the United States and on plantations in Indonesia is very important because we need support to pressure PepsiCo to force Indofood to improve labour conditions,” says Herwin Nasution, executive director of the Indonesian union OPPUK (Organisasi Penguatan dan Pengembangan Usaha-Usaha Kerakyatan, which loosely translates to Organisation for the Strengthening and Development of Community Enterprises).
The Teamsters represent the approximately 20,000 PepsiCo workers at Pepsi beverage, Frito Lay and Quaker production facilities in the US, who were consulted on the decision to send letters to PepsiCo’s board and CEO Indra Nooyi.
“When our members hear stories about palm oil plantation workers in Indonesia – there being the presence of child labour, or illegally low wages and hazardous pesticides – [they understand],” Timothy Beaty, director of global strategies at the Teamsters
JK Tyres Workers in Kanchipuram district struck work from 24th July 2017, demanding recognition of their union. This happened after the company tried to negotiate with the internal union, without any democratic process for the workers to choose the union they wanted for their representation. In response, over 600 workers struck work demanding recognition of the CITU union to which they belonged. After a 17 day strike, the management has agreed to negotiate with the majority union and reinstate 27 probationary workers who were dismissed during this period.
In a notice posted on August 2nd, one week into the strike, the management came down hard. They termed the workers’ strike illegal, as the industries under automobile sector have been termed public utility service. They also promised stern action against the workers for resorting to the illegal strike and threatened workers to either see ‘reason’ or face disciplinary action. Over 27 workers, according to Comrade Kannan of CITU, were terminated, citing ‘unsatisfactory performance’. However, the union and the workers were resolved to continue their fight for justice and increased the exposure of the strike by conducting various protests in front of Kanchipuram District Collectorate and in other parts of the District
The resolve of the workers has not been in vain. According to Comrade Kannan, the management has agreed to have conciliation meetings with the union starting September 4th on various demands of the workers. In addition, the 27 workers who have been terminated will be reinstated from August 21st, in the same postings they previously held. Talking to Thozhilalar Koodam, Comrade Kannan hailed this as a ‘major victory for democratic rights of workers through a sustained struggle’. He attributed the success of the struggle to the resolve of the workers and to the impact on production. He has said that over 40 demands of the workers will be resolved through negotiation with the management. These broadly cover wage increases, regularization of trainees after 480 days, improvement in allowances and amenities, lawful implementation of overtime and various other benefits.
The victory of the JK Tyres workers comes at an important phase for workers in Sriperumbudur, where unionization is being denied to workers through various pretexts, and victimization of workers continue unchecked for their union activities. The contention of the management to term the strike illegal under the guise of public utility service has been rightly challenged by the workers who have used collectivized struggle for their just cause. The workers have also rejected the idea of an internal union, which is a mechanism used to keep workers under management control. Its important that these moments of victory are consolidated by unions to push the working class struggles not only in favor of unionised workers but also those that do not come under union fold.
CHINA:Even years after major legislation was passed to curb abuse of agency labour and guarantee equal pay, agency workers are still fighting for their basic legal rights across China, particularly at SOEs.
According to Chinese law, agency work is supposed to be “supplementary” form of labour, though agency workers often find themselves working for years alongside full employees, performing the same work for significantly less pay and benefits.
Agency workers, however, are well aware of their rights, and their collective actions are not uncommon. For months, agency workers at China’s FAW-Volkswagen plant, a majority state-owned joint venture, in the northeast city of Changchun have made international headlines in their long campaign for equal pay. Below we highlight two other agency worker actions demanding equal pay at SOEs that occurred in July.