14 Jan 2020 Ferado

India: IUF affiliates join nationwide strike

On January 8, IUF affiliates across India, together with tens of millions of rural workers, farmers, students and youth, joined the national strike called by national trade union centers against the anti-labour, socially regressive and anti-democratic policies of the Narendra Modi government. An estimated 250 million workers took part in the strike.

In the face of rising unemployment and an upsurge of poverty, the BJP government is driving through policies to restrict collective bargaining through labour law ‘reforms’, promote fixed-term casual employment and accelerate the privatization of public assets. The unions are demanding, among other measures an increase in the national minimum wage, a universal guaranteed monthly pension, a halt to the weakening of legislative labour protection, ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, effective employment guarantees covering all urban and rural households and a halt to privatization coupled with an increase in public investment. The unions have also condemned the violence unleashed against citizens across India protesting government policies to promote communalism and discrimination.

Among the many IUF affiliates who took part pictured here are:

14 Jan 2020 Ferado

The state of labour relations in China, 2019

At the end of 2019, there was a huge public outcry in China over reports that Li Hongyuan, a former employee of Chinese tech giant Huawei, had been detained for eight months by the authorities in Shenzhen apparently at the behest of Huawei after he asked his former employer for severance pay and a yearly bonus.

For many middle-class professionals in China, the case confirmed a growing sense of unease and the realisation that, in the eyes of their employer, they were nothing more than a resource to be exploited and then discarded. What happened to Li Hongyuan, it seemed, could just as easily happen to them.

Tens of thousands of well-paid professionals in the tech industry lost their jobs last year as intense competition for market dominance combined with a slowing economy in China led to the collapse of hundreds of tech start-ups, including several so-called unicorns. Many employees, such as those at US tech company Oracle in Beijing, had to take prolonged collective action in order to get decent severance pay before being laid off.

Those employees who still had a job rebelled against the excessively long work hours (9.am to 9.pm, 6 days a week) demanded by their employer and openly rejected the corporate “wolf culture,” first developed by Huawei, that stressed loyalty and dedication to the company above all else. A survey of white-collar workers published towards the end of the year confirmed that younger workers felt little sense of loyalty to their employer (most left within three years). The vast majority of respondents said respect and fair treatment should be the most important component of any corporate culture, while only a small minority said they were still willing to accept “wolf culture” in the workplace.

Dissatisfaction among younger workers at the current state of labour relations was further heightened in April last year with the revelation that China’s main state-backed pension fund could be completely depleted in 2035, just when those born in the 1980s were hoping to retire.

It could be that 2019 marks a fundamental shift in the values of white-collar workers in China. Many younger workers are no longer willing to work long hours nor accept the kind of hardships their parents endured in order to chase illusory dreams of a better life; instead they focus on decent pay for decent work and a healthy work-life balance.

For most blue-collar workers, however, there were more basic concerns last year like just getting paid.

Of the 1,386 collective worker protests recorded on China Labour Bulletin’s Strike Map last year, 1,159 (about 84 percent) concerned demands for payment of wages in arrears. And once again, it was the construction industry, which accounted for 43 percent of all protests, where the problems were the most severe. Despite repeated government promises to solve the problem of wage arrears for construction workers, a staggering 99 percent of all incidents recorded last year were related to the non-payment of wages. There are still deeply ingrained and systemic problems in the construction industry that have become even more apparent as the economy slows and credit becomes more difficult to obtain. CLB’s 2019 report on the construction industry argues that the only way out of this quagmire is to create a new system of sectoral trade unions that can ensure decent pay and working conditions for construction workers through collective bargaining with industry representatives.

14 Jan 2020 Ferado

Victory for labor rights in Cambodia as largest casino workers’ strike ends in peace

Cambodia registered an unusual victory for labor rights when on January 11, a two-day strike by workers of the country’s largest casino company NagaWorld ended peacefully and possibly successfully following the management’s decision to raise wages and reinstate the union’s leader.

NagaWorld, owned by Hong Kong company NagaCorp, operates the biggest casino center in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. Chinese-owned casinos have boomed in recent years targeting tourists from mainland China, where gambling is officially illegal. This economic development reflects the increasing number of Chinese investments in the country, and the pro-China policy of the current Cambodian government, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than three decades already.

Workers initially demanded a wage increase in September 2019. The management’s response was to suspend Chhim Sithar, the president of the union.

In December, the union voted to hold a strike within one month, and sent notices to the company’s management, the police, and the city government.

Despite the legal precautions taken by the union, a Phnom Penh court issued a ruling on 8 January 2020 declaring the planned strike illegal. Reacting to this court order, 23 civil society organizations then signed a statement urging authorities to respect labor rights.

Ignoring the ban, on 9 January, more than 1,000 NagaWorld workers proceeded with their original plan to hold a protest outside the hotel. Several non-union members also walked out of the building to support the striking workers who were demanding adequate wages, better working conditions and a reinstatement of their union’s president. Some signs displayed at the protest read: “Stop Exploitation at Nagaworld”, “Stop Discrimination Against Unions” and “Demanding living wages is a right not a crime”.

14 Jan 2020 Ferado

Jetstar has negotiated a temporary ceasefire with striking workers, as it prepares to face them at the negotiation table instead

Jetstar has managed to pacify disgruntled workers, at least temporarily.

The Transport Workers’ Union revealed on Monday that it had agreed to no more industrial action until it sat down with the Australian airline later this month for a summit.

“Following two sets of national industrial action Jetstar management have agreed to meet with baggage handlers and ground staff on 29 January 2020,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said in a release announcing the pause.

The actions forced Jetstar to take extraordinary steps, preemptively cancelling around a hundred flights in the lead up to the busy Christmas period and disrupting holiday plan, with the airline claiming at the time it would cost it as much as $25 million.

The union has for months been demanding an annual 4% pay rise and better condition for Jetstar workers including guaranteed 12-hour breaks between shifts and guaranteeing 30 hours of work per week. The TWU says these reforms are necessary for “the lowest paid [workers] in the Qantas group” but the airline had until now refused to come to the table.

“The workforce hopes that at this meeting the company will for the first time put forward its proposals for consideration, rather than just rejecting our modest claims. As a sign of good faith and a desire to see genuine negotiations we’ve assured Jetstar we will not take any further industrial action before the close of negotiations on 29 January,” Kaine said.

“Jetstar made revenues of $4 billion this year while the Qantas Group made profits of $1.3 billion. These workers stuck with the company during the tough times when Jetstar and Qantas insisted on pay freezes. Now they rightly expect to be treated fairly. It’s time for the scales to be brought back into balance, and the company to meet their modest claims.”

While workers agreed to a small pause late last year as a show of good faith before Christmas, this ceasefire appears to be the first real indication of thawing tensions between the two parties.

However, it’s not clear how long the newfound goodwill may last. TWU claims of job cuts and safety concerns at the airline have been categorically denied by Jetstar which says it has maintained the number of ground staff rostered on has not changed in 15 years.

“We would never put the safety of our people or passengers at risk, and we have robust safety management systems in place which are regularly reviewed and audited by regulators, including CASA,” a Jetstar spokesperson told Business Insider Australia.

The airline meanwhile says it promises nothing above the 3% wage increase that is implemented across the Qantas Group. Anything above that, Jetstar says, is unsustainable.

Such polar attitudes offer little hope for their meeting later this month. Unless the TWU compromises, it appears highly unlikely the two will emerge with an agreement.

In that case, the latest round of strikes last year could just be the beginning.

14 Jan 2020 Ferado

Regularisation of electricity workers demanded

LAHORE:National conference of Electricity Young Contract Workers was held Thursday at Bakhtiar Labour Hall under All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union CBA.

The demands put forth were immediate regularisation of contract workers, check rising prices of essential commodities and tackling unemployment among youths and working class of the country. It was led by veteran trade union leader Khurshid Ahmad along with Abdul Latif Nizamani, president of the union.

By a resolution, the house welcomed the decision of Energy Directorate to accept the demand of the union for bringing more than thirteen thousand contract workers on regular basis. It called upon the Energy Minister to get the said order implemented at the earliest since those had been performing their duties diligently for years.

They urged the prime minister to allocate adequate resources to Wapda for developing new hydel dams and hydel power station.

They urged the government to adopt National Economic Self Reliance Policy and eliminate rising inequalities in society, get rid of the clutches of foreign debts by developing its national industries, agriculture and trade.