27 Nov 2018 Ferado

GB govt. approves weather allowance for employees

Gilgit: The Provincial Government of GB has approved provision of weather allowance to the employees of the government from November, said an official release here Tuesday.

The GB Finance Department in a letter to the AG Office directed payment of the weather allowance to the employees in November 2018 salary.

The Finance Department has released Rs471 million budget under the head of weather allowance to the employees.

It merits a mention here that the weather allowance provided to the employees from November-February was abolished by the government last.

27 Nov 2018 Ferado

Ensure workers get proper housing, Oman’s TU

Muscat: Employers who provide substandard living quarters for workers are being targeted by Oman’s trade union federation.

“Improving the living condition of workers is the obligation of the employer,” a spokesman for the General Federation of Oman Trade Unions said.

“An employer has the option of providing housing to workers or he/she may give the worker a certain allowance for housing,” said Yousuf Al Busaidi, the acting department head of legal and trade union affairs at the General Federation of Oman Trade Unions.

“In certain companies, the employer is forced to provide housing allowance, in addition to providing accommodation; this depends on the nature of the work and the location.” When employers provide housing, they must abide by the standards and specifications listed in the Occupational Safety Regulations governed by the Labour Code in Ministerial Decision 286/2008.

27 Nov 2018 Ferado

PFUJ forms NAC to fight for workers’ rights

Islamabad: Three factions of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) on Monday constituted a National Action Committee to fight for the media workers’ rights, including delay in salaries, retrenchment and freedom of the press.

“We will not allow the government and media owners to target the workers,” said the representatives of all the three factions of the PFUJ during a meeting at the Karachi Press Club.

The NAC, comprising president and secretary generals of all three PFUJs, Afzal Butt, Ayub Jan Sarhandi, Rana Azeem, GM Jamali, Nawaz Raza and Sohail Afzal Khan, would meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, the federal information minister, all media owners, APNS, CPNE and PBA to express their concern over the deteriorating situation in the media industry.

The meeting resolved that the present media crisis had threatened the freedom of press and basic, fundamental, economic and labour rights of over 25,000 media workers all over Pakistan.

25 Nov 2018 Ferado

Fix wages nationwide, labor groups tell Duterte

As the P25 minimum wage increase for Metro Manila workers took effect on Thursday, labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and affiliates belonging to a coalition called Nagkaisa urged President Duterte to form a presidential commission that would study the creation of a national wage fixing mechanism.

In a statement, FFW said the P25 wage increase, approved by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board, was “latest proof of how wages fixed under the mechanism deepens inequality rather than eradicate chronic poverty.”
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Fix wages nationwide, labor groups tell Duterte
By: Tina G. Santos – Reporter / @santostinaINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:28 AM November 23, 2018
As the P25 minimum wage increase for Metro Manila workers took effect on Thursday, labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and affiliates belonging to a coalition called Nagkaisa urged President Duterte to form a presidential commission that would study the creation of a national wage fixing mechanism.

In a statement, FFW said the P25 wage increase, approved by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board, was “latest proof of how wages fixed under the mechanism deepens inequality rather than eradicate chronic poverty.”

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It said the group and other Nagkaisa affiliates believed “the meager increase simply fits into the 1989 template” created by Republic Act No. 6727, which bases wage increases on employers’ capacity to pay rather than on workers’ standard of living.

FFW said during the presidential election campaign, Duterte recognized that setting wages by regions was a failure.

“He himself announced the need to overhaul the system,” said Sonny Matula, FFW president.

“But until today, no executive action has been done so far to walk his pledge,” Matula added.

Another labor group, Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said workers were unable to feel the impact of the P25 wage increase because of inflation.
Alan Tanjusay, ALU-TUCP spokesperson, said the purchasing power of P25 nowadays was just P17.50.

25 Nov 2018 Ferado

Japan wakes up to exploitation of foreign workers as immigration debate rages

GIFU, Japan — Twenty-seven-year-old War Nu left her village in central Myanmar at the end of last year bound for Japan. She had borrowed nearly $3,000 to pay an agent for a job in the garments industry here, lured not only by the offer of much higher wages but also by the chance to learn new skills in a country known for its advanced technology.

She ended up simply packing garments into cardboard boxes from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. or midnight, six or even seven days a week. The basic pay, the equivalent of just $530 a month, was half what she had been promised, while her boss didn’t stop shouting at her.

“It was inhumane,” she said. “Every day I was stressed, I was anxious. I don’t know how to express it in words. I was crying.”

War Nu had come to Japan under its Technical Intern Training Program or TITP, a long-established program designed to ease the country’s chronic labor shortage while supposedly aiding countries in the region. As its name implies, it is designed to offer workers, mainly Asians, training for three to five years before sending them home. In practice, it often amounts to forced labor, according to the U.S. State Department.Faced with a declining and rapidly aging population, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month submitted a draft law to parliament that would let in up to 345,000 semiskilled foreign workers in the next five years. The move has sparked an intense debate both in parliament and the media, with the country’s weak and disorganized opposition parties enjoying a rare moment in the spotlight as they blast Abe’s plans as vague and ill-prepared.

In particular, many critics say Abe first needs to clean up the mess that is the intern training program, before opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of additional foreign workers.

“In the name of technical training, this program has used foreigners as cheap and disposable labor to fill the labor shortage,” said Shiori Yamao, a leader of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. “We should revise this program design for the sake of national dignity.”

[Aging Japan needs new blood. But a plan to allow more foreign workers sparks concerns.]

As the debate rages, Japanese media has awakened to the problems inherent in the TITP, with headlines and stories in recent weeks about “forced labor,” “hellish conditions,” sexual harassment and workers being treated like “slaves.”

Japan’s Federation of Bar Associations last month issued a report calling for the entire trainee system to be abolished. “In practice, we think it is hardly about giving training,” said lawyer Masashi Ichikawa.

The main problem, lawyers say, is that workers are not allowed to change employers as a condition of their visa: If they dare complain, they face losing their jobs and being deported.

“In a normal situation, workers have the chance to switch jobs if their conditions are not satisfactory,” Ichikawa said. But the so-called trainees “have to endure even if they face human rights violations or oppression.”

War Nu, 27, came from Myanmar to Gifu, Japan, and says she was forced to work long hours for very low pay under an abusive boss at the King Style garment factory. (Simon Denyer/The Washington Post)
In its annual report on human trafficking, the State Department says this often amounts to forced labor and that workers pay agents thousands of dollars to land jobs in Japan, only to find themselves trapped in terrible situations.

Today, around 270,000 foreigners, many from Vietnam, China, the Philippines and Indonesia, work in Japan under the TITP program. The number of workers rose 20 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Some work in agriculture — picking strawberries in Ibaraki and lettuce in Nagano, for example — while others work in manufacturing or construction.

Gifu, a city in central Japan, is a center for the textiles industry, which increasingly relies on cheap foreign labor to remain competitive. Working at a company called King Style, War Nu said she was treated more like a slave than a trainee by her boss.

“Every day the abusive language wouldn’t stop, and I wasn’t even allowed to talk to my friends,” she said. “If I didn’t obey what he said, he would say, ‘Myanmarese are no good, they are bad,’ and he threatened to send me back to Myanmar. I was very scared, but I endured.”

She and four other women shared two rooms above the factory, with barely enough time to eat and sleep. “It was inhumane,” she said.

The Washington Post interviewed eight other women in Gifu who told similar stories of employers who paid less than they had promised, made them work longer hours than they expected and often gave them no training.

Both the State Department and Human Rights Watch say workers often borrow large sums of money to land jobs, but end up working long hours at below the minimum wage. Many work in dangerous or unhygienic conditions and some face heavy “fines” if they fail to stay for the duration of their contracts.

“Sexual abuse and rules that violate privacy — for example, prohibitions on owning a cellphone or having romantic relationships — are also significant problems,” Human Rights Watch said.

Such is the abuse inherent in the system that many workers abscond: Around 7,000 effectively vanished last year, and 4,300 more fled their jobs in the first six months of this year, many ending up underground as undocumented workers.

Realizing the scheme was giving the country a bad name, Japan revised the trainee law in 2017 to strengthen oversight of companies that may be breaking the rules, and established a new Organization for Technical Intern Training to supervise the scheme.

Even before the law took effect, an investigation by the Labor Ministry in 2017 found that employers were breaking the rules at more than 4,000 locations — more than 70 percent of those investigated — through long hours, inadequate safety standards or low pay.

Kenichi Tatezaki, an OTIT spokesman, said that in the future companies found breaking the rules could face having their permission to employ foreign workers withdrawn. So far, just one company has had permits withdrawn, but he said other investigations are underway.

Nevertheless, activists say little has changed at the ground level.

“Japanese companies don’t get penalized,” said Myint Swe, the president of the Federation of Workers’ Unions of the Burmese Citizen. “That’s discrimination.”

Experts say the program simply reinforces stereotypes of foreigners as cheap labor rather than members of society and of absconders as criminals rather than victims of forced labor. Such stereotypes are often played up in the media and a controversial television show dramatizing the work of immigration officers called “At the Moment of Deportation.”

The program is also fundamentally dishonest, experts say, meant to lure foreigners under false pretenses as a source of cheap labor while offering little in return. As a result, it was developing a bad reputation in other Asian countries.

As China, Taiwan and South Korea also face aging populations, they too will need more and more foreign workers in the years ahead. Japan’s government knows it has to be more competitive if it wants to attract the best foreign workers, which is why Abe has finally decided to ease restrictions and introduce new visas for “semiskilled” workers.

“Until now, the government had been hoping this program would provide enough labor, but finally they realized they can’t lie anymore,” said Yoshihito Kawakami, a lawyer who defends exploited workers.

With the help of Myint Swe and JAM — the Japanese Association of Metal, Machinery, and Manufacturing Workers, an influential labor union — War Nu was able to leave her employer and keep her visa, finding work in a different garment factory in Gifu where conditions are much better, and where she and her friends are much happier.

Takeyuki Hara, a lawyer at the Olympia Law Firm representing King Style, said the company acknowledged there had been violations of labor standards in the form of unpaid wages. It had been in talks with the Burmese labor union, he said.

But Myint Swe said the problems run far deeper than one company.

“This system is wrong. There are many abuses,” he said. The government could change it but doesn’t “because there are people who want to use workers cheaply like slaves and are only thinking about their own benefits.”