1 Sep 2017 Ferado

South Africa: Five miners killed in goldmine

SOUTH AFRICA: The bodies of the last two miners trapped underground at Harmony Gold’s deepest mine, Kusasalethu, in Carletonville, South Africa were recovered today (Thursday 31 August). It brings the total number of fatalities to five.

The miners were working 3,100 metres underground when a tremor hit the Kusasalethu goldmine, 90km from Johannesburg, on 25 August. “All of the employees who were trapped underground, are now accounted for,” the company said in a statement.

Rescue teams worked round the clock to try and save the trapped miners who were killed when a tremor measuring 1.2 on the richter scale caused a 10-metre fall in the ground. Operations were hampered by large rocks blocking the entrance to the section where the incident took place.

Gold mining in South Africa is becoming increasingly dangerous as mines reach the end of their productive lifespans. According to the Chamber of Mines, as South African mines have got deeper and reached depths of 4,000 metres, it has brought greater health and safety risks to miners as rock stress increases with depth. Furthermore, the deeper the mine, the longer it takes to reach the rock face, which hinders rescue efforts.

Targets set by the 2003 Mine and Health Safety Summit for the gold sector to reach international safety levels by 2013 have also been missed.

The Kusasalethu tragedy occurred just a month after three mineworkers died in similar circumstances in another accident at Tau Lekoa mine, North West Province, in July.

IndustriALL Global Union joins its affiliate in South Africa, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in mourning the death of five mineworkers who died, of whom at least three were members of NUM.

Eric Gcilitshana, NUM health and safety secretary, said: “One of the five deceased miners, was a 25-year-old who buried his father last month and left a three-month-old son. It is painful and sad for the family. The lives of workers must always be prioritized to save lives. A safe workplace is a productive workplace. We believe that working as a collective team, we can save lives and achieve zero harm.”

Fabian Nkomo, IndustriALL, regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa, added: “When mineworkers go to work they expect to return home to their families. Mining companies must guarantee workers’ safety at all cost. This is why we are so saddened when workers continue to die underground due to accidents.”

1 Sep 2017 Ferado

Methane Gas Leak Kills Three Coal Miners In Central Kazakhstan

KAZAKHSTAN: Authorities say a sudden methane gas leak in a coal mine in central Kazakhstan has killed three miners.

The director of the Qazaqstan mine in the town of Shakhtinsk in Qaraghandy Region, Aleksandr Zabelin, told reporters that the three miners died of gas poisoning following the leak on August 31.

He identified them as Maksim Shebanov, 31, Rustam Akhmetzhanov, 34, and Valery Rudenko, 37. Their bodies have been recovered.

The rest of the 133 miners who were in the mine when the gas leak occurred made it to the surface, but three of them were hospitalized with gas poisoning.

The gas leak was reported early in the morning on August 31.

The regional police department said the authorities have opened an investigation into the possible work safety violations.

1 Sep 2017 Ferado

Government Official Implicated in Stranded Maid Ordeal

CAMBODIA: A government official on Wednesday admitted that his now-defunct recruitment firm had sent a 16-year-old Cambodian maid to work in Saudi Arabia, where she was stranded for 12 years until a viral Facebook video calling for help finally prompted her repatriation this week.

He claimed to have not known she was underage at the time, but a former employee cast doubt on the claim, while the Labor Ministry on Wednesday said the official’s operation would have been illegal.
Sos Rotus, 28, arrived home this week from Saudi Arabia alleging that her employers refused to pay her and restricted her freedom.

She was just 16 when she was recruited in 2005 by an agency then run by Ahmad Yahya, a leader in the country’s Cham Muslim community and a secretary of state at the Social Affairs Ministry. Her family had lost contact with her 10 years ago and had assumed she was dead until the Facebook video surfaced.

Mr. Yahya, who visited Ms. Rotus and her family in Kompong Thom province on Wednesday, said that he had not been aware that Ms. Rotus was underage.

However, Sles Nazy, who was employed by Mr. Yahya to teach English to recruits, including Ms. Rotus, said he knew that the girl was a minor and that she had used her neighbor’s birth certificate to get a passport.

Mr. Nazy called a reporter back later in the day and attempted to change his story. He said Mr. Yahya had called him and “recommended” that he clarify that he did not know about Ms. Rotus’ age.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said that sending minors abroad violates the Labor Law, adding that “the victim can sue the company.”

Helen Sworn, founder and international director of anti-trafficking NGO Chab Dai, said recruited minors were also considered victims of human trafficking under the law.

“If they knowingly took her as a minor to any country she would…automatically become a victim of human trafficking,” she said.

Mr. Yahya said his company—which recruited “more than 100” Cambodians—had been operating for about a year on a “temporary license” when it was shut down by the government some time after Ms. Rotus left the country. Mr. Yahya said he had been given no explanation for the closure at the time, but Mr. Sour, the Labor Ministry spokesman, said such an operation would have been illegal.

Mr. Yahya also claimed that Ms. Rotus’ family did not seek assistance from him when they lost contact with her two years after she arrived in Riyadh.

“From 12 years ago until today I did not hear anything,” he said.

The recruitment agency had given clear instructions on who to call if trouble arose, he said.

“We instruct them to contact us in Cambodia so we know where they are,” he said. But “the mother, the father, the maid, did not contact our company. We had given them everything—phone numbers here, phone numbers in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“I don’t know why they didn’t. This is their problem,” he added.

This was refuted by Ms. Rotus’ mother, Los Nas, however, who said that she had traveled to Phnom Penh in 2007 and begged Mr. Yahya for help. He told her he could not help, she said.

“I asked him to help look for [my daughter], but he did not do anything,” she said. “I asked him: ‘Please give me the phone number.’ He responded: ‘How could I, because I do not have one either,’” she said.

Ms. Sworn, of Chab Dai, said recruitment agencies had a responsibility to their clients while they were overseas.

“The recruitment agency in Cambodia has to deposit a certain amount of money into a Ministry of Labor or Ministry of Finance account—it’s supposed to be set aside related to expenses if Cambodians have to be brought back from overseas,” she said.

Mr. Sour, the spokesman, confirmed the process.

In Saudi Arabia, Ms. Rotus said she had little help from authorities. She said she had escaped a rape attempt at the house of the first employer, who refused to pay her. But when she was dropped off at a police station, officers allegedly declined to help her renew her passport and visa, citing lack of funds, and instead found her another employer, who also failed to pay up. After 10 years with the second employer, she was taken to a police station again. This time, the police filed a complaint, she said. She was compensated by the Saudi government after she was repatriated, her family has said. Saudi government representatives could not be reached.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of allowing the exploitation and abuse of migrant workers for years, and domestic workers have been particularly vulnerable.

Chab Dai was currently investigating other cases involving Cambodian victims in Saudi Arabia, Ms. Sworn said.

“There’s a much greater challenge for them because there is no Cambodian Embassy in the country,” she said.

The closest Cambodian Embassy is in Kuwait, more than 500 km from Riyadh.

Ms. Sworn said Ms. Rotus should be encouraged to pursue criminal charges in Saudi Arabia.

“The thing is, we are going to see more and more cases in Saudi Arabia, and hers could be a very important case—it could actually be a precedent case,” she said, adding that it could send a message to both workers and employers. “In order to protect Cambodian migrant workers, it needs to be pursued through the justice system,” she said.

1 Sep 2017 Ferado

The Transport Workers’ Union has called on the Federal Government to hold the aviation industry to account over low paid, part-time work, after the Fair Work Commission threw out an enterprise agreement by Aerocare, the company at the centre of a scandal over staff forced to sleep at airports.

Ground-handling company Aerocare tried to seek approval for the agreement which would have paid staff as much as $1,100 per month below award rates, according to an analysis by the TWU. Aerocare employees are already paid below minimum award thresholds and forced onto split shifts under a current agreement which sees them at the airport for up to 16 hours a day, while being paid for as little as six hours.

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash previously defended Aerocare’s working conditions saying the TWU analysis and information on low rates and working conditions were part of a “smear”.

The Fair Work Commission rejected the agreement saying it did not meet the better off overall test (BOOT) because of low rates and split shifts, which are precluded under the award.

“The Federal Government has a duty to Australia’s citizens – not to companies like Aerocare which donate to the Liberal Party. Airport workers are being exploited through low rates and chronic understaffing. This is not only forcing families to struggle but it also compromising safety and security at our airports. Does the Minister for Employment still defend these conditions that the Fair Work Commission has now firmly rejected?” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

The TWU now intends to make an application to the Commission over wage theft of current and previous Aerocare employees.

“Aerocare is leading the charge in the race-to-the bottom in aviation – and they are using the industrial relations route to game the system and make it legal to pay people poverty-line wages. At the top of this supply chain are wealthy airlines and airports reaping the benefits of this exploitation. The Federal Government is supporting companies like Aerocare whose actions are not only hurting their employees but also dragging the economy down through low wage growth,” he said.

“The TWU stands ready to re-enter negotiations on an agreement that provides Aerocare employees with pay and conditions that allow them to support their families. If Aerocare is not interested in this the Federal Government needs to hold them and the airlines and airports to account,” he added.

One Aerocare employee reacting to the decision said: “This is a victory for Aerocare staff who are only looking for fairness and equity”.

Aerocare was exposed in the media this year over its working conditions, with video footage released of bedding behind the carousels at Sydney Airport. It was also revealed that the company has a poor safety record with high injury rates. At Sydney International Airport there were 132 injuries over a one year period among a staff of just 326. Aerocare has also been exposed over security and safety breaches at Perth and Canberra Airports.

The TWU analysis of the Aerocare agreement shows: • One employee working an average of 37 hours per week will be paid $3,901 per month which is $1,129 below the award • One employee working an average of 32 hours per week will be paid $3,240 per month which is $590 below the award

Concerns were raised over the vote on the Aerocare agreement, which was passed after a rushed vote held over the Easter weekend. The vote was not a secret ballot or done independently but was carried out on the internal online system where voters were sent an email confirming how they had cast their ballot. Aerocare confirmed in a letter ahead of the vote that there would be “no scrutineers” overseeing the process.

The aviation industry is highly profitable. The four main airports last year made $1.8 billion in profit. Just last week Qantas posted full year profits of $1.4 billion

31 Aug 2017 Ferado

New Report Shows How Unions Still Matter for American Workers

In advance of Labour Day in the United States, there’s good news for the American union movement. Despite decades of attacks by corporate interests and their political allies, there is a resurgence of interest in collective bargaining, especially among young people. And U.S. unions are more diverse than ever.

These are key findings from a comprehensive new report by the Economic Policy Institute, How today’s unions help working people. EPI researchers detail how collective bargaining plays an essential role in today’s labour market, by raising workers’ wages in the United States, and supporting a fair and prosperous economy as well as a vibrant democracy.

According to the report, U.S. labor unions are diverse like America itself: members include dental hygienists, graduate students, and digital journalists, as well as manufacturing workers and public-sector employees. About two-thirds of union workers age 18 to 64 are women or people of color. 14.5 percent of black workers age 18 to 64 are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, compared with 12.5 percent of white workers and 10.1 percent of Hispanic workers.

Working people in unions use their collective power to secure a fairer share of the income they create. On average, a U.S. worker covered by a union contract earns 13.2 percent more in wages than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same sector. But importantly, collective bargaining also raises wages for nonunion workers—as an economic sector becomes more unionized, nonunion employers pay more to retain qualified workers, and norms of higher pay and better conditions become standard.

However, there is an ongoing attack on workers’ freedom to unite and bargain with their employer. Three-quarters or more of private employers facing organizing drives hire union avoidance consultants to quash the campaign, and a growing number of American states have adopted so-called “Right-to-Work” laws, which seek to defund private sector unions. Additionally, more companies are misclassifying workers to avoid responsibility for the conditions of their employment.

In the face of this, unions have faced an upsurge in popularity—with a favorability of 60 percent in one survey—and given growing inequality and stagnate wages for workers, it is easy to understand why.

“Unions raise workers’ wages and strengthen their rights at work, but they also give working people a voice in our democracy,” said EPI President Lawrence Mishel. “We will never again see consistent robust middle-class wage growth or a healthy democracy without first rebuilding collective bargaining.”