21 Aug 2017 Ferado

Filipino dairy farm workers abused, exploited

A union for migrant workers is calling for standard employment agreement for diary farm workers following a “shocking” report into the New Zealand dairy farm industry.

The study “In search of decent work” found migrant dairy farm workers from the Philippines were being abused, exploited, underpaid and made to work in dangerous conditions.

Dennis Maga, co-ordinator for The Union Network of Migrants (Unemig), said the findings were “shocking”.

“We already have suspicions that the industry was problematic, but it was more widespread and worse that we expected,” Maga said.”The report justified our position to investigate the dairy farm industry.”

The study, authored by former Green Party MP Sue Bradford and University of Auckland senior lecturer Sue Abel, interviewed 27 Filipino and three local dairy farm workers and one dairy farm manager.

It was conducted over six months from July to November last year, and looked into the employment and living conditions of these workers.

“There’s a divided labour market in the dairy industry, and that harms both migrant workers and New Zealand workers,” Maga said.

The study found that Filipino workers were “being exploited in ways New Zealanders aren’t”.

About 1700 Filipinos are working on dairy farms in New Zealand.

One farm worker said he wasn’t given a helmet to ride around on a motorbike and another said that for two years, he was made to ride a bike that didn’t have lights or brakes.

Another respondent said he was not provided proper training or wet weather gear, and had to pay $700 from his own pocket to buy one.

“I spray weeds with no protective gear,” one South Island Filipino worker said.

“I just keep vomiting with all the chemicals I use.”

One said there were times when he had to work a whole month without a single day off.

Authors of the report said these workers often came from desperate situations and had very few choices.

“The hesitancy and caution found in the interview process itself only served to confirm the reality of these pressures.”

The report said the fault for poor conditions partly lies with “policies and practices of some farm employers and of a government which encourages migration without careful workforce planning”.

Maga said a solution was to have standard employment agreements for all workers, with wages set at the living wage of $20.20 per hour.

“We have had workers telling us they are on $48,000 per year, but in reality they are paid below the minimum wage if you broke that down to the number of hours they had to work,” he said.

These migrant farm workers should also have standardised rosters with an upper minimum limit on the hours worked, Maga said, and access to breaks, holidays and proper training.

The report is being released today at the First Union head office in Auckland, and will coincide with Unemig’s fifth anniversary.

21 Aug 2017 Ferado

Unions a barrier to health reform: Minister

The power of trade unions in the health sector is the greatest barrier to reform and progress, newly appointed minister for state at the Department of Health Jim Daly has said.

In hard-hitting comments made in an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Daly said the “greatest level of bureaucracy within the health service is at union level” and said his primary concern is how long it takes to negotiate change or reform of any sort.

His comments come as he announced his intentions to deliver plans to enable thousands of elderly people remain in their homes as opposed to having to go into nursing homes.

Mr Daly, who is Fine Gael TD for Cork South West, said he has formed his highly critical view of the influence of unions within the health service over his 14 years as a public representative.

“The unions certainly seem to have a very powerful role and my primary concern is around the time it takes to deliver change because of this additional layer,” he said.

“We all talk about the bureaucracy around the HSE. The largest layer of bureaucracy that I can see within the HSE is at union level based on the amount of time it takes to negotiate change of any sort. That is my concern for reform,” he said.

Mr Daly said the unions’ control is so embedded in the system that it makes reform of the system very difficult.

“To drive policy from an academic desk-top level is very easy and to get additional resources is the easy part, but making it actually happen is far more difficult,” he added.

Mr Daly also said that elderly people are to be given much greater flexibility in what they do to fund their care needs, under radical plans being developed by the Government.

Mr Daly, who has responsibility for the Fair Deal scheme said he wants to encourage older people to have a choice to do what suits them best. Part of his deal is to radically bring in a home-help service, funded through a Fair-Deal type scheme, which would allow a far greater number of elderly people remain in their home.

However, for those who do use Fair Deal, Mr Daly is also looking to encourage people to put their homes on the housing market by helping them to avoid handing over the entire proceeds of the sale to cover their nursing home costs. However, he said any change would not be mandatory.

“The whole basis of this is choice, giving the people involved choice about making the best decisions for their care,” he said.

Speaking yesterday at Glasnevin Cemetery, Health Minister Simon Harris said the goal of the proposed changes is to give flexibility to elderly people.

He said any help the new plans may have to alleviate the country’s housing crisis is a secondary consideration.

“As minister for health, let me be clear, any change to the Fair-Deal scheme will be done with one over-riding objective and that is to help support older people and their families, to empower them and give them more flexibility,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said she wants to concentrate on lone parents and children in the budget as they are more at risk than old-age pensioners.

“There are far more vulnerable people than our old-age pensioners. If you look at the poverty index, lone parents and children are more at risk, so we need to look after them. It is not sexy to say we have to look after lone parents but they are most at risk and they need looking after.”

She referenced the child family payment which might address those issues in the budget.

21 Aug 2017 Ferado

Iran: ITF Calls for the Immediate Release of Reza Shahabi

London, 20 Aug – The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in a statement called for the immediate release of the political activist, Reza Shahabi. According to the statement, the Iranian authorities were asked to stop prosecuting Reza Shahabi and Ebrahim Madadi as well. Additionally, five syndicates of workers in France requested the immediate release of Reza Shahabi. These syndicates claim that the leaders of the Iran regime are responsible for Reza Shahabi and his poor health condition. Based on the statement, Reza Shahabi’s health condition is already failing since he faced poor conditions as well as the inhumane treatments during his previous imprisonment.

The political activist, Reza Shahabi has been starting his hunger strike since last week in Rajaishahr Prison, Karaj to protest against the status of his case as well as his depravation to go on a medical furlough.

On the morning of August 9, 2017, Reza Shahabi went to Rajaishahr Prison to serve the rest of his time.

Nevertheless, the period of his imprisonment increased from 3 months to 17 months because of his absence. He also has to serve time for another year as he was charged with propaganda against the regime based on the case of 2014.

The prosecutor’s office told the family of this political activist that he should be in prison until July, 8, 2019. The five-month conviction was illegally imposed on Mr. Shahabi due to his absence while he was actually on medical leave with the approval of the forensics.

It is noteworthy that Reza Shahabi was detained and sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment on June 12, 2010. He has undergone two surgical procedures (neck and waist) during his imprisonment since the security agents beat him during the arrest and interrogation.

21 Aug 2017 Ferado

Apart from sending half of his monthly income home to his mother and three siblings in Katihar, Bihar, 19-year-old Anzar Alam saves a tiny sum every month for emergencies. But now that his village has been hit by a flood, he feels helpless. “I haven’t been paid in the last two months, so I have spent my savings on rent and food…I need money urgently so my family in Katihar can survive,” said Alam, one of the 1,600 labourers with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) protesting at Jantar Mantar since August 17. Along with the labourers, contractors too have taken to the streets demanding “pending payments of nine months from DMRC and FEMC Pratibha,” which, according to labour contractor Ashish Dwivedi, amounts to “Rs 25 crore”. “We are paid by FEMC Pratibha but nine months ago when we stopped work, DMRC intervened and assured us that they will pay us… since then, partial payments have been made over a month or two,” said Dwivedi, who has 300 labourers under him. When The Indian Express approached the DMRC, Anuj Dayal, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, said, “A section of workers hired by one of DMRC’s contractors, M/s FEMC Pratibha have been agitating over alleged non-payment of dues for the last few days. DMRC would like to clarify that these workers have not been directly recruited or hired by Delhi Metro.” DMRC also does not pay the salaries directly to these workers. The contractor has been directed to clear all dues and DMRC is also closely monitoring the situation.A Metro spokesperson added, “If labourer makes any complaint to DMRC regarding non-payment of wages, DMRC takes appropriate steps. In this case, no individual labourer has made complaints. This is the matter of dues between sub-contractor and the main contractor.” Even as the rain brought the city to a standstill on Saturday, hundreds continued to sit on a dharna at Jantar Mantar, along with 25 labour contractors. “I have paid salaries of the 250 labourers under me for seven months by taking loans…I am in debt now, no longer capable of paying them, which is why we are protesting,” said contractor Babloo Tripathi. The labourers and contractors also revealed that work on Delhi Metro phase III is on hold due to the protest. “At the moment, no work is happening at the nine Metro stations of phase III, which is already delayed by many months…if they don’t meet our demand, we will also put functioning metro service on hold, and lie down on the tracks in protest,” said Tripathi. DMRC, on the other hand, maintained that “there is no delay. We are doing our structural and finishing work. These supply contractors were only doing house keeping work, helping the mechanical and electrical department in their work, the job of office attendants and other miscellaneous work. This is not affecting our schedule as these are ancillary activities”.Meanwhile, labourers such as Rajesh Yadav who hails from Bhadohi near Allahabad, continue to “ignore desperate phone calls from home as there is no money to send.”

INDIA: Apart from sending half of his monthly income home to his mother and three siblings in Katihar, Bihar, 19-year-old Anzar Alam saves a tiny sum every month for emergencies. But now that his village has been hit by a flood, he feels helpless. “I haven’t been paid in the last two months, so I have spent my savings on rent and food…I need money urgently so my family in Katihar can survive,” said Alam, one of the 1,600 labourers with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) protesting at Jantar Mantar since August 17.
Along with the labourers, contractors too have taken to the streets demanding “pending payments of nine months from DMRC and FEMC Pratibha,” which, according to labour contractor Ashish Dwivedi, amounts to “Rs 25 crore”. “We are paid by FEMC Pratibha but nine months ago when we stopped work, DMRC intervened and assured us that they will pay us… since then, partial payments have been made over a month or two,” said Dwivedi, who has 300 labourers under him.
When The Indian Express approached the DMRC, Anuj Dayal, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, said, “A section of workers hired by one of DMRC’s contractors, M/s FEMC Pratibha have been agitating over alleged non-payment of dues for the last few days. DMRC would like to clarify that these workers have not been directly recruited or hired by Delhi Metro.”
DMRC also does not pay the salaries directly to these workers. The contractor has been directed to clear all dues and DMRC is also closely monitoring the situation.A Metro spokesperson added, “If labourer makes any complaint to DMRC regarding non-payment of wages, DMRC takes appropriate steps. In this case, no individual labourer has made complaints. This is the matter of dues between sub-contractor and the main contractor.”
Even as the rain brought the city to a standstill on Saturday, hundreds continued to sit on a dharna at Jantar Mantar, along with 25 labour contractors. “I have paid salaries of the 250 labourers under me for seven months by taking loans…I am in debt now, no longer capable of paying them, which is why we are protesting,” said contractor Babloo Tripathi.
The labourers and contractors also revealed that work on Delhi Metro phase III is on hold due to the protest. “At the moment, no work is happening at the nine Metro stations of phase III, which is already delayed by many months…if they don’t meet our demand, we will also put functioning metro service on hold, and lie down on the tracks in protest,” said Tripathi.
DMRC, on the other hand, maintained that “there is no delay. We are doing our structural and finishing work. These supply contractors were only doing house keeping work, helping the mechanical and electrical department in their work, the job of office attendants and other miscellaneous work. This is not affecting our schedule as these are ancillary activities”.Meanwhile, labourers such as Rajesh Yadav who hails from Bhadohi near Allahabad, continue to “ignore desperate phone calls from home as there is no money to send.”

20 Aug 2017 Ferado

BMKQ General Assembly affirms commitment to Filipino migrant worker rights

QATAR: The Bayanihan ng Manggagawa sa Konstruksyon ng Qatar (BMKQ) – a Qatar-based organization of Filipino migrant workers – held it’s 2017 General Assembly. The event was attended by more than a hundred BMKQ members and leaders of allied organizations.

BMKQ is a Qatar branch of one the BWI’s Philippine affiliates, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW). Formally established in 2015, BMKQ was immediately given accreditation by the Philippine Embassy in Doha as a Filipino community association to represent the interests of the three hundred thousand Filipinos in in Qatar.

BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino gave solidarity greetings at the General Assembly. “Amidst growing instability in the Gulf region, we are emboldened to see BMKQ affirm their commitments to defending the rights of Filipino migrants in Qatar’s construction sector. We wish them great success in building working class power at this critical moment.”

The event also served as the venue for the showcase BWI’s Global Sports Manual entitled, “Labour is Part of the Team: A manual in campaigning in mega-sporting events.” Tolentino noted that, “the manual is a milestone in BWI’s work for the protection and promotion of human and workers’ rights in mega-sporting events, and we look forward to expanding our presence on future events”.

The assembly ratified the Report of BMKQ’s outgoing President on future priorities and elected new officers for 2017 – 2018, including Ressie S. Fos as new President. An elated Ressie said it excited him to see new members lining up to pay their membership dues. “Our members are mostly from low-income level jobs. Every cent counts for them and their families back home, but because of their commitment to the principles and programs of the organization, they are willing to shell out hard-earned money.”

Outgoing President Ka Alan Bulan emphasized that they strived for “quality as much as quantity. We want members that are fully committed to the vision and mission of the BMKQ. Such commitment is translated to active participation in our activities and payment of membership dues. These for me are the hallmark of genuine camaraderie and organization.”

Among those that delivered messages of solidarity during the assembly is the leader-representative of Bayanihan, a newly formed alliance of more than 18 organizations of Filipino migrant communities in Qatar, comprising grassroots membership from sectors like construction and home service workers. The BMKQ has been instrumental in the formation of this broad, community alliance.

“Labour is Part of the Team: A Manual for Campaigning in Mega-Sporting Events” can be downloaded here.

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