25 Nov 2018 Ferado

7th pay commission: Retired BSNL, MTNL staff hold strike for pension revision

New Delhi: Retired employees of state-run telecom firms BSNL and MTNL on Thursday held a one-day hunger strike to protest against non-revision of their pension as per the 7th pay commission, the organisers said.

“BSNL and MTNL pensioners who were absorbed from Department of Telecom under the banner of Committee of BSNL and MTNL Pensioners’ Associations observed fast today throughout the country demanding pension revision from January 1, 2017 with 32 percent fitment factor which was given to central government pensioners numbering more than 60 lakh from January 2016,” Convener, Joint Forum of Retirees, S S Nanda said.

The pension of nearly 62 lakh central government pensioners were revised with effect from January 1, 2016 as per recommendation of the 7th central pay commission, he said.

“BSNL/MTNL retirees are also covered under the same rules of central government pensioners but not getting similar benefits,” Nanda said.

25 Nov 2018 Ferado

‘Salt to the wound’: NGOs decry early release of employer jailed for torturing domestic worker Erwiana

A domestic worker action group has criticised the early release of a former employer who abused Indonesian domestic worker, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, as “salt to the wound of injustice” on Thursday.

“It is a sham and an insult to justice,” wrote Justice for Erwiana and All Migrant Domestic Workers Committee (J4EMDW) in a statement. “Three years of jail time is definitely not enough in the face of the gravity of [Law Wan-tung’s] crime.”Law Wan-tung had been serving a six-year jail term after being found guilty in 2015 of assaulting Sulistyaningsih and two other domestic workers. The former employer had been ordered to pay HK$809,430 by the District Court as compensation for their injuries, though she has yet to pay the sum to the Justice Department, the Committee said.

Law was released a few months ago having served only half of her jail sentence, according to the Justice Department. She is reportedly under supervision until her jail term ends. No reason has been given for the early release.

‘Not even adequate’

Speaking via an audio recording, Sulistyaningsih said that she felt disappointed by the early release: “The six-year sentence is not even adequate for the terrible crimes that she committed against me and other victims,” she said.

“As a human being with a heart [who] does not wish to hold resentment, it is my hope that Law Wan-tung can admit to her wrongdoing, apologise to her victims and resolve never to do to the same thing to anyone ever again,” she added.Sulistyaningsih previously said that she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression caused by Law’s abuse.

Tutik Lestari Ningish, an Indonesian former employee of Law, said that she believes her safety has been compromised by the early release and has asked the government to guarantee her safety while her abuser remains in Hong Kong.

Ningish was subject to false imprisonment and assault while employed by Law as a domestic worker from April 2010 to March 2011. Law was ordered to pay HK$170,000 in damages in February to her but has not yet paid the sum, Ningish said.

25 Nov 2018 Ferado

BWI Building and Wood Workers’ International Global unions demands charges against union leaders dropped

The BWI-Asia Pacific, along with the Asia-Pacific Regional Offices of four other global union federations, have released a statement calling on the Government of Cambodia to drop charges filed against six independent trade union leaders from the garment sector. The civil and criminal suits were filed by garment manufacturer for their participation in minimum wage protests.

“There is no evidence suggesting that these leaders called for, caused, provoked or condoned such actions”, said BWI Asia-Pacific Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “This clearly demonstrates the politicisation of the judiciary in Hun Sen’s Cambodia.”

At the BWI World Congress in December 2017 a resolution was passed calling on the Government to suspend the 2016 Trade Union Law and implement the recommendations of the ILO Direct Contact Mission. Since then, however, Cambodia’s fragile democracy has deteriorated significantly. With the help of a pliant judiciary, President Hun Sen banned the major opposition parties from politics, securing victory in this year’s election (his Cambodia Peoples’ Party won all seats).

Independent unions – including BWI affiliate the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC) – remain critical social actors in protecting democratic space in Cambodia.

25 Nov 2018 Ferado

Rana Plaza: work injury compensation still missing in Bangladesh’s labour standards

BANGLADESH: In the five years since the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building in Bangladesh – in which more than 1,134 people lost their lives and hundreds were injured – a variety of strategies have been developed to improve labour conditions and prevent another such disaster. The most prominent of these efforts are private programmes to inspect and upgrade factory buildings where government safety regulations have fallen short.
Much less attention has been paid to another approach to improving labour standards that could have a big impact in Bangladesh: workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation is the payment of cash benefits to injured workers or the families of those killed on the job. Though these payments are minimal – usually covering only lost wages and costs of medical care – workers’ compensation ensures that occupational injuries do not result in secondary health problems and destitution.

Underpinned by a system of employment injury insurance (EII), these compensation payments are guaranteed and automatic rather than fought for in the courts. The modern system of workers’ compensation was first established in Otto von Bismarck’s Germany in the 1880s, which entitled injured workers to limited benefits and employers to protection from liability in what is seen as a basic bargain between capital and labour.
At the time of Rana Plaza’s collapse, compensation law for Bangladeshi workers was weak and widely unenforced. In response, the International Labour Organization (ILO) spearheaded a singular effort to pay compensation to the injured workers and families of those killed. The Rana Plaza Arrangement was a collaborative, voluntary agreement between global apparel companies, trade unions, the Bangladesh government, local employers and labour rights NGOs to make certain that those affected by Rana Plaza would receive at least the minimum standards of compensation specified in the ILO’s Employment Injury Benefits Convention No. 121. The Rana Plaza Arrangement completed payments to affected workers and families in 2015.

Funded mostly by companies that source goods from Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza Arrangement ensured that injured workers and bereaved families received the minimum social protection that is widely accepted as a basic labour right.

Today, the Bangladesh labour movement and its supporters are pushing for the adoption of a national employment injury insurance system to guarantee workers’ compensation that is automatic, fair and meets international standards. It can be difficult to advocate for employment injury insurance because it conjures up images of occupational injuries and deaths that everyone wants to see prevented. But, as the Solidarity Center reported in March 2018, at least 477 workers have been injured and 47 killed in Bangladesh’s garment factories since Rana Plaza.

As Bangladeshi labour activist Kalpona Akter recently said in a statement from the Clean Clothes Campaign: “All these disasters we have seen, with difficult compensation process and only limited options for compensation in Bangladesh labour law, show how much we need a national employment injury insurance scheme.” She called on the Bangladeshi government to pass and enact legislation as soon as possible.

Moving towards state solutions
As my research on the Rana Plaza Arrangement shows, workers compensation is a basic, sometimes meagre form of compensation. Because it is a mechanism to deliver automatic benefits for occupational injuries and fatalities, it leaves out matters of liability and negligence, excludes from compensation the “pain and suffering” of bereaved families or disabled workers, and does not award punitive damages.

In the face of a rapacious global industry that routinely underpays Bangladeshi workers – even after a recent increase in the minimum wage which represents only half what is considered a living wage in the country – the gains to be made with national employment injury insurance can seem small. But an automatic mechanism to disburse basic benefits after an industrial incident can mean the difference between a vulnerable family getting by or falling into destitution.

An additional benefit of national employment injury insurance is that it obliges the government to take responsibility for social protection. Critics of top-down safety initiatives such as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (signed between global trade union federations and multinational apparel companies in 2013) argue that they erode state institutions and trample on sovereignty by marginalising the Bangladesh government and local employers. In contrast, a national employment insurance system will require the robust engagement of state institutions and factory owners.

As a Bangladeshi labour leader I interviewed in 2016 put it, making such a scheme permanent requires changes to labour law that will specify the obligations of government and employers: “We need to update the labour law to reflect the need for compensation for injured workers. Not just a short-term project from international organisations. It needs to be changed in [Bangladesh] law.”

Bangladeshi garment workers need a greater voice and legal support for the formation of trade unions and collective bargaining. The ILO has been advocating for these labour rights even as it now focuses efforts to bring about employment injury insurance. If the Bangladesh government and local employers can make employment injury insurance a reality, it will be a positive sign that the environment for workers in Bangladesh is improving. We should demand that global brands and retailers support these efforts too.

13 Nov 2018 Ferado

VN ready to develop new industrial relations framework

HANOI~: It is time for Việt Nam to develop a new industrial relations framework to boost economic growth and enterprise productivity and ensure workers receive a fair share of the gains produced through their labour.

The new framework will help the country address its industrial relations challenges – shown through wildcat strikes starting in the mid 1990s – and comply with its labour commitments in the new generation of free trade agreements (FTAs) including the EU-Việt Nam FTA and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

As it moves towards a market economy, Việt Nam needs modern labour laws, stronger industrial relations institutions and representative organisations and better enforcement capacity to reap the rewards of international trade and investment.

“Việt Nam is on a pathway to reform through both international integration and the increasing application of modern market economy principles,” said ILO Viet Nam Director Chang-Hee Lee.

Party Resolution No 6 in November 2016 and Party Resolution No 27 in May 2018 clarified the State’s intention to intervene less in labour relationships and to promote collective bargaining and dialogue as the key means of settling terms and conditions of work.

To support the country in this labour reform, the “Project on Promoting the development of a new industrial relations framework in respect of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work” (NIRF project) was launched on November 9 by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) and ILO.

The US$4.3 million project is financially supported by the US Department of Labor and the Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in the form of official development assistance.

Its implementing partners include the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour.

NIRF’s goal is to lay the legal and institutional foundations for a new industrial relations framework, based on the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, in full consideration of Viet Nam’s context.

By the end of the project, Viet Nam should have national labour laws and legal instruments consistent with the 1998 ILO Declaration. It should also have a better-functioning labour administration system for the new industrial relations framework, a more effective labour inspectorate to enforce and promote compliance and enhanced representation of workers and employers.

The elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination at work makes up the other cornerstones of the 1998 Declaration – the central pillar upon which labour requirements of the new generation of FTAs are built.

According to MoLISA vice Minister Doan Mau Diep, the NIRF project “plays an important role in addressing the existing gaps in the industrial relations system, thus helping to build harmonious industrial relations at grassroots level in line with Party decrees.”

He listed the gaps, including labour laws not yet in line with ILO standards and limited State management capacity in industrial relations such as law dissemination and labour inspection. He also pointed out that trade unions have not yet effectively represented workers or protected their rights and benefits, while employers’ organisations are facing challenges in modernising activities to better support members.

In that context, he expects the NIRF project to support Viet Nam in advancing its labour law reform in line with international standards and in consideration of the country’s socio-economic development to reach its international integration goal.