10 Nov 2018 Ferado

Iranian court sentences 15 HEPCO workers to prison and flogging for striking

Fifteen employees of the Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO) have been sentenced to prison and flogging after striking over unpaid wages.

Branch 106 of the criminal court of Arak has sentenced 15 HEPCO workers to between a year to two and a half years in prison and 74 lashes for “disrupting public order” and “instigating workers via the internet to demonstrate and riot” after strike action against unpaid wages in May this year.

HEPCO workers have taken repeated strike action to protest wage arrears, a decline in occupational safety and uncertainty surrounding continued production. This follows years of mismanagement at the company that has seen the workforce of specialized engineers decline from over 8,000 to around 1,000 today.

HEPCO was once one of the most prestigious heavy equipment manufacturers in the region. The company was first privatized in 2001, bailed out by the state after it failed, and privatized again last year, resulting in large scale job losses and a decline in conditions. The company produces construction equipment under license for Volvo, Komatsu and Liebherr and other companies as well as its own brand.

Unions in Iran see the sentencing as an attempt to warn workers against taking action.

In an address to the labour minister Mohammad Shariatmadari, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran (UMMI) said:

“Can a hungry stomach by silenced by a legal judgement? Is that the message of the minister to the workers of our homeland? Do Mr Shariatmadari and the Ministry of Labour intend to suppress more unions and starve workers? Strikes and protests are the right of the workers and all the people of Iran. We will not give up this right.”

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“Iran is introducing bad economic policies, inspired by neoliberal economics that undermine society and labour. We are angry at seeing this wave of privatization, combined with corruption and a repressive state. This is a recipe for disaster.

“The workers at HEPCO are right to protest against the mismanagement of the company. They have no choice but to take strike action against unpaid wages. They need to eat. The security forces cannot suppress the legitimate demands of Iran’s workers forever. Iran must recognize independent unions.”

UMMI reports severe economic hardship, saying that more than 60 per cent of industrial workshops have shut. The influx of unemployed workers to unemployment insurance is unprecedented, and could lead to the bankruptcy of the social security.

10 Nov 2018 Ferado

400 complaints in a year – and most about salaries: Trade Union

Muscat: Not receiving salaries is one of the most common complaints received by the General Federation of Oman Trade Union (GFOTU).

In one year, the federation received over 400 complaints from expat and Omani workers in the private sector.

Speaking to Times of Oman, Omar Al Shehri, member of the board of directors and Vice Chairman of the Legal Committee at GFOTU, said, “Annually, we receive more than 400 complaints from Omani and expat workers, which include legal consultations, individual and group complaints.”

“We aim to find suitable solutions for all the workers that resort to the federation in all methods possible in order to achieve stability of the workers,” Al Shehri added.

Non-Omani employees are entitled to join licenced trade unions in the Sultanate.

“Expats also have the right to resort to the Federation directly. A worker can also register the complaint through the website of the General Federation of Workers of the Sultanate of Oman.”

There are specialised committees at the General Federation of Oman Trade Union to “keep pace with trade union actions in the Sultanate”.

Such committees include the working women committee, the expatriate workforce committee, the rights and duties committee, and the work culture and training committee.

The expat workforce committee specialises in making site visits to private sector institutions to assess the situation of the expatriate labour force and to monitor any violations against them.

The committee also collected expatriate workforce labour complaints and discussed them with the rights and duties committee.

“As a result of visits by specialists from the GFOTU to various work sites, the main complaints they received surrounded not receiving salaries for numerous months, not complying with the health and safety standards, and long work hours without compensation for overtime,” said Al Shehri.

On why it is important for expats to be aware of their rights, Al Shehri said, “The awareness of expatriate workers with regard to their rights and duties is one of the serious aspects of the contractual relationship between the worker and the employer. Such awareness also plays an important role in achieving job security and a stable work environment.”

10 Nov 2018 Ferado

Metro Bus workers being denied rights

Lahore: More than 10,000 workers performing their duties at Metro Bus Service in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan have been underpaid and denied their due rights, particularly the right to leave.\

The metro security personnel – 410 in Multan, 1,050 in Lahore and 550 in Rawalpindi – have not been getting even salaries as well as weekly rests, 24 annual and casual leaves and 12 festival holidays for years.

Likewise, other staffers including housekeepers, inbox and maintenance workers – 2,995 in Multan, 3,570 in Lahore and 1,285 in Rawalpindi – are given only weekly offs, not other leaves they are entitled to, throughout the year, in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan and the Road Transport Workers Ordinance 1961, as per the officials.

Mr Uzair Shah, the general manger of PMA, which is the statutory body established by Punjab government to plan, construct, operate and maintain mass transit systems in the major cities of the Punjab, said the PMA has outsourced all of its operations and maintenance services. It has outsourced security services to M/s Security 2000 Pvt. Ltd; janitorial and housekeeping services to Lahore and Rawalpindi waste management companies (LWMC); procurement, operation and maintenance services to M/s Platform Tourism; M/s Inbox Technologies Ltd. and KentKart; M/s Merin Pvt. Ltd,; M/s Pak German Engineers Pvt. Ltd.; M/s Greeves Pvt. Ltd.; M/s Pak German Engineers; M/s Techaccess Pakistan Pvt. Ltd; M/s NASCO Traders; M/s Daewoo Express Pakistan; and M/s LMKT – in Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi.

In the presence of the legal provisions, the metro workers are deprived of their right to have weekly rests and different annual leaves making mockery of the state and the PMA which consists of Punjab Chief Minister as its chairperson, transport minister, three other MPAs and officers as its members. The security supervisors, guards and staffers of the three metro projects told this scribe that they had been sick of doing job without even a single leave or holiday since the projects had been set up by the Punjab government.

For the purpose of attendance, they daily have to come before cameras set up at all the metro stations and then the security supervisors mark their attendance in registers. The supervisors also send the names of staff present to the Security 2000 offices where their monthly salaries are finalised.

Mr Uzair Shah maintained that the PMA could take action against the companies by holding their payment in abeyance only when they were found violating the constitution or any law. He was then told by The Nation that Section 4(2) of the Road Transport Workers Ordinance 1961, which regulates the hours of work and other conditions of employment of road transport workers in Pakistan, says “Every worker shall be entitled to have at least twenty-four hours of consecutive rest in a week.” Section 4(4) adds, “Where… a worker is deprived of any of the weekly hours of rest… he shall be allowed, as soon as circumstances permit, compensating hours of rest of equal number so lost.” And “…no worker shall be caused or allowed to work for more than ten consecutive days without a compensating rest for at least twenty-four hours at one time.”

In addition, against the minimum wages fixed by the government, the workers are paid Rs14,000 while the minimum pay fixed by the government is Rs15,000. Those who ensure 100 percent attendance are given Rs15,000 including Rs1,000 as reward for ensuring 100 percent attendance without weekly rests. Whosoever gets one-day leave with or without intimation, he has to sacrifice Rs1,000 bonus and one-day salary of Rs500 as well as suffer a minimum fine of Rs1,300 – a total deduction of Rs 2,800 from his salary.

When a worker goes on leave, someone else has to do double duty of 16 hours at normal wages rate. This is, however, in violation of Section 4(3)a which provides, “The worker employed overtime shall be paid remuneration at twice the rate of his normal wages calculated by the hour.” In addition, in case of refusal, such workers have to face job-loss threats.

Nevertheless, the Section 6 of the law says, “In addition to the period of daily and weekly rest, every worker… shall be entitled to not less than 14 days leave with full pay.” Section 6A(1) says, “Every worker shall be entitled to festival holidays with full wages for twelve days in a year.”
Section 6A(2) provides, “A worker may be required to work on any festival holiday but a substitute holiday shall be allowed to him within ten days of the festival holiday, or, at his option, he shall be paid wages in respect of such work at double the ordinary rate of wages payable to him.” Likewise, Section 6B says, “Every worker shall be entitled in a year to ten days casual leave on full wages.”
When asked why the workers were neither given substitute holiday nor paid wages in respect of such work by the government nor the companies, Mr Uzair said he could do nothing except to stop their payment.
In violation of 5(2) of constitution which states, “Obedience to the Constitution and law is the [inviolable] obligation of every citizen…”, the PMA and the companies concerned have not been fulfilling this obligation. They have also been defying Section 4(1) of the constitution which says, “To enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen.”
Under section 38, the State is bound to ensure equitable adjustment of rights between employers and Workers, and landlords and tenants; and to provide for all citizens…facilities for work; and adequate livelihood with reasonable rest and leisure. It is also bound to provide for all persons employed in the service of Pakistan or otherwise, social security by compulsory social insurance or other means. But the failure of the state to do so even in the public sector departments is obvious.
On the legal arguments, Mr Uzair said that he would issue notices to the company and send the record to the Labour Department so as to ensure the compliance of the law and for the redress of the workers’ grievances.
PMA Lahore Deputy Manager Muhammad Imran, its Multan spokesperson Zahid Raza and Rawalpindi project manager Shumaila said the PMA had outsourced all the services to different companies. Thus, they added, Security 2000 and other companies provide staff and “we are not concerned with what they pay to them and why the workers are not given weekly offs and annual holidays”. But as per the law, “Employer means the owner of any road transport service in which workers are employed.” Thus, also the PMA is accountable for the acts of cruelty being committed against the Metro Bus staffers.
However, they admitted, the PMA was aware of the fact that the workers, especially security personnel, had been deprived of their right to leave since the projects were launched. When asked why the PMA had not cancelled the contract awarded to Security 2000, a company which violates the workers’ rights in defiance of the Constitution and the law, they did not answer.

Punjab Transport Minister Jahanzaib Khichi and Security 2000 owner Faisal Ali Malik neither received the calls made by The Nation nor replied to messages sent by this scribe his version on the issue.
His public relations officer (PRO) said that he did not know the latter’s whereabouts.

Security 2000 Project Manager Maj (r) Amanat and Admin Officer Nayyar Najam refused to comment.

10 Nov 2018 Ferado

Mineworkers demand wages in hard currency

Zimbabwe: Mineworkers are demanding that they be paid poverty datum line-based salaries denominated in foreign currency as the minimum wage in 2019, businessdigest has learnt.

The demand comes at a time the mining sector is going through a turbulent period as a result of the deepening economic crisis. Lack of foreign currency has adversely affected the sector, particularly gold miners, with RioZim closing three of its mines as a result.

Associated Mine Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Tinago Ruzive told Correspondent on Tuesday that they had met employer body Chamber of Mines last week and tabled their demand to be paid in foreign currency, in line with the cost of living.

“We had preliminary discussions with the Chamber last week. It is not business as usual. It is business unusual,” he said. “We told them we want to be paid the poverty datum line in foreign currency. The prices of goods continue to skyrocket which has severely affected the salaries of mineworkers. They can pay us in forex since they sell the minerals in foreign currency.”

Ruzive said the chamber pointed out that the sector was battling to access foreign currency which makes it difficult to pay workers in forex, adding that the current volatility in the economy makes it difficult to come up with a position on wages to be paid next year.

“They have said we should meet again on the issue between 22 and 24 November at which time they hope the situation will have normalised,” Ruzive said.

The demand for the payment of salaries in foreign currency has gained traction since last month’s monetary policy statement by central bank chief John Mangudya which pronounced the separation of foreign currency and Real-Time Gross Settlement accounts. This triggered economic chaos characterised by the shooting up of prices and volatility on the alternative market going as high as 600% at one time.

8 Nov 2018 Ferado

Punjab Population Welfare Dept workers end protest

Lahore: The protesting employees of Population Welfare Department have called off their protest over the assurance of accepting their demands by Punjab Minister for Population Welfare Hashim Dogar.

A delegation of the employees met the minister, Director General Population Welfare Department Naeem ud Din Rathore, Project Director Muhammad Athar and Deputy Director Muhammad Akhtar. The employees briefed the minister about their demands and told him that they gathered on roads for the rights of 3,700 employees from 22 districts who are working with the Population Welfare Department under ADP Scheme of Family Welfare Centres. The minister told them that ADP scheme is being shifted from development budget to non-development budget and summary has been sent to the CM for approval.

The minister assured them that the whole procedure would be completed soon according to law. He said the government will never be blackmailed and relief would be given to the employees after fulfilling the whole legal requirements. The minister stressed that Prime Minister Imran Khan has said no government employee would be terminated from his job, therefore, all employees should rejoin their duties immediately. No action would be taken against the employees who were absent from their duties in these two days, the minister added.

Meanwhile, Secretariat Chowk and Faisal Chowk on The Mall became hostage to disruptive demonstrations and traffic snarls on Wednesday, courtesy a sit-in by the employees of Population Welfare and a rally by the lawyers.

Widespread barricading by the city traffic police to restrict movement of protesters also forced the common people, tired of waiting in stationary vehicles, to try to reach their destinations on foot. Even after the rally ended on The Mall, the city traffic police failed to remove the barricades thus prolonging the agony of commuters.