23 Aug 2017 Ferado

Tower Crane Operator Network: Solidarity Call from Up in the Air

Bringing together tower crane operators and construction unions from Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Korea, the BWI Asia Pacific Region launched a tower crane operators network on August 15, 2017.

“I am so proud to be part of this inspiring network. We learned a lot from the experience of our KFCITU comrades’ persistence and long history of union struggle to ensure the protection of rights of crane tower operators. We will organize more tower crane operators in Malaysia,” said Alias, President of Union of Construction Employees Industry (UECI) of Malaysia.

With the soaring of mega infrastructure projects in the Asia and Pacific region, tower crane operators have emerged as a strategic trade in the construction sector. However, the precarious employment model of subcontracting is one of the major issues that have put these workers in a vulnerable position.

The tower crane operators are also at high risk to occupational accidents due to flawed safety compliance at the construction site for tower crane operators. Extreme weather conditions during the hot summer and typhoon season has claimed lives of many tower crane operators in Hong Kong and South Korea. Pushing to meet construction deadlines and trying to cut costs, many construction companies are opting to use sub-standard and often obsolete models of tower cranes that further jeopardize the safety of the tower crane operators.

“The role of union is very important in ensuring employment security without compromising safety and working standards,” said Kim Kyung Shin, Vice President of KFCITU whose union has gone through a 20-year struggle to organize more than 2,000 tower crane operators in South Korea. Nation-wide industrial agreement for decent work underpinned with strong union membership activism was the key strategy discussed in the network meeting.

Developing and implementing organizing strategies targeting tower crane operators was a key part of the discussions amongst the participants. The Construction General Worker Union (CSWGU) of Hong Kong committed to further strengthen its organizing strategy to outreach to the 615 tower crane operators in Hong Kong.

The network will be further expanded and diversified addressing major issues in the trade such as long working hours, precarious employment, lack of safety standard and future automaton of the construction industry.

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson reiterated the strategic value of this network, serving as a platform for the global network. In his closing remarks, he mentioned, “By launching this network, the BWI continues its agenda of building strategic trades in the construction sector.

He continued, “While keeping abreast of the changes and transformation in our industry, we also need to be innovative and upscale our organizing strategies. One of this in organizing tower crane operators who high up in the air are visible and strong. The operators who spend more than 10 hours up in the air to build our cities and communities are the back-bone of all back-bone of all mega-construction projects.”

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23 Aug 2017 Ferado

Garment unions from across the world meet in Myanmar to share strategies

Trade unionists from garment producing countries met in Yangon, Myanmar, to discuss organizing in the supply chain and campaigning for a living wage.

Concluding three years of work on organizing in global supply chains and campaigning for living wages under two projects funded by German organization the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa and Turkey, compared strategies and evaluated progress in an industry that is seen as synonymous with low wages, long working hours and sub-standard working conditions.

Welcoming the unionists to Myanmar, many of them for the first time, Maung Maung, President of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar, provided an update on discussions for setting the second minimum wage in the country. Myanmar’s first ever minimum wage was introduced in 2015 at 3,600 kyats/day (US$3.6). It is far from a living wage and unions are currently conducting wage research around the country, before putting forward new demands at the end of September.

Sharing successful strategies for organizing in the supply chain, participants from the Philippines spoke of the increased strength gained by using alliances.

Myanmar unionists stressed the importance of education: “We meet workers in the streets and in tea shops, and teach them about their rights and the law even before the union in the workplace has been officially registered.” Turkey counts 1,1 million workers in the textile and garment industry, and there is a need to educate workers on unions and collective bargaining agreements:

“Organizing is made additionally difficult as it is often linked to a big risk of dismissal. Implementing global framework agreements

IndustriALL has signed global framework agreements (GFAs) with Inditex, H&M, Mizuno and Tchibo.

Talking about the implementation of the GFA with H&M in Cambodia, Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL garment and textile director, presented the work of the national monitoring committees (NMC), set up in a number of countries as conflict solving mechanisms.

“The NMCs consist of three union representative and three H&M representatives, and they gives us a possibility to exchange concerns. The GFA has been instrumental in resolving conflicts in Myanmar and Pakistan.

“There is a shift in the supply chain, a move away from voluntary initiatives to functioning industrial relations.”

Creating a level playing field for wages

Campaigning for a living wage is a key goal of IndustriALL. Many speakers talked about the inadequacy of garment worker wages and how difficult it is to negotiate higher wages when factories are being squeezed by their multinational brand customers.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft says that unions must look beyond the minimum wage and push for a new wage fixing mechanism that takes account of the way that brands contract with suppliers and the prices they pay.

The meeting was joined by Frank Hoffer, newly appointed Executive Director of the ACT initiative between IndustriALL and global brands who spoke of how ACT aims to introduce industry collective bargaining linked to brand purchasing practies to garment supply chains.

“The minimum wage does not take into account other wage-related factors like working hours, skills training and productivity. We need a system that lifts standards across the market and enables workers to enforce their own agrements.

“To achieve a living wage there is a need for higher wages to be set across the entire industry in order to prevent individual factories and brands from negotiating lower prices based on lower wages.”

While many of the countries represented at the workshop have a minimum wage, this is set at a level that does not enable workers to meet their basic needs, leaving them reliant on excessive overtime hours to supplement their wages. Having heard positive examples from South Africa, Sweden and Indonesia, the meeting concluded on the importance of making the case to employers and governments of the mutual benefits of introducing industry bargaining more widely in the garment sector.

23 Aug 2017 Ferado

Ocheni to take charge of budgeting at Labour Ministry

Abuja: The newly appointed Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Professor Stephen Ocheni, has assume office with a clear mandate from the Minister, Senator Chris Ngige, to improve the 2018 budgetary allocation to the ministry.

According to Ngige, the of State will take charge of the 2018 budgeting, because as a professional accountant, he would make it the best.

While receiving Ocheni, the minister charged him to utilise his credibility as a renowned professional accountant to improve on the 2018 budgetary system of the ministry.

Ngige said “I am particularly pleased by the fact that you are an account professional with various degrees in accounting and that will remove the load from me in budgeting. You will take charge of the 2018 budgeting which we are about to start so that our budgeting system will improve.

“I made it better when I came, you can push it to become best. I am optimistic that by God’s grace you will put in your best to uplift this ministry and the Nigeria nation at large.”

He added “it is our pleasure to welcome the new Minister of State into our fold. Ministry of Labour and Employment is one of the oldest ministries in Nigeria, dating back to 1927 as colonial department. It is a challenging ministry that has been manned by prominent Nigerians in the past, your deployment as a Minister of State for Labour and Employment gives credence to your credibility as a renowned academic and astute bureaucrat.”

Responding, Ocheni assured the minister of his commitment to bring his knowledge and experience to bear in the discharge of his responsibilities towards the attainment of the objective of the ministry and the change agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.

23 Aug 2017 Ferado

Three labourers from Rahim Yar Khan found dead in Balochistan

Quetta: ( PAKISTAN) Three labourers from Rahim Yar Khan were found dead in Balochistan’s Kech district on Sunday, Levies sources told Labour News.

The labourers who were working on a development project in the area had been kidnapped by unidentified miscreants four days ago, the sources said.

The bodies were found with multiple bullet injuries in Kech’s Hoshab area by locals.

The Levies, who were alerted by the locals, reached the spot and shifted the bodies to a hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing.

22 Aug 2017 Ferado

Turkey proposes free movement of workers with Kazakhstan

TURKEY: Central Asian countries are exploring forms of integration resembling those of the European Union, the latest one being the establishment of free movement of people and workers between Turkey and Kazakhstan.

The Astana Times reported on Thursday (17 August) that Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci had proposed during a recent Kazakh-Turkish business forum “a visa-free regime for migrant workers” between the two countries.

Turkey and Kazakhstan already have a visa-free regime, but the proposed step is to remove obstacles for nationals of the two countries seeking employment on each other’s territory.

Zeybekci said both countries have been cooperating for a long time. Turkey has invested about $2 billion in the Kazakhstan economy and this could be increased to $10 billion, he said.

Trade between the two countries is mainly based on natural energy resources but Turkish companies are ready to supply textile products and some food products to Kazakhstan, the minister stressed. However, Kazakhstan and Turkey first need to review their trade agreement and remove some barriers, such as for the free movement of workers, he said.

High level visit

Zeybekci announced 9-10 September as the date of the official visit to Kazakhstan of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It has also been reported that the Turkish president intends to take part in the upcoming Organisation for Islamic Cooperation Summit on Science and Technology as part of his visit to Astana.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkey has been trying to implement comprehensive policies on the newly independent so-called ‘Turkic’ states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Regional cooperation

According to researcher Özge Nur Öğütcü from the Center for Eurasian Studies, Turkey has invested a lot in regional cooperation involving the Turkic states. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the emergence of new regional organisations such the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which was first proposed by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

Turkey’s initiative to include Turkic states in the ECO as one of the founding members and its participation in the CICA and SCO enabled Turkey to observe agendas of regional actors and engage with Turkic states under the umbrella of regional formations, Öğütcü wrote.

Other important institutions are the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) established in 1993, the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries (TURKPA), set up in 2008, the International Turkic Academy established in 2010, the Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation formed in 2012, and the Turkic Business Council, whose founding document was signed in 2011.

Today, Turkic states host Turkish universities such as Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University in Kyrgyzstan and Akhmet Yassawi University in Kazakhstan. The Yunus Emre Institutes for Turkish language education in Astana and Baku have been providing learning opportunities to young people.

Askar Turganbayev, a representative of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Sport at the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY), said the Kazakh president is one of the most ardent supporters of the TURKSOY.

“Many initiatives of President Nazarbayev are related to the development of this organization,” Turganbayev said.