19 Dec 2016 Ferado

Salt corporation workers threaten to lock bank branch

INDIA: Hit by severe cash crunch after demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, the contract and regular women workers of Tamil Nadu Salt Corporation Limited have decided to surrender their bank passbooks and lock the branch of Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) at Keezha Selvanoor to register their protest.

Working Women Forum (WWF) of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), which discussed the problem faced by the daily wage workers at the Corporation’s community hall at Valinokkam on Sunday, adopted a resolution to surrender the passbooks and lock the branch on December 26.

A large number of women workers who participated in the meeting, chaired by M. Mala, district convenor of the WWF, said the demonetisation move had badly affected their normal life as they could not draw money from the bank for the second month now.

The Corporation, which had been paying their salaries in cash before demonetisation, credited their salaries in their bank accounts after the cash crunch started, forcing them to stand at the bank branches for long hours for days together to draw a paltry sum of Rs. 2,000 from their accounts, they said.

The women, who worked from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. in salt pans, spent the afternoon by taking up farm work and other odd jobs to supplement their family income, but were now standing at the bank branches, H. John Soundararaj, CITU district president, who attended the meeting, said.

As the women could not draw money from the bank, the women folk struggled to purchase provisions, milk and vegetables for day-to-day living, he said.

Sivagaji, district secretary, would lead the agitation on December 26, when the workers would surrender their bank pass books, after which, he would lock the IOB Valinokkam branch, located at Keezha Selvanoor, Mr. Soundararaj said.

There were about 1,400 women workers employed in the Corporation and nearly 700 of them had their accounts in the branch, he added.

19 Dec 2016 Ferado

Zuma told ‘bogus union’ to spy on Amcu

Johannesburg – The leaders of a trade union that was allegedly established as a covert intelligence project claims they received instructions from President Jacob Zuma to spy on rival trade unions such as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

This is among the explosive claims made in a civil suit brought against Zuma and several government ministers and departments in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Thebe Maswabi, one of the founding members of the Workers Association Union (WAU), a new trade union registered in 2014, is suing Zuma and several government ministers and departments for R114 million. Maswabi has claimed that he’d been instructed to establish the WAU, partly with the assistance of agents from the State Security Agency (SSA). However, the funding provided by Zuma and the other defendants allegedly stopped, leaving Maswabi in debt.

According to Maswabi’s particulars of claim filed at court, a SSA agent facilitated the first meeting between him and other would-be members of the union and Zuma in September 2013. The alleged meeting took place at the Union Buildings. There were a total of four meetings with Zuma throughout September and October 2013, according to court papers.

The alleged meetings were held in the wake of the Marikana massacre in 2012 and in the context of the ongoing violent strikes in the platinum sector.

“The first defendant (Zuma) had indicated that the police, army and intelligence will work hand-in-hand with the plaintiffs (Maswabi and the WAU) to bring stability within the platinum belt for the interest of the national economy,” reads the particulars of claim.

The new union’s mandate seemed to be very much centered on destabilising Amcu.

Cash, cars for WAU members

According to the particulars of claim, it was decided at the meetings with Zuma that the WAU needed to “mobilise members who will be pro-negotiation for wages as compared to strike as envisaged within the operation of trade unions like Amalgamated Mineworkers and Construction Union (sic), hereafter referred to as ‘AMCU’.”

Maswabi and the WAU were allegedly also instructed “to acquire sensitive information from their rival trade unions especially on instigators and perpetuators of illegal strike within those unions’ meetings and plenary sessions and to provide digital or documentary proof of such attendance.”

The new union’s members would also “provide feedback and progress of intelligence work which would ordinarily have been carried out by the third defendant (state security minister David Mahlobo and the SSA),” according to the court papers.

Maswabi has also filed several attachments in support of his claim, including bank statements that show large amounts of money being paid into the account of a WAU member, and pictures of cars that were allegedly supplied to the WAU by members of the SSA.

News24 has sent detailed queries about Zuma’s alleged involvement in the matter to presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga. He has not provided us with a response.

Rapport and City Press first reported on the WAU earlier this year.

A “registration of a trade union” document submitted to the department of labour for the WAU’s official registration contained a cellphone number that was traced to Monde Gadini, husband of Bonisiwe Makhene, Zuma’s legal adviser.

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Tata Steel reaches pact with unions over Port Talbot plant

INDIA:Unions and politicians welcomed Tata Steel’s accord with unions which entails the steel giant derisking its pension liabilities and committing to secure jobs at its Port Talbot plant in Wales, at least until 2021.

The deal also includes plans to invest for a further five years.

Questions over the precise future shape of the plant and its 4,000 employees had hung over the firm since earlier in the year when Tata Steel stalled plans to sell the facility and began potential merger discussions with German steel producer ThyssenKrupp over its existing European assets.

“This is good news that secures the future of steel-making at Port Talbot for at least 10 years,” Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, said on Thursday. “Earlier this year, I was very pessimistic about what the future might hold for steel-making. This agreement was achieved by a lot of hard work by everyone involved.”

“This proposal would secure jobs for years to come and brings serious investment not just to Port Talbot but to steel works across the U.K.,” Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community Union, said following the announcement of the deal on Wednesday evening.

The union said that it was a “significant shift” from Tata Steel’s opening offer, which didn’t include any commitments regarding jobs and Port Talbot’s two blast furnaces.

5-year commitment

Under the agreement reached, Tata Steel has agreed to keep both blast furnaces at the site open for at least five years, and will invest 1 billion pounds over a 10-year period to support steel-making, and it will avoid making compulsory redundancies for the next five years, similar to the one reached with workers in the Netherlands.

Crucially, the company has launched a consultation on replacing its defined benefit British Steel Pension Scheme with a defined contribution scheme, with maximum contributions from the company of 10 per cent and employees of 6 per cent. That shift had been considered previously but did not take place after unions and the company agreed on changes to the terms of the existing scheme last year. Union members are due to be balloted on the latest proposals regarding the scheme in the New Year. “This is not the end of the process and it will be for all our members to now vote on this proposal,” said Rickhuss.

Tony Brady of the Unite Union welcomed the “step in the right direction” but called for more steps from the government, specifically an industrial strategy, and a pledge that they would “hold Tata to their word.”

Koushik Chatterjee, Group Executive Director of Tata Steel and Executive Director for European business, said the changes would create a “sustainable” future for British steel in unprecedented times for the industry, while the changes to the pension arrangements would help de-risk the company and help achieve long-term sustainability.

“The delivery of Tata Steel U.K.’s transformation plan and generation of free cash flows will be the key enabler for the future sustainability of the business and we are very encouraged by early signs of the delivery of the plan,” he said.

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Trade unions want budget 2017-18 to create more jobs and Employment.

New Delhi: The Union Budget for fiscal 2017-18 should create more jobs and employment opportunities, trade unions said in a representation to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

“The budget should help in creating more jobs and employment opportunities. The minimum wages should be increased to Rs 18,000 per month, and same wages for same work even for contract labour,” said the Finance Ministry in a statement here on Saturday.

In a joint memorandum, the unions urged the minister to raise the minimum personal tax exemption to Rs5 lakh and increase pension for all workers to Rs 3,000 from Rs 1,000 per month.

“The budget should focus on social security schemes for the workers, especially those working in the unorganised sector,” the statement said.

Other suggestions include credit to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector at 4 per cent interest rate as it generates more jobs, mobile banking facility in rural areas and revised rates for emergency treatment under the Central Government Health Scheme.

“Ensuring the benefits of the social security schemes to every section of workers, including those in the unorganised sector, is a major priority of the government,” said Jaitley on the occasion.

Admitting that making the schemes accessible to the workers in the unorganised sector was a major challenge, he said the government was keen to address the issue as the sector was growing at a faster pace.

Noting that the social security framework was structured for different groups spanning organised, unorganised and unemployed or below poverty line, Jaitley said there was a need to ensure a convergence of benefits for all the groups.

Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian and Labour Bureau Director General Rajan Kumar were present at the meeting.

Among the trade union representatives were Tapan Sen (CITU), Vrijesh Upadhyay (BMS), Ashok Singh (INTUC), D.L. Sachdev and V.S. Giri (AITUC), Harbhajan Singh Sidhu (HMS), Sankar Saha (AIUTUC), S.P. Tiwary (TUCC), Manali Shah (SEWA), Rajiv Dimri (AICCTU) and Deepak Jaiwal (NFITU).

18 Dec 2016 Ferado

Union leader under attack for acting as Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘puppet master’

ON:Jeremy Corbyn’s most powerful union ally, Len McCluskey, has been bitterly attacked by the man seeking to end his six-year reign in charge of Britain’s biggest union, Unite.

In his first newspaper interview since announcing that he will challenge McCluskey in an election, with huge potential repercussions for Corbyn and for Labour, Gerard Coyne accuses the Unite general secretary of meddling too much in Westminster politics, and of neglecting the crucial issues facing working people.
Unite challenger: ‘We have to focus on how to grow unions, not influence in Westminster’
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“I just don’t think that ever again the general secretary should be the puppet master of the leader of the Labour party,” Coyne – Unite’s regional secretary in the West Midlands – told the Observer. “There is an opportunity for change, for a fresh start, for members to get their union back.”

The battle for control of Unite is being seen at Westminster as a proxy war for control of the entire Labour party. Many Labour MPs see Coyne’s challenge as a chance to break the alliance between Corbyn and the leftwing Unite leadership and restore it to the centre ground.

In July, McCluskey accused MPs who plotted to oust Corbyn of “being seduced by sinister forces”. At its annual conference, Unite then called for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs in a move which many saw as the start of a purge of moderates by the hard left.

Labour MPs have since said that Unite activists have been organising in their constituencies in an effort to boost memberships and tip the balance in favour of deselections in future ballots.

Coyne says he, as much as anyone, wants a Labour government and that he fully endorses the commitment in Unite’s rulebook to back the party. But he claims McCluskey has made politics too much of a priority at the expense of fighting everyday battles on behalf of Unite’s 1.4 million members.