International Women Day – March 8

International Working Women’s Day is a day of struggle for the rights of women. Women have the right to work in whatever industry they choose, free from stigma, discrimination, and state harassment – this includes sex work. The history of IWD is recognised as starting in 1909 in New York, USA, when tens of thousands of women garment workers, mainly immigrants from a variety of countries, took to the streets demanding better pay and conditions as well as equality and respect. Marches in support of women’s rights began in March the following year and in 1917 in Russia, it was women workers who on March 8 organised massive rallies with the slogans of ‘opposition to the war, high prices, and the situation of the woman worker’ that began the final collapse of Zsar dynasty and sparked the Russian revolution.

Marches and events for IWD will be held globally.

In Melbourne, Australia there are a series of events, see WRAW Fest 2019, as well as the demonstration on Friday March 8 at 5.30pm at the State Library.


Indonesian mine collapse kills scores of workers

A landslide and mine collapse at an unlicensed goldmine in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province overwhelmed and trapped miners working in it on Tuesday 26 February. Even after some days of rescue effort it is unclear how many workers were actually inside the mine. So far, rescuers, often working with bare hands and hand tools due to the remote location, have said that 7 people have died while another 19 have been rescued, some of whom are badly injured. It is estimated that another 50 workers may still be trapped underground. The number of small and often unauthorised mining is rising throughout Indonesia as workers struggle to secure employment in other areas. Workers at these illegal mines are then at the mercy of landslides, tunnel collapses, flooding and exposure to dangerous chemicals.


Labour activists arrested in southern China

This week, Chinese authorities arrested three well-known labour activists in the southern city of Shenzhen and charged them with gathering a crowd to disturb public order. Labour activists Wu Guijun, Zhang Zhiru and He Yuancheng are currently being held in detention while another two, Jian Hui and Song Jiahui, were also detained this week but not formally charged. At this stage it is not clear to what event or events these charges are referring. Nevertheless these arrests can be seen as a pre-emptive strike by the Chinese government to warn workers because it fears that labour activism will start to grow again as a result of the slowing economy.


War in Myanmar will not stop profits

The Myanmar government hosted an investment fair in the upmarket coastal resort town of Ngapali in February 2019, while the conflict and massacre of Rohingyas continued in most of western Rakhine State. The Prime Minister of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, declared that the state was open for business and that the international community should stop focusing on the ‘negative aspects related to problems in north Rakhine rather than on the panoramic picture that shows the immense potential of this state for peace and prosperity.’ The reality is that leaders of the Myanmar military are facing potential charges of ‘crimes against humanity’ while hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people remain stranded and stateless at the border with Bangladesh.


Bangladeshi workers win right to bargain

Workers in Bangladesh employed at the Dutch-based confectioner Perfetti Van Melle, have finally won the right to have their union bargain for a collective agreement. Perfetti makes candy such as Mentos and Chupa Chups. The workers struggle began in November last year when a large majority of workers formed their own union and applied for legal registration. The company in retaliation pressured the workers to withdraw the application, barred union organisers access to workers as well as visiting workers at their home asking them to sign forms stating they had been forced to join the union. The workers remained united, and in conjunction with a global campaign initiated by the IUF were able to bring the company to the negotiating table.


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