Australian workers continue fight against Parmalat

The lockout of 65 workers in the regional Victorian town of Echuca by the global dairy company Parmalat is now in its 7th week. The dispute is around a new contract and the company’s intentions to cut wages and conditions. Attacks like this on workers in Australia are becoming more common. The workers are receiving strong support from the electrical and manufacturing unions, while a delegation of maritime workers travelled 1,000 kilometres to deliver financial and political support to these workers. A fundraising campaign has also been set up. To fight effectively against the power of global companies like Parmalat that has facilities in 18 countries, workers need to organise co-ordinated industrial actions in multiple sites across the world.

IWD: Peace, Bread, Land

In commemoration of 100 years since the Russian Revolution that was sparked by International Women’s Day, for this year’s IWD Rally in Melbourne Australia, we’re raising the demand Peace, Bread and Land!  Additionally, Victoria Trades Hall is organising its annual Women’s Rights At Work Festival.  For details of WRAW Fest, check out this link, and for details of the Melbourne IWD rally, check out this link.

Iranian labour activists continue to be targeted

Once again Iranian labour activists are facing the repressive actions of the Iranian government as it tries to contain workers’ anger. This month, an appeal for a retrial of Esmail Abdi, a prominent teacher activist, was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Esmail is serving a 6 year sentence for organising workers. In another case, there is an international campaign to keep Reza Shahabi out of jail. Reza is an organiser for the bus union in Tehran and is currently on bail due to poor health. Esmail and Reza are only two of the many labour activists who are languishing in Iranian prisons.

Somyot’s jail sentence reduced

In a surprising and unexpected move, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s jail sentence was reduced by three years this week. While Thailand’s Supreme Court once again found Somyot guilty of Lese Majeste, it handed out a sentence of 7 years, which is in contrast to a lower court’s sentence of 10 years. Given that Somyot has already been in jail for 6 years, it is likely that he will now be released in April 2018. Nevertheless, the reality is that Somyot has committed no crime and the Lese Majeste law is used to suppress any government critics in Thailand. The fight for Somyot’s release, the fight against military dictatorship, and the fight against the use of Lese Majeste to crackdown on dissidents like Jatupat (Pai) Boonpattararaksa continues.

Free all political prisoners in Thailand! Abolish Article 112! End the military dictatorship!

Arrest of Samsung Vice Chair a small victory

The arrest of Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Electronics’ Vice Chairman, on bribery charges is a small victory for the workers movement in South Korea. His arrest is connected to the political influence peddling scandal that, amid unprecedented mass protests, has forced the South Korean president Park Geun-hye to step aside. At the same time, the fight by labour activists against the deadly occupational health and safety conditions at Samsung Electronics continues. In the last few weeks, another two workers, Kim Ki-cheol and Hwang, died from work related diseases. To fight against a global giant like Samsung, workers need to organise and take coordinated actions internationally.

Thousands of Australian workers to lose pay

This week, the Australian industrial commission handed down a decision that will cut penalty rates for thousands of workers who work on a Sunday. The decision targeted workers in the hospitality, retail and fast food sectors, who are already some of the most exploited and lowest paid workers in Australia. This attack on workers’ wages is seen as the start of a new offensive against workers’ living standards by both governments and capitalists. Penalty rates were won by unions in Australia 70 years ago through industrial action. History shows that they will only be won back by organising workers in the workplace and taking industrial action.

Faremo garment workers win concessions

Earlier this month, the three month long dispute at the Faremo garment factory in the Cavite Free Trade Zone ended with an agreement between the company and the workers. The dispute centred on the company’s resolve to destroy the workers’ union and slash conditions. The workforce of around 1,000, mainly women workers, stayed united even after being dismissed. Their determination allowed them to win further gains. The workers were able to get an additional substantial financial assistance package, the gifting of a number of sewing machines as well as the option of rehiring in the future. The solidarity of other workers in the Philippines and internationally was also of crucial importance in this dispute.

Mass deportations of workers in Saudi Arabia

Reports indicate that in the last few months, Saudi Arabia has expelled around 40,000 migrant workers from Pakistan. Using concerns around security issues, the Saudi Arabian government is expelling large numbers of migrant workers to curtail efforts at workplace organising. Many of these workers are still owed unpaid wages and face difficult times back in their home countries. These deportations are occurring in a climate of economic and social difficulties where migrant workers are being used as scapegoats for these problems. In actual fact, migrant workers in the Gulf countries in West Asia have consistently been used as cheap and disposable labour by national governments.

Missing Trade Union Leader found

Sujeewa Mangala who has been at the forefront of industrial action for over a month against Sri Lanka's main telecommunications provider has been found three days after his abduction.  He went missing on January 29 following court orders banning protests led by his union.  Sujewaa Mangala is the Vice President of the All Ceylon Telecommunication Employees' Union and was found dumped blindfolded at the roadside on 1 February. Telecommunication manpower workers have been on strike since 26 December 2016, for job security. Of nearly 8000 workers, at least 2100 employees come under the manpower employee category. Some of them have been in temporary employment for seven years. Sujeewa Mangala was threatened by the perpetrators to abandon the six week long strike action.

Media union in Australia says Bring Them Here!

The Australian union representing workers in media and the arts is calling on the government to resettle Behrouz Boochani, Mehdi Savari, and ‘Eaten Fish’, respectively a journalist, an actor and a cartoonist who have been detained in a refugee detention camp on Manus Island. These comrades are among 900 other refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers detained on Manus Island as victims of the Australian Government’s cruel policy of deterrence and indefinite offshore detention for those who seek refuge in Australia by sea (see here, here and here). To join the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance campaign, see here.

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