Vale Laurie Burley

On the morning of 16 November 2014 Laurie Burley passed away after a year-long battle with cancer. He will be sadly missed by the union movement and particularly the meatworkers in the retail sector. Since 1989 Laurie was an Organiser with the AMIEU. On behalf of meatworkers in the retail sector he pursued every issue with fearless, unrelenting tenacity until an acceptable conclusion was reached. Laurie would persevere when others would either not have started or otherwise would have long given up.

Our thoughts and condolences go to the family of Laurie and all of his comrades at the AMIEU.

For extended tribute by AMIEU, click here.

Cambodian workers win battle but still seek better national standards

As previously reported, Cambodian workers have been organising under very difficult and repressive conditions. In an important win, the SL Garment Company earlier this week agreed to drop all charges against union leaders and activists. This agreement also included the back paying of US$ 300,000 to all workers who took part in strikes against the company in 2013. This victory will give confidence to workers to reject the government’s latest offer and continue pressing for a better minimum wage for all garment workers.

Filipino workers battle union busting again

After the protracted battle against NXP Semiconductors, the battle against casualisation and union busting has shifted to Wyeth Philippines, a food company that is part of the giant Nestle Corporation.  During the middle of this year, Wyeth Philippines retrenched 87 workers who had been active in the fight against contracting out and casualisation, and for the right to secure employment. There is an international campaign calling for the reinstatement of all the dismissed workers. Co-ordinated industrial action by workers at other Nestle workplaces would be the most effective way to win this dispute.

Arrests of opponents to the military regime in Thailand continue

As reported previously, since coming to power via a coup, the military junta in Thailand has established a climate of fear in an attempt to defeat opposition to its rule, see here, here and here. This week, five more students were detained by the military for protesting against the coup while a joint statement by prominent citizens have called for the military junta to resign. In addition, labour rights activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk this week applied once again for bail pending the hearing of his appeal.

Unions condemn Australian university for hosting garment employers' conference

This week, RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia co-hosted a forum with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Employer Association (BGMEA). The BGMEA has a track record of campaigning against workers right to organise independently at their workplaces and the implementation of internationally recognised Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards. A coalition of unions and activist groups issued a statement in protest. Earlier this month, a delegation of Australian trade unionists travelled to Bangladesh to build solidarity with garment workers.

To hear their report back:

AAWL Public meeting
Organising internationally with workers in Bangladesh
6pm, Wednesday 3 December
Evatt Room, Trades Hall
Lygon st, Carlton, Victoria
Download leaflet here.

Heroic Korean Ssangyong workers suffer new legal setback

In 2009, thousands of workers at the Ssangyong car factory in South Korea occupied their factory in a bid to save their jobs. In spite of their heroic efforts in holding out for 77 days, their struggle was defeated amid a full scale military assault of the factory. The sacked workers have not stopped fighting for their rights. While earlier this year, the dismissed workers won a court ruling against the dismissals, this week the company has managed to overturn this earlier ruling. The dismissed Ssangyong workers are blacklisted in South Korea and the pressure of this fight has resulted in more than 20 Ssangyong workers killing themselves in the last five years.

Forced labour still used in Uzbekistan cotton harvest

As reported previously, the use of forced labour is widespread in the central Asian country of Uzbekistan. While concerted international campaigns have led the Uzbek government to decrease the number of children it gang presses for the cotton harvest, the outcome has been an increase in the number of adults being forced to harvest cotton. Millions of people are forced by the government to pick cotton in slave-like conditions resulting in countless injuries and even deaths.

Walmart workers initiate global campaign for better wages

The Walmart Corporation is one of the biggest companies in the world employing over 2 million workers in 27 countries. It is also a viciously anti union company that keeps its workers un-organised so that it can pay the lowest possible wages to its workers. A global campaign by union and activist groups has been developing over the last few years to break the company’s model of exploitation and organise its workforce. Friday the 19th of November was the International Day of Action against Walmart.

Trade unions still heavily repressed in Iraq

Workers organisations will be crucial for building class-based resistance to violent religious extremism in Iraq. However the prohibition on public sector unions still remains. A new report by the US government-funded Solidarity Centre outlines the organising efforts of electrical and oil sector unions, despite government raids on union offices and persecution of union leaders.

Drop all charges against Andy Hall!

As previously reported (and here), Andy Hall is a prominent migrant and labour rights activist based in Thailand and Burma. In February 2013 he was charged with defaming a Thai company. Defamation is a criminal charge in Thailand and Andy is facing ten million dollars in fines and 8 years in jail. Andy had written a report titled Cheap has a high price for Finnwatch, an NGO in Finland, about the Thai fruit cannery Natural Fruit Company.  Demonstrations are being held right across the world this week, supported by many international unions, to coincide with trials against Andy Hall.

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