Union leader loses appeal in South Korea

On Wednesday this week, the Seoul High Court upheld the jailing of Han Sang gyun, the president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) for the ‘crime’ of organising demonstrations. The court sentenced Han to 3 years' imprisonment with a fine, which is a reduced penalty from the one he received a few months back. Nevertheless, this once again shows the political nature of the legal attacks against the powerful South Korean workers’ movement. In light of the massive anti President Park mobilisations and her subsequent impeachment, this ruling shows that the Korean working class is still a force to be reckoned with but is facing hard battles ahead.

Jailed labour activist facing more harassment

Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a labour activist with the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Workers’ Organisations in Iran and a Children's Rights advocate, is facing a new round of interrogations and harassment. Behnam has been in jail since 2010. He was originally given a 5 year sentence for the ‘crime’ of organising, but because of his continued activism while in jail, he received a new extended sentence. Behnam has been brutally treated while in prison, and recently his family have also been harassed. Iran has unfortunately become a prison gulag for labour activists with countless workers jailed for attempting to organise. 

Another worker killed at Bangladeshi shipbreaking yard

Earlier this month, Shah Jahan was killed while working on a container ship in Chittagong, Bangladesh, when he was struck in the head by a large piece of iron. As with many other workers, Shah was not provided with any safety gear or heavy lifting equipment. Unfortunately this is only the latest death to hit the Chittagong shipbreaking yards where unions are heavily repressed. This death also comes just few weeks after the horrific explosion and fire at the Gadani shipbreaking yards in Pakistan that claimed the lives of scores of workers.

Turkey continues repression of opposition

Following the bloody attack against police in Istanbul by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) which killed 44 people, the Turkish government has continued its ‘scorched earth policy’ of using any pretence to go after any real or potential political opposition. In the aftermath of this bombing, the Turkish government conducted a major sweep by rounding up hundreds of people, many of them members of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Included in these arrests, were Caglar Demirel and Besime Konca, two HDP parliamentarians from the South East regions of Turkey. Amid ongoing bombings by the TAK, the PKK, ISIS and widespread government repression, the situation for workers in Turkey has deteriorated markedly.

Lebanon deports migrant worker activists

The Lebanese government marked International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016, by deporting Sujana Rana, a Nepalese migrant domestic worker involved in the struggle for the rights of migrant domestic workers. A fellow labour worker activist, Rosie Limbaugh, remains in custody, also facing deportation. An international campaign has been launched to stop the forced deportation of Rosie and calling for her immediate release. This crackdown on migrant workers is only the tip of the iceberg with millions of migrant workers all around West Asia continue to face brutal exploitation and repression (see here, here and here).

Indian workers the losers in demonetisation

In early November, the Government of Narendra Modi announced that it was withdrawing from circulation the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes and people had 50 days to exchange them with the banks. The stated intention by the government was to stop the informal economy and raise revenue. What is now being seen is that this edict is having a devastating effect on workers all over India. From the south in Tamil Nadu, to the textile strongholds in the Eastern region of Maharashtra, to the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand state, to the capital region of New Delhi, workers are either not being paid their salary or losing their jobs in the thousands.

Tuna company denies justice to dead worker

The fishing industry in much of South East Asia is controlled by large companies that rely on a migrant and un-organised workforce to reap huge profits. Filipino workers make up a large part of the workforce. Captain Wilfredo died from an untreated illness while being held in detention in Indonesia for illegal fishing. The company, the Citra Mina Group, refused to help Wilfredo, and has now refused appeals from his family to repatriate his body to the Philippines for a proper burial.

Canada’s asbestos ban not good enough

This week, after years of lobbying and campaign by labour and health groups, the Canadian government announced that it will ban the use of asbestos in Canada within 12 months. While this is a great win for Canadian workers, their families and communities, the government only recommended that a panel be set up to review the export of asbestos. Canada is one of the world’s main producers of asbestos and 98% of the asbestos mined is exported to Asian countries. This decision means that more workers and working class communities in Asia will be left exposed to this deadly material.

CUB workers win an important battle

This week, after a hard fought six month campaign that spanned the globe, 55 maintenance workers in Melbourne, Australia, won their dispute against the CUB brewery, part of the global empire of the AB InBev company. The company had tried to destroy the union by sacking these workers and wanting to rehire them through a labour hire agency at less than half of their wage. The workers stood firm and with the support of other workers in Victoria and elsewhere, they were able to regain their permanent jobs. On Monday the 12 December, a victory rally will escorted them for their first day back. While this is a great win, global companies like AB InBev have internationally integrated operations and are always looking to implement ‘world best practices’ that undermine workers’ wages and conditions across their global empire.

Aboriginal activist in Australia wins landmark compensation

The Australian Federal Court this week awarded AUD $220,000 in damages to the Aboriginal community of Palm Island in Queensland, Australia, for being subjected to racial discrimination. The judgement was against both the Government of Queensland and its police force in relation to the police actions in 2004 on Palm Island. The police handling of the death of Cameron Doomadgee and the subsequent protests were found to be racially discriminatory. The action was initiated by a local man, Lex Wotton, who had been jailed for his part in the protests and then banned from speaking to the media.

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