Over 20 migrant workers killed in China

This week, 22 migrant workers were killed in the eastern city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province when the four buildings they were sleeping in suddenly collapsed in the middle of the night. The buildings had already been condemned for demolition, but the owners were renting them out as sleeping quarters to migrant workers employed in the nearby factories. A tragedy like this once again highlights that the cost of China’s industrial expansion has been borne by its workers who are forced to endure long hours, low pay, and face hazardous conditions both at their workplaces and in their living quarters.

South Korean class struggle intensifies

The transport workers strike that began earlier this week is holding firm against increasing repression from the government. In addition to this dispute, the railways and subway workers have been on strike since late last month. The length of these strikes, and the support they are receiving from other workers, is an indication of the anger that Korean workers have against a system that keeps piling the pressure in terms of higher workloads and declining living standards. Workers all around the world have demonstrated their solidarity to their Korean comrades, while the imprisoned KCTU leader, Han Sang Gyun, has received an international labour award. The outcome of these strikes will have a significant effect on Korean workers for years to come.

More activists targeted in the Philippines

The use of death squads and extra judicial killing in the Philippines, under President Duterte’s murderous War on Drugs, is increasing the dangers for all labour and human rights activists. In the last week, a number of peasant activists were arrested on the pretext of being drug runners, while Jimmy Saipan, a farmer-leader and anti-mining advocate was killed by un-identified men in New Visayas. The involvement of the police and military in creating these hit lists or carrying out the killings is now clearly apparent.
No to the War on Drugs! No to extrajudicial impunity!  Stop the killings!

Dispute at brewery giant continues

This week, in the long running dispute at the CUB brewery in Melbourne Australia, workers marked the new ownership regime of AB InBev with a rally outside their offices to remind them that workers are still fighting. The dispute is part of a union busting and wage cutting attempt by the company targeting 55 specialised electrical and manufacturing maintenance workers. The dispute is fast approaching its 5th month, but workers are standing firm with ongoing support both locally and internationally. The new owners, AB InBev, are the biggest brewers in the world, and this may open up new solidarity opportunities with workers employed at AB InBev facilities around the world.

What next for workers in Thailand?

This week, King Bhumibol died after being Thailand’s Monarch for an incredible 70 years. During his reign, the power and influence of the Thai Royal family increased considerably. While the King was patron of many charities, his family was also exceptionally wealthy. His reign also saw numerous coups being carried out with large numbers of labour and human rights activists being killed by the military. In the last decade, the use of the repressive Lese Majeste law has left hundreds of Thai people either in exile or in prison. Given that the current Thai government is a military dictatorship and the steps for succession are unclear, the future for workers and their organisations is uncertain.

Free all political prisoners in Thailand! 

Abolish Article 112! 

End the military dictatorship!

Australian workers at oil refinery win dispute

Coming in the week of the commemoration of the Westgate bridge disaster, workers at the Geelong oil refiner, won their battle for better health and safety conditions at their workplace. The dispute only lasted a week as the workers, with help from labour activists and the local community, were able to stop access to the refinery. While not all issues are settled, workers are confident that they will not only be able to preserve their conditions but also work in a safe workplace.

Pakistani workers march against war

The situation for workers and their communities in Kashmir has deteriorated sharply over the last few months, with many deaths and injuries. These incidents have brought India and Pakistan once again to the brink of war. Another war would have devastating effects on workers in both countries. While the governments of both countries stated they were prepared militarily, hundreds of workers staged a march and rally across Pakistan to call for working class solidarity instead. 

Unionist Helen Kelly dies in Wellington, New Zealand

The first female president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly, has died at the age of 52.  Kelly started her career as a school teacher and became a union delegate on her first day on the job.  Kelly fought unrelentingly for health and safety in the forestry industry, which resulted in significant reductions in deaths at work.  She was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2015, and while trying to access quality medical care, started campaigning for the right to die with dignity and for access to medicinal cannabis.  Kelly’s extraordinary legacy can be read in this obituary. She was a fighter til the end.  The movement has lost another comrade. Vale Helen Kelly. 

Korea strikes intensify as support grows

The indefinite general strike started last week by railway and subway workers in South Korea continues to hold even as the government increases its pressure on the workers. This coming week, Korean transport workers will also begin a general strike, both for their own industrial issues and in support of the striking public workers. These strikes are a continuation of the mobilisations that started in November 2015 and are shaping up as decisive struggles for the whole of the Korean working class. These strikes are receiving wide support internationally (see here, here, here and here).

Westgate bridge memorial to honour the dead

On October 15, 1970, a steel and concrete slab of the near completed Westgate Bridge in Melbourne, Australia, collapsed - killing 35 workers and injuring many more. This was Australia’s worst industrial disaster and highlighted to workers the fight for health and safety and the need for strong and independent unions. A number of unions will gather this coming Saturday to commemorate this disaster. As a tragic reminder of the dangers of construction work, two workers were killed in Brisbane earlier in the week even though workers had raised health and safety concerns just days earlier.

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