aawl mini-news

Mysterious blast kills at least two people

A major explosion killed at least two people in the eastern Chinese port city of Ningbo on 26 November. Around 30 people were injured, some very seriously. The blast happened in a disused factory building and was so powerful that it levelled many buildings and windows were shattered up to one kilometre from the blast site. The actual cause of this explosion is unclear, but it is suspected that either chemicals were being illegally stored there or the factory was operating unlicensed. Unfortunately industrial incidents in China are still very common and up to 30,000 workers a year are believed to be killed while at their workplaces.

Dockworkers defend fellow workers against victimisation

A casual worker in Melbourne, Australia, employed by the global stevedoring giant International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI), was dismissed recently. He is a staunch unionist and had been complaining about bullying and harassment by the company. A community protest has been established outside the workplace to support this worker. The Maritime Union of Australia has been trying to establish minimum standards for wages and conditions, but ICTSI has refused to negotiate with the union. ICTSI is notorious globally for its unions busting (see here and here) with their Chief Executive being on the record as saying that ‘…countries with the best infrastructure in the world are dictatorships’.

24hr Community Assembly

78 Webb Dock Drive,

Port Melbourne

Another journalist murdered in India

On November 21, Sudip Datta Bhaumik, a journalist at the Syandan Patrika newspaper and the local television channel Venguard, was shot dead by a soldier belonging to the Tripura State Rifles battalion. Sudip is believed to have being killed because of his ongoing investigations of financial irregularities within the battalion. Sudip is the second journalist to be murdered in that state in the last two months, and the third in India. Newspapers all across the state of Tripura ran blank editorial pages as a protest against the murder of their fellow journalist.

Korean workers continue offensive on multiple fronts

On November 30, newly unionised workers of the Seoul Metro line began a strike against their employer, RATP Dev Transdev. Workers are fighting against the company’s attempts to cut workers’ conditions and its union busting attempts by bringing in scab labour. In another dispute, tens of thousands of building workers staged a mass rally and demonstration outside the South Korean Parliament. They were demanding that the government pass legislation to guarantee the right to form and join a union as well as a substantial increase to their living retirement allowance. 

History repeating itself for Aboriginal workers

When people in Australia refer to ‘Stolen Wages’, it is usually referred to as a past issue. This refers to the slavery-like system that saw Aboriginal people denied any or equal pay for hard work over decades during the 19th and the 20th century. The tragic reality is that the Federal Government's remote ‘work for the dole’ program, known as the Community Development Program, is doing exactly the same. In an example of the effects of ongoing structural racism, the program undervalues work done by Aboriginal workers and keeps them and their communities in poverty. Aboriginal people have always fought back.

Exploitation of temporary workers in Australia systemic

A landmark study looking at the working conditions of temporary workers in Australia, across all visa classes, has highlighted how widespread and systemic their exploitation is. The report shows that underpayments and bad working conditions exist across all industries but is especially prevalent in the food services/retail areas and especially severe in the fruit and vegetable picking sector. This situation has been allowed to develop through lax regulations and criminal negligence in the enforcement of standards like the minimum wage. Only strong and independent unions will be able to overcome these injustices by organising these workers.

Lay-offs lead to workers’ deaths

The workers employed by the giant Freeport McGregor mine in West Papua work and live in harsh conditions at around 4,000 metres altitude. Following the initial dispute in May of this year, the company's response of firing thousands of workers and denying them health care benefits has led to widespread suffering. Latest reports indicate that at least seven workers have died as a direct result of the company denying them access to health care.

Worker gets crushed to death

This week, Ravi, a 22 year old factory worker at JK Tyre factory in the city of Mysuru, southern India, was crushed to death. Ravi was at the end of his shift when, while loading raw materials, his hand got caught between two big rollers and he was dragged into them. While Ravi had been working at the factory for six years, he was still only employed as a casual day labourer. Many Indian workplaces are unsafe and the increasing use of a casualised workforce only serves to increase the risk to workers of accidents and injuries.

Great wins for workers in Australia

During this last week, workers employed by a Unilever subsidiary and by the giant Woolworths supermarket chain both registered significant wins. After staying on a picket line for three months, workers at Streets ice cream, a subsidiary of the global Food giant Unilever, defeated the company's attempts to cut wages by as much as 45%. In a separate dispute, warehouse workers for the Woolworths supermarket chain won significant wage rises for no concessions after taking a vote to go on strike during the peak Christmas period.

Iranian labour activist freed

On Thursday 23 November, the long-time labour activist Mahmoud Salehi was released from the main jail of Saqez city in north western Iran. Mahmoud was recently re-arrested in late October and given an additional 1 year sentence. Mahmoud had a number of serious health problems due to his long stints in jail on previous occasions related to his labour activities. In the last month, labour activists both inside Iran and internationally campaigned for his release. The fight to release many other imprisoned labour activists from Iranian jails continues.

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