aawl mini-news

Global beer giant trying to bankrupt union

This week, a new front in the war against unions opened up in Cambodia with the local beer producer Cambrew, a subsidiary of the global giant Carlsberg, taking legal action against the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF). The company is seeking $US60,000 in compensation from the union for a five day strike last year by 100 workers at its warehouse facility in Sihanoukville. This legal action is a continuation of Cambrew’s attacks on workers trying to organise independent unions and follows on from the long running dispute stemming from the dismissal of 11 hospitality workers in late 2015. The CFSWF has strongly defended the workers’ rights to unionise.

Hong Kong arrests mark 20 year anniversary

The arrest of activists marked this year’s 20th anniversary of the end of Hong Kong colonisation by the United Kingdom and its handover to China as a special economic and political zone. In the last few years, and especially since the big mobilisations of 2014, there has been an ongoing movement that has protested against the Chinese government’s control of Hong Kong’s affairs. Worker organisations are also concerned over what this will mean for workers’ rights. Following the departure of the President of China, Xi Jinping, demonstrators took over the streets again for a major rally

Korean opposition to new weapons continues to grow

Last week, thousands of demonstrators held a rally in central Seoul to demand the withdrawal of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) military system that the USA and South Korean governments had agreed to. Opposition to this new weapon system has continued to increase since its announcement earlier this year. Activists continued the protests to coincide with a USA-SK summit meeting held at the end of June. Commentators now believe that the new government may try to defuse the situation by instituting an environment impact assessment which would delay the project into next year at least.

Major project leads to deaths in Pakistan

The local Government of Punjab has invested a lot of political prestige in the construction of the new modern rail based mass rapid transit system, the Orange Line Metro Train, for the city of Lahore. In its determination to build the line as quickly as possible the lives of workers are being sacrificed with regulations and health and safety being overlooked. Just this week, another four workers were badly injured when they fell from a crane. It is estimated that at least 25 workers have been killed so far, with the worst single incident happening in January this year when 7 workers were burned to death. It is obvious that the local government sees the lives of workers, many of them migrants from poorer rural areas, as totally expendable. 

Over 4,000 mine workers now sacked

The dispute at the giant Freeport-McMoran Grasberg mine in West Papua has now entered its third month. As of last week, 4,220 workers had been fired for taking strike action. The workers at this mine have a proud history of fighting and taking on this huge global company as the strike in 2011 exemplified. The issues are again around insecure employment contracts, wages and health and safety. 

Repression and death under the military junta

The military junta in Thailand is continuing to entrench its power with the passing of a new bill that will allow them to impose its policies even once it has stepped back and new elections have been held. The military’s increasing role in Thailand is also seen by its ever expanding defence budgets. The repression against any critics continues in Thailand with the recent arrest of political activist Ekachai Hongkangwan, ongoing charges against human rights defenders and the use of the Lese Majeste law. With labour organising restricted, workers are at great risk of injury and death at workplaces, as can be seen in the case of the five workers killed at a food processing plant.

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

Indian automotive workers continue fight

Hundreds of workers at the automotive parts maker Aisin are continuing to take industrial action despite having their picket line broken up by police (see video). The workers grievances have been building for a number of years with insecure work and low pay the main issues. The workers undertook to form their own union this year but have come under sustained pressure from management. As with many other disputes, the mass media has not been covering this issue in an effort to demoralise and isolate the Aisin workers from fellow workers of the nearby industrial zones.

Iraqi unions oppose new Government bill

While parts of Iraq have been devastated by war, workers in the rest of the country are continuing to struggle to have their right to independently organise recognised. This fight has been ongoing since the USA invaded the country in 2003 (see here and here). Currently, the Iraqi Government wants to approve a new law that will not guarantee the rights of workers to form their own unions, or to grant them any legal protection for trade union activity. Pressure from labour and human rights groups have recently stopped the government adopting laws restricting freedom of expression and so labour activists are hoping they can do the same for this proposed law.

Australian workers fighting global gas company

Following the announcement of a few weeks ago that workers were being offered new contracts at 30% less pay, a picket line has now been established outside of Exxon-Mobil's Longford gas plant. The company that was engaged to maintain this plant, UGL, is trying to force existing workers to sign up with a new subsidiary company. This company is offering the workers 30% less pay, less annual leave, less allowances and no control over shift rosters. In disputes with global companies like Exxon-Mobil, co-ordinated industrial actions across its many global sites would be the most effective.

Bangladesh labour activists facing criminal charges

Thousands of workers at the Azim Group’s Orchid and Savar factories in Chittagong have continued to face intimidation, violence and brutality from their employers in their quest to form a union. This week, 61 of the main labour organisers have had criminal charges filed against them, with 22 workers still remaining locked up. Unfortunately such repression and brutality are not uncommon in Bangladesh where employers and governments actively stop workers organising so as to keep wages below poverty levels (see here and here).

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