aawl mini-news

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.

PNG police attack refugee camp

Late last week, the Papua New Guinea government carried out its threat to attack protesting refugees who had been left stranded on the closed down Australian concentration camp on Manus Island. The refugees are protesting against the inhumane and repressive treatment they have been subjected to over the years. In the attack by PNG police, a number of people were injured, some were arrested including well known Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani. Protest actions by refugee activists are continuing to take place all across Australia, with a recent rally in Melbourne attacked by fascist provocateurs and later on by the police.

Far right speaker to tour Australia

Well known USA far right propagandist Milo Yiannopoulos, is about to start a speaking tour of Australia. Milo is a mouthpiece for the far right in the USA, targeting minorities, the labour movement and the left in general. Milo is backed by far right news outlets like the Breitbart News Network and capitalists like billionaire Robert Mercer. His tour of Australian cities has received wide coverage on mainstream media while Milo has also been invited to speak at the Australian Parliament. Anti-fascist groups are organising protests at his public engagements (see here for Melbourne, Sydney, Perth counter protests).

Democratic space further restricted in Myanmar

Earlier this month, the Yangon Region Security and Border Affairs Minister issued a directive banning public assemblies in most of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Also in November, a human rights activist in the northern state of Kachin was charged with criminal defamation after distributing information detailing human rights abuses by the military. These events, in conjunction with the continuing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, and the previous arrests of journalists, are a stark reminder of the increasingly dangerous times that labour and human rights activists are facing in Myanmar.

Japanese workers under constant attack

Two separate labour issues highlight the pressures that workers in Japan face from their employers. A number of labour activists have been targeted by the global logistics company, Toll LTD., for their organising drive against unpaid overtime that forces drives to regularly work excessive hours. In a separate sector of the workforce, a survey has found that close to 70% of junior high school teachers are working more than 60 hours a week, putting many of them under severe stress.

Major mobilisation of workers hits capital

Over three days starting from 9 November, tens of thousands of workers staged a series of mass sit-ins and protests in the Indian capital city of New Delhi. It has been over three years that the current Government headed by Prime Minister Modi has been in power, and the situation for workers has steadily worsened. On top of the disastrous demonetisation of last year, the Modi government has unleashed a whole series of reforms that have undermined the power of workers and worsened their living standards. These protests were very important as not only did most labour and union centres in India participate, but the actions were directly targeting the government of Prime Minister Modi.

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