aawl mini-news

Iranian activist returned to jail

Reza Shahabi is a long time member and activist with the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Vahed Syndicate). Earlier this week Reza was forced to return to prison, though there have been conflicting accounts of what his status now is or where he is going to be imprisoned. Reza was on temporary release so that he could get medical treatment as his health had deteriorated while in prison. Reza was serving six years in prison for organising and tragically he is only one of many labour activists who has to contend with the repressive nature of the Iranian government.

Pakistan shipbreakers win wage increases

The ship breaking workers at the Gadani yards in Pakistan, won a 10% wage increase last week. While this increase is less than what they were demanding, it is still an important step forward considering the level of union repression in the past. There are now competing unions who are trying to organise this workforce. In addition to wages, health and safety is a paramount issue as many workers have been killed due to the dangerous conditions that they are made to work in.

Thai military junta continues to target media

This week, Thara Wanichpongpan, a 59 year old man was found guilty of Lese Majeste and sentenced to 20 years in jail. His crime was to upload podcasts that were allegedly critical of the monarchy. In a separate case, Pravit Rojanaphruk, a journalist with Khaosod was formally accused of sedition for allegedly posting on Facebook five comments that were critical of the military dictatorship. The international group, Reporters without Borders have attacked this move by the military as another attack on media freedom in Thailand. In separate cases, Nattaporn Veeranant, an investigative journalist was arrested as he was covering a story about alleged corruption of senior police officers, while a play was once again banned due to its contents about repression in Thailand.

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

More journalists arrested in Turkey

This week, another nine journalists were arrested as part of a larger group of 35 media workers. All have been accused of ‘membership of an armed terrorist organisation’. These arrests are just the latest in a continuing campaign that has seen around 150,000 workers suspended or sacked from their jobs since the attempted coup last July. The International Federation of Journalists has once again condemned this attack on journalist and media freedom by the Turkish government.

South Korean workers take action for their rights

On August 10, tens of thousands of plant construction workers staged a massive rally by taking over Gwangwhamun Square in Seoul. They were demanding improvements to their pay and conditions. In another sector, Brewery workers employed by the global AB InBev group held a strike action against the company’s violation of their collective bargaining agreement. The Australian workforce of AB InBev was involved last year in a 6 months dispute over contract issues. In a separate development, fresh revelations have surfaced that Samsung Electronics has tried to bribe the lawyer representing the workers who are suing the company over toxic workplaces.
Organising is not a crime! 
Free Han Sang Kyun!

Malaysian hotel workers win back their rights

In a struggle that spanned 13 years, hundreds of workers won back their collective agreement and restored collective bargaining rights. The dispute began in 2004 when the owner, Shangri-La Hotels, closed its Rasa Sayang Resort in Penang for renovations for almost two years. Once the new hotel opened, the employers told the workers that the wages and benefits that they had under the existing collective agreement no longer applied in this new hotel. The workers were represented by their union, the National Union of Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Workers Peninsular Malaysia (NUHBRW), which is currently involved in another dispute with the Shangri-La Hotels group.

Pakistani workers facing terrorist charges

Four railway workers in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi have been detained under that country’s harsh anti terrorism laws for taking part in a strike on July 23. The drivers have been accused of trying to organise other workers in a locomotive shed to take part in the strike. Unfortunately this is not the first time that workers have been arrested under anti-terrorism laws, with six power loom workers from Faisalabad having to endure four years in jail for also organising a strike.

Cambodian garment workers struggling under pressure of work

In the last year alone, over 500 garment workers, mainly women, from just four factories were hospitalised due to faintings and collapses at work. While individual reasons vary, the underlying causes are the brutal and punishing working conditions these workers face. On top of unsafe working conditions, most are employed on insecure contracts which means they feel compelled to work long overtime hours under pressure from their employers. Additionally, more than 200 workers who were employed at the Ching Fai Knitwear factory are still fighting for their unpaid wages more than a year after the factory closed down.

Sri Lankan government mobilises army against strikers

At the end of July, tens of thousands of workers of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation went on an indefinite strike over plans to privatise part of their sector. The Sri Lankan government responded by mobilising the army to take over operations and prevent workers from organising and demonstrating. With the arrest of over 20 labour activists, the government was able to break the strike. While much of the commentary suggested that the workers were opposed to the sale of Sri Lankan facilities to other countries, the reality was that workers saw this sale as another attack on their conditions

Systemic underpayment rampant in Australia

The court case this week of an Afghan refugee that was paid anywhere between 60 and 20% of the minimum wage while working at a fruit and vegetable market in Melbourne, is an example of the systemic exploitation that vulnerable workers face, especially those in the agricultural sector. Whether it is backpackers on working holiday visas, or Pacific Islander workers on special work visas, they face the same type of exploitative conditions in the extensive agricultural sector in Australia. Only via determined organising by unions, will this exploitation be decreased.

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