aawl mini-news

Tea plantation workers take action to stop privatisation

Sri Lankan tea plantation workers receive some of the lowest wages of any workers in the world, for hard labour in hazardous conditions. Last week workers at the Hairpark Estate in Hunnasgiriya began a protest against their estate being deliberately run down by the government owned Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation. Workers complain that they are given only 7 to 12 days work a month, which does not give them a living wage. They demand that the government abandon plans to privatise the plantation. The workers are members of the Red Flag Union, which is demanding meaningful negotiation, no privatisation, 25 work days a month, and a grant of 2 acres of estate land to each plantation family. 

Release of Bangladsh activists only a partial victory

The garment sector in Bangladesh is characterised by low wages and terrible working conditions where labour activism is routinely suppressed. In the first couple of months of this year, a new wave of repression saw over 30 garment labour activists either arrested or detained and over a 1,000 workers dismissed. These arrests and dismissals were clearly of a political nature and aimed at disrupting workers efforts to organise and improve their conditions. National and international protests have now led to the release of all the detained labour activists, though there is still uncertainty whether all criminal charges will be withdrawn and whether workers will be able to go back to work with all their due entitlements.

Sri Lanka Telecom workers continue to fight

The industrial actions and strikes that began last year in the telecommunication sector in Sri Lanka are continuing despite grave attempts by government forces to intimidate and undermine the workers will. The issues are ones that are familiar to workers all around the world, namely the use of contract labour, insecure and casual employment, and low pay. Labour activists are looking for solidarity around the world and are planning to extend industrial action to other areas of the economy. This strike is only one of a number of industrial dispute that have hit Sri Lanka as workers find themselves battling a new round of assaults on their wages and conditions.

Samsung workers riot in Vietnam

In an incident that has recently been publicised, in early January, thousands of construction workers building a large Samsung's production factory in Vietnam's northern Thai Nguyen province clashed with security guards and police. These clashes resulted in 13 people been injured, with four critically. The clash was sparked by a dispute between a worker and security guards over identification, but the scale of the rioting would demonstrate that there was already deep frustrations among the workers. Samsung Electronics, as with many other large electronics firms, has invested heavily in Vietnam due to lower labour costs than neighbouring China.

Australian workers continue fight against Parmalat

The lockout of 65 workers in the regional Victorian town of Echuca by the global dairy company Parmalat is now in its 7th week. The dispute is around a new contract and the company’s intentions to cut wages and conditions. Attacks like this on workers in Australia are becoming more common. The workers are receiving strong support from the electrical and manufacturing unions, while a delegation of maritime workers travelled 1,000 kilometres to deliver financial and political support to these workers. A fundraising campaign has also been set up. To fight effectively against the power of global companies like Parmalat that has facilities in 18 countries, workers need to organise co-ordinated industrial actions in multiple sites across the world.

IWD: Peace, Bread, Land

In commemoration of 100 years since the Russian Revolution that was sparked by International Women’s Day, for this year’s IWD Rally in Melbourne Australia, we’re raising the demand Peace, Bread and Land!  Additionally, Victoria Trades Hall is organising its annual Women’s Rights At Work Festival.  For details of WRAW Fest, check out this link, and for details of the Melbourne IWD rally, check out this link.

Iranian labour activists continue to be targeted

Once again Iranian labour activists are facing the repressive actions of the Iranian government as it tries to contain workers’ anger. This month, an appeal for a retrial of Esmail Abdi, a prominent teacher activist, was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Esmail is serving a 6 year sentence for organising workers. In another case, there is an international campaign to keep Reza Shahabi out of jail. Reza is an organiser for the bus union in Tehran and is currently on bail due to poor health. Esmail and Reza are only two of the many labour activists who are languishing in Iranian prisons.

Somyot’s jail sentence reduced

In a surprising and unexpected move, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s jail sentence was reduced by three years this week. While Thailand’s Supreme Court once again found Somyot guilty of Lese Majeste, it handed out a sentence of 7 years, which is in contrast to a lower court’s sentence of 10 years. Given that Somyot has already been in jail for 6 years, it is likely that he will now be released in April 2018. Nevertheless, the reality is that Somyot has committed no crime and the Lese Majeste law is used to suppress any government critics in Thailand. The fight for Somyot’s release, the fight against military dictatorship, and the fight against the use of Lese Majeste to crackdown on dissidents like Jatupat (Pai) Boonpattararaksa continues.

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

Arrest of Samsung Vice Chair a small victory

The arrest of Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Electronics’ Vice Chairman, on bribery charges is a small victory for the workers movement in South Korea. His arrest is connected to the political influence peddling scandal that, amid unprecedented mass protests, has forced the South Korean president Park Geun-hye to step aside. At the same time, the fight by labour activists against the deadly occupational health and safety conditions at Samsung Electronics continues. In the last few weeks, another two workers, Kim Ki-cheol and Hwang, died from work related diseases. To fight against a global giant like Samsung, workers need to organise and take coordinated actions internationally.

Thousands of Australian workers to lose pay

This week, the Australian industrial commission handed down a decision that will cut penalty rates for thousands of workers who work on a Sunday. The decision targeted workers in the hospitality, retail and fast food sectors, who are already some of the most exploited and lowest paid workers in Australia. This attack on workers’ wages is seen as the start of a new offensive against workers’ living standards by both governments and capitalists. Penalty rates were won by unions in Australia 70 years ago through industrial action. History shows that they will only be won back by organising workers in the workplace and taking industrial action.

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