aawl mini-news

New anti-government protests in Lebanon

This week, major demonstrations occurred around Lebanon in protest against a proposed new sales tax that will disproportionately affect workers and their families who are already enduring low salaries. In one demonstration, the Prime Minister Saad Hariri had to abandon his car when it was surrounded by protesters angry at the corruption and tax evasion that the government is not tackling. The tensions underlying these protests are similar to the ‘You Stink’ demonstrations that highlighted the government’s inability to solve social issues and provide for its population. Support protests were also held for 14 ‘You Stink’ activists who are facing trial.  

Labour activist in Uzbekistan released

Late last week, Elena Urlaeva, head of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, was released after a concerted international campaign. Urlaeva was arrested earlier this month as she was preparing to go to an international conference. Urlaeva is an outspoken critic of forced and child labour in Uzbekistan's cotton sector. Her arrest is a reminder of the lengths to which the Uzbekistan government will go to protect its profits from the annual cotton harvest. The cotton industry is notorious for its use of forced labour and harsh practices.

Maruti Suzuki life sentences will not stop workers

On Saturday, 13 workers from the Maruti Suzuki factory were sentenced to life imprisonment by the District Court of Gurugram, in Haryana state. This follows on from the previous ruling that had found an additional 18 workers guilty of a variety of charges following incidents in 2012. These sentences are clearly political in nature and intended to intimidate workers and stop them from organising in the huge industrial belts of Gurgaon and Manesar. Nevertheless, there have been many acts of solidarity already by other workers, including from workers as far away as Tamil Nadu. The fight to release the Maruti Suzuki workers will be supported by workers globally and major solidarity actions are planned to start this coming week.

Organising is a not a crime
Drop all the charges
Free all Maruti Suzuki workers

Chinese workers take action against underpayment

Hundreds of workers at the FAW-Volkswagen factory situated in the northeast city of Changchun have continued to take action over the last few weeks. Their demands are against the practice of agency labour hire which allows non-permanent workers to be paid as little as 50% as permanent workers for the same job. Industrial action among Chinese workers has steadily increased over the last few years, with unrest spreading from the manufacturing-industrial sector to the retail and service sector as well. A recently released documentary gives an insight to the issues that labour activists in China face.

Anniversary of death marks 10 years of struggle

Hwang Yu-mi died on 5 March 2007 on the way to hospital from acute myelogenous leukaemia. She was the first publicly known victim of what later became known as the Samsung Electronics blood disorder cluster cases. Yu-mi was only 23 and had worked at Samsung for less than four years. Since then, there have been over 350 cases of occupational disease and 79 deaths among Samsung’s Electronics workforce. The tenth anniversary of Yu-mi’s death was remembered with a ceremony in front of Samsung’s corporate headquarters. Samsung’s power in South Korean society was recently highlighted by the censoring of an article in a university paper that was critical of Samsung’s work practices.

Indian government workers stage massive strike

Over 1,300,000 central government workers throughout India staged a one day strike on the 16th of March, over the ongoing non-implementation of previous agreements, see photos of rallies and demonstrations. Specifically, workers are demanding that pay rises agreed by the 7th Pay Commission be implemented, that contracting of work be terminated, and for casual and temporary workers to be made permanent. The workers have promised further actions if their demands are not met. 

Workers of the world march for IWD

International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated all around the world on 8 March. On the centenary of the Russian revolution of 1917 that was sparked by women workers taking action on IWD, many demonstrations highlighted how much more work is still needed to achieve gender equality whether in the workplace or in wider society. In the Asia Pacific region there were major events in Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan (see here and here), India (see here, here, here and here), South Korea, Indonesia, The Philippines, and Australia. Demonstrations and actions were also held in many other parts of the world, see here and here.

Turkish workers feel the pressure of upcoming referendum

The referendum to decide whether to grant the President of Turkey extra powers is still four weeks away, but the government is increasing the pressure on any opposition, including labour activists. The chairperson of Turkish Bureau Union, Fahrettin Yokuş, recently survived an assassination attempt from armed gunmen. A mob attacked the headquarters of the Turkish Public Workers’ Labour Union, while İrfan Değirmenci, a presenter on television station Kanal D was summarily dismissed. Their crime was to have expressed their preference for a No Vote in the upcoming referendum. Also, in a long running issue, 14 leaders of the Ankara branch of the TÜMTİS union, have been sentenced to prison for daring to organise a union at their workplace.

New bill will not end precarious work

This week, the Philippines Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) released new national policy guidelines on contracting and subcontracting. The new guidelines are supposed to limit the use by companies of contract and casual workers as a way to undermine workers’ solidarity and maintain lower rates of pay and lesser conditions. Labour groups have slammed these new guidelines as inadequate to stem the widespread use of irregular work contracts. Union activists are now calling for the resignation of the Labor Secretary, Silvestre Bello III.

Deteriorating conditions generating new opposition in Australia

On the back of the recent decision by the industrial tribunal to cut penalty rates for thousands of Australian workers, more reports are surfacing of the widespread nature of underpayment in Australia. Farms have been identified as using dodgy employment contracts to underpay workers, while a food chain like Domino Pizza uses sub-contracting arrangements to underpay its workers. In response, in the supermarket sector, the newly established Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, is seeking to renegotiate old workplace agreements, and Sally McManus, the newly elected leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has publicly supported workers breaking laws when taking industrial action in support of their conditions.

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