aawl mini-news

Coca cola workers still fighting in Indonesia

Workers at Coca-Cola Amatil Indonesia have been involved in a long running dispute in their attempts to set up their own independent union. The dispute began in 2015 when the workers were able to register their own union. The company responded by harassing members and eventually sacked its chairperson, Atra Narwanto and later suspended Lutfi Ariyanto, another union official. Coca Cola has a proven track record in the region for union busting. There is an ongoing international campaign by the IUF in support of the Indonesian Coca Cola workers.

Workers massacred in factory explosion

A few days ago on Thursday October 26, an explosion ripped apart a firework factory in Kosambi, Tangerang, Banten in East Java, Indonesia. The explosion and the subsequent fire killed at least 47 workers and injured many more. The explosion was thought to have been triggered by a faulty electrical connection. Firework factories are notoriously dangerous workplaces with tragic workplace disasters common around the world (see here, here and here). Only independent and democratically run unions can guarantee the safety and health of workers at workplaces.

Samsung engineers workplaces for further overwork

The global electronics giant Samsung opened a new semiconductor fabrication line in Pyeongtaek, South Korea earlier this year. Even in this short time, there have been two workers who have killed themselves as a direct result of the punishing and brutal work demands. Instead of addressing the cause of the overwork and stress for workers, Samsung has instead replaced closets, hangers, doorknobs, windows, garment bars, and other amenities in the dormitories so as to prevent workers from using these as hanging points. Samsung Corporation has a long and dark history of vicious union busting.

Car worker dies in southern India

This week, a 51 year old car worker named Francis, died at work from the harassment and victimisation he had recently received from the Pricol company management. The Pricol car component manufacturing factory is located in southern India in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Its workforce has a proud history of struggle but has also had to fight brutal repression which has now left two of their leaders in jail on life sentences. In a similar long running car dispute, workers at the Maruti Suzuki factory in northern India have contributed 550,000 rupees (~USA $8,500.00) to the families of the 13 labour activists who are still in jail. There is an active global campaign to support and link car workers in struggle around the world.

Imprisoned Korean leader receives another award

The imprisoned president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Han Sang-gyun, was recently awarded the George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award by the North American union organisation AFL-CIO. President Han has been imprisoned in South Korea since December 2015 for organising demonstrations. This is not the first award that President Han has received while in jail. At another recent event, the Dublin Platform hosted by the Frontline Defenders, Tae-sun Bae, Executive Director of the Organisation & Collective Action Department of the KCTU, explained how her arrest and President Han’s continuing detention are all part of the ongoing offensive against workers and unions.

Organising is not a crime.  Free Han Sang Gyun.

Ongoing crises spur more internal turmoil

The civil conflicts that began in West Asia and North Africa in 2011 continue to create internal conflicts as the various players are unable to resolve the economic and political crises in these countries. In Yemen, amid a brutal war and a humanitarian catastrophe, the government side is on the verge of its own civil war over the issue of Southern Independence and is tearing former allies apart. In northern Iraq, The Kurdish Representative Government’s (KRG) attempt to declare independence via a popular referendum has ended in disaster with the Iraqi military retaking large areas from Kurdish forces. The KRG is now in crisis with calls for its resignation.

Turkish human rights defenders still facing charges

This week, after a marathon court hearing, a court ordered the release on bail of eight human rights activists. These activists had been arrested with a number of other people in the last few months following their attendance at a human rights forum. While their release is welcomed, they are still facing very serious charges. There have also been more arrests this week of journalists and human rights activists. These cases highlight that the climate of repression in Turkey that has imprisoned thousands and led to many more being dismissed from their jobs continues.

Six coal workers killed in Turkey

In another tragic case highlighting the dangers of coal mining, a wall collapse killed 6 workers while an unknown number of workers are still missing and probably trapped. This disaster happened at the Şırnak Coal Mines, located at the foothills of the Cudi Mountain, in south eastern Turkey. According to official reports, the mine owners had no licence to operate a coal mine in this location. Industrial incidents like these highlight the crucial role that independent unions play in guaranteeing a safe and healthy work environment. So far this year in Turkey, there have been 1,500 documented cases of workers being killed at their workplace.

Brutal ethnic cleansing continues in Myanmar

The offensive that the Myanmar government instigated against the Rohingya population a few months ago in western Myanmar shows no sign of slowing down. In what can only be seen as an orchestrated attempt to arrive at a ‘final solution’ by expelling all Rohingya people, there are now an estimated one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. An unknown number of Rohingya people have been murdered by the military or have perished in the journey to escape. While there are powerful economic interests behind such ethnic cleansing, competition for land and resources between local populations in Rakhine state is another big driver of this disaster.

Over 500 workers sacked for organising

In a brutal display of anti-union action, Amertron Electronics, a semiconductor and optoelectronics producer, has recently sacked 532 labour activists. The workers had begun to take action in September over a number of health and safety issues, as well as wages and health insurance issues. The company, which employs around 2,700 workers over two sites, has refused to negotiate with workers and has progressively terminated workers. The semiconductor industry globally has been a sector where many workers have been repeatedly exposed to toxic chemicals (see here and here). Workers have now organised pickets outside the Amertron factories (see here and here).

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