aawl mini-news

Aboriginal activist in Australia wins landmark compensation

The Australian Federal Court this week awarded AUD $220,000 in damages to the Aboriginal community of Palm Island in Queensland, Australia, for being subjected to racial discrimination. The judgement was against both the Government of Queensland and its police force in relation to the police actions in 2004 on Palm Island. The police handling of the death of Cameron Doomadgee and the subsequent protests were found to be racially discriminatory. The action was initiated by a local man, Lex Wotton, who had been jailed for his part in the protests and then banned from speaking to the media.

Burma becoming a new garment production hub

A new report detailing how Burma’s political and economic integration with the global capitalist system is leading to a huge expansion in its garment sector. There are at least 350 garment factories in Burma and like the other major garment centres of the world such as Cambodia and Bangladesh, conditions are extremely harsh for workers. The garment sector is renowned for its global ‘Race to the Bottom’ in its search for the lowest possible costs and highest profits. The report documents how workers regularly work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, often in cramped, noisy and dusty conditions. Labour organising is routinely suppressed through threats of or actual dismissals. 

Anti-union Commission comes back in Australia

At the end of November, the Australian Senate passed a new amended version of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The ABCC is an anti union law that is directly aimed at one of the most powerful unions in Australia, the CFMEU and its officials. The ABCC restricts the power of unions and of individuals while at the same time giving employers greater ability to use precarious work contracts. The original version of the ABCC was abolished in 2012 after a long fight by workers and supporters. Its re-introduction will mean that the safety for workers on Australian building sites will now be compromised.

Faremo workers still battling despite closure

Faremo International was a garment factory in the Philippines Cavite Export Processing Zone near Manila. It announced that it was closing and relocating to lower wage countries though orders were still coming in. The decision by the company was part of an ongoing offensive against its nearly 1,000 strong workforce as they had just managed to form a new union. Wages and conditions in the Cavite Export Processing Zone are notoriously low, with many workers needing to have second jobs. The dismissed Faremo workers are continuing to get support from other Filipino workers

Cotton harvest still tainted by forced labour

The economy of the central Asia republic of Uzbekistan relies heavily on cotton with hundreds of thousands of workers coerced into the annual harvest. While international campaigns have led to a decrease in the number of children being gang pressed for the harvest, the numbers have been taken up by more adults being forced to harvest cotton. Death and injuries are common. The latest campaign in support of Uzbeki workers is to prevent the European Union from signing a textile treaty with Uzbekistan as it would only lead to a rise in demand for cotton without any extra labour protection.

Killings in the Philippines hit new record

The vicious and brutal ‘war on drugs’ that President Duterte unleashed (see here and here), since the start of his Presidency, continues to ravage Filipino working class communities. In the first five months of his rule, the number of people killed in this campaign has now reached 5,000, whether from police or right wing death squads. Duterte has in the past threatened to prosecute those who stand in the way of this campaign, but recently he has upped the pressure by threatening to kill human rights activists who oppose his war on drugs.

No to the War on Drugs! No to extrajudicial impunity!  Stop the killings!

Korean workers stage another general strike

The embattled and scandal ridden government of President Park Geun-hye attempted to stop the planned general strike by Korean workers by declaring any strike action by workers as illegal. On the 30 November, over 200,000 workers demonstrated in central Seoul in a strong and defiant protest against the continuing attempts by the Park administration to attack and weaken the workers’ movement. While President Park has stated that she will consider resigning, another huge protest occurred in Seoul on Saturday 3 December.

Workers, political elections and religion in Indonesia

In the last few weeks there have been huge demonstrations by far right Islamic groups calling for the resignation of Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, for blasphemy. While the demonstrations on the 4 November and on the 2 December, saw hundreds of thousands of working class people take part, many of the workers involved were not part of these religious groups. For many workers, their anger against Ahok is related to his policies of large slum clearance program which has affected many poor working class communities in Jakarta. In addition, trade unions are protesting against the inadequate new minimum wage for the Jakarta region, though this has proved divisive for the workers’ movement.

Australian unions rally to defend multiculturalism

After the election in the USA, and witnessing the rise of the far right in Australia, the union movement - and particularly union rank and file members - need to take a lead in the fight against racism. Trades Hall has partnered with a number of unions and community groups to hold a rally and festival celebrating and defending multiculturalism. Join a free family friendly street party celebrating the great diversity of our society. There will be music, food, cultural exhibitions and rides for the kids.

Global Street Party - Saturday 10 December - International Human Rights Day
12pm - Rally against Racism at State Library, Melbourne with a march to Trades Hall
1pm - Festival at Trades Hall, Lygon Street Carlton

Invite your fellow workers and bring the whole family for a fun afternoon in support for our multicultural society.

Pakistani workers facing a wave of repression

The last few weeks have not been kind to workers in Pakistan. Following the fire at the shipbreaking yard a month ago, injured workers and families of those who died have not yet received any compensation. The 1,500 workers employed at the PepsiCo plant in Lahore are still fighting for secure jobs and the right to collectively bargain. In another manufacturing company, Schneider Electric, 17 workers were instantly dismissed for demanding a wage rise. Just this week, over 60 workers of the luxury Quetta Serena Hotel, were arrested for holding a gathering outside the hotel premises in support of their right to bargain.

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