aawl mini-news

Iraqi oil workers unionise major Shell site

This week, the Basrah Gas Company, a joint venture with Shell, Southern Gas and Mitsubishi, agreed that its 6,000 strong workforce could be represented by the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU). This is a great win by workers to have their power to collective bargain recognised, in such a strategic industry. In the last few years, oil workers have staged a number of large mobilisations as well as fighting off efforts to imprison their leaders. Just last month, six Iraqi trade unions decided to file a complaint with the International Labour Organisation in relation to the Iraqi government not allowing workers the right to freely organise into independent unions.

Global beer giant attacking Cambodian workers

Last year, a number of beer promotion workers, all women, were dismissed by Cambrew for fighting changes to their employment contract that would have worsened their working conditions. The Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF) has been supporting these workers in their fight against Cambrew. In retaliation the company is suing the CFSWF for damages for their involvement in a strike at a company warehouse. In addition, reports have come out that the company offered money to selected workers in an attempt to undermine workers’ solidarity and break the union.

Filipinos workers continue to face death squads

The discovery of a hidden room inside a Manila police station that was used to keep accused suspects without charge, is only the latest revelation of the continuing brutal War on Drugs that President Duterte has unleashed. Earlier this month, Arturo Lascanas, an ex-police officer from Davao offered evidence of his own complicity in Duterte’s death squads, while Vice President Leni Robredo has publicly commented on the rising number of Filipinos killed with impunity. A Filipino lawyer has now petitioned the International Criminal Court in The Hague to charge Mr Duterte and 11 other Philippine officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity.

Missing plaque a symbol of Thailand’s dictatorship

The removal of a small brass plaque, no larger than a dinner plate, embedded in the tarmac in front of Bangkok's Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, has become a symbol of the continuing military repression in Thailand. The plaque commemorates the 1932 overthrow of the rule of absolute monarchy and a new constitution. A number of activists have now been detained for daring to ask the police to investigate its theft (see here and here). A Lese Majeste prisoner, Pai Dao Din, has been awarded a human rights prize by a South Korean organisation. He was awarded the 2017 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights from the South Korea-based May 18 Memorial Foundation. Meanwhile Somyot has just marked his sixth anniversary in jail under the Lese Majeste Law.

South Korean leader's defiant jail letter

This week, the international labour movement received a letter from Han Sang-gyun, the imprisoned leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. In the letter, Sang-gyun thanks all of his supporters, both locally and internationally, and restated his commitment to keep fighting the anti-worker offensive of the last couple of years. Even though Korean workers were instrumental in forcing President Park to resign earlier this year, they are still facing many of the same issues and need your support and solidarity.

Workers globally call for safer workplaces

All around the world, workers and labour organisations held events for International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April to remember workers killed and injured at work. The message of the day was that all workplace deaths are preventable deaths. As unionists and labour activists, it is our job to fight for safer workplaces and put an end to the continuing slaughter of our sisters and brothers. A map of localities that took part in this day can be seen here. Statements from some of the major global unions can be read here, here and here.

Jakarta’s elections reveal underlying economic tensions

The recent election for the new governor of Jakarta was often potrayed as a religious and ethnic conflict between Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnamaand and Anies Baswedenwas. The reality is more complicated. During Ahok’s first term as mayor of Jakarta, he undertook major urban redevelopment projects. These had devastating effects on working class communities, many of whom voted for Anies, even though he is a part of the ruling class. A new development in these elections was the role of the far right Islamic Defenders Front. Given Indonesia’s history and the role of military backed militias in the massacres of 1965-67, this is a very worrying trend for workers in Indonesia, and requires a serious workers’ response.

Further attacks on migrant workers in Australia

The Australian government has announced new changes to the 457 visa category, one of the main categories for migrant workers entering Australia.  These changes will not safeguard workers’ wages and conditions, as the government claims, instead, these changes are designed to further undermine the ability of migrant workers to organise and get paid appropriately. There have been numerous and continuing cases of migrant workers being exploited by their employers, see here, here and here. Only by granting permanent residence status and increasing penalties on employers that wilfully underpay migrant workers will these practices be stop and we need strong unions to achieve this.

Sri Lankan workers die under huge landslide

In the afternoon of April 14, in an outlying area of Colombo, a huge section of a rubbish dump came crashing down on workers’ homes.  With recovery efforts still ongoing, the final death toll is likely to top 50 people. Around 150 houses were either destroyed or seriously damaged. This disaster was not an unfortunate accident but the result of wilful neglect by successive governments to the dangers that these working class communities are facing. In the aftermath of this collapse, a government representative went so far as to blame the workers themselves for the deaths.

Palestinian prisoners stage mass hunger strike

In an unprecedented event, 1,500 Palestinian prisoners began a co-ordinated open ended mass hunger strike earlier this week. The hunger strike is being dubbed the ‘Freedom and Dignity’ strike. The demands of the prisoners are around better access to family, medical treatment, as well as a whole series of improvements to their conditions of incarceration. While this strike is only a week old, already the political tensions are increasing in the face of Israel’s intransigence and unwillingness to negotiate. Solidarity events are being staged globally.

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