More coal workers killed in Pakistan

Last week, four workers were killed deep inside the Sanjdi coal mine near the city of Quetta, Balochistan province in Pakistan, due to a build-up of poisonous gases. Labour activists have long complained of the poor working conditions that they have to endure, the lack of proper protective gear, and of no compensation payments for injuries. This week, in a similar workplace incident, three more coal miners were killed at a mine in Harnai district, also in Balochistan. In many countries around the world, the coal industry has an appalling safety record with mine owners routinely disregarding workers’ lives.

Iranian workers murdered along border

Two cross border porters were recently killed in Iranian Kurdistan by security forces as they were taking goods across the border near the city of Baneh. There are tens of thousands of cross border porters in Iran who toil away in hazardous conditions, often with no employment contract or conditions, and daily face the dangers of being shot by security forces or criminal gangs. Activists who protested against these latest killings have now been subjected to repression themselves from security forces. In another important labour update, the imprisoned labour activist Reza Shahabi is now approaching six weeks on hunger strike. His health is fast deteriorating.

Thousands more health workers go on strike in India

Following on from the successful strike by Anganawadi workers in the New Delhi region, up to 200,000 rural health workers in the state of Maharashtra went on an indefinite strike from Monday September 11. Their main demands centre on higher wages and addressing the grievances about the poor quality of food for their clients. The workers also want a reduction in the length of their work day. While the state government has promised to look into their grievances, the Maharashtra State Anganwadi Workers Committee has no faith in the current promises from the government.

Vietnamese garment workers go on strike

Earlier this month close to 6,000 garment workers at the S&H Vina Co. Ltd factory in Thanh Hoa province went on a wildcat strike to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The spark for the strike was the confiscation by a supervisor, of the offcuts that workers used for comfort during the lunch break. The workers then demanded a number of improvements including better wages, shorter working hours, better breaks and improved social welfare benefits. The workers returned to work after the intervention from the General Confederation of Labor of Vietnam promising to negotiate with the employers.

Palestinian activists facing repression from all sides

This week, Issa Amro a Palestinian human rights activist, was released on bail by the Palestinian Authorities (PA), but he still faces charges under the draconian Electronics Crime Law. Issa’s crime was to criticise the arrest of another human rights activist by the PA on a Facebook post. Issa is also facing a number of extra charges from the Israeli military. His detention is another reminder that on many fronts, the Palestinian Authority is complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and actively polices and represses Palestinian activists. In the meantime, the ongoing mass jailing of Palestinian activist by Israel continues unabated.

Structural racism in Australia continues

While it’s easy to see the racism in the ongoing discriminatory policies and structures that affect Australia’s Indigenous people, and of refugees attempting to reach Australia, racism is also entrenched in major institutions like the Australian Football League (AFL). The story of the treatment that AFL player Héritier Lumumba endured in his decade as a professional footballer has shone a spotlight on how powerful organisations can entrench and protect racist behaviours and attitudes. In this developing story, calls are growing for a thorough review of the AFL and the sacking of powerful individuals within this organisation.

Pakistani garment factories still not safe

This week marked the 5th anniversary of the horrific fire at the Ali Enterprise factory in Baldia, Pakistan, where 260 garment workers were killed. After a long campaign, both within Pakistan and internationally, some reparations were paid to the families of those killed and injured. Unfortunately, the situation for garment workers in Pakistan has not improved with companies routinely violating labour laws and putting profits above workers’ health. The Pakistani garment sector is characterised by insecure work contracts, long work days, non-existent Occupational and Health Safety standards, and the repression of independent union organising.

Race to the Bottom starves workers globally

A new study by the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES), University of Surrey in the UK, has shown once again how the clothing supply chain around the world brings mega profits to the companies but poverty wages for workers in a global Race to the Bottom. The researchers examined the supply chains of major European clothing companies and found that on average garment workers barely received half of what is calculated as a living wage. In addition, the researchers also found that it was the agricultural workers, who sit at the bottom of these global supply chains that were the ones who got paid the least. The study found that the presence of strong, independent unions led to higher wages for workers.

Myanmar Rohingyas facing murderous ethnic cleansing

Over the last couple of weeks, the crisis in northern Rakhine State has become a humanitarian disaster with tens of thousands of Rohingya people fleeing the scorched earth policies of the Myanmar military. The Myanmar military has a long history of human rights abuses against ethnic minorities, but the latest offensive in Rakhine State is on an unprecedented scale. While supposedly a democracy, the Myanmar government, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, has not changed its repressive policies against ethnic or religious minorities, or any opposition to its rule.

Murder of outspoken journalist a political killing

The murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh earlier this week in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, is widely seen as the work of far right death squads. Gauri was a well-known local journalist who was very critical of government corruption and the growing dangers of Hindu nationalism and sectarianism. In her last column, she exposed how ‘fake news’ is being generated and spread by powerful interests to sow hatred towards minorities and other undesirables. Demonstrations to condemn her murder were held all around India, statements of protest were released by many media bodies, as well as by a number of unions, (see here, here, here, here). Gauri was given a State funeral

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