Chemical fire near Mumbai kills three

A fire that broke out on Friday March 9 in a chemical factory in Boisar, near Mumbai, India, has killed at least three workers and injured many more. The fire was so fierce that it affected five other nearby chemical factories and the sound of exploding chemicals could be heard up to 12 kms away. The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage, but unfortunately deadly workplace incidents are common in India due to lax OHS regulations and enforcement.


Marching on International Women Day 2018

International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated all around the world on 8 March. While much of the commentary in certain countries is about the ‘glass ceiling’ and women’s representation on major company boards, the reality for most women in the world is that IWD is a fight against exploitation and is a class issue. Major demonstrations were held in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Philippines, South Korea, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. Additional reports can be read here and here.


New far right attacks in Sri Lanka

The last week has once again seen the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka attacked by armed mobs. While a traffic accident of a few days ago was seen by some as the spark for these new pogroms, the reality is that these latest riots have been well organised. The main suspect is believed to be the hardline Buddhist group - Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), who in the past has already carried out similar attacks. While the government has imposed a State of Emergency, there is fear that powerful elements in Sri Lanka will continue to stoke the fires of ethnic hatred and violence.


Australian Paper workers win dispute

After an 8 week strike, around 90 workers were able to retain their rostered days off and increase their wages. The workers are employed by Australian Paper in the northern Melbourne suburb of Preston and is the country’s biggest envelope manufacturing plant. The workers were ably supported by their union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, throughout the weeks of dispute. While not every detail of the new agreement was settled, the workers were confident that outstanding issues would be resolved quickly.


Electricity workers in India in partial win

In late February, workers employed at the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) signed a new four year agreement that gave them a 17% wage increase as well as a higher minimum wage – set at US $276 per month. This agreement came only after thousands of workers took strike action in mid-February against the TNEB’s slow negotiating tactics. While the agreement contains significant gains, there are many other outstanding issues including the use of precarious employment contracts and chronic understaffing which is leading to serious OHS issues for the remaining workers.


Australian Government to continue training Myanmar’s military

A recently released paper has confirmed that the Australian government will continue to fund and train members of the Myanmar military. While the paper recognises that other countries have different positions, Australia needs to protect its own interests in the region. The Myanmar military has been perpetrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing against its minority Rohingya population in Western Myanmar. The military is also accused of continuing its offensives against other minority groups in Myanmar.


Bangladeshi garment workers demand new minimum wage

In late February, a number of garment unions in Bangladesh formed the IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC) to issue a series of demands that included a call for the minimum wage to be raised from the current US $68/month to US $192/month. The garments sector worldwide is renowned for its vicious race to the bottom tactics, and in Bangladesh workers have not had a wage increase since 2013. The wage increases that workers won in the years 2009 to 2013 only came through long bitter struggles that saw millions of workers take to the streets (see here and here). Given the history of repression, garment workers can expect a hard road ahead.


Walk for Justice for Refugees

It has been over four years since Reza Barati was murdered during a riot at the Manus concentration camp in Papua New Guinea. The fact that in all these years no-one has been brought to justice shows the Australian government contempt for refugees. In the other off shore concentration camp in Nauru, a new leaked report attests to the fact that refugees have been housed in unhealthy conditions for years due to untreated mould outbreaks. In late March, co-ordinated protest rallies will be held all around Australia demanding the closure of these concentration camps and an end to the repression of asylum seekers and refugees.


Thousands of Korean auto workers facing dismissal

In mid-February, General Motors (GM) announced that they would close their Gusan assembly plant in South Korea. Around 2,000 workers will lose their jobs. The GM representative, Barry Engle, then proceeded to state that they would also evaluate the remaining three Korean manufacturing plants over the next few weeks. These three other factories employ a total of 16,000 workers. There is mounting anger and protests by Korean workers at these decisions. Once again, companies put profits above workers’ lives as they scour the world for the cheapest costs and highest profits.


Fight against Exxon in Australia continues

The dispute against the global giant Esso/Exxon in the small South Eastern Australian town of Longford has now been going on for over 250 days. The company is attempting to use subcontracting and sham employment contracts to slash the wages and conditions of hundreds of workers. There has been support from workers all around Australia, and while the picket line outside the Esso/Exxon is solid, more needs to be done to involve other workers and workplaces. Against global companies like Exxon, co-ordinated industrial actions with other Exxon sites around the world would be most effective in increasing the power and effectiveness of workers’ actions.


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