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.

International Workers’ Memorial Day

Millions of workers either die or get sick every year due to unsafe workplaces. April 28 is the international commemoration day for workers who have been killed or injured because of work. Unions fight for safety at work. This day marks our demand for safe and healthy workplaces. Unions, labour organisations and labour activists will hold events and rallies all around the world. For details of the Melbourne event, see here.

May Day 2017

May Day has been celebrated internationally since 1886 as the day for workers to unite as a class. Capitalists and governments are killing us in our workplaces and in our communities. Workers need to stop the politics of austerity and war. March in solidarity with workers in struggle everywhere. Rallies and demonstrations will occur all around the world. In Melbourne, Australia, the May Day rally will be at 1pm, Sunday 7 May, outside Trades Hall.  There will also be a reading of international statements and a rally on Monday 1 May at 5:30pm, commencing at the State Library as well as an annual congregation of workers at the 8 Hour Monument at 12pm on the same day.

Rana Plaza four years on

The April 24 is the fourth anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 garment workers. The trial for the people responsible for this disaster is ongoing and expected to last years before a final judgement is arrived at. This massacre of workers generated a huge amount of global pressure on companies in Bangladesh to improve the working conditions in the garment sector. While some improvements have been achieved, a lot more, especially around the right to organise independent unions, remains to be done. There is also pressure to erect a permanent memorial on the site of the collapse. A new film exploring the lives, work and organising efforts of Bangladesh's garment workers has been produced. For details of the Melbourne screening, see here

New Zealand care workers win big pay rise

After a five year campaign, over 50,000 mainly women workers in the aged residential care, home support, and disability services this week won a multiyear pay rise. This increase is a recognition that workers were receiving poverty wages and were subjected to systemic exploitation. Unions now hope that this increase will be implemented fully and that it will represent only a start that will flow on to other sectors where workers are systemically underpaid. Highlighting these issues, workers in the fast food sector went on co-ordinated industrial actions to call for higher wages and better conditions across that industry. 

Australian workers facing new lockout dispute

Around 200 wood workers were locked out this week by their employer, Carter Holt Harvey, in Myrtleford, a regional town in south eastern Australia. This dispute is the result of a breakdown of negotiations for a new workplace agreement, with workers seeking reasonable wage increases and improved income protection insurance coverage. This dispute is very similar to the recent ones at CUB and Parmalat, where the bosses also locked out workers in a bid to break their spirit. These workers are covered by the Electrical Trades Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. The workers are also supported by their regional workers’ council.

Koreans continue to protest against missile system

Protests against a new USA military installation, the THAAD missile system, are continuing in South Korea with actions taking place on a weekly basis. The anti militarism movement has been able to use the momentum of the successful anti-Park actions to galvanise opposition to this new military system. The proposed deployment of the THAAD comes at a time of increasing tensions in the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean Government is deploying increasing numbers of police to counter the demonstrators.

Government critics continue to disappear in Malaysia

A new climate of fear is developing in Malaysia with a spate of recent abductions and disappearances of social activists, like Raymond Koh and Peter Chong. While in the past, government critics had to face repressive laws like the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act, political abductions are a new feature of Malaysian politics. While the perpetrators are still unknown, it is most likely that these disappearances are linked to the increasing desperation of the government to hang on to power amid unprecedented popular opposition. A public meeting in Melbourne, Australia will discuss the ramifications of these abductions.

Indian workers right to strike under attack

Earlier this month around 1,000 workers at Apollo, a major tyre producing company operating in the industrial belt of the southern city of Chennai, went on strike for the right to form a union and to improve their wages and conditions. The local government quickly intervened to declare the auto sector as part of essential sector and the strike illegal. This latest strike is another indication of the growing willingness to fight by the new Indian industrial class, notwithstanding the vicious repression unleashed by the state against the Maruti Suzuki and the Pricol workers.

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