This week another two polio workers were killed by a land mine while doing their job in the Alingar area in Tehsil Safi near the border with Afghanistan. While the rate of unionisation is low, workers in Pakistan nevertheless continue to organise for better wages and conditions. They also have to battle repression from the capitalist class and the state with assassination attempts against labour activists and the use of anti terrorist laws to stifle workers and community activists like Baba Jan and the Faisalabad 6.
Following on from the successful global day of action in September for a new minimum wage of US$ 177/month, the companies and the Cambodian government are trying to stall the process. This week the government announced that the decision setting a new minimum wage was postponed to an unspecified later date. A recent report has highlighted once again that many garment workers are living below the poverty line while another report has highlighted how workers continue to face dangers even after leaving the factory.
As reported previously, most large ships in the world get taken to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to be broken up. Workers are kept un-organised so that wages are low and health and safety standards extremely low, leading to many deaths and injuries. A new report by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform that looks at the last three months, has established that this year at least 21 workers have being killed at work, with countless others receiving injuries.
Members of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) called a general strike on 29 September to demand direct elections and condemn violence against Occupy Central protesters. Several thousand workers heeded the strike call, including social workers, teachers and logistics workers for Swire Beverages (a Coca Cola distributor). Occupy Central protesters are demanding the resignation of the current leader of Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying. Leftists within the movement are also calling for greater economic equality in Hong Kong.
The Philippines subsidiary of Dutch IT multinational, Philips, tried to bust the union and avoid signing a collective agreement by firing 24 officials of Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines. Now 12 out of the 24 have won their jobs back, while the other 12 will be given a compensation package. NXP has also agreed to a collective agreement, that gives workers between a 3 and 5% pay rise per year and converts almost 200 contract workers to permanent employment. This win is the result of constant campaigning in the Philippines and around the world. This is a significant campaign because the factory is located in a Special Economic Zone where employers and the state try and break unions and keep wages low to attract investment.
The new Modi government in India is intent on privatising state assets and using public-private partnerships to develop future infrastructure (listen to radio interview here). On 19 September an estimated half a million workers stopped work to protest the government’s plans to privatise the railways. The International Transport Federation has committed to fight transport privatisation around the world. Korean workers are also fighting against the privatisation of their railway system.
The disgraceful string of deaths continues at Rio Tinto’s Freeport mine in West Papua – the biggest gold and copper mine in the world. Several workers were shot dead after a strike in 2011, and 28 workers were killed in a tunnel collapse in 2013. On 27 September 2014 another four workers were killed in an accident. Immediately workers went on strike to demand compensation for the workers’ families, a guarantee of no more fatalities and punishment of the director of mining. Rio Tinto has given assurances that these demands will be met, but the company’s long-term neglect of health and safety proves that it’s willing to sacrifice workers’ lives for profit.
In November last year 15 union officials and 179 union members were sacked for striking against Palla Shoes’ decision to refuse wage increases. The fired unionists have also been blacklisted at other workplaces. Global unions and NGOs have been campaigning for Bata shoes, one of the factory’s buyers, to insist on decent labour standards at Palla. But instead Bata has stopped buying from the factory since the sackings, and denies any responsibility. This is a common limitation of the Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. Send emails to Bata email@example.com and Palla firstname.lastname@example.org supporting the workers’ demands for reinstatement and compensation.