jiselle's blog

Another South Korean union leader jailed

On the 26th of July, Cho Sung-deok, the vice-president of the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers Union (KPTU) was given a two year jail sentence. Sung-doek's crime was for participating in mass rallies during 2015. This sentence is just the latest of a series of convictions against Korean union leaders and is part of a concerted campaign to crush trade unions in South Korea. Nevertheless, the response by workers in South Korea has been strong with many protest rallies and actions.

Australian company escapes massive fine for death

Steve Bower was killed two years ago when a box-stacking lift that was four metres high collapsed on him at the factory he was working at. The company, AB recycling, was found guilty this week of grave safety violations and fined over US $600,000. Unfortunately the owners of AB Recycling placed the company into voluntary administration soon after the accident. A new company, High Heat, owned and operated by the same people as AB Recycling, doing the same operations, then started up. Unfortunately, under Australian law, this new company is not liable for any debts or fines of the previous company. This is another example of how the legal system fails workers, especially on health and safety.

Workers suffering in Kashmir due to repression

The situation in the semi-autonomous zone of Kashmir in North West India has deteriorated in the last few months with many people killed and injured by Indian security forces. While the issue of the political status of  Jammu and Kashmir have been an issue for many decades, the current problems are about state repression and living conditions. This year there have been many recent protests by workers in Kashmir for unpaid wages, higher wages and safe workplaces (see here, here and here). While some solidarity has occurred in parts of India, the Government is now also trying to restrict the flow of information from that region.

SAB Miller worker in India also fighting

The workforce at the SAB Miller Sonepat Brewery in the norther state of Haryana, India, have been involved in mass protests this month. The workers are taking action against the harassment and intimidation of their union leaders as well as the company's refusal to respect collective bargaining rights. Actions include a hunger strike as well as a sit down strike at the factory gates. SAB Miller is also attacking workers’ rights in Melbourne in a dispute that has now been going on for over two months.

Visa exemptions set to increase workers vulnerability

The Australian government is pushing ahead with a plan to exempt workers on vessels in the offshore oil and gas industries from visa requirements. Some of the biggest companies in the world operate off the coast of Australia extracting oil and gas. The visa exemption would allow these companies to import workers from all around the world with very few restrictions on employment conditions. This would mean that workers would be very vulnerable, allowing companies to set the agenda in terms of wages, hours of work and health and safety conditions.

Photography and the race to the bottom

In an example that the ‘Global race to Bottom’ affects workers in every sector, an international campaign by journalists is being waged against Agence France Presse (AFP), one of the major global media groups. The AFP is attempting to seek to take away photographers' copyright in return for no additional payment. The contract requires photographers to sign a global, irrevocable, perpetual licence to allow the company to use their photos and videos on any medium, in any language, in any form including in any future products. There is an international campaign against this move by the AFP.

Turkish government cracks down on workers

Following the attempted military coup of just over a week ago that resulted in the death of over 250 people, the Erdogan government has moved swiftly against all opposition. In addition to arresting the military and police personnel who were involved in the actual coup, the Turkish government has instituted a ‘State of Emergency’ giving it extraordinary powers. In the last few days an estimated 13,000 members of the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Finance were either sacked or suspended, over 35,000 teachers were “purged”, and 19 trade unions were suspended. These moves are clearly aimed at destroying workers’ organisations that are seen as political opponents. Read the statement by the DISK labour federation.

Korean workers stage massive protests

This week, in a strong show of protest to the recent jail sentences handed down to labour leaders, an estimated 100,000 workers took to the streets throughout South Korea. Workers were also protesting against the recent wave of layoffs as well as demanding a higher minimum wage. In a separate display of workers power, earlier in the week, tens of thousands of workers from Hyundai factories took partial strike actions across South Korea. More strikes and protests are planned in the coming weeks and months.

Fight for Maruti Suzuki workers continues

This week thousands of workers in the Gurgaon-Manesar-Bawal automobile belt defied government bans against protests, to come out and forcefully call for the release of their jailed fellow workers. The workers rallied on the 4th anniversary of the death of a plant manager that occurred in clashes between workers and company hired thugs. This clash was the outcome of a long running, ongoing industrial dispute. Following the death of the manager, 148 workers were arrested, with 35 still remaining in jail. While the flawed justice system is a focus of the protests, the underlying fight continues to be for the right of workers to organise, to have a living wage, and safe workplaces.

Brewery workers continue the fight against global giant

The struggle by 55 workers in Melbourne, against subcontracting and insecure work is now in its second month. The company, CUB, is part of the SAB Miller group, a global company that employs around 70,000 employees in more than 80 countries, and last year had a net revenue of USA $24 Billion. To effectively fight the power of global companies like SABMiller, workers need to step up and take co-ordinated industrial actions at many of their sites across the world. In Asia, SAB Miller has production facilities in Australia, India and New Zealand. You can support the striking workers at 22 Southampton Cres, Abbotsford and donate to their strike fund. Solidarity messages can be sent to solidarity@aawl.org.au.

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