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The radical geographer David Harvey spoke with Fatema Ahmed for Icon magazine about his latest book Rebel Cities: From Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, the "right to the city" and ways in which people around the world can reclaim urban...
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On Friday, around 3 million workers in 20 provinces and 150 regencies continued their nationwide strike, which has paralyzed activities in around 40 industrial areas in Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Kalimantan. Their demands include a 50 percent hike in their minimum wages, which should be implemented simultaneously in January 2014, and an end to job outsourcing and the contractual system. They also want the government and House of Representatives to immediately pass the bill on housemaids into law and revise the newly enacted law on mass organizations, which they claim has been devised to silence labor unions. The Jakarta administration office was surrounded by thousands of protesting workers on Friday when the administration announced a 11 percent increase in the province’s minimum wage from Rp 2.2 million to Rp 2.4 million.
Editorial: Workers’ Struggles in Electronic Industry
Electronics is one of the fastest growing industries today. It has been generating a rapidly growing range of products and services that are increasingly used in almost every human activity. It has completely changed the way people live and interact.
Deeply entwined in our social fabric, electronics products and systems support critical aspects of communication, education, finance, government among others. Thousands of companies from many countries contribute to the industry on a daily basis. Even a single product can contain components and software manufactured by various companies in many different countries.
Due to relative ease of capital mobility, the industry has many ways to engage in strategies of outsourcing and off-sourcing. Global sourcing is therefore very common where factories can be relocated easily and produces a wide variety of end products. Global value chains in the electronics industry are more geographically extensive and dynamic than in any other manufacturing sector.
However, behind the glossy sheen of the electronics products and the industrial development behind it is the dark side that often remains invisible due to an aggressive 'disinformation' campaign by the industry. More than a quarter of a trillion chips are manufactured annually requiring the use of staggering amounts of toxic chemicals, metal and gases. Toxic chemicals are essential raw materials for electronics, and thousands of chemicals are being used in its production process with devastating effects on the health of workers, communities and the environment as whole. The 'toxic trouble' from electronics industry emerged in many parts of the world ranging from the US to Scotland and to Taiwan and South Korea in Asia, and has alarmingly spread to many parts of the region. That the alarm bells are not being heard by national governments can be explained by the importance of industrial development in general, and the electronics industry in particular. Industrial development of electronics has attracted many developing countries since it has been perceived as better than textile and garment sector that absorbs more skilful workforce. In fact, the electronics industry in many Asia’s developing countries predominantly employs low-skill workforce with low added value to their economy, while the highest value of the industry such as semiconductor have been primarily designed and produced in developed countries including South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. This does not mean that workers in these countries are better off; they are even more prone to chemical hazards.
Furthermore, capital flows from electronics industries have been massive which involve active intervention of both global corporations and national government by imposing a range of new legal mechanisms and regulations serving their interests. As a consequence, anti-labour regime and policies become the order of the day. The industry, therefore, has two major characteristics: first is highly polluting, and second is extremely repressive towards labour.
Samsung, a South Korean corporation, has become one of key players in the electronics global value chain. In 2011, sales of Samsung Electronics Corporation Ltd. surpassed 146 billion USD, a 7 per cent increase over 2010. The company employed 190,464 employees directly and through subcontractors, an estimated 800,000 globally in 2010. Samsung Electronics has become the leader in production of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) chips, liquid-crystal display screens and mobile telephones. The production takes place in several Asian countries including home country South Korea, China, and Vietnam (the world biggest in Samsung mobile phone assembly). Samsung and other corporations would benefit in the future from a robust injection of capital that would allow mega-scale manufacturing and thus lower costs, which means exploiting labour. Even now, it has been argued that a large part of Samsung’s profits comes from short-changing labour. Samsung’s anti-union policy is almost a byword in the industry.
The statement of Samsung group chairman, Lee Kun-hee, shows how powerful Samsung is – where South Korea has been cynically called as a Republic of Samsung: “[…what] Samsung does not recognise is not the trade union itself, but the need to have a trade union. In other words, Samsung has a principle of management that does not need trade unions.”
Aside from its hostile attitude towards unions, Samsung’s style of management in almost all its production sites has been repressive: many workers have died and many continue to suffer from occupational diseases. In Korea, in the last several years, dozens of cases of occupational diseases have been discovered among workers employed by Samsung Electronics and its subsidiaries. In Indonesia, four workers have died since 2012. In India, workers in Noida Industrial Zone are continuously exposed to ionizing radiations, organic solvents, heavy metals (cadmium and lead), and chemicals that damage the reproductive organs (arsine & phosphate); every day about 100 workers complain of headaches, fever, body pains. Apart from these chemical exposures, overworked workers have no time or space for even going to the toilet or having a drink of water.
The current edition of Asian Labour Update presents how electronics industry operates in Asia, with a closer look at the working conditions in one of the main global players: Samsung Electronics. Reports from South Korea, Indonesia and India expose different pictures of Samsung’s operation in these three countries. As the three reports explain, Samsung is a notorious example that illustrates how big corporation such as Samsung has been powerful and dominant in our society.
This edition of Asian Labour Update is dedicated to all workers of the global electronics factory – those who died working, those who survived, union organisers and all those who have been fighting for workers’ rights.
Child laborers in Papua covered 34.7 percent of the total laborers.
The National Commission for Child Protection has released a data concerning children for the first semester of 2013. The commission secretary general Samsul Ridwan said the number of child laborer has reached 4.7 million children.
"Mostly in Papua. Child laborers covered 34.7 percent of the total laborers (there)," said Samsul on yesterday, July 18. The second position was taken by North Sulawesi with 20.46 percent of child laborers, and followed by West Sulawesi at 19.82 percent of child laborers.
Based on location and the total number, about 1.1 million children work in the city area while the remaining 2.3 million work in villages.
For comparison, the data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recorded 1.7 million child laborers consisting of 674,000 children are aged below 13. As many as 321,000 aged between 13 and 14, and 760,000 aged between 15 and 17. Indonesia has set a target to be free of child laborers by 2020.
Human rights advocates from all over the world are in Manila for the 3-day International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) to share their respective country situations and success stories. Like Gochez, a number of them took the chance to also visit various communities.
Their findings show that the human rights situation in the Philippines has not improved under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
"We see the problem of human rights as really deteriorating under the present regime even though the rhethoric would suggest that everything is fine," said Prof Gill Hale Boehringer of Australia's Macquarie University Law School.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines earlier claimed that allegations of human rights violations against soldiers have declined since the 2011 implemenation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan.
In the coming months, it is extremely critical to continue to struggle for workers’ rights, both at the national and international levels, including encouraging the formation of robust and independent trade unions. It is also critical to provide comprehensive services and long-term care for workers unable to financially support themselves or their families. Fundraising efforts need to focus on building the capacity of organizations to be able to provide long-term care for workers. Symbolic as it may seem, there must be a place where workers can collectively mourn and heal from the trauma of this senseless tragedy in the form of a memorial.
As one sign reads at the site, the workers who died here are “shaheed” or their lives bear witness to this tragedy. Let us, too, not forget them.
Workers across Indonesia begin a two-day strike Thursday to demand higher salaries, the latest industrial action in Southeast Asia’s top economy as people push for a greater share of the profits from stellar growth.
Calls have been growing in recent months for a hike in the minimum wage as the cost of living skyrockets due to high inflation.
Unions estimate that almost three million workers will take part in the action, although the numbers have come in lower than such forecasts in previous nationwide strikes.
“Living costs are going up,” Said Iqbal, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union (KSPI), told AFP.
“Many workers who could not afford their rents have had to move out of their homes and live under bridges and in sewers. They are eating instant noodles instead of rice.”
Workers say they have been particularly hard-hit by a rise in the price of subsidized fuel in June, with petrol going up by 44 percent and diesel by 22 percent.
They are demanding “just a decent pay raise to compensate for inflation”, said Iqbal, adding: “We laborers have contributed so much to the economy, why are we trampled upon?”.
Unions said employees from industries ranging from textiles to mining in around 20 of the country’s 34 provinces will participate in the action.
Around 300,000 workers will strike in the capital Jakarta while some 400,000 will walk out in the neighboring industrial hub of Bekasi, the KSPI predicted.
Strikes and protests by Indonesian workers have been on the rise as they demand higher wages in line with a booming economy which has clocked up an average annual growth of above six percent in recent years.
While growth has slowed in the last few months and the economy has been hit by fears the US may reduce its stimulus program, Indonesia is still expanding faster than most developed economies.
Workers in Jakarta this year received a 44 percent increase in the minimum wage to 2.2 million rupiah ($200) a month, and others across the country also got hefty hikes.
Iqbal said the KSPI was calling for the minimum wage in Jakarta to be raised to 3.7 million rupiah.
Workers are piling pressure on local governments as they prepare to decide on wage increases for next year in the coming weeks.
However employers have expressed concerns that huge salary hikes are denting profits and could lead foreign investors to take their business to neighboring Asian countries.
Nevertheless, Indonesian factory workers remain some of the lowest-paid in Asia, often earning less than their counterparts in China or India.
Film trailer on workers' struggle in Indonesia, will be launched and screened in the Asian TNCs Monitoring Netrwork meeting (9-11 November 2013) in Bogor, Indonesia
The National Consolidation of Labour Movement (KNGB) which is held in the Gedung Joeang 45, Central Jakarta, has decided to conduct a nationwide strike on 28th, 29th and 30th of October 2013. The National Strike, in addition to urging the government to raise wages by 50% is also targeted to push the other labour national agenda, one of which is outsourcing issue.
Outsourcing has become the major problem of Indonesian workers at this time since the system has been believed to deprive the workers' welfare. Murtija, The Chairperson of the Federation of National Power Trade Union (FSPLN) on the consolidation in Jakarta assured that as many as 10,700 outsourcing workers of the State Power Company (PLN) in Central Java will get involved in the National Strike.
The consolidation keeps rolling and was continued with meetings and rallies in many areas in Central Java. In Purwokerto, the consolidation held on October 12, 2013 decided to start the strike early. The Meter Record workers who must be on duty of recording the kwh meters of the customers from home to home will start the strike on October 24, 2013. Toto Rubiyanto, the General Secretary of FSPLN who led the consolidation directly stated that the Federation will issue instructions at the latest of within 2 days after the meeting to order all their members to begin the strike early on October 24 and continued until October 30, 2013.
Strikes will certainly lead into the greater movement as power is a vital need for people. Aminuddin Azhari as the coordinator of the Workers in Purwokerto area confirms that the decision to start the strike earlier as a response of FSPLN to the fact that since early October the General Manager of PLN of Central Java and Yogyakarta has been using the army and national police to intimidate members and train them to replace the striking workers.
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Labor unions from around the world are lobbying Indonesia to put workers’ rights on the agenda at October’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali.
A delegation from the International Confederation of Trade Unions on Monday met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to convey their request for the summit, which will bring together the leaders of 21 countries on either side of the Pacific Ocean.
“We ask the president to champion, to be a leader, in calling for APEC to endorse an APEC-wide decent work strategy which includes jobs, labor rights and social protection,” said Sharan Burrow, the secretary general of ICTU.
“Indonesia has a very critical leadership role both in APEC and the G-20,” the Australian added, referring to the Group of 20 leading economies.
APEC leaders should also address the growing presence of the informal sector, which accounts for 40 percent of the world economy, Burrow said. “Even in G-20, you have informal sector of between 20 percent and 85 percent in India.”
Burrow said workers in the informal sector, are often in a state of “desperation” and are beyond the reach of regulations and state intervention. “People [that] find informal-sector work, they do anything to survive, but it is not [a] way to build a society or the economy,” she added.
Labor issues should be on the APEC agenda because economic growth is in the interests of both workers and businesses, Burrow said.
The unionist added that workers have invested $25 trillion in pension funds in the world economy, and so focusing on job creation as a source of growth is important.
“When you look at jobs as the priority, ending the informal sector, and inequality being the global issues that leaders are concerned about, then labor is at the heart of all of those issues,” she added.
After the meeting with Yudhoyono, Burrow said: “We were heartened to hear the president said that the low-wage era is over. It is our very firm view that we will not build a stable global economy without ending the area of exploitation that Asian workers in particular have experienced in the global supply chain.”
Yudhoyono also committed to increasing engagement with labor movements, both from Indonesia and abroad, Burrow said. Said Iqbal, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions, backed the call for APEC leaders to add labor to the agenda.
Labor rights have returned to the Indonesian domestic agenda in recent years, with a 44 percent minimum wage increase in Jakarta in January sparking similar actions elsewhere in the country, and outsourcing becoming a hot-button issue.
This year’s APEC summit, which comes as much of the world struggles to regain economic momentum after several years of recessions and false starts, carries the theme “Towards Resilience and Growth: Reshaping Priorities for Global Economy.”
While Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has previously celebrated the number of meetings it has hosted in association with the summit, it has yet to identify clear objectives the country wishes to achieve as host.
Formed in 1989, APEC focuses on trade and economics. Its members including Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.
A labor leader was shot dead inside his multicab passenger jeepney after bringing his three kids to school in Cotabato City.
Forty-seven-year-old Kagi Alimudin P. Lucman was shot on his head and chest by a lone gunman at seven in the morning of July 18 while in front of the Cotobato City State Polytechnic College, a labor group said.
Lucman's male companion who was seated beside him was also wounded but survived, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Lucman was the second such labor leader killed in the past two weeks in Mindanao, the group said.
The incident took place "during peak hours when students and vehicles converged near the CCSPC," APL said. It added that Lucman's brazen daytime killing "makes a mockery of justice and underscores the reign of impunity in the country."
“Kagi,” as he was fondly called, was the president of the Notre Dame Village Operators and Drivers Association (NDVODA), which was organized in 2009 and affiliated to the NCTU-APL in 2010. He also represented NCTU-Cotobato during the NCTU National Conference in Cavite last year.
NCTU is the National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Unions, which is in turn both affiliated to the national labor center Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and the global union International Transportworkers’ Federation (ITF).
In countries where unions have long been institutionalised, this divergence between the confrontational approaches of workers and the conservative approaches of trade union officials has fuelled efforts to democratise stagnant unions “from below” or to build alternative, rank-and-file movements that bypass existing union structures altogether. In Myanmar, by contrast, the hundreds of new unions that have emerged over the past year remain mostly small, enterprise-level associations. They have yet to develop a bureaucratic stratum of full-time officials claiming to represent workers' interests. As such, Myanmar workers are in a position of relative freedom to set for themselves the direction of their country's labour movement. This situation may not last, however, if these workers' associations become subsumed by individuals or organisations seeking a mediating role between labour and capital. Much depends, therefore, on the extent to which Myanmar workers are able to keep their new unions thoroughly rank-and-file controlled, with decision-making power firmly in the hands of the union membership.