Leftwing groups and trade unions are staging rallies to mark International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day or May Day. The day commemorates workers’ struggle for better conditions in industrialised countries in the 19th century
On April 24, 2013 a building in Bangladesh called Rana Plaza collapsed and killed 1034 garment workers and injured over 2500. The film “Rana Plaza Victims of Fashion” commemorates the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse and looks into the greater issues of worker, worker’s safety and collective bargaining in Bangladesh. A Canadian delegation hear the stories from workers, the Bangladesh government and the International community supporting the workers in their efforts to gain the ability to collective bargain a fair wage and a safe work place, through The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
FAST food workers are demanding respect for their rights that are being withheld from them by fast food chains whose overarching goal is to further amass super profits. This is done by shortchanging the workers through low wages along with “charity” or unpaid turnover work, measly benefits, contractual jobs or those with no security of tenure coupled with “zero hour” contracts and union busting, according to the newly organized Respect Fast Food Workers Alliance (RESPECT!).
One might say that the Umbrella Movement failed to achieve any concrete and immediate results, yet it has allowed many Hong Kongers, especially the younger generation, to become politically awakened. Furthermore, even though news has been blocked and distorted, it has still reached some in mainland China and could have far-reaching impact in future.
The dispute involving the first strike of the year ended with the labor union at a Korean-owned metal factory in the Cavite ecozone finally forging a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the management, the Partido ng Manggagawa said in a news release. "We congratulate the Tae Sung union for their victorious fight to negotiate a CBA that improves wages, benefits and working conditions in their workplace, including safety and health. Bravely confronting the ‘no strike, no union’ policy in the ecozone, they proved in real life that only by collective action can workers better their lot," said Renato Magtubo, PM national chair.
The two largest communities account together for about 1/5 of all the nodes and comprise companies mainly located in the US and Great Britain, respectively. Here below we provide some more details:
The first biggest community includes 54065 economic entities. It is dominated by companies mainly located in North America (65%), in particular in the US (59%) and Canada (7%), while 10% of all the firms are located in three Asian countries (Japan, Taiwan and Korea). From a sector point of view, the nodes do not show a unique pattern: roughly 1/4 of the nodes belong, respectively, to the services, manufacturing and real estates, renting and business activities sectors. Finally, even if this community includes only 2283 TNCs (5% of the total), in terms of operating revenue, it represents roughly 34% of the total TNC value.
The second largest community has 49475 members, of which 2004 TNCs accounting for the 17% of the total operating revenue. Geographically speaking, the nodes belong, almost completely, toEuropean countries (89%), with Great Britain (42%) leading the other countries (Germany is represented by 9.6% of nodes, France by 6%, Sweden by 5% and Italy by 4%.). The largest part of the companies are in the business activity industry (39%), while the services and manufacturing sectors account for 20% and 18% respectively.
Filipino workers and trade unionists are still in shock following the murder of labour leader Florencio “Bong” Romano on 8 March. The 63-year-old was an organiser for the National Coalition for the Protection of Workers' Rights, an affiliate of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1st Movement, or KMU) trade union at the food manufacturing firm RFM in Laguna, south of capital Manila. Romano was found dead in Batangas City, also south of Manila, with a single bullet wound to the chest.
There is a land grabbing occuring in Rembang, Central Java, committed by one of the biggest cement corporation in Indonesia. People of Rembang, mostly women farmers, are protesting. They heavily rely on the rivers, springs, caves, fountains. It’s been more than 300 days since the women farmers in the area began camping in tents to block the trucks and heavy equipment from entering the area of the mountain... It has been a long struggle for the women farmers to fight against the establishment of the cement factory. These women, who have been fighting against the cement factory, were beaten up by the state apparatus who forced them to leave their tents. Despite the ongoing intimidation, they have kept up their fight but this month the court will determine their fate. We will keep you updated.
In the last three-and-a-half decades Indonesia and Malaysia lost a combination of 3.5 million hectares of forest to palm oil plantations.
Globally, more people consume palm oil than soybean oil, and Indonesia is the largest producer of the stuff, churning out 31 million tonnes of palm oil in 2014. Malaysia and Indonesia together account for 85 percent of palm oil produced globally each year. Consumption of palm oil has risen steadily at seven percent per annum over the last 20 years.
The palm oil sector has added little real value to the Indonesian economy. The average contribution of estate crops, including oil palm and rubber, to GDP [gross domestic product] was only 2.2 percent per year. On the other hand, food production is the main source of rural employment and income, engaging two-thirds of the rural workforce, or some 61 million people. Oil palm production only occupies the eighth rank in rural employment, engaging some 1.4 million people.
We call on the International Labor Organization to uphold the workers right to strike. To do otherwise is equivalent to ILO becoming an instrument of employers in worsening the condition of workers.
The onslaught of neoliberalism has taken away many hard-won rights of the working class. Now, more than ever, workers all over the world and all sectors in society must unite to prevent this yet another move of capitalists to take away another essential right from happening. To strike is a right and it is just. We must persist in defending our right to rebel to attain social justice.
Hundreds of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers ripped down corrugated iron fences at a major real-estate development and spilled into the street during rush hour near the Dubai Mall, a popular tourist spot in the heart of the city.
We strongly condemn the arrests of activists and protesters who took part in the May Day Rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There are at least 29 people being arrested, including Arutchelvan (Secretary-General of Socialist Party of Malaysia), Ambiga Sreenevasan (Former President of Malaysian Bar Council), and Anthony Loke (Seremban's Member of Parliament).
We believe that the arrests are politically motivated and intended to silence the opposition against the newly introduced policy on regressive Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the country.
We urge the government of Malaysia to:
- Release all May Day protesters immediately and unconditionally.
- Stop the crackdown against the activist and the right to freedom of assembly.
Subcontractors in Hong Kong dockside revealed pay raise of 5.5% for 2015. The spokesperson of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers said, “We are feeling regretted and unrespected”. The Union will have an internal discussion whether further action will trigger shortly. The Union demand for 8.5% pay raise for this year.
A Statement from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), South Korea
1. Abolish the retrogressive ‘labour market reforms’!
2. Stop the Public Pension Cuts! Improve the National Pension System!
3. KRW 10, 000 (per hour) for Minimum Wage!
4. Fulfill the fundamental Labour Rights for All!
The National Congress of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) resolved to call a general strike against the government’s comprehensive policy package to attack working and living conditions for all workers. In a nationwide ballot carried out between March 21 to April 8, 2015, 84.35 percent of all voters were in favor of going on a general strike. On April 24, striking workers will have rallies in 20 different cities. On May 1, 100,000 workers will gather in Seoul.
The era of zero percent growth of the real wage?
As the impact of the global economic crisis remains, the economic outlook of Korea is so negative as the finance minister warns of deflation risk. While Korea ranked top in taxation inequality among OECD countries due to the former government’s policy of ‘more tax from the poor and less tax from the rich’ and the 4th in income inequality, the real wage growth rate has decreased for the last 6 quarters successively. (It was 3.4 percent in the second quarter of 2003 and 0.08 percent in the third quarter of 2014.) The total number of the unemployed is 4,456,000, and the real unemployment rate is 15.8 percent. The poverty rate among the elderly is 48 percent, which means 1 out of 2 among those who are 65 years or older is living in poverty. More than 50 percent of the whole working population is in a precarious situation in terms of employment, and they are paid half of the average wage and not eligible for social security.
Wages, employment and social security of all workers are under attack
Recently, social polarization on a global scale has been pointed out as a key obstacle to economic growth. Even the major fora and financial institutions such as the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, Davos Forum, IMF and OECD suggest tackling income inequality as a key priority. However, the Park Geun-hye government is taking an opposite direction and all of its policies are focusing on giving privilege to the conglomerates and stimulating the real estate market, which would result in the institutionalization of restructuring, decreases in wages and the expansion of employment insecurity.
Comprehensive Measures for Non-Regular Workers, which is a major part of the ‘labour market reform plan’ and claimed by the government as a solution to various problems with so-called ‘dual structure of labour market, is in fact a comprehensive neoliberal labour policy attacking wages, employment and trade union rights of all workers. Using the above mentioned title, the government is laying the blame on the ‘over-protected regular workers’ or ‘vested interests of organized workers’, instead of the ‘inheritance and unequal distribution of wealth by the conglomerates’ for the income & social inequality.
Key points of the government led ‘Labour-Market Reform.'
Relaxation of requirements for ordinary dismissal and introduction of dismissal of underperforming workers
Flexibilization of wage system: based on job function and performance payment
Incapacitation of the condition of ‘collective agreement by workers’ required at the time of unfavorable change of rules of employment
Exclusion of regularly paid bonus in ordinary wage calculation
Extension of working hours
Retrogressive amendment of Labour Standards Act which runs counter to the idea of reduction of working hours
Extension of limit of fixed term contract period from current two years up to four years
Expansion of the range of jobs where labour dispatch is permitted.
Legalisation of in-house subcontracting.
The government's unilateral push for Labour Market Reforms
In the New Year’s address of 2015, President Park emphasized “Labour Market Reform is not optional but essential for the survival of Korean economy”. She also urged the “Special Committee on Structural Reforms of the Labour Market” in the Economic and Social Development Commission (ESCD) to agree on the government’ plan within March 2015. Without participation by the KCTU, the Special Committee [composed of FKTU, KEF and the government] were convened several times but failed to draw an agreed conclusion. Just a day after the FKTU walked out of the negotiation finding there is no point of compromise, the government announced that it will unilaterally pursue the retrogressive amendment of related labour laws in the interim session of the National Assembly in April. Moreover, the Ministry of Employment and Labour declared that it will push for a variety of guidelines for collective bargaining, enforcement decree of the laws, and directives in order to accomplish the plan at every workplace. This shows that the government had no intention to listen to the workers' voice from the beginning.
The Right to Strike is an internationally protected fundamental right!
In Korea, the right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution. However, in practice, as the purposes, methods, procedure, and subject are excessively regulated, it is almost impossible for workers to strike legally. Union leaders and members quickly face criminal sanction, a lawsuit for compensation for damage, and disciplinary measures including dismissal. International support and solidarity have played a crucial role for Korean workers to exercise their fundamental rights.
The Four Demands of the Workers
1. Abolish the retrogressive ‘labour market reform.'
What the government wants are easier dismissal, lower wage and more precarious jobs. The government-led labour market reform plan would deteriorate living and working conditions of all workers. It should not be promoted in any form.
2. Stop the public pension cuts and improve the National Pension System!
The government is pushing ahead with the deterioration of the public pension system and activation of private pensions. The president herself failed to implement her election pledge to increase the benefit of Basic Old-age Pension and has no policy to improve the National Pension System whose affiliate and benefit rates are too low. On the contrary, the government is promoting a deterioration of the Government Employees Pension Scheme under the pretense of ‘equity among difference pension systems’. This will exacerbate the situation of poverty and income inequality in old age. What government should do is an upward equalization of pension systems by increasing the benefits level of the National Pension System and Basic Old-age Pension. At the same time, it should be accountable for the stable funding as an employer of the public servants.
3. KRW 10,000 for minimum hourly wage!
As of 2015, the statutory minimum wage is KRW 5,580 per hour (KRW 1,166,220 per month) which is even less than actual living cost of a single worker without dependents (KRW 1,506,179, as of May, 2014). The minimum wage that was applicable in 2014 (KRW 1,088,890 per month) was 41.1 percent of the regular wage of the regular workers in the workplace with 5 or more employees and 32.7 percent of the total wage. This is too little to meet the purpose of the minimum wage system- eradication of low paid group, reduction of wage disparity and improvement of the distribution system. It is the minimum safeguard for low-waged workers. KRW 10,000 of the minimum wage will contribute to economic growth and the original purpose of the minimum wage system.
4. Fundamental Labour Rights for ALL! Application of Labour Standards Act for ALL! Revision of Article 2 of TULRAA!
The number of workers in workplaces with less than five employees is 3,480,000, accounting for 19.15 percent of the whole working population. The Labour Standards Act does not cover all of them. Precarious Workers including workers in the disguised employment relationship and indirect employment relationship are not able to exercise the right to organize and right to bargain collectively.***
AMRC Hong Kong's insight:
Support the General Strikes of Korean workers and follow the updates from KCTU facebook page
Kim Mi-Sun, who was in charge of soldering at the Giheung Factory’s LCD line from 1997 to 2000, was diagnosed with hemiplegia, paralysis of one side of the body, in 2000, after her legs suddenly collapsed. It turned out to be a rare disease called multiple sclerosis.
Mi-sun, who couldn’t watch the news, only heard from others that Samsung had come up with a compensation plan.
“We’re all people who became sick while working for the company, and so I’m not sure what is the standard for compensating some and not others. Even though my life has been shattered, nobody knows…how frustrating…”
About 200 laborers staged a protest at Tanjung Priok Port in North Jakarta on Sunday. “We, as representatives of laborers, want to express our disappointment with the current administration,” said Ilhamsyah, a union leader. The protesters briefly blocked one entrance to the port area, causing traffic congestion in the area.
Thousands of workers are on strike and have massed peacefully inside and outside the factory owned by Pou Yuen Vietnam protesting over social insurance cover. Thousands of workers at a major factory in southern Vietmam went on strike for a fifth day on Tuesday in protest over social insurance cover, in a rare show of labour unrest in a country positioning itself as a future Asian manufacturing powerhouse. Witnesses in the industrialised suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City said hundreds of workers massed peacefully inside and outside the factory owned by Pou Yuen Vietnam, a footwear maker for firms that include Nike Inc and Adidas and brands including Lacoste, Converse and Reebok. Pou Yuen, which employs close to 80,000 workers, is controlled by Chinese shoemaker Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd , a subsidiary of Taiwan-listed Pou Chen Corp .
Union representatives from South Korea’s Hydis Technologies have launched a second wave of protests in Taipei, calling on Taiwan’s E Ink Holdings Inc — of which Hydis is a subsidiary — to revoke its decision to shut down two factories in South Korea. Traversing national boundaries, the heated labor dispute has raged since January, when EIH — which supplies e-paper displays for Amazon.com Inc and Sony Corp — announced its intention to dismiss more than 350 Hydis workers.
A group of activists and migrant workers protested in Taipei on March 12 urging the government to meet Indonesian demands for better treatment of its workers in Taiwan. More than 30 protesters from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan, holding placards emblazoned with the word "anti-slavery" and shouting slogans such as "minimum wage for all." Some of the protesters chained themselves together and wore signs that read "slaves" on their clothes to protest long working hours and unfairly low wages.
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