Asian Labour Reviewis prepared to provide a forum for a new generation of labour researchers who are willing to work with ground movements and be part of it. We are pleased to offer an outlet to make a stronger network of new generation academics and activists working on Asian labour.
The editors ofAsian Labour Reviewwelcome submissions of paper from those who work for different research institutions, universities, development agencies, NGOs and think-thanks, and trade unions, but also from individual researchers in national and international labour and solidarity movements, international campaigning and private-led development initiatives on labour standards. For the first issue, papers must be received by15 August 2015. Papers should be emailed to ALR editors at firstname.lastname@example.org
The network has membership from similar networks in Europe and US and the Asian network members join the meetings of the European and US counterparts. It has also built systematically into a strong solidarity networks. In the recent Asian network meeting in Bangkok, 2013, ANROEV members proposed the formation of a global grassroots network that would bring tougher the global grassroots movement and make their voice even stronger. In principle, the proposal has agreed both by the European and the US networks, however, to make it truly global it also needs members from Africa and Latin America which would be its next task. At the policy level, there have been many promises made to improve health and safety, starting with a Beijing declaration of “Occupational Safety for all” in 1994 by the World Health Organization. International Labor Organization in 2008, also makes similar promises in a nicely worded ‘Seoul Declaration’ that “calls for a preventative safety and health culture, which gives the right to a safe and healthy environment and which is respected at all national levels”. However at ground level it seems nothing has changed, despite these wonderful promises.
Two decades after the deadly fires of Kader and Zhili, we have seen even worse fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Though these international UN bodies seem to have membership from the sates, yet there is the exclusion of the main beneficiaries in this decision-making process- the victims and the workers who are getting exposed. The complete failure of health and safety at all levels is because of failure of grassroots democracy; the where absence of unions, the working class has almost no representation at any level of the decision-making process. Moreover, the impacted population and the victims, who are marginalized in this process, do not have any democratic space to express themselves. In this regard, the victims organizing and the Asian network play an important role in bringing the voices of the impacted workers to the surface. They have realized the only themselves can change their situation, and all they need is some space, where they can exert and express themselves. The network has helped them in this process by providing them some platform and they are leading what has a potential to become a global solidarity network.
Justice for Kentex Workers! Ensure criminal prosecution of Kentex factory owners! Discharge from post Sec. Baldoz, Roxas, top officials of DOLE, DILG and BFP! Just compensation to Kentex fire victims and workers! Pass Workers SHIELD Bill!
As workers gathered around a table in a cheap restaurant to discuss strike action against their shoe factory bosses, Chinese police barged in and dragged away their leaders.
More than 2,000 employees at the plant -- which counts foreign brands including Coach among its customers, according to workers -- had downed tools, camping out on brightly coloured mats to demand unpaid benefits.
"They burst through the door and told us not to move," a female worker told AFP. Several said police had beaten them, and one woman wore a large bandage covering injuries on her back.
Nearly 2,500 people joined a rally on May 14 in Tokyo to speak against labor deregulations under Abe government that is feared to increase more karoshi. Unionists from across Japan and across different confederations of Japan’s labor unions--Rengo, Zenroren and Zenrokyo—expressed their concerns and anger over the dispatch law, which is expected to create more casual workers, and lifting eight-hour work restrictions. “Deregulating labor standards law and overtime work restrictions is a backward move,” TERANISHI Shoko, whose husband committed suicide over 4,000 hours of work a year, spoke. “I want the government to aim for zero karoshi rather than zero overtime pay so as never to see another family like us saddened by a loss of family members.”
Cathay Pacific Flight Attendant Union (FAU) is affiliated with HKCTU, and ITF. On May 19 2015, it held EGM to decide on two motions: 1) to agree the Airport Sit in and 2) authorize ExCo to escalate further industrial action if needed. The EGM of FAU was attended by more than 600 members and the two motions were adopted. A Marathon Sit In began after EGM and bus will be arrange for Members to proceed to the HK airport.
According to the FAU, Cathay Pacific Airways has been named Caring Company for 13th consecutive years by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS). However, what’s behind the scene is absolutely on the contrary - i.e. endless dictatorship and oppression. Below are some recent examples:
1. 11% discrepancy of salary increment for Cabin Crew who have their contract renewal in the same month, under the same employment condition.
2. Disregarded her own laid down policy and the agreement signed with the Union in calculating the outport meal allowance.
3. Removal of full coverage in legal support to Cabin Crew when handling unruly passengers.
FAU is calling for public support for their demands and collecting signature to their petition: https://goo.gl/uB1lDS
Around hundred workers of NVH India Auto Parts Private Limited, a Korean firm at Irungattukottai, went on strike in Jan 2015 alleging ill-treatment by the management. The workers also circulated a video showing a Korean official of the firm dragging the worker, which went viral on social media.
We gather here today to register the following calls:
End corporate-driven land grabbing! Uphold the people’s right to food, no to land use and crop conversion! Respect indigenous people’s right to a self-determined development! Respect labor rights, uphold workers’ right to organize unions and collective bargaining inside oil palm plantations and oil mills! Stop human rights violations, pull out military troops from oil-palm operation-affected communities! Ban hazardous chemicals and pesticide, uphold people’s right to health and a safe environment! Genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, now!
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…”
Nearly 200 Cambodian garment workers have been hospitalised after a new spate of mass fainting at factories this week, officials said Wednesday, renewing concerns about conditions in the kingdom's crucial textile industry.
"It's a daily fight for survival. Sometimes I feel like just giving it all up and getting back to farming." -- Jignesh, a young street vendor who migrated from Gujarat to New Delhi to provide for his family
On May 18, Baba Jan was declared the official candidate of the Awami Workers Party (AWP) by the returning officer of Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly constituency Hunza 6. Baba Jan is in jail serving a life sentence.
This is the first time in the history of the Hunza Valley that a political activist will contest general elections from jail.
Most demands are over unpaid wages, under-paid wages or poor work conditions, due to employers breaching the law. Workers take to the streets only when management and local authorities ignore their grievances. They block roads, forcing authorities to pay attention. In the first quarter of 2015, 11 large factory strikes in Guangdong escalated into violence between workers and police, estimates one Hong Kong NGO.
Unlike workers in other Asian countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, Chinese workers had not challenged government policies – targeting the government for an increase in the legal minimum wage or asking to eliminate China’s household registration system that consigns migrant workers to temporary residence in cities and denies them access to public services. They had not demanded a right to set up alternatives to inactive branches of China’s one official trade union run by the government, which normally lets factory managers select union representatives.
Seventy-two (72) workers, many of whom were women, were burned to death and 20 more are still missing in the biggest factory fire that hit the Philippines – the fire that gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated last May 13, 2015.
The tragedy was caused by several violations that include:
Mishandling of the chemical Super Seal, which is used as a rubber emulsifier.
Absence of proper labeling and awareness of the nature of the said chemical.
Absence of proper smoke and fire alarm and apparent absence of fire and safety drill among the workers.
Absence of fire exits.
Justice for Kentex workers and other victims of OHS Standards violations!
Strict Enforcement of Occupational Health and Safety Standards, not Joint Assessment or Self-Regulations!
Hold DOLE accountable for the Kentex Tragedy!
Penalize and criminalize the violators of Occupational Health and Safety Standards!
End impunity of OHS violations in the Philippines!
Repeal DO 131-13! Pass Workers SHIELD!
Struggle against Contractualization! Workers fight for Wages, Jobs and Rights!
Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development Center for Trade Union and Human Rights Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research Kilusang Mayo Uno
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.
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