Asian Labour Update
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[S Korea] Bank workers vote to strike over potential mega-merger

South Korean bank workers decided Friday that they will stage a one-day strike late this month to protest a potential merger between the country's two large banking groups, an industry association said.

   The government is seeking to privatize Woori Finance Holdings Co., South Korea's top financial services company, in a bid to recoup the massive public fund injected into the company. Speculation has risen that No. 2 player KB Financial Group Inc. may move to merge with Woori Finance.

   Following the recent breakup of collective bargaining, more than 90 percent of the unionized workers at local banks approved a motion to strike on July 30, the Korea Financial Industry Union (KFIU) said.

   It would mark the first strike by the banking sector in 12 years.

   The KFIU is an umbrella labor group for unionized workers at South Korean banks and financial firms.

   "We oppose the creation of a large-sized bank by pushing for a hasty privatization of Woori Finance in the final year of the incumbent president," the KFIU said in a statement.

   "Bigger banks are vulnerable to a financial crisis and potential failure of such banks can deal a heavy blow to the country's economy."

   The union called for the government to ditch its plan to create a so-called mega bank by allowing the two banking groups to merge. If their demands are not accepted, banks' unionized workers plan to stage a slowdown on Aug. 1 and strike again on Aug. 3.

   The union also demands a 7 percent rise in wages and a cut in working hours. 
A potential merger between KB Financial and Woori Finance is a hot issue in the Korean banking sector amid heated debate over whether the birth of a mega financial firm will help raise the industry's competitiveness.

   The sale of Woori Finance fell through in 2010 and 2011 due to a lack of investor interest. But the government is seeking to wrap up the sale of its 56.97 percent stake in Woori Finance within this year.

   The privatization of Woori Finance has been one of the top priorities pushed by the government of President Lee Myung-bak and the idea of creating a mega bank was previously floated by the government, but it ditched the plan following the 2008 global financial turmoil.

   If KB Financial, whose assets stood at 285 trillion won (US$248 billion) as of end-March, merges with Woori Finance, the total assets of KB Financial will likely rise to more than 600 trillion won.

   Supporters of creating a super-sized bank argue that it will help raise Korean banks' global competitiveness, given that local lenders cannot be found on the list of the world's large banks.

   But opponents claimed that the move is bucking a global trend of splitting big financial firms into smaller ones following the global financial crisis.

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[Bangladesh] CNG auto-rickshaw strike to go on

CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers and workers in the capital yesterday vowed to go on with the indefinite strike until their demands were met.

Even though it was not a working day, many city dwellers suffered with only a few auto-rickshaws plying the streets yesterday -- the third day of the strike.

Meanwhile, leaders of the agitating organisations claimed that police yesterday detained at least 20 demonstrators in different areas of the city.

The Daily Star contacted at least six police stations to verify the claims, which the law enforcers refuted.

Earlier on Thursday, police detained 11 auto-rickshaw drivers and workers in the city on charge of attempting to vandalise vehicles.

The indefinite strike was enforced from Wednesday by two associations of the auto-rickshaw drivers and workers on their 10-point demand that include a stop to overcharging of daily deposits by the auto-rickshaw owners; cancellation of route permit system for auto-rickshaws; and setting up of necessary parking spaces.

Zakir Hossain, general secretary of Dhaka Zila Auto-Rickshaw Sramik Union, yesterday told The Daily Star they held demonstrations in front of several CNG garages in the city to persuade more auto-rickshaw workers to join the movement.

Asked about people's woes due to the strike, he said they were compelled to do so. “We went on the indefinite strike since the authorities concerned did not give us any assurance,” he added.

Dhaka Auto-Rickshaw Sramik Union General Secretary Md Hanif told The Daily Star that the police detained at least 20 drivers and workers in different parts of the city including Rampura, Badda, Kafrul, Shyampur and Jatrabari when they tried to stage demonstrations there.

Shyampur and Rampura police admitted that the auto-rickshaw drivers and workers held rallies in the areas but denied having detained anyone.

The association leaders yesterday also protested the alleged police attack on their fellow workers on Thursday. “We hope the government will work out a solution to the problems immediately,” said Hanif.

Meanwhile, the 48-hour countrywide strike enforced by Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van Transport Agency Malik-Sramik Oikya Parishad, demanding a halt to extortion and harassment by police, ended yesterday morning.

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China: A Labor Strike Offers Hope for a Democratic Future

China: A Labor Strike Offers Hope for a Democratic Future | Asian Labour Update |

A low-key strike in the Chinese boom city of Shenzhen won a number of victories, including the right to have a worker representative elected into China's state-run labor unions. That set the stage for a historic, bottom-up workers' election.

When more than 700 workers at the Ohms Electronics factory in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen walked off the job in March, few people took notice. Even within the palm-tree-lined industrial estate, where the factory sits among dozens of others in concrete blocks differentiated only by the numbers on the door, the Ohms strike didn’t cause a stir. The employees were mostly young people from the countryside. Their strike consisted of little more than sitting on blue plastic stools outside the factory while they waited for the Panasonic-owned electronic-switch maker to respond to their demands. A single banner that read “Defending Rights” was the only sign they weren’t simply on break. But despite the workers’ intentionally low-key approach, their decision to walk off the assembly line had led to a significant development in the way China manages the relationship between labor and industry.

One week after walking off the job, the Ohms workers’ informal representatives met with management and hashed out a compromise. (Ohms representatives declined to comment on the strike.) The agreement included a pay rise of $28 a month, just shy of the $32 they were seeking and an increase of 10% on their basic wages. “It’s not 100% of what we asked for,” says one Ohms worker. “But they relented and we’re very satisfied with the results.” That sort pay of increase is commonplace in China, as labor shortages, inflation and rising worker expectations have all combined to push wages upward. What stands out about the Ohms workers was their third demand in addition to better pay and benefits: an election for the representative for the factory’s branch of the government-authorized labor union. That right is granted in Chinese labor law, but it is usually a top-down process that reflects the interest of management, not the workers themselves, says Han Dongfang, director of China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong–based NGO. On May 27 the Ohms workers elected a new representative: a 35-year-old assembly-line worker who ousted the standing union chair. “This is the first case of a real, bottom-up workers election. This is historical,” says Han. “It opens the door.”

The Ohms vote has been blessed by the local branch of the national state-run union. This year in Shenzhen the terms of union chairs at 163 companies will expire, and the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions will push for Ohms-style democratic elections for their replacements, said Wang Tongxin of the official union body. “In the future, democratic elections of trade-union representatives won’t be news,” Wang, the vice chairman of the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions, told Chinese media in June. “It’s not something pioneering, it’s just the normal course of business.” But Han, who is best known for his role as a leader during the 1989 Tiananmen protests, says that this union vote is different because it was born out of a strike. “This is based on workers’ initiative,” he says. “If the union doesn’t defend workers’ rights, then it will be questioned by the workers.”

China’s ruling Communist Party, mindful of the political force of disgruntled and organized workers, remains wary of collective bargaining and cracks down hard on any efforts to create independent unions. But in coastal manufacturing regions there have been signs of grudging acceptance of workers taking action to push for higher wages. For one thing, the workers’ demands mesh with government goals of raising incomes. Over the past decade the average minimum wage has more than doubled, and the authorities want that to continue, calling for an average annual increase of 13% up to 2015. In cases like the Ohms strike, the authorities have come to realize that workers can forward the authorities’ agenda. “The government realizes it’s an economic matter,” says Han. “None of the workers are organizing strikes because they want political freedoms. It’s all about better salaries and benefits.”

The past few years have seen a steady growth in labor actions. The change became clear in 2010, when Honda Motor was hit by a series of strikes at its Chinese factories and suppliers. A two-week walkout at a transmission factory in the southern city of Foshan, which crippled production at the Japanese automaker’s four factories in China, was resolved only after a 24% pay increase. That spurred strikes at two other Honda-parts makers and an assembly plant, then China-based suppliers for rival Toyota. “Since the 2010 Honda strike, the cases of Chinese labor disputes and collective action have taken off,” says Liu Kaiming, a labor researcher and executive director of the Shenzhen-based Institute of Contemporary Observation. “In 2011 there were 1.27 million cases. That’s huge. And there were more than 1,000 large-scale strikes. Every day there were more than three big strikes.”

Unfettered union elections could help reduce some of that unrest, Han says, by giving workers a factory representative to voice their demands to management. And success in Shenzhen, a fishing town that became a model for China’s economic miracle after it was made a special economic zone in the early 1980s, could see the direct-vote model duplicated elsewhere in China. Still, labor advocates acknowledge that the government could backtrack on pledges to free up the voting process for union representatives. “We will watch this, of course, and we will push it,” Han says. “But I feel quite confident that as long as workers don’t have channels to express their needs, we don’t have to worry. They will be the real pushing power.”

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S.Korea's finance workers plan first strike in 12 years

SEOUL, July 13 (Reuters) - Over 70,000 financial sectorworkers in South Korea voted on Friday to stage their firstindustry-wide strike in 12 years later this month, adding toconcerns over a possible...
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[Indonesia] Unions threaten more street actions on outsourcing

More than 30,000 workers from the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union (KSPI) marched on the Presidential Palace on Thursday, demanding that the government crack down on outsourcing.

“We will give time to the government to prohibit low-wage policies and employee outsourcing until October, KSPI president Said Iqbal said on Thursday. 

Said had a warning for the government if it failed to meet its demands: “We will take to the street again, with more workers to close factories and toll roads in Greater Jakarta.”

“The rally today is just a warm-up. We can bring other unions from many parts of the country to join us,” Said added.

The confederation comprises the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI), the Indonesian Metal Workers Federation (FSPMI), the Indonesian Cement Industry Workers Federation (FSPISI) and the Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Union (SP PPMI). 

The demonstration worsened traffic on several major thoroughfares as the workers marched on the Palace. 

The Jakarta Police said on Thursday that they deployed 8,295 officers to oversee the protests and to protect the Palace, the House of Representatives, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, and the offices of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry and the Coordinating Economic Ministry.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said that the ministry would crack down on outsourcing. “We will not allow outsourcing to be out of the reach of the existing regulations. We need to work together with the central and local government as well as the union to tackle the problem,” Muhaimin told reporters on Thursday.

Muhaimin said that the government intended to amend the Labor Law, which recognized outsourcing, over the long run.

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[S Korea] Hyundai Motor workers vote for first strike in four years

[S Korea] Hyundai Motor workers vote for first strike in four years | Asian Labour Update |

Workers at South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co voted to stage their first strike in four years after annual wage talks collapsed over working conditions, a union spokesman said on Wednesday.

The union plans to stage an eight-hour strike on Friday at the carmaker and will decide on any future action on Monday, the spokesman said.

The union at affiliate Kia Motors also voted to strike and planned to join their Hyundai colleagues on Friday. Workers at General Motors' South Korean factories had already launched a partial strike on Tuesday.

The most contentious issue at stake is a union demand to scrap overnight work, which has raised concerns among automakers about potential production losses.

Any strike action at Hyundai Motor would be a return to the labor conflicts of past years. The company has managed to avoid industrial action for the past three years, but before that had suffered stoppages every year for about two decades except for 1994.

In 2008 alone, a 12-day strike resulted in lost production of 44,645 vehicles worth 690.5 billion Korean won ($603.7 million).

The country's once-militant labor unions have been more accommodating recently and the incumbent conservative government has been tough on striking workers.

But militant labor leader Moon Yong-moon took over from his moderate predecessor at Hyundai last year and organized labor has been agitating for concessions ahead of the December presidential elections.

Shares in Hyundai Motor closed down 1.1 percent on Wednesday prior to the vote results and have lost 16 percent of their value since hitting a record closing high on April 30.

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Samsung Engineering picks Thailand as Asean hub

Park Ki-seok, the president and chief executive, said Samsung, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in Thailand this year, targets nearly tripling the number of its engineers in the country to 400 by 2014 from a projected 150 by the end of this year.

At present, the company has about 80 engineers working in Thailand.

The Bangkok office will serve as the Asean headquarters for Samsung Engineering to expand its presence in the region, said Mr Park.

"The increased manpower will serve our existing projects and new markets in Southeast Asia as well as Australia," he said during a visit to Bangkok last week.

Thailand has an abundant supply of engineers, with 10,000 of them graduating from universities annually, said Mr Park, who was managing director of Samsung Engineering in Thailand from 1998-2000.

So far, the South Korean firm has developed projects in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam including by Petronas and Exxon Mobil Corporation.

It is chasing some projects in Australia while looking at Myanmar as another high-potential market.

"Now is the right time to go to Myanmar. I went there 10 years ago, but it was not easy to do business at that time," said Mr Park, adding that his company targets power and offshore projects in the previously military-ruled nation.

Among potential projects in Myanmar are power and petrochemical plants as part of the Dawei project being developed by Thailand's Italian-Thai Development Plc.

In Thailand, Samsung has developed 17 projects including PTT Plc's sixth gas-separation plant, the world's largest, and Map Ta Phut Olefins' cracker with annual production capacity of 800,000 tonnes.

It is developing US$60-million power-generation and heat-recovery facilities for PTT Plc and in the bidding for a $1-billion refinery here, with the bid results to be announced next month.

The additional Thai engineers that are hired will join 7,300 employees in South Korea, almost 900 in New Delhi and 400 in Houston, Texas.

Listed on the South Korean stock exchange, Samsung Engineering reported annual sales of $8.4 billion last year with new orders of $10.6 billion.

This year, it expects new orders worth $15 billion and revenue of $11 billion.

The company has $33.4 billion worth of contracts from 18 projects in nine countries.

It has completed projects in 48 territories.

Last year, 62% of revenue was derived from projects in the Middle East, with 12% coming from elsewhere in Asia including South Korea.

It forecasts revenue growth of 21% in each of the next three years, reaching $20 billion in 2015, with orders reaching $30 billion.

Mr Park said his company plans to balance revenue at 50% from hydrocarbon projects, with the other half coming from new businesses such as power plants and steel.

At present, hydrocarbon accounts for 65% of revenue.

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Dutch NGO executive Willem Geertman slain in CL, groups eye 'military agents'

Dutch NGO executive Willem Geertman slain in CL, groups eye 'military agents' | Asian Labour Update |

A Dutch social development worker who has lived in the country for many years was shot dead Tuesday afternoon by motorcycle-riding killers just outside his office in Central Luzon.

Farmers belonging to the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Farmers’ Alliance in Central Luzon) condemned the killing of Willem Geertman, the Filipino-Dutch executive director of Alay Bayan-Luzon, Inc. (ABI), a service-oriented and disaster preparedness  nongovernment organization (NGO) based in Angeles City, Pampanga. 

The AMGL said there were indications that the killers of the “well-loved” advocate were military agents.

“We condemn this latest attack against peasant advocates in Central Luzon. Geertman is an active supporter of farmers’ struggle against landgrabbing and displacement in the region”, Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairperson and chairman of the Board of Trustees of ABI, said in a statement sent to media offices.

“We are saddened that after the killing of Waldo Palispis, a Bayan Muna member in Aurora province, [Geertman] was killed just a day after. This is no different  from what was implemented during Oplan Bantay Laya  of the [Gloria] Arroyo regime in which rights abuses were experienced by farmers and advocates. We know that Oplan Bayanihan, a counter-insurgency program of President Noynoy Aquino, is behind the killing of Geertman,” Canlas said. 

According to AMGL, Geertman studied at the University of the Philippines-Diliman and Ateneo de Manila during 1970s. Since then, he considered the Philippines as his second home and continued to serve the Filipino farmers.

“He would often tell stories about his younger years during the Marcos dictatorship and asked UP students what was happening.  He then learned from the student movement and later joined in organizing workers,” Canlas said.

He recalled an instance when, while working in a construction firm, Geertman’s employer “offered him a higher pay but he refused and told them that his job level was the same with the others; thus, there was no reason for an increase.” 

Geertman’s work has benefitted many farmers in Central Luzon, especially those affected by destructive natural disasters.  He has facilitated many projects sponsored by the European Union, Caritas International and many funding agencies that uplift the welfare of marginalized people, AMGL said.

“We call on the Dutch embassy to pressure the Philippine government to serve justice to one of their noble citizens and to conduct an investigation on Geertman's brutal killing. Also, we call on church people, students, peasant advocates and other sectors to join us in our call for justice for Geertman,” Canlas said.

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Chinese migrant workers riot in Guangdong

Chinese migrant workers riot in Guangdong | Asian Labour Update |

Hundreds of Chinese migrant workers rioted and clashed with police this week in a fresh outbreak of social unrest in the economic powerhouse of Guangdong.

The southern province, one of China's major coastal manufacturing zones, is home to a large population of migrant factory workers drawn from across China.

But in recent years, perceived discrimination and abuse by authorities have triggered strikes, clashes and riots.

The latest clashes took place in Shaxi township, near the city of Zhongshan, involving about 300 migrants who hurled rocks after a fight between a 15-year-old migrant and a student, according to a government spokeswoman from Shaxi.

Security personnel intervened and beat the young migrant, infuriating a group of relatives and others migrants who rioted, the Global Times newspaper reported.

About 30 people were injured and the rioters – mostly from Sichuan province in the south-west – smashed and overturned at least two public security vehicles, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

"Right now, there are a few migrants around but mostly as spectators," the Shaxi spokeswoman told Reuters.

"The protest has essentially been dispersed. There are a few police vehicles left, and some spectators are still around observing."

Last June, thousands of migrant workers, also largely hailing from Sichuan, rioted and clashed with police in the Guangdong city of Zengcheng, torching cars and ransacking government buildings, in a protest over the rough treatment of a pregnant street hawker.

Guangdong's ambitious party secretary, Wang Yang, who will likely be elevated to China's elite politburo standing committee in a leadership transition this year, has acknowledged a need to mitigate simmering social unrest by stressing a more equitable and balanced "Happy Guangdong" mode of development.

The number of government-recorded "mass incidents", as such outbreaks of unrest are known, has risen from 8,700 in 1993 to about 90,000 in 2010, according to several state-backed studies. Some estimates are higher. 
The government has not released official data on such incidents in recent years



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China’s labour shortage: getting worse

China’s labour shortage: getting worse | Asian Labour Update |
Considering the state of the world economy, a labour shortage is the last thing you’d expect Chinese factory owners to have to worry about.
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Bangladeshi garment workers' protests continue

Up to 50,000 Bangladeshi garment workers are continuing protests in a bid to win a 50% pay hike and subsidised food to cope with rising living costs, according to reports.
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Workers' protest in Phnom Penh pays off

Workers' protest in Phnom Penh pays off | Asian Labour Update |

Garment workers who claim their employer was docking their pay for wearing shoes on the job will return to work today after their two-day strike ended with some demands being met.

More than 300 workers from Horus Industrial Corp sports­wear factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district walked out Wednesday, after hundreds had resigned in the weeks before in search of better work, representative Heng Sok Kahna said.

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Apple assembly plant conditions still harsh in China-activists

Apple assembly plant conditions still harsh in China-activists | Asian Labour Update |

Working conditions at Foxconn's gargantuan Chinese factories that assemble Apple Inc's slick gadgets have barely improved despite pledges this year to halt labor violations, workers' rights activists and employees said on Thursday.

Foxconn Technology Group, Apple's main global contract manufacturer run by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou and employing 1.2 million workers in China, has come under fire in recent years for running massive "sweatshops" to mass produce high-end iPads and iPhones.

A fresh report released on Thursday by labor watchdog Student & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), based on visits to several Foxconn factories and 170 worker interviews, found rights violations "remain the norm" including high production targets, inhumane treatment and signs of overall salary cuts.

"The frontline management continue to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers," it said.

"The above findings demonstrate that Apple and Foxconn have not turned over a new leaf," the report added.

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[Myanmar]: Education International supports efforts to build a strong trade union movement

[Myanmar]: Education International supports efforts to build a strong trade union movement | Asian Labour Update |

Maung Maung, General Secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma, expects to be able to return to his home country in November without the risk of prosecution.

He told the EI Asia Pacific (EIAP) Regional Committee meeting, held from 11-12 July in Bangkok, Thailand, that democratic change in Myanmar occurred due to unrelenting international solidarity and political pressure.

So far, 81 unions, including two teachers’ organisations, have applied for registration with the public authorities. Maung Maung, a political refugee for a long time, requested that international support be provided to his country’s emerging union movement.

EI funding

EI has made funds available for the development of teachers’ organisations in Myanmar. “We are not only determined to help the teachers of Myanmar establish an independent and democratic organisation, but also to support the country in building a quality public education system,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.

Topics at Asia Pacific meeting

The EIAP Regional Committee meeting, chaired by the former President of the Japan Teachers’ Union, Yuzuru Nakamura, discussed various regional issues, as well as the many professional and trade union programmes carried out by the regional office in 2012. EI President, Susan Hopgood, addressed the EI involvement in UN and World Bank efforts towards the achievement of Education For All targets.

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[Cambodia] Tai Yang garment strikers sacked

[Cambodia] Tai Yang garment strikers sacked | Asian Labour Update |

Garment employees who have refused to return to work after striking for three weeks no longer have jobs at Tai Yang Enterprise, which supplies Levi’s and Gap, management said yesterday.

Tired of strikes the company claims are costing it US$10,000 per day, administrative manager Ou Meng Hour said yesterday that more than 100 employees have effectively resigned by choosing not to return to work.

“The workers who stay outside are not the workers for Tai Yang Enterprise and Camwell anymore,” he said, referring to two of three factories the company owns in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district.

“We released a letter on July 10 announcing that if they do not return to work, it means they have abandoned their work automatically,” he said, referencing a court order from Kandal provincial court.

The workers went on strike briefly in May after discovering their factory had changed its name, which workers claim was to avoid paying seniority bonuses. They resumed striking on June 25, adding demands for more bonuses. 

Meng Hour said 85 per cent of the strikers had agreed to return to work, but he expected about 100 to continue to strike today.

“It is up to them if they do not return to work – they’ll just have to get their salary from [Cambodian Confederation of Unions president] Rong Chhun and [Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions president] Yang Sophorn,” he said. 

Meng Hour said Free Trade Union president Chea Mony’s recent split from CCU had contributed to the strike’s length because the factory had already negotiated with Mony. 

“We will keep striking,” Chhun said, adding that only 20 per cent of strikers were back at work.

Meanwhile, the Phnom Penh Municipal authority has defended its police officer’s actions afterunion employee Rong Panha, Chhun’s nephew, was left bloodied following a city protest involving Tai Yang workers last Wednesday.

“Rong Panha … has used violence and kicked the authority,” it said in a statement released on Friday. “The authority [had] no choice besides taking appropriate action based on the law.”

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With slower growth numbers, China can’t prop up world economy

With slower growth numbers, China can’t prop up world economy | Asian Labour Update |

China’s economy is expanding at the slowest rate in three years, government data released Friday showed, reinforcing concerns that Beijing will not be able to prop up a global economy being dragged down by sluggishness in the United States and Europe.

Chinese gross domestic product grew by 7.6 percent in the second quarter, year over year, down from 8.1 percent at the start of the year. That growth rate is the weakest since 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis, and far removed from the double-digit growth rates of 2010.


The fresh numbers were in line with market expectations, and Asian stocks rose slightly on the news. But the figures also marked the sixth consecutive quarter of deceleration for the world’s second-largest economy, according to data from the state-run Xinhua News Agency. And they come at a time when officials here are pressing for ways to drive consumption and make up for slumping demand for China’s exports.

Recently, that has meant a series of interest rate cuts and stimulus measures — short-term tools that have led many economists to predict an uptick for the Chinese economy later this year.

China, preparing for a once­a-decade leadership handover later this year, still seems in line to easily meet the 7.5 percent GDP growth rate that Premier Wen Jiabao set as the target in March — important for a Communist Party that has long pointed to GDP as an emblem of economic strength.

But some economists say that China is in a battle over how to maintain the turbocharged growth of the past three decades. For years, China did this with government investment in production, tamped-down consumer demand and plenty of exporting.

After the 2008 global economic shock, China responded with an enormous stimulus — one that produced fresh investment in infrastructure, a lending boom and severe inflation.

Almost half of China’s GDP growth last year came from investment, but that boom is faltering, economists say, because a good deal of the money was misspent.

Additionally, China has moved in the past year to curb inflation by reining in lending, another factor that leads to slower growth.

“So what we’re seeing now, essentially, is that the investment boom that has driven China for the last three years is now falling apart under its own weight,” said Patrick Chovanec, an assistant professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Some Chinese authorities would like to boost relatively meager consumer spending, but doing so would require a meaningful shift from a planned economy to a market economy. It would also upend the status quo, driving growth in new industries and hurting traditional ones.

At a briefing Friday, Chinese government spokesman Sheng Laiyun acknowledged that China, “after 30 years of vigorous growth . . . has entered a transition.” But he said that growth between 7 and 8 percent is “good,” particularly considering the tepid global economy and slumping performance in emerging economies such as India and Brazil.

Economists predict better numbers here for the third quarter after China’s central bank cut interest rates twice since June.

That triggered a notable jump in bank loans — from 793 billion yuan ($124 billion) in May to 920 billion yuan ($144 billion) in June — and a slight rebound in property sales, which analysts describe as signs of a short-term rebound.

The current government policy moves are part of a calculated effort to “make the economy look good” as a younger generation of leaders rises to power, said Liang Xiaomin, an economics professor at the Business School of Beijing Technology and Business University.

“The economic stimulus will have functions in the short term,” Liang said, “but in the long term, the government cannot stop the economy sliding to the bottom. . . . Definitely 7.6 percent [GDP growth] won’t be the bottom of China’s economy in the foreseeable future.”

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[Philippines] RMN Davao media workers go on strike

[Philippines] RMN Davao media workers go on strike | Asian Labour Update |

Employees of Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) Davao began a strike yesterday. It is a strike apparently long forewarned by months of fruitless negotiations and series of management refusals to abide by its first signed agreement with the employees.

The employees have been negotiating with RMN for decent wages and benefits since May this year, as stipulated in their first memorandum of agreement, but RMN has reportedly ignored their demands. Instead, it just engaged the workers in “surface bargaining, a token move to appease the workers so that they could get away with ignoring the memorandum of agreement (MOA),” said Dodong Basilio of the National Federation of Labor Union in Davao.

The employees are thus left with no option but to hold a strike, said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines – Davao City Chapter (NUJP-Davao). Calling RMN a callous employer, NUJP-Davao said the wage hike demand is just a pittance compared to the profits being earned by RMN.

“What we are asking for is very modest, and yet the management is too stingy to give in to the employees’ rightful demands,” said Rey Hernan Fabe, RMN reporter and also president of the RMN Davao Employees Union (RDEU).


RMN’s insincerity

The MOA between the RMN employees’ union and management stated that for the first year, union members would be given a graduated lump sum of P 10,000 ($ 239) for those employed more than five years and P6,000 ($143.5) for those employed less than five years. By May this year, the RMN management and RMN Davao employees Union (RDEU) are supposed to have started negotiations on the union’s proposals for P75 ($1.79) wage increase, rice subsidy, meal allowance and a close shop provision.

While the RMN management gave the lump sum, it did not implement other provisions of the MOA; it also discontinued further negotiations. This prompted the RMN Davao Employees Union (RDEU) to file a notice of strike last month.

“We should have started the discussion on wage increase, among others, last May. But no negotiations happened,” Fabe said last week as the union was holding a picket rally in Davao. “This only shows the management’s insincerity to its employees,” he added.

The employees’ total wage and non-wage demands amounted to P99 thousand ($2,357) a month, peanuts, the NUJP-Davao said, compared to the P24 million ($571 thousand) the RMN Davao station earns monthly.

Last week, after a number of postponed meetings, lawyer Cubillo and Bong Bastes, one of RMN’s area managers in Mindanao, finally met with RMN Davao union leaders at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board.

But their almost 10-hour talk was a failure, said Fabe. “The management panel wants us to lift our Notice of Strike and review the provisions we already agreed to last year. What they did was an outright non-implementation of our agreement.”

Former DXDC station manager Dodong Solis said RMN employees and union members “are not dumb; they can clearly see what the management is doing to them.”

Solis, also an officer of the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines-Davao, said “For a reasonable length of time, the workers negotiated in good faith with the management, believing the latter is professional in dealing with them under a fair and legal process but RMN’s insincerity was exposed. Clearly, it engages in delaying tactics, waiting for the perfect time to bust the union.”

Solis himself was dismissed by the management in August 2010 on grounds of “disobedience and loss of trust and confidence.” Solis filed a case of illegal dismissal and won; the case is now pending at the Court of Appeals.

Fabe condemned the management’s “anti-worker” stance saying, “Without the employees, RMN would never have made it to the top. But look at what it’s doing to us?”

Radio workers pushed to fight

The RMN Davao employees union itself is a product of the radio workers’ struggle to defend their jobs and achieve a decent pay. According to the NUJP-Davao, “the workers of RMN Davao awoke to the threat of one day just losing their jobs if they were not going to fight for it.” Following the spate of dismissals that also victimized the station manager, Dodong Solis, the workers formed a union and resorted to collective action in a bid to have some leverage in facing the management.

The same thing happened in RMN Manila, who now has a pending notice of strike. They also formed a union after they saw the employees’ ranks getting thinner from dismissals and their workload heavier without commensurate pay or benefit increase.

After establishing the union, the RMN Davao workers started to negotiate for a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) last year. They said it was high time to have one, “because the soaring price of commodities as a result of oil price hikes had already pushed down their wages further. They say they could not live anymore on a measly P8,000 ($190) per month.

Last year’s bargaining took eight sessions of negotiations before the CBA talks bogged down with RMN refusing to grant any wage hike. In settling the deadlock via Voluntary Arbitration, the two parties signed a Memorandum of Agreement in which the workers still failed to get a wage hike, just a lump sum. But the union consoled themselves with the MOA stipulation promising to tackle the union’s proposed wage increase, rice subsidy, meal allowance starting May this year.

RMN refused to implement this, forcing the union to launch a strike.

“Demands for decent wages cannot be put on hold, especially not with RMN doing good business, raking in huge profits. A decent wage is paramount to the media worker’s well-being. Corollary to this is a condition for a free press,” said Jessie Casalda, chairperson of NUJP-Davao.

Until today though, the RMN and radio workers still have not come to a settlement on wage hike, among others. “Nothing has still come out of it,” Fabe said as he and other union leaders emerged from another meeting with RMN management at the NCMB Wednesday, the second day of their strike.

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Book for download: The Reality of Corporate Social Responsibility

Book for download: The Reality of Corporate Social Responsibility | Asian Labour Update |

As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been practiced in many different ways, this book tries to present its Asian context by investigating how it has been impacting people on the ground. The book provides case studies from China, South Korea, India and Indonesia, disclosing the ugly face of CSR. The biggest problem with CSR is not that it has limitations, nor is it concerning its questionable ability to sufficiently address the problems it intends to ameliorate. Rather, it is the fact that it takes people to a completely wrong direction.


For many large corporations, CSR is primarily a strategy to divert attention away from the negative social and environmental impacts of their activities. In the Asian context, CSR mostly involves activities like adopting villages for what they call a ‘holistic development’, in which they provide medical and sanitation facilities, build school and houses, and helping villagers become self-reliant by teaching them vocational and business skills. Such corporate strategies have been effectively hegemonic, providing a strong legitimacy and license for corporations to sustain the exploitation of human and natural resources. More importantly, it leads people to wrongly assume that the business houses, and not the states, are responsible for citizens' basic rights to better education, clean water, healthcare, etc. It disciplines the un-informed poor motivating them to behave in ways that make state regulation obsolete, while leaving them at the mercy of market forces. 

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Protests Rising Within China

Tens of thousands of residents in a Chinese city took to the streets last week to protest, forcing the government to scrap plans to build a copper plant. The incident is the latest in a rising number of localised protests as expression of public anger aimed at over-ambitious or corrupt officials in China over-boils.

Thousands of anti-riot police were deployed to Shifang city, located in China’s Western Sichuan province last week during the protests which turned violent as residents smashed police cars and stormed the government headquarters. Two protestors have since been reported to have died, according to NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

In a highly unusual compromise, the local government announced that plans for the metals plant, which locals said would result in heavily polluting factory emissions, would be stopped. Twenty-one of 27 people detained during the protests have been released.

A number of high-profile protests have erupted in the last few years. In December 2011, the village Wukan made international headlines after villagers rose against corrupt local officials they claimed were stealing their land. Following a stand-off, senior government officials intervened. Local officials were sacked and – in a surprising twist – Wukan residents were given the right to vote for their own village chief and officials.

In August 2011, around 12,000 residents protested against a chemicals plant in the northeastern city Dalian, leading to the plant’s closure. In September of the same year, villagers in Haining, located in Zhejiang province, protested for three days against a solar panel factory which had dumped toxic waste into a local river killing fish. The factory has since been closed.

“Official reports do chart a rising number of protests over the past five years or so,” Michael DeGolyer, professor in the Department of Government and International Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, tells IPS. “Social volatility (the potential for sudden outbreaks of mass behaviours demanding structural change) is rising due to a number of factors. Then, all it takes is a triggering event or events to unleash it.”

The rapid rise of social media has played a significant role in growing civic awareness among the populace. China’s micro-blogs have helped inspire large gatherings of protestors. Users, many who were born in the post-1990s and are well-educated, have quickly spread details and images of protests around the country, forcing the hand of the government.

“I see Chinese people’s civic consciousness budding,” says Li Yonglin, 19, an entrepreneur who travelled to Shifang from Mianyang city in Sichuan province to take part in the protests. “Several years ago when a city government decided to implement an environmentally-unfriendly project, citizens would probably bear with it. Shifang people’s fight is just the beginning. Resentment among people has been suppressed for too long.”

Li claims to have witnessed police using batons to break up gatherings. When matters escalated they used tear gas and stun grenades. Li has repeatedly tried to post reports online of what he witnessed. But they have all been deleted.

Last week, the word “Shifang” (which the government did not block online) was the most widely searched term on China’s micro-blogs. Protestors relayed details of incidents as they happened, including complaints of police brutality and the liberal use of pepper spray against protestors. Graphic photographs of protestors with blood pouring down their faces and chests – reportedly after been beaten by government forces – went viral on the micro-blog Sina Weibo. The posts have since been deleted.

“Talking about the Shifang incident, it is the government’s fault,” wrote a Weibo user named ‘Skaterboy’. “If they communicated right, would we have gone this far? The people are reasonable, the police are not bullies, it is the government who has made the wrong moves.”

Cultural commentators have waded in to fan the fires. Han Han, the millionaire race-car driving author and blogger, wrote a widely-circulated blog post supporting residents of Shifang and condemning the brute force of the police.

“People’s requests for improving their environment must be respected,” wrote Han Han in the post. “You leaders change every few years. You take on environmental destruction with nice-looking certificates of achievement. If you do well you get promoted, if you don’t you get jail. The best of you emigrate, the worst of you are shot. But none of you actually live in the pollution. Only ordinary people live there.”

“Thanks to the spread of information, more people are aware of their rights,” the 19-year-old protestor Li Yonglin adds. “The people have drawn a line between them and the government. The people will not continue believing what the government feeds them and simply follow it. I hope that the influence of Shifang will travel around. China will improve little by little.”

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Indonesian Postal Service Employees Launch 3-Day Strike

Roughly 5,000 members of state postal company Pos Indonesia’s workers union on Thursday launched a three-day strike to demand better pay and pension benefits, among other things.

The spokesman for the workers union (SPPI), Gibson S. Nababan, said in Jakarta on Thursday that post officers across the country were taking part in the strike, and that a considerable number of retired Pos Indonesia employees were supporting the action as well.

The strike participants are urging the board of directors of Pos Indonesia to meet six demands, including an increased proportion of base salary relative to overall take-home pay and an increased pension.

Gibson said currently, base pay constituted only 15 percent of the total take-home pay each Pos Indonesia employee received. The strikers want that proportion to be increased to 75 percent.

Pension payments, meanwhile, only amount to 45 percent of an employee’s salary at retirement, which is lower than the average civil servant retirees receive.

The SPPI is also speaking out against the company’s outsourcing practices, saying 30 percent of the Pos Indonesia workforce is now subcontracted. The union is demanding the implementation of better workplace safety precautions as well.

They are also demanding expanded employer-provided health care coverage and are protesting the most recent restructuring of the company. The strikers say the new structure has been a waste of money and has done nothing to improve employees’ welfare.

“In the capital [Jakarta], we’re doing a rally as part of the strike at a Pos Indonesia office on Jalan Gedung Kesenian, in front of the Communication and Information Ministry office and the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry tower,” Gibson said in front of the State Enterprises Ministry office, amid a crowd of protesters.

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Exodus of migrant workers a worry

The industrial sector in Trang province is concerned that many migrant workers from Myanmar are likely to return home to jobs there in the next few years, creating a labour shortage, Trang's Industry Council chairman Withee Supitak said on Thursday.

He said Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, while visiting Thailand in May, told the migrant workers that she would work to improve their homeland so they could return home and get jobs there in the next two to three years.

"Industry operators in Trang are worried that there will be a labour shortage crisis because they rely heavily on these migrant workers, especially in manufacturing," Mr Withee said. 

He said the industrial sector in the South formerly employed workers from northeastern Thailand, but fewer and fewer people from that region are looking for jobs in the South because there was now more work available in their own areas that offered a similar range of income, such as rubber farming.

"If the migrant workers also return to their homeland, southern industry operators must quickly adapt to the change and find ways to deal with the situation by using less labour and turning to machinery instead," said Mr Withee.

The economy in Trang had been sluggish as exports had declined by 10 to 20 per cent. Prices of local farm products, such as para rubber and palm oil, and orders from foreign countries had fallen despite the depreciating baht, he said.

"Industry operators here are not doing very well, while the government cannot be depended on because it's only good at introducing policies to get people's votes," he said. "The government should now focus on developing labour solutions for all sides."

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Bangladesh wage clashes shut down Ashulia garment plants

Bangladesh wage clashes shut down Ashulia garment plants | Asian Labour Update |

Around 300 garment factories in Bangladesh have shut down indefinitely following five days of angry demonstrations by workers over wages.

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Beedi industry's child workers trapped in economic slavery - The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery - Blogs

Beedi industry's child workers trapped in economic slavery - The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery - Blogs | Asian Labour Update |

Beedis, traditional Indian cigarettes, are so popular that they make for nearly half of India’s entire tobacco market. but, behind the country’s domestic tobacco sector lie invisible millions trapped in modern day economic slavery.

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A Chinese Labour Activist’s Reflection on the Recent Development of Labour Relations in China ­ Article ­ China Labor News Translations

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Apple assembly plant conditions still harsh in China-activists

Apple assembly plant conditions still harsh in China-activists | Asian Labour Update |

Working conditions at Foxconn's gargantuan Chinese factories that assemble Apple Inc's slick gadgets have barely improved despite pledges this year to halt labor violations, workers' rights activists and employees said on Thursday.

Foxconn Technology Group, Apple's main global contract manufacturer run by Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou and employing 1.2 million workers in China, has come under fire in recent years for running massive "sweatshops" to mass produce high-end iPads and iPhones.

A fresh report released on Thursday by labor watchdog Student & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), based on visits to several Foxconn factories and 170 worker interviews, found rights violations "remain the norm" including high production targets, inhumane treatment and signs of overall salary cuts.

"The frontline management continue to impose humiliating disciplinary measures on workers," it said.

"The above findings demonstrate that Apple and Foxconn have not turned over a new leaf," the report added.

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