Asian Labour Update
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Asian Labour Update
Labour News Across Asia                                                                                                                            ISSN 1815-9389
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HSBC unjustly terminates union president as CBA period draws in

HSBC unjustly terminates union president as CBA period draws in | Asian Labour Update |

Banking giant Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has terminated the president of the local union as part of the company’s desperate bid to suppress opposition to its outsourcing schemes, a labor NGO disclosed today.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) condemned HSBC’s decision to unjustly terminate last March 30 Raymund Aceña, president of the Hong Kong Bank Independent Labor Union (HBILU). Prior to the termination, Aceña was put under a 30-day preventive suspension during the “freedom period,” days before the start of negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Acena was sanctioned due to technicalities that were believed to have something to do with his position as union president and the company’s desperate move to kick out union members who are in the forefront in the fight against outsourcing.
“By trying to weaken the union ahead of the CBA negotiations and amid the employees’ active struggle against the outsourcing of regular functions, HSBC only confirms its desperation to get rid of those who are in the vanguard of protecting workers’ rights,” said Anna Leah Escresa, EILER’s executive director.
“This is not the first time that HSBC launched an attack against its regular employees. It should be remembered that the company pursued to outsource its 150 employees in 2009, resulting to the decrease in the number of its employees, as well as diminishing the union membership,” she added.
In the midst of the implementation of the BSP Circular No. 268 which legitimizes outsourcing in the banking and financial industry, Aceña together with HBILU stood firmly in their struggle to combat outsourcing and contractualization and in asserting for job security among their ranks. The HBILU, under the leadership of Aceña advanced their struggle on various fronts to assure that HSBC will not compromise the employee’s job security.
“This attack toward Aceña only mirrors not only the company’s but the whole banking industry’s desperate move in eliminating genuine and progressive unions who are strongly battling assault toward employees and trade unionism,” said Escresa.
The young, vibrant, and outspoken Aceña only sided with the majority of workers struggling for their basic right to unionize and their right to security of tenure.
“EILER joins Aceña and all workers in asserting their basic labor rights and in fighting against outsourcing and contractualization. Only through genuine trade unionism can workers be united and be victorious in their struggle for labor rights,” noted Escresa.

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[Bangladesh] Strong Promise of Economic Growth

[Bangladesh] Strong Promise of Economic Growth | Asian Labour Update |

Bangladesh is probably one of the last places in Asia people would expect to see a thriving beachside resort with luxury hotels.

And yet, Cox’s Bazar is exactly that — a place where affluent Bangladeshis go for a weekend of seaside fun. During the high season, when the monsoon rains are not pounding the country, the beach is filled with children and their watchful parents among slightly dilapidated orange beach umbrellas.

About five years ago, only a few luxury hotels were in this small city on the Bay of Bengal. Now there are a dozen, and counting. Smaller hotels and guesthouses are proliferating, and property prices have risen sharply.

The transformation of Cox’s Bazar from remote backwater to a beach El Dorado encapsulates the changes that have taken place in this country of 160 million people, and many other developing Asian countries, over the last couple of decades.

“A middle class is gradually forming,” said Zahid Hossain, principal economist at the Asian Development Bank in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The growth in the country mirrors the developments in other emerging economies, he said. “Domestic demand is growing and becoming an important driver of economic activity.”

The progress, though, has been uneven. As in other Asian countries, the gap between rich and poor has widened in Bangladesh, giving rise to social tensions and sometimes violent protests. The murder this month of Aminul Islam, a prominent labor rights activist, apparently in retaliation for his advocacy work, put a spotlight on the low wages and poor working conditions that prevail in burgeoning sectors like the garment industry.

In Bangladesh’s countryside, home to more than 70 percent of the population, subsistence farming remains the norm, and weather-related disasters regularly wreak havoc in the flat lowlands.

Foreign direct investment in Bangladesh has languished at about $1 billion a year — less than what Albania or Belarus each receive, and about one-tenth of foreign investments in Thailand or Malaysia. Inadequate power and transportation infrastructures, political infighting, bureaucracy, corruption and a shortage of skilled laborers contribute to a challenging investment climate.

Yet despite this, the Bangladeshi economy has managed to grow more than 6 percent a year for much of the last decade.

Economists at Standard Chartered Bank believe that Bangladesh could join what have been called the “7 percent club” of economies that expand at least 7 percent annually for an extended period — allowing their economies to double every decade. Current members of the “club” include China, Cambodia, India, Mozambique and Uganda.

HSBC included Bangladesh in a group of 26 economies — along with China, India and several Latin American and African countries — where it expects particularly strong growth. The United States and much of Europe, by contrast, are likely to remain merely stable, according to HSBC’s projections.

The gradual shift in global production to low-cost countries, from developed economies in Europe and North America, is driving much of that growth. The trend, which began turning parts of Asia — notably China — into manufacturing hubs in the 1980s and 1990s, has started to take root in Bangladesh.

For now, Bangladesh’s manufacturing prowess is primarily focused on the garment sector, which has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry that employs 3.6 million people and accounts for 78 percent of the country’s exports.

Bangladesh has seen particularly strong growth in the last few years, partly because of rising labor costs in China, where manufacturing is moving into higher-margin activities like product design.

“For many years, China was almost always the hands-down answer to all buyers’ needs,” the consulting firm McKinsey noted in a recent report. Now, Western wholesale buyers of garments are looking for the “next China,” and Bangladesh “is clearly the preferred next stop for the sourcing caravan.”

Bangladesh exported nearly $18 billion worth of garments in the 12 months through June 2011, $10.5 billion of that to the European Union and $4.6 billion to the United States, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. The total nearly doubled from four years earlier, and McKinsey forecast that the garment industry would grow by as much as 9 percent a year over the next decade. 

Li & Fung, a giant Hong Kong trading company that supplies retailers including Walmart with clothing mostly purchased from Asia, is a case in point. Last year, the company bought $1 billion worth of apparel from manufacturers in Bangladesh, 41 percent more than in 2010. Bangladesh overtook Vietnam and Indonesia in 2011 to become the second-largest source of such products for Li & Fung, after China.

But infrastructure bottlenecks and power cuts are substantial “negatives,” Bruce Rockowitz, chief executive of Li & Fung, said at a recent news conference in Hong Kong. Still, the company intends to increase the business it does in Bangladesh. “The prognosis,” Mr. Rockowitz said, “is good.”

Another driver of economic growth has been the inflow of remittances — money sent home by Bangladeshis who have sought employment abroad. More than $11 billion worth of remittances flowed into Bangladesh last year, more than 10 times the amount from foreign investment, and the annual inflow is expected to rise to $20 billion in five years’ time, the government estimates.

Of course, the fact that tens of thousands of Bangladeshis go abroad each year highlights a weakness in the country’s economy: well-paid jobs are hard to come by.

Manufacturing is mostly confined to low-level, fairly unskilled assembly work, rather than to high-end production or design. Moreover, “other sectors, such as shipbuilding and pharmaceuticals, are only just starting to emerge,” said Agost Benard, who covers Bangladesh for the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.

Still, the expansion of the past few years and improvements in the agriculture sector mean that domestic demand is growing.

Dhaka, whose population has ballooned to about 15 million, now has car showrooms and a small but growing number of high-end international hotels. Monthly office rents in the most sought-after neighborhoods of the capital can be as high as 250 taka per square foot, or about $3 — levels that would not look out of place in some Western cities, according to the real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

In Cox’s Bazar, construction sites pockmark the once laid-back beachfront. A Best Western hotel is in the making. Green Delta Housing, a Bangladeshi construction company, is working on several developments. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which already operates a Radisson in Dhaka, is planning to open two hotels in Cox’s Bazar in 2015.

The town is a long way from turning into Cancún, Mexico, or the Côte d’Azur in France. Rickshaws trundle along the potholed road between the small airport and the hotel zone farther south, where shopkeepers sell dried fish and sunglasses, and rickety stalls on the beach sell souvenirs crafted from seashells.

“This is not ‘Baywatch’ or Hawaii,” said Mikey Leung, a co-author of the Bradt travel guide to Bangladesh. “You’re not talking international-style resorts.”

But Cox’s Bazar has changed a great deal over the past five years, Mr. Leung said. “Properties are popping up like daisies, and the development is moving further and further down along the beach. The speed and scale of it is unprecedented for Bangladesh.”

Moniruzzaman, a marketing executive at the Cox’s Bazar office of Green Delta Housing who uses only one name, concurred.

“Many, many things are happening,” he said. “Land is like gold now.” 

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Sri Lanka's tea workers fear future

Sri Lanka's tea workers fear future | Asian Labour Update |

East of the town of Badulla is some of Sri Lanka's most dramatic scenery.

Forested hills rise vertically from valley floors filled with rows of pale green tea bushes.

Early each morning, hundreds of women add bright specks of colour to the landscape as they begin harvesting the leaves by hand.

It appears picturesque.

But the job is gruelling and a new sense of gloom is starting to pervade Sri Lanka's tea industry.

Rising costs, falling prices and poor weather are now making it more expensive to produce tea than to sell it, with the effects being felt in every part of the production chain.

Workers' lives
Tea harvesters have to work quickly to fill their baskets before their takings are weighed and added up at the end of the day.

If a person picks 18kg worth of tea in the day, they are paid 500 rupees (US$4; £2.50). Anything less than 18kg and the pay is halved.

Tea workers' wages were more than doubled a few months ago following union negotiations.

Despite the higher pay, harvesters say they are barely able to scrape by.

Most of the labourers belong to the community known as Tamils of Indian origin - people whose forefathers were brought from India by the British to work the estates.

The community is the poorest outside the former war zone.

One of the tea-pickers, 28-year-old Selvarani Karthikesan, takes me to her home - one in a row of workers' houses located in the middle of the plantation - a modest but fairly dilapidated dwelling.

Selvarani lives with her husband and four children, all aged under eight. They have no electricity or running water in the house and the only toilets are outside.

Her kitchen roof consists of sheets of corrugated iron weighed down with stones.

Her family is especially hard-hit by rising costs and on some days they don't get to eat a full meal.

The cost of kerosene - their essential fuel - was raised by 50% in February.

"It's very difficult now. Goods are very expensive," Selvarani tells me.

"My husband does odd jobs with no secure income, so we mainly depend on my salary."

"As soon as I get paid, all the shop-owners who've given me loans, come to my doorstep to take the money. Then there's nothing left to buy even shoes or socks," she adds.

Plantation owners
It's not just the workers. Small and medium-scale plantation owners are also feeling the pinch.

On the other side of the highlands near the town of Matale lies the Ancoombra tea factory, a fine old building which has stood on the site for more than 100 years.

Its floors and staircases are still wooden and the walls are lined with bright, hand-painted signs.

Here, the tea is processed in barely 24 hours - the leaves are withered, fermented, dried, baked and sorted into different grades.

It all runs like clockwork.

But the Meezan Group, which owns this factory and three others, is now making a loss for the first time.

Meezan's managing director Ihitisham Meezan Mohideen has spent more than two decades running plantations and says it now costs more to produce tea than to sell it.

"The tea prices have come down very badly," Mohideen says.

"Unless the government gives us support, a lot of tea factories might get closed down."

Ceylon tea prices are also falling because of turmoil in Middle Eastern countries like Iran, Syria and Iraq.

After Russia, they are the biggest importers of tea but some are delaying their payments to the Sri Lankan exporting companies and that affects the producers.

Not only have prices been falling, but tea exports from Sri Lanka fell by a significant 19% in the year up to January.

Alternative crops
Mohideen thinks the safest route is now to diversify.

He says many plantations are adding different crops like rubber trees to their plantations.

"We [also] have in this estate coffee, pepper, cloves, timber, so we have to have all type of crops, otherwise when market is low we'll have a lot of problems."

Rohan Fernando, a director at Aitken Spence and a seasoned tea expert, says it is crucial Sri Lanka finds new markets and ways of adding value to their tea exports.

India, China and the US are markets which have not yet been thoroughly tapped, he says, adding that value can be added by producing more tea bags and ready-to-drink teas like iced teas.

"We are stagnating at the moment," Rohan Fernando tells the BBC.

"I think it's a good time for producers, exporters and all the other stakeholders - trade unions and government - to get together and work out a way forward that will help us overcome some of these bottlenecks.''

Tea is the world's most popular drink. But relatively few of us stop to think about how it gets into our cup.

As life gets harder, many of Sri Lanka's plantation workers are hoping their children will choose a different field of work.

Plantation owners will continue to look for ways to cut costs.

In time that may mean more mechanised harvests, and when that happens, the face of the Sri Lankan hill country will change forever.

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Bangladesh opposition calls strike over disappearance of leader

Bangladesh opposition calls strike over disappearance of leader | Asian Labour Update |

Bangladesh's main opposition party on Wednesday announced a daylong general strike in two north-eastern districts to protest the sudden disappearance of one of its leaders, party officials said.

The north-eastern Sylhet unit of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called the strike for Thursday after the party's central organizing secretary, Ilias Ali, a former lawmaker, and his driver disappeared in Dhaka on Tuesday night. Ali is from Sylhet district.

"We will enforce a dawn-to-dusk general strike in two districts to protest the disappearance of one of our leaders in Dhaka," said MA Haque, president of the northern Sylhet district branch of the BNP, announcing Thursday's strike in Sylhet and the adjoining district of Sunamganj.

Angry BNP protesters barricaded the Dhaka-Sylhet highway after the news broke that Ali was missing.

They demanded the government inform the nation of Ali's whereabouts immediately.

Police in Dhaka found the missing BNP leader's abandoned car on the street and seized a mobile phone belonging to Ali from the car.

"We have confirmed that the cell phone belongs to Ilias Ali and are trying to trace him," said police inspector Fayazur Rahman. He said police received a complaint from Ali's wife Tahsina Rushdi that the former lawmaker had been missing since Tuesday.

Another BNP leader and elected commissioner of Dhaka City Corporation, Chowdhury Alam, went missing in January 2010. Police have not managed to track his whereabouts over the last two years.

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IMF demands reinstatement of 204 sacked workers at auto supplier company in Indonesia

IMF demands reinstatement of 204 sacked workers at auto supplier company in Indonesia
IMF demands reinstatement of 204 workers at an automotive supplier company, PT. Surya Gemilang Perkasa, in Indonesia, dismissed for taking legitimate strike action on March 27 held after the company failed to implement court order to grant permanent employment.

INDONESIA: IMF demanded the reinstatement of 204 workers at an automotive supplier company, PT. Surya Gemilang Perkasa, in Indonesia, dismissed for taking legitimate strike action on March 27, 2012 held after the company failed to implement court order to grant permanent employment. PT. Surya Gemilang Perkasa supplies automotive components to Honda, Kawasaki and other brands of motorcycles.

According to an International Metalworkers' Federation's Indonesian affiliate, Lomenik, workers at PT. Surya Gemilang Perkasa started to organize themselves and join the union of FKUI KSBSI in the middle of 2011. The plant level union of FKUI KSBSI registered with the Labor Department of Bogor District on November 1, 2011, soon after, management dismissed Mr. Roberto Pardede, Chairperson FKUI KSBSI on December 7, 2011 giving the reason that his employment contract had ended and the company did not want to re-new his employment contract. Management also moved Mr. Suhardi, Vice Chairperson of FKUI KSBSI, to another factory in another district without valid reason.

Following a tripartite negotiation facilitated by the Labor Department of Bogor district, it was recommended that the workers have the right to be permanently employed under the Unlimited Duration of Employment Contract (known as PKWTT) but the company failed to implement these recommendations. In response the workers took legitimate strike action on March 27, 2012 and then the company illegally dismissed the 204 workers who took part in this strike action, including all 15 board members of the FKUI KSBSI.

The IMF has written to the company demanding the reinstatement of all 204 workers, including the union leadership.

"Illegally dismissing the 204 workers who took part in this strike action is a violation of internationally recognized labour standards and undermines labour relations at a time when your company should strive to establish harmonious and mutually beneficial industrial relations," writes Jyrki Raina, IMF General Secretary.

"We urge you to reinstate all 204 dismissed workers immediately, respect workers' rights to freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain, and begin good-faith negotiations with FKUI KSBSI at once," he said

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Petition to stop union busting in Metro TV

Petition to stop union busting in Metro TV | Asian Labour Update |



Petition to Support Luviana, a Female Journalist of Metro TV, released from her duty for initiating Worker Union at her Work Place


Dear colleagues,


Luviana is a female Journalist of Metro TV, a national TV Station in Indonesia broadcasting news, who has been released from her duty after 10 years of service as Assistant to Producer. She was released from her job by the management of Metro TV due to her activity on initiating a worker union at her workplace and campaigning programs that promote human rights and gender equality. After being released from her duty, Luviana has been trying any ways to conduct negotiation with the management with the support of AJI Jakarta (Alliance of Independent Journalist – Jakarta) and Aliansi Metro (Alliance of Fight Against Restoration Mask – an alliance formed to fight for Luviana’s case). Yet, all negotiation is merely banging the wall since the management and editors of Metro TV put no concerns on this case. Even worse, on April 11, 2012, the management of Metro TV instructed their security to forbid Luviana from entering the office building.


The management of Metro TV has shown their resistance to any efforts to negotiation and acts against Luviana without compromising. The Chief Editor of Metro TV has been uneased by Luviana’s activity when she organized her colleagues to initiate a worker union at their workplace. As an assistant to producer, Luviana also remind them to the materials they broadcast that are not sensitive to issues of gender equality and human rights, such as Luviana’s objection on news material which broadcasting vividly faces of women who have been arrested by the police officers accused as prostitutes (of which not all were proven right)


As a TV station which always promoting themselves as the “voice” of democracy, human rights, and gender equality values, the management and editors of Metro TV have turned themselves as irony, especially since lately Metro TV is also continuously campaigning the Restoration of Indonesia, a campaign to rebuild Indonesia and the world to be better place.


We call for supports and petition to help Luviana to urge Metro TV to immediately stop their arrogancy and union busting practice against Luviana. Luviana is not the first victim amongs workers who have been trying to fight for their rights. Detailed information related to the Metro TV can also be accessed through their web site:



This petition will be copied to:


International Federation of Journalist (
Southeast Asia Press Alliance (
Dewan Pers (
Konfederasi Serikat Nasional (
AJI Jakarta (
Luviana (
Asian TNCs Monitoring Network (


In Solidarity


Aliansi METRO (Alliance to Fight Against Restoration Mask )

Members of Aliansi METRO (Melawan Topeng Restorasi) : Kontras, FPPI-Front Perjuangan Pemuda Indonesia, INFID, Salud, Komunitas Kedai Kopi Bhinneka, Migrant Care,Kapal Perempuan, PBHI Jakarta, AJI Jakarta, AJI Indonesia, Jurnal Perempuan, Inspirasi Indonesia, FMKJ-Forum Masyarakat Kota Jakarta, Aliansi Petani Indonesia, Somasi -solidaritas Mahasiswa Untuk Demokrasi, LBH Pers, Central Board of National Union Confederation (DPP Konfederasi Serikat Nasional), LBH Jakarta, AMAN- Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, Federasi Serikat Pekerja Media Independen, Sekar Indosiar, FKI KSPSI Bekasi, Serikat Pekerja KBR 68H, KASBI, SRMI, FSNN-Federasi Serikat Nelayan Nusantara, SPSI, Barisan Perempuan Indonesia, SMI Jakarta, LPM Media Kampus, FPBJ Forum Perjuangan Buruh Jakarta, SBTPI Serikat Buruh Transportasi Pelabuhan Indonesia, Poros Wartawan Jakarta (PWJ), Aliansi Nasional Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (ANBTI), Perempuan Mahardhika, Repdem, Paguyuban anti Penggusuran Jakarta (Pawang), Forum Alumni Mahasiswa Atmajaya Yogyakarta, Sekber Buruh.


Contact Person:


Kustiah, Coordinator of Aliansi METRO +62- 8170565654
Umar Idris, Chairperson of AJI Jakarta, +62- 818111201
Soleh Ali, Director of Litigation, LBH Pers, +62- 81585160177
Khamid Istakhori, Central Board of National Union Confederation (DPP KSN), +62- 81284837137
Mariana Amiruddin, Women Journal, +62- 8174914315
Nining Elitos, Chairperson of KASBI, +62- 81317331801

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End slave-labour conditions in New Zealand waters


New Zealand companies allow the systematic abuse of fishing crews on boats they charter, and face no consequences. The conditions are close to slave labour.

Crews like those on the Mellila 201 and the Oyang 70 endured abusive working conditions every single day; cramped quarters, long shifts, appalling hygiene, no basic health and safety, and physical abuse. For this they still have not been paid.

NZ companies take no action and face no consequences because NZ law does not extend to the foreign boats they charter - even if the boats are in NZ waters. And yet New Zealand claims a clean, ethical reputation.

A recent Ministerial Inquiry has criticised NZ's lack of responsibility. The Inquiry gave a number of recommendations that will stop the abuse. The most important of these is recommendation 12 which will bring boats working for NZ companies under the operation of NZ law.

Please sign this petition telling John Key and Phil Heatley - the New Zealand Prime Minister and fisheries spokesperson - that NZ fish should taste great. Slave caught fish doesn't. End the abuse New Zealand companies profit from. Adopt recommendation 12.



The letter:

Please adopt recommendation 12 of the Ministerial Inquiry in FCVs. End the damage to New Zealand's international reputation, and end slave labour conditions for workers on foreign charter vessels in New Zealand waters.

New Zealand companies have allowed the systematic abuse of fishing crews on boats they charter because they face no consequences. Yet New Zealand claims a clean, ethical reputation.

Crews like those on the Mellila 201 and Oyangs 70 endured abusive working conditions every single day; cramped quarters, long shifts, appalling hygiene, no basic health and safety, and physical abuse. For this they still have not been paid.

This abuse could end by bringing crews working in New Zealand waters under New Zealand law, as advised by recommendation 12 of the Ministerial Inquiry.

John Key and Phil Heatley, please make New Zealand companies accountable; adopt recommendation 12 and bring crews under New Zealand law. End the abuse New Zealand companies profit from.

NZ fish should taste great. Slave caught fish doesn't



[Your name]

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Indonesia endorses migrant workers protection bill

Indonesia has announced its intention to ratify an international convention on the protection of migrant workers.

The House of Representatives and the government reached an agreement to ratify the United Nations (UN) Convention on International Migrant Workers and Members of their Families on Thursday.


"The agreement to ratify the convention reflects the government's commitment to protecting the rights of all Indonesian migrant workers. This is just the start of efforts to further protect our workers abroad," Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.
Marty added that the ratification would require Indonesia to harmonize all domestic laws regarding migrant workers’ protection in line with the UN convention.

The UN adopted the convention in 1990.


Indonesia will be the 46th country from all UN member states to ratify the convention, and the second Asian country to do so.


Migrant Worker, a nongovernmental organization that promotes the rights of Indonesian migrant workers, welcomed the planned ratification, believing that it would provide the legal foundation to protect all migrant workers and members of their families.


"This is just the beginning. We will further endorse its implementation so that the rights of our migrant workers are truly guaranteed," Anis Hidayah, Migrant Worker’s executive director, said.

Reem Bushara's curator insight, October 20, 2013 4:25 PM

example of countries working to improve migrant workers' conditions and protect their rights. 

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Exploitation claims hit Thai seafood exporter

Exploitation claims hit Thai seafood exporter | Asian Labour Update |

Striking migrant workers are claiming serious exploitation, including docking pay for so-called "bondage payments" and holding passports, at a seafood factory in Thailand.
The factory in question, the Phatthana Seafood Company, is believed to be a key exporter to Australia, the United States and Europe.

It is also said to be part of the Rubicon group, a collection of seafood factories that supply the US giant Wal-Mart.

Up to 2,000 Cambodian and Burmese workers are striking at the factory, and while it is on the approved list with the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, it is unclear whether it is currently exporting to Australia.

Advocates on site claim workers who wanted to leave the factory for the annual Thai new year Songkran holiday this weekend have been given their passports back for a fee of 1,000 baht ($30) paid to the employer.

Those who have not paid the fee have allegedly not had their passports returned.
The practice of trafficking illegal workers then forcing them into debt bondage in Thailand is not uncommon, but in this case the workers are employed legally and the factory is a major global seafood exporter.

Migrant advocate Andy Hall from Thailand's Mahidol University has been pursuing the case and says the protest escalated quickly.

"The management apparently decided to reduce the benefit for the workers and almost immediately a protest erupted," he said.

"Workers were very angry so they gathered outside of the gate, and it started to get a little bit heated and there were police brought in, shots fired and now we just have a situation where we have a lock-out."

The protest comes after the freshly elected Thai government moved to impose a minimum wage, taking take-home pay in the province from 176 baht ($5.50) per day to 246 baht ($7.70).

It is believed the change may have motivated the factory's owners to scrap a 20 baht daily food allowance - and that 62c loss has infuriated workers.

Asking questions

Mr Hall says the exploitation claims, if proven, are disturbing.

"The evidence suggests this is quite a large factory and an international exporter from what the reports have been saying. If so then the conditions would be particularly bad because generally with these international factories they are monitored quite closely," Mr Hall said.

"We often find that in smaller factories with smaller workforces - prawn peeling sheds or things like that - we often find very exploitative conditions including trafficking, forced labour, violent failure to adhere to the minimum labour standards."

"But this is an exceptional case because the workers actually are some of the first workers to come in through the new legal import system."

International importers rules outlaw debt bondage and the holding of passports by employers, and Mr Hall says Australia should be asking questions about the origins of its seafood.

"Seafood is one of the most significant export products from Thailand - making up something like 50 per cent goes to the US," he said.

"But there's also a large amount going to Europe, Australia and within Asia and this is the responsibility of the corporations. It is also the responsibility of people in countries like Australia to be asking and demanding answers about where their seafood does come from."

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Nokia Siemens India production hit with workers on strike

Nokia Siemens India production hit with workers on strike | Asian Labour Update |

Permanent workers of telecom equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks India staged a sit-in strike on Monday protesting against over 50 workers being barred from entering the factory and an enquiry being launched against them.


"On April 4, the company barred entry to the factory to 52 workers without any reason. The management has also initiated an enquiry against the workers. We are protesting against these actions. Representations sent to Nokia Siemens Network's headquarters in Finland did not elicit any response," E. Muthukumar, president of Nokia Siemens Networks India Thozhilalar Sangam, which is affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said.


Tracing the genesis of the labour problem, Muthukumar said: "The workers' trouble with the management has been simmering since February when another union wanted to establish a base. Immediately the company transferred 15 workers to Kolkata without giving any advance notice or joining time. We later took up the transfer issue with the management."


He said all the 260 permanent workers were not allowed inside the factory between February 15-23.


"At the conciliation meeting held by the Assistant Commissioner of Labour, the management agreed that the workers would be allowed and other issues would be sorted out by talks. Today (Monday) the company announced initiation of enquiry against the 52 workers, including union office bearers," Muthukumar said.

Nokia Siemens Networks has its plant at Oragadam, around 45 km from here, and employs 260 permanent workers and 100 contract labourers.


"The production operations at Oragadam facility are running normally. We have offered our colleagues an opportunity to have an open dialogue to understand the employees' concerns in a manner that is mutually conducive and rational in approach. We continue to treat all our employees with utmost respect and appreciation as we have in the past," Satendra Singh, head of manufacturing operations, India was quoted in a statement issued by the company.


Refuting that Muthukumar said: "Production has come to a halt. Around 170 workers are on sit-in strike and several workers are outside the factory gates. We have asked female workers to be at home."


A conciliation meeting is slated between the union, management at the Assistant Labour Commissioner's office on Tuesday.

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[Bangladesh] Factory Whistleblower Tortured, Killed

[Bangladesh] Factory Whistleblower Tortured, Killed | Asian Labour Update |

A labor organizer who helped ABC News expose dangerous working conditions at garment factories in Bangladesh was tortured and killed last week, according to authorities.


"All indications are that Aminul Islam was murdered because of his labor rights work," said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, an American group working to improve conditions at factories abroad that make clothes for U.S. companies. "This depraved act signals the deterioration of an already grim labor rights situation in Bangladesh, which is now the fourth largest exporter of apparel to the U.S."

Islam had been serving as a senior organizer for the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), and had most recently been involved in efforts to organize workers at garment factories owned by a company called the Shanta Group. According to shipping records, the company makes clothing for numerous well-known American companies, including Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, and Ralph Lauren.


Islam had also helped arrange interviews for ABC News with survivors of one of the deadliest recent factory fires in Bangladesh -- interviews featured in a recent report that aired on "Nightline" that focused on designer Tommy Hilfiger and the parent company that manufactures his clothing line, PVH Corp.


Bangladesh is currently the cheapest place in the world for garment manufacturers to make clothing. Workers can make as little as 21 cents an hour, and according to labor organizers, shoddy wiring and locked gates are frequent at Bangladeshi clothing factories despite their highly flammable contents. Over the past five years, nearly 500 workers have died in a series of gruesome fires.


Islam was last seen Wednesday evening outside the offices of BCWS, after having closed the office early because he believed the office was being monitored by Bangladeshi officials, according to information gathered by Nova. Two days later, a photo of Islam's body appeared in a Bangladeshi newspaper alongside a report about unidentified remains having been discovered. His wife recognized the photo.

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Bring employers to the table: China, Australia and compulsory arbitration

This article considers whether the Australian practice of compulsory arbitration for certain kinds of labour conflicts has relevance to China. China continues to emphasise collective negotiation and collective contracts as a major method of regulating labour relations issues such as wage adjustment. In recent years, there has been considerable experimentation at the provincial and local level that goes beyond negotiation at the enterprise level. Some cities have introduced industry-level negotiation. For example, Guangdong province has been debating rules which better recognise that collective contract negotiation process is not simply one of amiable consultation, but often involves hard bargaining.

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Research on ‘collective bargaining’ in China: A Case Study in Wuhan City

This article would first look into the making of this Collective Contract, introduce the key players and describe how they interact and view the process. The first part is written based on newspaper clippings. Then the author will discuss the significance of this case, to see if the Collective Contract would eventually improve the working conditions of the catering workers, if the case is worthy copying or can act as a reference for workers from other industries, and what the remaining concerns are.

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[Cambodia] Union threatens rally over shooting charge

Outrage over the “unintentional injury” charge handed to a former town governor in Svay Rieng province accused of stepping out of his car and shooting three women at a February protest has sparked threats of union action.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) has threatened to protest outside Svay Rieng provincial court this week if the charge against former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith is not upgraded to attempted murder.

On February 20, three women were hospitalised after Chhouk Bandith allegedly drove to a protest of about 6,000 garment workers outside Bavet’s Kaoway Sports factory and shot them.

More than two months later, Chhouk Bandith was charged with causing involuntary bodily harm on Thursday, which the C.CAWDU and rights groups have said is a completely inappropriate response.

“C.CAWDU would like to express deep regret at this unjust decision for three victims. There is no reason to charge him with unintentional injuries, because he took a gun to shoot workers. He has to be charged with attempted murder,” the union said in a statement on Friday.

The union has been joined by rights groups and opposition politicians in condemning the leniency of the charge in a case that has drawn international attention because the factory is a supplier of sportswear giant PUMA and other large brands.

Bout Chenda, 21, who was shot through the chest, hospitalised and then transferred to Phnom Penh’s Calmette hospital amid fears for her life, said yesterday the charge was inappropriate.

“He has power. He shot us, threatening our lives, but he did not get serious punishment – it shows that in our country, if you have money and power, you can do what you want,” she said, adding she would file a complaint to the appeal court.

Two other women, Keo Near, 18, and Nuth Sakhorn, 23, were also shot at the protest.

Svay Rieng chief prosecutor Hing Bunchea defended the charge, saying it was based on the evidence provided by these victims.

“We cannot take the word of rumour to charge people, and this charge is not completed yet, so if the investigating judge finds more evidence than what I got, after he finishes the investigation, he can make a new charge,” he said.

Ath Thorn, president of the C.CAWDU, said he would send a letter the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Council of Magistracy, asking why the prosecutor had clearly neglected his responsibilities to victims.

“If I do not get any result, I will announce to all workers in Svay Rieng and NGOs who are involved, ‘come to stage a protest in front of the provincial court to find justice for the victims’.”

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‘Anti-Terror’ Laws Haunt Pakistan’s Unionists

‘Anti-Terror’ Laws Haunt Pakistan’s Unionists | Asian Labour Update |

As International Labour Day approaches, rights groups in Pakistan are redoubling their efforts to win freedom for six incarcerated union leaders in Faisalabad, the country’s textile hub, who are currently serving a combined jail term of 590 years for supposedly violating the country’s ‘anti-terror’ laws.

The representatives of power loom workers – namely Akbar Ali Kamboh, Babar Shafiq Randhawa, Fazal Elahi, Rana Riaz, Muhammad Aslam Malik and Asghar Ansari – were charged with attacking a factory, injuring its owners and burning it down on Jul. 20, 2010, charges that all six individuals have denied.

Still, police were forced to add clauses from anti-terror laws to the report and the court ruled based on evidence and witnesses made available by the complainants, and now the labour activists are languishing behind bars.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) accepted an appeal against their conviction but so far no hearing date has been announced.

To keep the issue in the public eye, the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP) organised a lecture at the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on Apr. 16 to present the details of the case to a larger audience.

Meanwhile, the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), the party to which the jailed leaders belong, is gearing up for a massive rally in Faisalabad on May 1 to demand that the case be repealed.

In actual fact, the six unionists were not terrorists but leaders of the LQM-sponsored strike involving roughly 100,000 power loom workers who were demanding a 17 percent wage hike, says Farooq Tariq, spokesman for the LPP.

He claims only a godown of the said factory was purposely burnt (some allege by the factory owners themselves) to teach the striking workers a lesson.

Still, it was the workers who were arrested, supposedly for indiscriminate firing to create fear, destroying public property and kidnapping people for ransom, all acts punishable under anti-terrorism laws in Pakistan.

"The message was clear: if this can happen with LQM leaders, anyone daring to assume this role in future must be ready for similar treatment," Tariq said.

He laments the fact that dictators, the ruling elite, feudal lords and a host of other actors are manipulating the country’s anti-terror laws with impunity to silence voices of dissent, target groups demanding their rights and punish rivals in politics.

Thousands of lawyers were arrested for terrorism charges during former president Pervez Musharraf’s regime for participating in the movement for restoration of the judiciary, Tariq said, adding, "I myself was booked under terrorism charges four times just for organising protests. Today, I stand cleared in all of them."

Families of the jailed leaders are in distress and LPP is raising 5,000 rupees (about 55 dollars) per month for each family’s sustenance.

No labour rights

The power looms sector in Faisalabad city, also known as the Manchester of Pakistan, is the backbone of the country’s economy, which is overwhelmingly dependent on the textiles sector.

Of the estimated 300,000 power looms, 200,000 are based here and set up mostly in the form of small units in houses.

Workers operating these units are paid per ‘pick’, a unit of measurement for the cloth produced, rather than a fixed wage, explained Anis-ul-Haq, spokesman for the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA).

He said the situation worsens when there is no electricity to power the looms for 14-16 hours each day, meaning zero income for the workers.

This sector cannot afford to make alternative arrangements, like captive power plants and generators, for the simple reason that a typical power loom owner has as many as four to eight power looms at his disposal.

The prolonged electricity load-shedding and inflation has a lot to do with protests organised by workers, claims Rana Tahir, Faisalabad president of LQM. He condemned the labour leaders’ harsh sentence, saying power loom owners and political leaders prepared this ploy to weaken LQM, which had supported an LPP candidate in by-elections for a provincial assembly seat in April 2010.

Tahir challenged the contents of the First Information Report (FIR) registered against the six leaders and clarified that, in fact, guards at the factory shot at protesters first.

The demonstrators’ subsequent reaction caused a bullet to hit a nearby motorbike, sparking "a fire that spread and burnt the cloth lying in the godown."

Tahir also told IPS that it took police three days to add anti-terror clauses to the complaint, while the factory allegedly burnt by the accused took almost the same time to start fully functioning again. "Doesn’t this show things are doubtful?" he asked.

Akram Ghauri, chairman of the All Pakistan Cotton Power Looms Association, is not convinced by this version of events and has no sympathy for the jailed labour leaders.

"What they did to the factory and its owners is worth condemnation," he said, calling the leaders blackmailers who effectively held power loom owners and workers hostage by refusing to agree to any proposals.

Ghauri says LQM even threatened workers willing to work on weekends for wages 50 percent higher than those offered during weekdays.

"Now we are in peace, and hold talks with the genuine labour body – the Workers Union of Faisalabad – whenever required."

Despite his reaction, the registration of a case against the unionists under anti-terrorism law is a phenomenon backed by little public support.

Zulfiqar Shah, joint director of the Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (PILER) believes commercial and industrial disputes should be decided in appropriate fora.

He believes there were certain circumstances that led to the clash between Faisalabad workers and the factory owners and the strike was not a premeditated move.

Now, the same anti-terror laws are being invoked in the case of protesting power loom workers in the port city of Karachi. Shah told IPS the only difference is that these workers have been booked under extortion charges.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Director I A Rehman has also condemned the misuse of anti-terror laws against labourers and the administration of such a severe punishment.

Even hardened criminals involved in heinous crimes have never been awarded such severe punishments, he said, and urges the state to give people their constitutional right under Article 17 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which promises, "Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality."

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[pictures] Occupy SsangYong! 4th 'Day of Siege'

[pictures] Occupy SsangYong! 4th 'Day of Siege' | Asian Labour Update |

Last weekend, despite heavy rain - for the fourth time in row - hundreds of activists besieged Ssangyong Motor plant in Pyeongtaek (south of of the S. Korean capital Seoul). For almost 24 hours - from Saturday's early afternoon until Sunday - approx. 1000 workers, unionized in KCTU, and some activists of (student) solidarity groups joined the "4th Weekend of Siege" (a 'mixture' of struggle rallies/demos, culture festival and solidarity night) to support the "Tent of Hope Village" in front of SsangYong Motor company's main gate. Here just some impressions from the 'event'.

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Sony says will cut 10,000 jobs in restructuring

Sony says will cut 10,000 jobs in restructuring | Asian Labour Update |

Sony on Thursday said it would cut about 10,000 jobs and spend nearly US$1 billion (S$1.2 billion) on restructuring the Japanese electronics and entertainment giant to stem its massive losses.


New chief Kazuo Hirai said revamping the firm would cost 75 billion yen (S$1.1 billion) this fiscal year, just days after it warned of a record annual loss - its fourth consecutive year in the red.


Mr Hirai said he would aim to make the firm's struggling television unit profitable within two years by slashing costs and boosting the image of its Bravia television brand, a business he described as part of Sony's make-up.


'Now is the time for Sony to change,' Mr Hirai, who replaced Welsh-born United States (US) chief executive Howard Stringer earlier this year, told reporters at the company's Tokyo headquarters on Thursday

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Free Somyot NOW! Unionists Urged to Send Letters Demanding Thai Justice!

Free Somyot NOW! Unionists Urged to Send Letters Demanding Thai Justice! | Asian Labour Update |

Free Somyot NOW! Unionists Urged to Send Letters Demanding Thai Justice!

The campaign to free Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, long-time Thai campaigner for labour rights, is growing as the one-year anniversary of his arrest approaches. Somyot is being held in prison only on remand, facing unproven charges of lèse majesté, or daring to “defame, insult, or threaten” the King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand.”

Brother Somyot, a former ICEM Thailand Coordinator, must be freed immediately and unconditionally, states the ICEM.

The disgraceful detention and persecution of Somyot is based on two articles published in the journal Voice of Thaksin, but Somyot was not the author of either piece in question and, in fact, the articles do not threaten or insult the king. Brother Somyot was the acting editor of the publication, but was not the legal publisher.

Indisputably, Somyot is incarcerated purely for his trade union and left-leaning political activism. For those reasons, he also is not receiving a fair judicial process with violations that include hearings being relocated to distant provinces so that key defence witnesses cannot participate.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk

Brother Somyot has been held in inhumane conditions in jail, where cells are overcrowded to the extreme. Through his transfers to distant judicial hearings, Somyot has been transported standing over 4,000 kilometres in a cage on the back of a truck and bound by heavy chains.

This unacceptable treatment has moved supporters to push hard for Somyot to be released on bail, but the courts have refused such petitions on eight occasions on the grounds that he would flee Thailand, or interfere with witnesses while on bail. Somyot is 50 and suffers from bad health, reasons why he should be released on humanitarian grounds.


The ICEM joins the large international coalition in condemning the continuing use of the “lèse majesté law” to crack down on legitimate protest in Thailand. The archaic legislation allows for harsh punishment for freedom of expression, an internationally recognised fundamental human right. Brother Somyot faces up to 15 years in prison for each of the two articles, if found guilty.


Send your protest to 

A new trial of Somyot begins today, with prosecution witness hearings every day until 26 April, and defence witness hearings 1-4 May.


Another labour and human rights defender is also in detention on non-credible charges. Brother Sirichai Mai-ngam of Thailand also has ICEM’s full support.

The ICEM Asia-Pacific Regional Conference resolved last week for the ICEM to launch campaigns supporting the two activists in Thailand so that they are released with all charges dropped.

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Asian Development Outlook 2012: Confronting Rising Inequality in Asia

Asian Development Outlook 2012: Confronting Rising Inequality in Asia | Asian Labour Update |

The annual Asian Development Outlook provides a comprehensive analysis of economic performance for the past year and offers forecasts for the next 2 years for the 45 economies in Asia and the Pacific that make up developing Asia.

Despite weak global demand, Asian Development Outlook 2012 expects that developing Asia will largely maintain its growth momentum in the next couple of years, in an environment of easing inflation for most regional economies, although policy makers must be alert to further oil-price spikes arising from threats of oil supply disruptions.

The report sees that the greatest risk to the outlook is the uncertainty surrounding the resolution of sovereign debt problems in the eurozone. Still, in the absence of any sudden shocks, developing Asia can manage the effects on its trade flows and financial markets.

The theme chapter looks at widening inequality: in spite of developing Asia’s great success in raising living standards and reducing poverty, swelling income disparities threaten to undermine the pace of progress. Regional policy makers need to ensure that the benefits of growth are widely shared.

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Joint Statement - South Korean Corporate and Government - stop exploitation on Burma

< Joint Statement>


South Korean Corporate and Government Should Not Exploit Burma’s liberal Movement


Recently the movements such as nomination Aung San Suu Kyi, in Burma election have shown positive progressive movement of democratization in Burma. However, even after the official liberalization, it is still plausible to say that Burma is still being controlled by military authorities with an iron fist. Even if the military is still occupying Burma and many people were struggling to promote democracy in the past, the movement could have had a positive progress due to people’s aspiration and effort for the country’s liberalization.

However, the Korean society is not completely welcoming Burma’s democratization process. According to the recent press, EU, US and Japanese Corporate are showing interest in heavily investing in Burma as they fear that they had lost the Burma market to other countries such as China, Korea, and India during the government modification. As Burma government stated that it would step back from liberalization and human rights issues, the multinational corporate are willing to take advantage of the country as their enormous field of competition. Therefore, the already existing infringement of human rights and environment from development exploitation, corruption of multinational corporate and labor repression will be even more applied and worsened.

Even if a country has certain standard of democracy, 99% of the people are suffering from constant economic struggles due to today’s Neo-liberalism economic structure which only protects the economic benefits of corporate. For Burma, it is nearly impossible for the country which has recently been in the process of democratization to stand up against the exploitation of such enormous corporate. The Korean society has acknowledged this phenomenon through the investment of Korean enterprise.

As Burma became known for a country worth investing with the protection of its own government, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and many Korean companies are promoting Myanmar-Korea Economic Forum in April 6. Also, South Korean government has announced it will be providing ODA to Burma in a form of “Saemaul undong(New Village Movement)” for rural development system and also advise active investment. However, Daewoo International and Korean Gas Corporation’s gas development of gas pipeline construction across Burma to China has started and the infringement of human rights is already being brought to the surface. In January 2010, Korean apparel factories on industrial zone in Langoon had labor strikes against the brutal working conditions. Last year, a company called KMDC announced their huge Burma Gas Development project, bringing political controversy.

The multinational enterprise’s insensitive investments without considering the rights of laborers and inhabitants are also a serious issue. Burma Environmental Working Group ( is presenting a statement which claims that the investment should follow the boundaries of human rights and environment protection.

Until the citizens of Burma can freely choose the government which can independently represent the citizens, the investment made to the country needs to be more considerate and sensitive to the issue of human rights and environment protection. Over the years, Burma has already suffered because of the militaristic government and its protected multinational corporate. By exploiting the fact that Burma is slowly being democratized, South Korean government and enterprises should not agonize and burden the Burma citizens with indiscreet investment.


We demand the following:


1. Before South Korean enterprises invest in Burma, they must fairly and transparently proceed human rights and environmental impact assessment


2. South Korean enterprises investing in Burma must follow the international standard such as OECD MNE guideline or ILO Labor Standards.


3. In the process of natural resource development, human rights infringement such as forced eviction or forced labor must not be participated.


4. South Korean government needs to prepare a countermeasure to prevent and protect in case of environment and human right violation by Korean enterprises investing in Burma


5. For ODA of South Korea, government must establish standards which protect human rights and environment.


April 9 2012


1. Democratic Legal Studies Association
2. Human Rights Education Center, DEUL
3. Imagination For International Solidarity
4. Korean House for International Solidarity
5. Korean Public Interest Lawyers' Group
6. National Association of Professors for Democratic Society
7. Network for Glocal Activism
8. Palestine Peace Solidarity
9. People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
10. People's Solidarity for Social Progress

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[S Korea] Ssangyong Motor Workers Continue their Struggle for Reinstatement

[S Korea] Ssangyong Motor Workers Continue their Struggle for Reinstatement | Asian Labour Update |

After more than 1000 days of struggle, workers dismissed from Ssangyong Motor's Pyeongtaek factory in 2009 have yet to be granted negotiations with the company's Indian management. Workers were dismissed in the process of structural adjustment in preparation for Ssangyong Motor's sale to the Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group. At that time, dismissed workers were joined by their still-employed colleagues in a 77-day strike and factory occupation under the slogan, "We will live and survive together."

Ssangyong Motor workers

The Korean government responded to the 2009 struggle with brutal and bloody suppression. It mobilized armed special police forces and helicopters, which rained pepper spray on the desperately struggling workers.

The struggle ended with the company agreeing to reinstate the dismissed workers after a year of unpaid leave. Yet neither the government nor the company has shown any accountability in the aftermath. Not even a small part of the agreement reached between the workers and management has been implemented. In the meantime, 22 workers and their family members have committed suicide due to deep sorrow and desperation.

Continuing the struggle, the Korean Metal Workers Union Ssangyong Motor Branch and many social movement organizations including PSSP have pitched 'Hope Tents' in front of the Ssangyong Motor factory in Pyeongtaek since December 2011. They organized national demonstrations called 'Day of Siege against Ssangyong Motor' three times in December, January and February. Thousands of people participated. On April 21, they will hold the 4th 'Day of siege'.

The Ssangyong Motor struggle epitomizes key issues faced by Korean workers, including mass layoffs, state violence and speculative foreign capital. We must build broader and firmer solidarity and strengthen our struggle if we are to win reinstatement of the dismissed workers, prevent further deaths and confront the wider social problems that Ssangyong Motor represents.


RIAWM International Department

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[Documentary] Domestic workers in Hong Kong

300,000 migrant workers keep Hong Kong's households moving. Now, amid claims they are treated as second class citizens, the city's maids are challenging laws that forbid them from getting permanent residency.

Invisible for most of the week, this army of domestic workers emerges on to the streets on Sunday afternoons, to socialise and meet with friends. They are a familiar sight, but are currently at the centre of a heated legal battle. The Mission for Migrant Workers vocally campaigns on their behalf, against authorities not afraid of dubious tactics, like stirring up public bias by claiming hundreds of thousands of them might settle on the already crowded island. "I think there is a racial element to this", claims a lawyer involved in the campaign. Mistreatment of the maids also remains a serious issue. Wahyuni's employer terminated her contract whilst she was receiving treatment for cancer. For her, "every day is painful".


There are bias and discriminatory position and action towards foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong which have been systematically planned, initiated, and fanned by the right wing - Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and its trade union, HK Federation of Trade Union. This right wing group has been successful largely because the case of right to abode coincided with the election time.

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Bangladesh labor leader murdered two weeks after international rights victory

Bangladesh labor leader murdered two weeks after international rights victory | Asian Labour Update |

Weeks after winning a major commitment from American clothing giant Phillips-Van Heusen to improve labor conditions in the garment factories of Bangladesh, one of the leaders of the workers' movement has been found murdered, his body showing evidence of brutal torture.


Aminul Islam, a head of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, disappeared from the country's main textile center of Ashulia on Wednesday after receiving a call from a worker requesting assistance.


"His legs had severe torture marks including a hole made by a sharp object. All his toes were broken," the local police chief told AFP.


Police discovered his body dumped by a roadside Friday, reportedly burying it in "a state-run graveyard the next day after finding no claimant."


BCWS' Kalpona Akter, who was arrested and imprisoned along with Islam in 2010 on charges related to their labor activism, accused Bangladeshi security forces and garment firm owners of responsibility for her colleague's murder.


Islam, 40, had fought for years to organize garment workers to push for higher wages and safer factories, forcing one of the worst paying countries in the world to increase the minimum wage in 2010. Last month the BCWS was featured in an ABC News investigation into labor violations in Bangladesh's apparel industry.


The ABC story focused on a 2011 factory fire that killed 29 workers and led Phillips-Van Heusen to commit more than $1 million to improving standards in the factories that produce clothing for many of the world's most recognizable brands including Calvin Klein, Nautica, Kenneth Cole and Timberland.


A press release from the International Labor Rights Forum indicated that Islam had feared for his safety just hours before his disappearance after spotting a police van while attending evening prayers.


Akter said Islam had been tortured in 2010 by members of Bangladesh's National Intelligence Service:


"They took him to the agency headquarters, tortured him, broke one of his toes and then took him to (the northern district of) Mymensingh from where he miraculously escaped."

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Major Thai garment companies moving to Burma

Some of Thailand’s top garment companies will move their operations to Burma in the coming year.


At least six leading garment manufacturers plan to set up shop to take advantage of lower wages by the second half of the year, according to an article in The Nation newspaper on Saturday. The companies would hire up to 3,000 workers, officials said. More than one dozen of Thailand’s largest garment manufacturers have moved to neighboring countries which offer a cheaper labour force.


The companies would start operations by investing about US$ 10 in each plant for a total of $60 million.


Thailand is already Burma’s second largest investor, following China. It is investing heavily in the oil and natural gas sector, and is expected to also take advantage of Burma’s cheaper labour force and its close proximity.


Vallop Vitanakorn, an adviser to the Thai Garment Manufacturers Association (TGMA), said, “The general election on April 1 will show that Burma will not move backwards. This will ensure that the country will have a clearer policy to promote growth and revise rules and regulations to facilitate investment.”


Burma's labour costs are one-third lower than Thailand's, according to the article.

Thailand current has a shortage of labour, said TGMA president Sukij Kongpiyacharn, and the plan to raise Thailand’s minimum wage next month to Bt300 (about $10) a day has encouraged the move.


Last year, many Thai garment producers have moved to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Sukij said he expected more than 10 local apparel producers would set up new plants in Burma this year.


“Factories in Burma will be larger than the other plants that Thai investors have set up in other Asean countries. Burma is the highest-potential destination for investment, since it has a large domestic market as well as being an export base to The Italian-Thai Development Plc. (ITD), the developer of the Dawei deep-sea port project on the southern coast of Burma, is in the process of securing around US$ 8.5 billion to move ahead on the infrastructure phase of the massive mega-billion energy project.”


Thailand's largest construction company by market value, ITD will require the backing of Thailand, Burma and a blend of international partners.


The energy project will cover 250 square kilometers. Located on the Andaman shoreline, Dawei is about 350 kilometers west of Bangkok. The project will supply oil and other goods to Southeast Asia, bypassing the Strait of Malacca and cutting costs.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone includes an integrated steel mill, power plants, a petrochemical complex and a fertilizer plant.

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Collective Bargaining in India: Recent Trends

The collective bargaining in India remained limited in its scope and restricted in its coverage by a well defined legal structure. Actually, the labour laws systematically promoted and perpetuated a duality of labour-formal sector workers enjoying better space for collective bargaining and informal ones with no scope for collective bargaining. To understand this, we can discuss in brief about the labour legislations in Indiaand their scope and coverage.

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