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The Cabinet on Monday provisionally approved a proposal to amend the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 that also aims at ensuring the workers personal security, organisational safety, increase in gratuity facilities, health services and their rights, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters.
The approval was given on principle at the regular Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
He said that the law proposed inclusion of provisions to have collective bargaining agents (CBA) in large organisations and ‘participatory committees’ in the small ones.“It was mandatory to submit a list of names of the trade unions to the owners in line with the current Act which caused many problems. But it won’t need to be done after the Act is amended,” Bhuiyan added.If the new law is passed in Parliament, a worker in the job for more than 15 years at an organisation would get gratuity equal to one and a half months of salary every year. Currently, the workers get gratuity equal to one month’s salary after they complete one year at the workplace.The proposed Act also says that a factory with more than 5,000 workers must have a clinic with proper facilities to provide healthcare services to the workers. Alternative measures should also be kept if there are fewer numbers of workers.The big buyers of Bangladeshi textile products have long been urging the readymade garment entrepreneurs to improve workplace environment and ensure the rights of the workers to form trade unions. The government was also under pressure to retain the duty-free access of Bangladeshi apparels to the US market.The Cabinet Secretary said that the new law puts priority on personal safety and security of the workers providing specific directives about the building structure, safe stairs and exit, power connection and other utility services.For garment workers, the law proposes separate rule to constitute a welfare fund under a panel or board. A separate board will be formed to this end, Cabinet Secretary Bhuiyan said.The cases on a breach of the law will be heard at the Labour Court, District Magistrate’s Court or Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court.The new law proposes six months of imprisonment and a maximum fine of Tk 25,000 for obstructing investigations into violation-related cases.
Thanks to HKCTU and Left21 for translating and producing this image!
On March 29th, 2013, about 200 dockworkers in Hong Kong went on strike at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal. The strike, which has since expanded to about 500 dockers and crane operators, is one of the most significant labor actions in Hong Kong's recent history because this is the first time that a strike has targeted Li Ka Shing. With an estimated net worth of US$ 31 billion, Li is the eighth richest man in the world. He has a monopoly stake in many industries in Hong Kong and China, dictates much of Hong Kong's politics and economic policy, and epitomizes Hong Kong's rampant social inequality and the "get rich quick" capitalist ethos of the 80s. The dockworkers have garnered massive support from Hong Kong citizens, with the strikers raising more than US$500,000 for their strike fund, much of it collected from citizens at street corners. As of this writing (April 17th), the strike is in its third week, with management refusing to accede to the docker's demands for wage increases and improvements in their living conditions. You can hear them speak for themselves about their work conditions in this video, which was taken from the first day of the strike.The video was produced by students from Left 21, a left organization in Hong Kong, and translated by Richard Chen of the International Bolshevik Tendency.
Who develop who?
Two hundreds ago, rich countries are 3 times richer than poor countries. By the end of colonialism the gap widened to 35 times, and today they are 80 times richer!
Hypocritically rich countries are saying to compensate this inequality by giving aid USD 130 billion each year. But why the gap is getting bigger?
Because large corporations from rich countries are taking more than USD 900 billion out of poor countries each year through tax avoidance called TRADE MISPRICING. On top of this, poor countries are paying USD 600 billion debt service every year to rich countries on loan that already paid off many years over; and then there is money that poor countries lose from trade rules that imposed by rich countries to get access to resources and cheap labour. Economist from Massachusetts University calculated this costs poor countries about USD 500 billion a year. Altogether, that is more than USD 2 trillion flows from some part of poorest of the world to the richest every year.
The richest 300 people on earth have more wealth than the poorest 3b billion - almost half the world's population. We chose those numbers because it makes for a clear and memorable comparison, but in truth the situation is even worse: the richest 200 people have about $2.7 trillion, which is more than the poorest 3.5bn people, who have only $2.2 trillion combined. It is very difficult to wrap one's mind around such extreme figures. This rule should be ended.
“Aquino was recognized as an ‘influential leader’ because of his rabid support for pro-capitalist and anti-worker policies. Not only has he refused to increase wages by a significant amount, he is trying to cut and freeze wages through the Two-Tiered Wage System.”
For decades Vietnam has failed to set a minimum wage that provides enough for people to live on, officials said at a meeting Friday.
Vietnam’s minimum wage only meets between 50 and 70 percent of the cost of people’s basic needs, officials said at the conference held by the National Assembly’s Social Issues Committee to discuss ways to calculate a livable minimum wage.
The figures came from a survey conducted by the Vietnam Labor Union last year, which estimated that people need between VND750,000 and VND900,000 (US$36-43) per month to ensure they can provide themselves sufficient nutrition – about 2,300 calories a day.
Adding in other expenses including the raising of children, one needs around VND2.4-3.7 million a month just to survive.
“Our minimum wage and minimum living standards have never met. The wage might not be able to catch up for at least a couple years,” said Labor Union representative Dang Quang Dieu.
“Why do workers at footwear, garment and construction companies become skinny after three or four years?
“Because they work too hard without being able to afford meals that provide a minimal amount of nutrition,” Dieu was quoted as saying in a Tuoi Tre report.
Officials from the labor ministry said many businesses will go bankrupt if the minimum wage is raised according to the conclusions drawn by the survey, and that it will suggest a roadmap that aims for the goal of establishing a livable minimum wage to be realized by 2017.
Vietnam’s minimum wage ranges between VD1.65 and 2.35 million ($79.23-112.85) per month. It tends to be higher in urban areas and within the business sector.
Van Thu Ha from the Vietnam office of the global charity Oxfam said at the meeting that the system of varying minimum wages fosters “unfairness,” as the basic living standards sought by laborers are the same everywhere.
Ha said many countries in the world use set criteria to establish a uniform minimum wage – one that enables employees to afford necessary food plus clothing, accommodation, healthcare, education and transportation, as well as allows them to support to aging parents, maintain normal social lives and some left over to contribute to modest savings.
“That wage is supposed to change depending on the employer’s condition, and the overall changes within the economy including those caused by inflation,” Ha said.
Ha said Vietnam’s minimum wage has fallen behind its economic growth. She said it has been increased in recent years, but at a speed 38 to 41 percent of the GDP per capita growth, which means the government can afford further wage increase.
She said the current wage only allows workers and their families a livelihood that hovers right at, or below, the official poverty line, calculated by Oxfam to be VND400,000 ($19) per person each month.
“In order to survive, they must work extra jobs.”
SEVERAL employees of telecommunication company Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) have been on hunger strike at the main office of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) for almost a week now.
Workers at the Indonesian unit of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc have refused to rule out a repeat of a 2011 strike that crippled the world's largest copper mine, trade union officials said in the run-up to pay negotiations next month.
A deal inked in December 2011 to resolve Indonesia's longest running industrial dispute is due to end in October at Freeport's Grasberg mine in west Papua province.
It included a pay rise of 37 percent over two years for workers who joined the three-month strike demanding higher pay.
"Whether there will be a strike or not in 2013 is dependent on the result of the negotiations," union spokesman Juli Parorrongan told Reuters on Wednesday.
"The company is the one which can create a strike, not labour. If the company management offers, or decides, lower benefits than its ability or revenues, it means the company asks us to strike."
Indonesian officials of Arizona-based Freeport did not reply to e-mails or telephone calls from Reuters seeking comment.
Mining contributes around 12 percent to GDP in Indonesia, which is also a major exporter of nickel ore, refined tin, bauxite and iron ore.
Under the 2011 deal, wage talks between union and Freeport representatives will start on May 2 in the town of Timika, about 100 km south of the mine in eastern Indonesia.
Up for discussion are workers' wages, benefits, rights, obligations and pensions, said Parorrongan, who declined to reveal an exact pay demand, so to avoid influencing the talks.
"Normally, negotiations last for 30 days," Parorrongan said by telephone. "If there is no agreement, it can be extended for another 30 days. We will try our best to avoid deadlock."
Freeport's mine is a technically challenging open pit in the remote highlands, where the firm and its contractors employ about 17,000 workers, Parorrongan said.
Freeport and its contractors were trying to weaken the union, said another union leader, Virgo Solossa.
"We are still facing unfair treatment and discrimination from the companies," Solossa said. "The companies still have different treatment for workers who joined in the 2011 strikes and those who did not."
Freeport's Indonesian unit, PT Freeport Indonesia, is 90.64 percent owned by the U.S.-based firm, with the government holding a 9 percent stake.
Sales from Freeport Indonesia will be around 1.1 billion pounds of copper and 1.2 million ounces of gold in 2013, up 54 percent and 31 percent over 2012 figures respectively, as mining moves into higher ore grades, the company said.
Lower benchmark copper prices could either encourage a swift settlement or leave unions and management divided, one analyst said.
"It is possible that this time around, they will be aware that companies aren't making as much money as they were," said BNP Paribas analyst Stephen Briggs.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange has eased about 5 percent since early 2012. It traded at $7,194.75 a tonne by 0748 GMT.
Declines in benchmark copper prices over the past two years have prompted many mining unions to settle labour contracts ahead of expiry, Briggs said, pointing to evidence from Chile, the world's top copper producer.
But he added, "If there was a long-running strike, no question it would be supportive of the copper price."
After Indonesia announced new mining rules last year on foreign ownership and domestic processing, Freeport began talks with the government over divestment and higher royalty payments.
The talks also delay Freeport's decision to invest billions of dollars to develop underground mining and extend the life of Grasberg, which has the world's largest gold reserves.
Freeport has repeatedly said it is reluctant to build smelters in Indonesia.
Striking dock workers have moved their protest to Li Ka-shing’s doorstep at the Cheung Kong Center in Central on Wednesday afternoon as they stepped up their strike action as promised.
The strikers said it was "time to step up our action" and move their protest from Kwai Tsing Container Terminals to the office of Asia’s richest man, whose Hutchison Whampoa is the parent company of the strike-hit port operator Hongkong International Terminals.
The strikers want Li, whose firm employs the contractors that hire the dockers, to help resolve the dispute.
Before arriving at the Cheung Kong Center the dock workers and their supporters briefly demonstrated in front the Legislative Council building in Admiralty.
Fences were set up outside Cheung Kong Center on Wednesday morning anticipation of the action.
The main entrance to the busy Central office tower was blocked off with fences, and people were directed to enter and exit via a door in the parking lot to the rear of the building.
The strike relocation came after the workers and contractors failed to reach an agreement at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. The Confederation of Trade Unions, organiser of the strike that started on March 28, are seeking a 17 to 24 per cent pay rise for workers, among other demands.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said there had been progress in previous meetings, with differences between workers and employers narrowing.
He urged all parties to stay calm and restrained.
“Only through dialogue a dispute can be resolved. We urge every party to go back to the negotiation table to resolve the matter,” Cheung said, adding that one contractor, Everbest, was available to talk at any time.
Stanley Ho Wai-hang, a strike organiser from the Confederation of Trade Unions, said the striking workers would camp outside Cheung Kong Center for an “indefinitely period” of time.
“We demand that Li Ka-shing order Gerry Yim Lui-fai [general manager of port operator Hongkong International Terminals] to address workers’ demands face-to-face,” Ho said.
“We need to get hold of the big boss,” he said. “The workers are determined to continue the action until their demands are met.”
The 450 dockers on strike are splitting into two groups: a larger one will move from Kwai Chung to Central and a smaller group will remain outside the Kwai Chung cargo terminal.
Ho said they would set up camps to surround Cheung Kong Center but would leave space for people to enter and exit the office tower. He expected it would take one to two days to complete moving the larger group’s tents and materials from cargo terminal.
Five of the six contractors at the centre of the dispute on Wednesday pledged to improve the pay and working conditions for workers and to proactively consider different proposals.
But the employers said the current wages for their different workers were at a “reasonable market level”.
“It is true that wages for certain type of workers have dropped in the past 10 years or so but since 2006 the wages have gradually risen,” the contractors said in a joint statement published in several Chinese-language newspapers.
“The current wages are higher than the levels in 1997. They are in line with reasonable market levels,” the employers said.
Before arriving at Cheung Kong Center, more than 100 workers staged a protest outside the Legislative Council's Tamar building in Admiralty.
A representative of the workers at the Legco protest said they would move to Cheung Kong Center later in the day.
Strike organiser Stanley Ho Wai-hong told local radio the new plan would be a peaceful one and they would allow space for people to enter and leave Cheung Kong Center.