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The International Labor Organization (ILO) labor standards take the form of International Labor Conventions which are ratified by member countries. Of the total number of ILO Conventions, eight are considered core labor standards, fundamental to the rights of workers. The ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations.

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East African unions join forces to tackle common issues

29 Jun 2015:   East African unions have joined together to build stronger trade unions, fight against precarious work and advocate for better occupational health and safety in the region. On 5 June, the IndustriALL East Africa union building project, funded by Danish central organization LO-FTF, was launched in Tanzania.

The project aims to make trade unions in the manufacturing and mining industries in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda stronger through national and international cooperation. Stronger unions can better defend their members, improving working conditions and health and safety at the workplace.

A growing number of workers are left with no choice but to accept temporary, precarious and dangerous jobs in order to make ends meet and provide an income for their families. Precarious jobs are an enormous threat for workers, not only at the social and economic level - it also has negative impacts on the communities and on the economy at large.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda call on their governments, employers, workers and all other stakeholders to cooperate with trade unions in dealing with the explosion in precarious work, as well as to work towards minimizing diseases and accidents in the workplace. This should be done through legislation and collective bargaining.

The specific objectives of the East African union building project include:

  • Organizing and recruiting workers into trade unions, after which the employers also need to recognize the unions
  • Eliminating precarious work and short term contracts
  • Reducing health and safety related risks and incidences at work

The overriding goal is to ensure that IndustriALL affiliates in the three countries gain power, allowing them to become a strong counterforce and dialogue partner to the companies. When workers find ways to have better lives and more decent work, the three countries, as well as the entire East African region, will be better off.

Catherine Aneno, IndustriALL project coordinator, says: "We support unions gaining more power in East Africa. Within the next four-year period, we want to see an increased membership in the region, have less precarious work as well as safer and healthier jobs.

Let us organize, agitate and educate our members.

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union-- IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

HRCT unions in French-speaking West Africa focus on hotel chains

29 June 2015:   Union leaders from seven French-speaking West African countries of West Africa came together in Cotonou, Bénin for an IUF sub-regional seminar to develop common strategies for organizing and bargaining within transnational hotel chains. Participants from Bénin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal met from June 25 to 27 at the Cotonou Novotel - where the union last year secured a first collective agreement after a long struggle.

Despite the importance of tourism in each of these countries' economies, none have specific legislation in place to protect tourism workers. Participants discussed the potential uses of International instruments such as ILO Convention 172 on working conditions in hotels and restaurants and the OECD Guidelines to support organizing, combating sexual harassment in tourism and the IUF global housekeeper initiative and developed a two-year work plan including an organizing focus on hotel chains, negotiating national sectoral agreements and pressuring governments to ratify Convention 172.

Source:  International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Associations--IUF uniting 12 million workers in 397 affiliated organizations in 125 countries

Unions target Switzerland over Glencore

25 Jun 2015:   A group of IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from fourteen countries is appealing to Swiss citizens to hold mining multinational Glencore accountable for violations against workers at its operations around the world.

The Glencore Global Union Network's week of action from 29 June to 3 July coincides with a new People's Initiative in Switzerland, which is campaigning for a change in the law to make Swiss-based multinational companies, such as Glencore, responsible for their violations against human rights and the environment abroad.

If the People's Initiative gets 100,000 signatures, Swiss citizens can vote on whether it should be made law under the Federal Constitution.

If the vote is successful, it means that victims of human rights or environmental violations by Swiss multinationals in foreign countries could take the company to court in Switzerland and claim compensation.

It would also make Swiss companies responsible for violations committed by their subsidiaries or the companies they control in the countries where they operate.

During the global week of action, IndustriALL affiliates from Africa, Australia, Latin America and the USA, which form the Glencore Global Union Network, will be handing over a protest letter to Swiss Embassies and Consulates.

The letter implores the Swiss government to see that Glencore abides by international standards and stops the abuse of people and the environment abroad.

"Switzerland has a good reputation for respecting workers rights and collective bargaining. However, Glencore's actions abroad are giving the country a bad name and its behaviour would not be tolerated in Switzerland," says IndustriALL's director of mining Glen Mpufane.

IndustriALL is taking Glencore to task over allegations of union-busting, health and safety violations, and tax evasion following grievances by affiliates, among other accusations.

The Glencore Global Union Network has representatives from fourteen countries which are Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Namibia, Peru, South Africa, United States and Zambia.

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union-- IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

Malaysia: Stop union busting in SFI!

23 June 2015:   "The BWI cannot tolerate that Sabah Forest Industries (SFI) continues mocking ILO labour standards" says Ambet Yuson, general secretary of the BWI. These were requirements for forest certification of Forest Stewardship Council and Performance Standards 2 of the International Financing Corporation (IFC) when FSI defied the order of Malaysian Ministry of Human Resources on 3 April 2015 on employees eligible to vote in secret ballot and filed its third Judicial Review before Sabah High Court. "The union quest for recognition has been going for more than ten years now but SFI believes it is untouchable." adds Yuson.

SFI continues bragging that it will never recognise the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union (STIEU) but only an in-house union that it is shamelessly helping revive. This is based on the SFI Chief Operating Officer Neehar Aggrawal memorandum dated 7 November 2014.

SFI filed its third Judicial Review on 14 May 2015 seeking to quash a ministerial order on the eligibility of employees who can vote in a secret ballot election on whether they wanted to be represented by the STIEU following the latter's second bid on 17 March last year to gain the company's recognition.

Sabah Forest Industry, owned and operated by Ballarpur Industries Limited (BILT), part of the gigantic Avantha Group is stepping up union busting tactics. This Indian Conglomerate operates in 90 countries with over 25 thousand employees. BILT is practicing double standards on workers' right to self-organisation and collective bargaining as it allows its employees in subsidiaries plants in India to form union of their own choosing and concluded collective agreements.

Recently STIEU has good reasons to believe that SFI is instigating some employees to file case against STIEU leaders before the Trade Union Activities Department. And revive the defunct in-house union. This is, obviously, to divide members and harass leaders.

All these manifestations, once again, indicate that SFI has no intention to go through the process of allowing its employees to exercise their right to join union of their own choosing as required by FSC Certification Systems and IFC PS2 as well as based on government-led transparent and legal process within the purview of Ministry of Human Resources.

Source:  Building and Wood Workers International--BWI uniting 12 million members in 328 trade unions in 130 countries

Affiliates combat criminal exploitation of migrant workers in Australia's food industry

23 June 2015:   Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman has confirmed a pattern of systematic human rights violations by Baiada, Australia's largest poultry processor. A June 18 report on employment practices at Baiada documents criminal exploitation of a vulnerable pool of overseas workers in Australia on temporary working holiday visas through elaborate chains of labour contractors and sub-contractors.

The Ombudsman's two-and-a-half year investigation, undertaken in response to complaints by IUF affiliates AMIEU and NUW, found systematic underpayment of wages, excessively long hours of work and high rents for overcrowded and unsafe worker accommodation. Workers were fraudulently classified as 'independent contractors' in a scheme through which Baiada paid workers by the kilo produced rather than for hours worked. Money moved through dozens of separate legal entities and there were no written agreements.

The exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers in the Australian food industry is not limited to Baiada and the poultry sector. In a recent Australian television documentary the NUW and community activists uncovered criminal gangs of labour contractors operating on farms and factories around the country producing for major supermarket chains.

The NUW has launched a Fair Food Campaign to hold the two largest supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, accountable for human rights abuses in their supply chains and provide union access to farms and factories to ensure compliance with labour standards and adequate worker protection.

Source:  International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Associations--IUF uniting 12 million workers in 397 affiliated organizations in 125 countries

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