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Solomon Islands Union Rebuilds Against All Odds

17 April 2014:   The ITF will soon have a new affiliate from the Solomon Islands, as workers in the country set to rebuilding their union.

The Solomon Islands National Union of Workers (SINUW) was the only private sector union in the country, and represented a number of industries - including transport. The union survived both the Solomon Islands civil war (1999-2003) and ethnic rioting in 2006. The union became embroiled in long-running litigation with employers back in 2004, following a strike at a plantation. After much legal debate, and several appeals, the high court finally found in favour of the employers and demanded that the union pay a massive settlement to them. This bankrupted the union, with the employer taking possession of and selling the union building in order to get its settlement.

Despite these setbacks, grassroots activists have been recruiting new union members, with a particular focus on organising fishers and cannery workers. The activist base intends to set up a new union, with the ITF's assistance, which will be called the Workers Union of the Solomon Islands (WUSI).

Just last week, the workers faced further setbacks, as a massive cyclone, disastrous floods and two large earthquakes hit the islands. Workers at Solomon Islands Ports Authority, Soltuna, and Solomon Airlines have been particularly affected. Nevertheless, the union intends to continue its organising drive. Tony Kagovai of WUSI said: "Solomon Islands workers really appreciate the support of the ITF to rebuild their union after it was deregistered in a vindictive lawsuit. ITF help makes sure we can look after our members and their families from Solomon Islands Ports Authority, Soltuna and Solomon Airlines who have been affected by the recent cyclone, flash flooding and earthquakes. "It shows Solomon Islands workers that the ITF never sleeps."

Source:  International Transport Workers Federation--ITF is 700 unions representing over 4.5 million transport workers in 150 countries

New Global Threat to Public Services

April 17, 2014:   On Monday 28th April, PSI affiliates, in collaboration with civil society organisations across the world, are mobilising for a day of action to protest the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations. These are taking place regularly in secret in Geneva and the next round is on 28th April.

New PSI research shows that TISA will create a more favourable environment for privatising public services; permanently block the ability of governments to re-municipalise or establish new public services; restrict the ability of governments to legislate in areas such as workers' safety, environmental regulations, consumer protection and universal service obligations.

PSI and its affiliates are demanding that those countries currently involved in TISA negotiations:

  • release the text
  • exclude all public services from the agreement
  • ensure that countries have the right to regulate in the public interest.

We also urge the governments of non-participating countries to clearly state they will not join the agreement.

Alarmingly, the TISA is being negotiated outside the multilateral trade framework by the most pro-liberalisation countries, with the explicit aim of drawing in the rest of the world to the agreement after it has been finalised. This means that the TISA will potentially affect all countries in the world - regardless of whether they are currently participating in negotiations. The TISA will bind future governments. Combined with the secrecy and lack of consultation, the binding of future governments is a major attack on the democratic rights of citizens to be able to hold their governments to account.

PSI has been monitoring the TISA negotiations and has conducted research to examine the harmful effects of the TISA on Quality Public Services. The results show that the TISA will:

  • Create a more favourable environment for privatising public services;
  • Permanently block the ability of governments to re-municipalise or establish new public services;
  • Extend to areas such as licensing health care facilities, university and school accreditation, municipal water provision, waste disposal facilities, power plants and broadcast licenses;
  • Restrict the ability of your government to legislate in areas such as workers' safety, environmental regulations, consumer protection and universal service obligations;
  • Cover all sectors and modes of delivery - including the free flow of migrant labour under the so-called Mode 4;
  • Only exclude a narrow tranche of public services;
  • Include ratchet and standstill provisions;
  • Contain a "negative list" on national treatment (i.e. a requirement that all foreign providers be treated the same as local providers unless the sector is specifically listed for exclusion).

The current negotiating parties are Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, representing its 28 member states.

Source:  Public Services International--PSI representing 20 million workers in 150 countries

Climate Report Shows Job Growth Linkage With Climate Action

Brussels, 14 April 2014 (ITUC OnLine):   The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued yesterday in Berlin, gives renewed confidence that the world can still avoid catastrophic climate change with rapid and sustained cuts to carbon emissions.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, "The world's leading climate experts told us a week ago that climate is already changing in every part of the world, and that the costs of inaction would be catastrophic. Yesterday's report shows that the world has the capacity to meet the challenge. Governments need to cease their prevarication and rise to that challenge now."

The IPCC brought together hundreds of reports which show that investments in zero and low-carbon energy sources will need to at least triple by 2050. "These investments are critical for fighting climate change, as well as for tackling other major social priorities, such as unemployment, said Burrow. We know that millions of jobs can be created in the renewable energy, building efficiency and public transit sectors. Governments must send now the right signals and show their commitment to a climate-sound and job-friendly transition".

Mobilising for climate action will be a central issue at the forthcoming 3rd ITUC World Congress, next 18-23 May in Berlin, Germany. "Working people are at the forefront of the climate struggle. Unless we are able to stop dangerous climate change and create sustainable jobs, the dreams of prosperity of millions around the world are at risk. We still have time to make it happen," concluded Burrow.

Source:  International Trade Union Confederation--ITUC represents 176 million workers in 161 countries and territories and has 325 national affiliates

Big Win for Chilean Cabin Crew

11 April 2014:   Cabin crew at Chilean aviation company LAN Express won the right to significantly improved working conditions this week.

Around 850 regional and domestic cabin crew, members of the ITF-affiliated Sindicato de Tripulantes de Cabina LAN Express, were set to take strike action. Union president Silka Seitz outlined some of the workers' issues, saying: "We haven't seen wage increases in over a decade. We want the right to eat and to take rests if we have a 12-hour working day, in line with Chile's other workers."

Earthquakes rocked the north of the country last week, and a temporary state of emergency was declared. Seeking to avoid strike action, which could have affected travel to the area, the union requested an extension to negotiations on Monday. Agreement was reached later on in the week.

As part of the LATAM ITF network, the union received widespread international support for the strike. The ITF-affiliated Teamsters Local 769 took high profile action at the Sony Open tennis tournament in Miami, America. LAN are a key sponsor of the event, and activists highlighted the dispute through distributing flyers and even arranging a publicity airplane to publicise the dispute.

Gabriel Mocho, ITF civil aviation secretary, welcomed the victory. "Following months of negotiation, and government intervention, the workers have finally won the recognition they deserve. Cabin crew keep air passengers safe, often in very difficult working conditions. I'm pleased to see that their professionalism, expertise, and hard work has now been recognised by the employers."

Source:  International Transport Workers Federation--ITF is 700 unions representing over 4.5 million transport workers in 150 countries

Building Unity and Power in Thailand

10.04.2014:   For more than a month, 600 striking Michelin workers have been camping in front of the Ministry of Labour in Bangkok. On 9 April, IndustriALL Global Union together with all affiliates in the newly formed Confederation of IndustriALL Labour of Thailand met the workers to show global support for their struggle.

A majority of the 800 workers at the Michelin plant in Thailand went on strike more than a month ago, when company management tried to impose a fixed three-year bargaining agreement against union demands to negotiate annual adjustments of bonus and wage increases. The workers, represented by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate TAW/TEAM, walked out and picketed the entrance of the company. However, after several incidents of intimidation, including shots fired against their cars, demonstrators deemed it was safer to occupy the entrance to the Ministry of Labour in Bangkok.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Fernando Lopes and leadership from the newly formed Confederation of IndustriALL Labour of Thailand (CILT), which brings together the auto, metal, textile, chemical & petrol workers of Thailand, met with the union committee and addressed the striking workers. The majority of the workers are very young and many are women. The workers listened to messages of worldwide solidarity and support, as well as encouragement for their fight to improve their working conditions.

IndustriALL union building project
As many leaders and participants expressed during the two-day workshop held to launch a new Union Building project with the CILT in Bangkok, anti-union violations occur daily in Thailand, without any media coverage and in total impunity.IndustriALL affiliates confirmed their commitment to work together to improve their communication and campaigning skills, to build up their capacity to organise and educate workers about their rights and to "organise, organise, organise".

One of the campaigns bringing the industrial unions in Thailand together is their demand that the Government ratifies ILO Conventions 87 & 98. Yongyuth, TEAM's general secretary, gave several examples from the garment, electronics and auto industries, where less than 50 per cent of the workers have permanent contracts and workers are brutally harassed by employers when they seek to join unions: Freedom of Association does not exist in Thailand, and in particular not in the garment industry. It is considered to be a "special economy", where workers, operating in conditions close to slavery, are expected to show respect and gratitude for their employers and can't join a union.

The CILT is working towards changing the external image and reality of Thailand, where labour costs are kept low and workers remain docile, to build the industrial workers' negotiation power and gain decent working conditions for all. For the coming three years, the IndustriALL Union Building project will focus on developing affiliates' communication and campaigning skills, increase their membership density through strategic and targeted organizing, in particular in the manufacturing supply chains, and build up the capacity of the CILT to act jointly and to grow sustainable and strong national unions in Thailand.

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

Bangalore Security Workers Union Launches Campaign With 90% Density

8 April 2014:   The Indian Property Services Workers Union based in Bangalore has announced its intention to apply for and if necessary campaign for union recognition, including check off facilities, with G4S. They are seeking an agreement within the spirit of the Global Agreement signed by UNI Global and G4S.

The union has signed up 17,000 workers at G4S in Bangalore out of a workforce of about 19,000 but have no formal agreements with the company. Workers are complaining about not getting overtime and about paying for uniforms. Other concerns are safety conditions and the quality of training.

The union is working in partnership with UNI Global and last week held training for its organising team and a meeting of all its stewards and activists. The 50 activists then debated and agreed the need for a campaign involving its mass membership. The campaign seeks to win that bargaining agreement so that the union can address the workers concerns and improve standards right across the Security sector. G4S is currently the largest single employer in India and the unions are hoping to link up with other UNI affiliates who are organising G4S workers.

Stefan Andreasson of the Swedish Transport Workers Union and also the Vice Chair of the G4S European Works Council was also visiting India and was able to assist with the training and speak to the union activists as a fellow G4S worker himself. He emphasised the need for the company to start talking with the union in Bangalore and to reach agreements to improve the rights of workers in Bangalore.

Source:  UNI Global Union--UNI represents 20 million workers from 900 trade unions in 150 countries

Richard Trumka: We Need the Colombia Labor Action Plan to Work for Workers

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