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Building Strong Unions in Myanmar

Oct 29, 2014:   In a country where trade unions were banned until 2011, the founding congress of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar, held on 18 and 19 October, marks an important leap forward for the trade union movement.

Until 2011, any kind of trade union activity was strictly forbidden in Myanmar. In October that year, a bill on trade union entities was passed. It came into force in March 2012, allowing trade unions to be organized at the work place. Trade union leaders who had fled Myanmar began returning to the country. In September 2012, following decades of exile, the Federation of Trade Unions - Burma (FTUB), now Federation of Trade Unions - Myanmar (FTUM), and its leaders were allowed to return to the country and to continue their trade union activity. Now, barely two years on, FTUM general secretary Maung Maung counts 622 affiliated unions with 43,500 members - 50 per cent of the 1,225 unions registered in total in Myanmar.

Founded at the congress on 18 and 19 October this year, the Industrial Workers Federation comes under the umbrella of the Federation of Unions in Myanmar. The 30 congress delegates were from the 37 basic labor organizations with 6,500 paying members. Myo Myint from Shwe Mi Plastic Factory Workers Union was elected as the Federation President. The delegates ratified the statutes of their federation and experienced the joy of electing their leadership through secret balloting. The action plan prioritized organizing, capacity building on dispute settlement, minimum wage campaign, building good industrial relations, and improving working conditions. They will also use resources to address women, youth issues and migrant workers.

Paving the way for collective bargaining
IndustriALL's training on collective bargaining held in December 2014 led to the conclusion of an agreement with Yes Garment. It is the first in the sector to guarantee increased wages, improved industrial relations and better working conditions. The campaign for a minimum wage continues. The current average daily wage is a meager USD2. Campaigners are fighting for a raise to USD4. The government has announced that it will undertake a survey on the cost of living for workers at the end of 2014.

IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary Annie Adviento says: "The unions are optimistic, but a lot of international pressure will be needed for the government to translate their commitment to real work. We welcome the organizing activities of unions in Myanmar and will continue to support their fight for good working conditions and a decent minimum wage".

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

Global Unions Converge in Mongolia in Campaign for Rio Tinto Workers' Rights

Oct 21, 2014:   Leaders of IndustriALL Global Union's Rio Tinto Network will gather in Mongolia on 22 October to plan the next moves in the worldwide campaign to improve worker rights at the mining giant.

The meeting, in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator, will bring together IndustriALL affiliates from around the world. It follows a two-day conference in the city where unions, government officials and civil society groups gathered to discuss the labour agenda for socially sustainable mining in the global south. The Network is focusing support in Mongolia, where Rio Tinto has invested billions and mine workers are particularly vulnerable.

The company has a US $6 billion investment in the vast Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in the Gobi Desert. Workers there are represented by IndustriALL affiliate the Federation of Energy, Geology and Mining Workers' Trade Unions of Mongolia (MEGM).

Last year, Rio Tinto was condemned by the Supreme Court in Mongolia for wage discrimination against Mongolian nationals and unfair dismissal. The company also faced international criticism for sacking thousands of workers in the country without adequate consultation. Rio Tinto's blind pursuit of profit at any cost in Mongolia has caused disputes with unions as well as environmental, community and indigenous groups. Together with its mining trade union affiliates, IndustriALL Global Union has an ongoing campaign calling for an end to bad corporate behaviour at the expense of workers at Rio Tinto operations around the world.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan says that with the campaign, IndustriALL Global Union aims to build union power at Rio Tinto plants around the world, uniting workers in the struggle for decent work: "Rio Tinto has extensive experience in causing one conflict after another with trade unions, indigenous organizations, environmental groups and other key community stakeholders. Unions and civil society are coming together in an unprecedented way to push back against Rio Tinto for the benefit of workers, the environment and communities." "For far too long, Rio Tinto has systematically put profits before people, sometimes with fatal consequences like the recent deaths at the Grasberg mine in Papua New Guinea. Workers are saying enough is enough," says Kemal Özkan.

The Network meeting follows a global day of protests on 7 October as as part of IndustriALL's campaign to demand a new era at Rio Tinto. In a coordinated day of defiance workers from Rio Tinto sites in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America demanded safer workplaces, secure jobs and respect for workers' rights. Events included rallies, stop work meetings and other worksite actions. The 7 October action against Rio Tinto coincided with the World Day for Decent Work, when unions mobilize against precarious work - jobs that are temporary, casual, contracted-out and often low-wage, low-benefit, unsafe and insecure.

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

EI Executive Board Meets to Prepare for World Congress

21 October 2014:   When Education International's Executive Board members meet for the 43rd time today in Brussels, a number of important decisions will have to be made, including about next year's Seventh World Congress and an evaluation of the Unite for Quality Education campaign.

From 21-23 Oct., Education International's (EI) Executive Board members convene in the "capital of Europe" to delve into the upcoming year's business.

As planning for next year's Seventh World Congress continues to ramp up, every detail of the event, confirmed for 21-26 July, 2015 in Ottawa, Canada, will be given close attention by EI's governing bodies. Representatives of the hosting organisations, EI's affiliates in Canada, will join the meetings to discuss the evolving planning.

One year after the Unite for Quality Education Campaign's official launch, the EI Executive Board will assess its impact to date and plan how it will be taken further during the lead-up to the United Nations' decision on the post-2015 development agenda.

Other items on the agenda to be addressed will include issues in global current affairs, such as the developing situation in Ukraine, the Ebola crisis in West Africa, as well as upcoming world conferences on education, including the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, to be held next March in Banff, Canada.

Source:  Education International--EI uniting 30 million teachers and education workers in 401 organizations in 171 countries and territories

Open TISA to Public Debate, say Experts at First Global Forum

October 17, 2014:   From education to transport, from finance to health. The new Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) is posing serious threats to quality standards in various public sectors that affect the lives of citizens.

This is what has emerged from the first Global Trade in Services Forum, in Geneva on 17th October 2014, co-organised by Public Services International (PSI), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS) network. Leading experts and over 140 representatives from trade unions, civil society and governments, expressed their concerns about the new trade agreement, which is being negotiated in secrecy by a small group of governments and supported by a coalition of corporations.

"The secrecy of these trade agreements neglects any democratic participation" says Jane Kelsey, professor of law at the university of Auckland, New Zealand. "Services are fundamental to people's daily lives, and what we see in these agreements is an attempt to turn them into commercial products, in ways that benefit just the biggest companies in the world."

According to Herta Däubler-Gmelin, former Minister of Justice of Germany, trade agreements should be discussed by national parliaments and within the European Parliament in full transparency, or they will just foster protest and not deliver the results their supporters keep promising. In the United States, "the industry and trade lobbies represent the lion's share in the trade advisory committee, reaching 85 per cent of the total members" revealed Celeste Drake, trade and globalisation policy specialist at AFL-CIO.

The forum represented a unique opportunity to examine the negative impact of TISA and the darkest side of its privatisation and deregulation agenda, but also to start and elaborate alternatives and solutions to the ongoing process. "The interest and participation in the forum reflects the growing concern about these secret talks," says Daniel Bertossa, Director of Policy and Governance at PSI. "It's clear from today that trade unionists and civil society are angry about what is being negotiated in their name."

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

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