What is The Union Show?

7 12 2010

The Union Show broadcast on community TV C31 in Melbourne Australia from 2005 to 2009 and is a rich source of information on unions and issues affecting unions in this country. Whilst the program is no longer produced for television, the producers, United Productions maintain both a Union Show blog and the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel as a means of disseminating union information that would otherwise be lost in time and in the morass of anti-union misinformation that is distributed by mainstream media.

An extensive archive of Union Show episodes is available for viewing at http://theunionshow.blip.tv. Current union information can be sourced at www.theunionshow.com.au and at the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel. There are many other web sources for union information that deal mainly in the written word. One of those sites and perhaps the venerable example is www.labourstart.org.au where you will find links to many other like-minded information outlets.


UK National Shop Stewards Network conference 2010

15 08 2010
TheSocialistParty | July 03, 2010

#1 of #10 videos – The fourth national conference of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), backed by four major trade unions, initiated to build solidarity and support among rank and file trade union activists four years ago, met on 26 June 2010, just days after chancellor George Osborne’s ‘bloodbath budget’, to make plans to oppose the worst threatened cuts in 80 years.

Starring UK Firies’ Secretary Matt Wrack.

Egyptian trade unions receive prestigious award

15 08 2010

PSI affiliate in Egypt, the Independent General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Workers (IGURETA), recently received a joint prize together with the Center for Trade Union & Workers’ Services [CTUWS].

At a ceremony in Washington on 3rd August 2010, representatives of the two organisations were presented with the annual George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

The award was accepted by Kamal Abbas, general coordinator of the CTUWS and Kamal Abu Eita, president of IGURETA (pictured).

The Egyptian government tried to silence the CTUWS, closing down two of its regional offices and its headquarters in 2007. Bowing to an Egyptian court decision and international criticism, the government allowed CTUWS to reopen in July 2008.

IGURETA was formed after municipal tax collectors held an 11-day sit-in strike in front of the Ministry of Finance, gathered 30,000 signatures and elected local union committees in the provinces. It took more than a year for them to gain recognition for their independent union. The union has been affiliated to PSI since April 2009.

See more here: http://blog.aflcio.org/2010/08/09/egypts-workers-struggle-to-keep-unions-free/

Pakistan: Labour Relief Campaign launches appeal for millions affected by floods

15 08 2010

More than 12 million people are suffering from floods in Pakistan. Please donate to the Labour Relief Campaign to help people of Pakistan facing the worst-ever floods in its history. Torrential rains have unleashed flash floods in different parts of the country in the last three weeks. Levies have broken, leaving the people exposed to flood water.

More than 650,000 houses have collapsed, mainly in villages. Thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed due to flood water. Livestock, household goods, clothes, shoes and other items have been destroyed. Residents of villages are without drinkable water, food, shelter and in need of clothes.

In particular, the situation is dire for children and women in desperate need of food and clothing. Disease is spreading fast due to the lack of drinkable water. In particular, flu, fever, diarrhea and cholera have been noted and are spreading.

The Pakistan government’s response has made matters worse. It failed to act immediately, leaving tens of thousands of people without aid. Only after 24 hours did it arrive at the makeshift camps with paltry amounts of food distribute. The gap between the food being distributed and the large number of people desperate to eat has led to fighting breaking out, making matters even worse for these desperate people.

Despite very little coverage in the media, the fact remains that the situation in Baluchistan is just as bad as in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and western and southern Punjab. As usual, also, the people of Baluchistan are not at the top of the government’s priority list.

The situation is turning worse with heavy rains starting August 6 in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province.

The Labour Education Foundation, Labour Party of Pakistan, National Trade Union Federation, Women Workers’ Help Line and the Progressive Youth Front have set up Labour Flood Relief Camps in Lahore and so far have collected more than 300,000 rupees. Rs110,000 have already been sent to Baluchistan and more than Rs200,000 are on way to southern Punjab to help flood victims.

We appeal to our friends and organisations in Pakistan and abroad for donations of a monetary kind or in the form of drinking water, clothes (new), shoes and medicine.

For further information please contact:

Khalid Mahmood, director Labour Education Foundation, ground floor, 25-A Davis Road, Lahore, Pakistan. Email: khalid@lef.org.pk. Telephone: 0092 42 6303808, 0092 42 6315162. Fax: 0092 42 6271149. Mobile: 0092 321 9402322.

If you wish to transfer funds, the details of the account for sending money to the LRC are: Account: Labour Education Foundation; account number: 01801876; Route: Please advise and pay to Citi Bank, New York, USA Swift CITI US 33 for onward transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., KARACHI, PAKISTAN A/C No. 36087144 and for final transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA, KASHMIR ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN Swift: ALFHPKKALDA for A/C No. 01801876 OF LABOUR EDUCATION FOUNDATION.

Australia readers can donate via the Australian trade unions’ aid agency APHEDA at http://www.apheda.org.au/news/1281331224_14992.html.

US trade union petition cites illegal anti union practices

15 08 2010

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations – better known as AFL-CIO – has charged several top companies operating in the country’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs) with routinely violating internationally recognised worker rights.

The charges are contained in a petition filed by the AFL-CIO in support of a move to stop Sri Lanka from continuing to be a beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) status before the United States Trade Representative.

Companies named in the petition include Smart Shirts Lanka Ltd; Brandix Finishing Ltd; New Design Manufacturing Ltd; G. P. Garment (Pvt) Ltd; Workwear Lanka, and Ceyenergy Electronic (PVT) Ltd. Two companies, Alitex (Pvt) Ltd and Star Garments, were named as having sufficiently resolved their problems and therefore taken off the list.

A Brandix spokesman told the Sunday Times that the petition was based on trade union complaints made more than two years ago, and that Brandix had forwarded a formal response at the time. “The allegations are old, the petition is being looked into only now,” the spokesman said.

The Sunday Times understands that other companies named have similarly responded to the petition.
“In many cases,” the AFL-CIO petition alleges, “union officers and members are suspended, demoted or terminated, and many have been the victims of violent assault. In other cases, employers have promoted non-union employees councils as a way to avoid or to weaken unions.”

The petition went on to say that employers frequently failed to pay into the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), and urged employers that had down-sized or closed down factories to pay workers the wages due to them.

“When complaints of labour violations are brought before the appropriate governmental authorities, unions allege that employers rarely attend the hearings and, when they do, they frequently violate the terms of settlements and/or arbitration awards with impunity,” the petition said.

The Sri Lanka government has been reluctant to enforce the law, the petition says, adding that management-controlled “employees’ councils” constitute one of the biggest problems at EPZ factories.
“The Sri Lankan government continues to allow the BoI [Board of Investment] employees’ councils to take root and spread unimpeded by the enforcement of national laws,” the petition says.

“The BoI has previously argued that workers’ councils are evidence that freedom of 22 association and collective bargaining are respected in the EPZs. To the contrary, workers’ councils are management-dominated. It is management that chooses most workers’ council representatives and stacks the councils with supervisors and office-based (rather than shop floor) workers.

“Also, management sets the schedules and agendas for meetings and limits discussions to marginal workplace issues, avoiding wages, hours and most conditions of work.”

In addition, managements have used employees’ councils to thwart unionisation efforts, the petition says. In some cases, management refuses to recognise the nascent union, and instead “bargains” directly with the employees’ council, as if the body were the legitimate representative body of the workers.

“In other cases, management will offer benefits to workers’ council members if they do not join the union, or threaten members of the workers’ councils if they do.” The petition cited the case of Work Wear Lanka, which “went so far as to register the workers council as a union – an application that was approved by the government.”

Unions have reported the recent use of workers councils to frustrate internationally recognizsd worker rights in several factories, including Synotex Lanka pvt Ltd and Star Garments Factory. The use of workers’ councils to subvert the will of workers to form a union is a clear violation of the right to organize and bargain collectively, the petition says.

“The EPZs are under the purview of the Board of Investment, which has its own Industrial Relations Department, under a Director of Industrial Relations. The BoI also has the autonomy to establish its own rules and standards. This fact, taken together with the fact that labour inspectors under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour cannot make unannounced visits to workplaces inside EPZs, substantially reduces the frequency and effectiveness of inspections,” the petition says.

The existence of separate industrial relations under the BoI continues to be prejudicial to the interests of workers. “It is important to note too that the BoI’s Chairman has always been a prominent business leader,” the petition says. “Thus, important governmental functions have been turned over to the private sector, which is less likely to recognise and guarantee the rights of workers in the zones.”

The unions have long called for the abolition of the BoI labour inspectorate and for putting the responsibility for inspections under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labour. The petition notes that it is very difficult for anyone, even a labour inspector, to enter an EPZ.

“Anyone who seeks to enter the zone must present his or her national identity card at the gate and state the purpose of his visit to BoI security. Security will then call the factory to determine whether entry to the zone may be granted. If allowed, then a pass is issued and the vehicle may enter. All entrants must pay a fee of Rs. 60.”

The AFL-CIO is the largest federation of unions in the United States, made up of 56 national and international unions, together representing more than 11 million workers.

ITF congress closes with march through Mexico City

15 08 2010

The ITF’s forty-second congress – its biggest ever and first in Latin America – will close today with a march through Mexico City in support of Mexican workers’ rights. Delegates are leaving the conference centre and proceeding to the Zócalo square via Avenida Madero.

Some 1376 participants from 368 trade unions in 112 countries attended the event, which began on 5 August and which determines the policies of the ITF – a global union federation with 760 affiliated trade unions with 4.69 million members in 154 countries – for the next four years.

ITF General Secretary David Cockroft commented: “There’s never been a bigger or more successful ITF congress. These last two weeks have been filled with opportunities to come together, learn from each other, and forge new paths for the future.”

He continued: “It would be impossible to list all the highlights of this congress. There have been too many of them, from our first ever youth conference, to the highly successful climate change conference and the election of a new President for the organisation. Paddy Crumlin, General Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. But something I must mention is the way that our being here has helped us to stand alongside our Mexican colleagues, and join them in their defence of union rights, in their fight for decent conditions and, in the case of Mexicana Airlines, for their very jobs.”

He concluded: “As this congress comes to its end, we have committed ourselves anew to campaigning for fairer and safer work at sea, on land and in the air.”

Paddy Crumlin commented: : “I’m excited to be able to take on this new role and play my part in moving the work of the ITF, its hundreds of affiliated unions and their millions of members forward through the implementation of a comprehensive organising programme focused on trade union regeneration and revitalisation.”

Dockers demand worldwide lobby on health and safety

15 08 2010

Calls by dockers’ unions for a global union response to growing health and safety concerns in ports following several fatalities over the past year were renewed at the dockers’ section conference on Saturday.

Section chair Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, reported that there had been three deaths on the docks in the past six months in Australia.

Employers, he explained, had not been taking the issue seriously or responding adequately. The union had taken protest action stopping port activities for 24 hours.

Crumlin said: “Which ever employer it is, we should respond in the global movement and show that we won’t tolerate this. We must act as one.”

He added: “There should be comprehensive standards in occupational health and safety and minimum standards of training for dockworkers. And global network terminal operators must have minimum standards in all their operations worldwide.”

Ryosuke Kitahata from the National Federation of Dockworkers’ Unions of Japan explained how the union’s work with the ministry of land, transport and infrastructure had led to the introduction of a bill on container safety. It contains a number of provisions, such as control over the contents and weight of containers and guidelines on packing.

Kitahata said: “The ITF should create a movement for the safe transport of marine containers and policy for international standards on safe transport of countries.”

Frank Leys, ITF dockers’ section secretary, gave a presentation on the ports of convenience campaign. Several unions commented on the implementation of the campaign and stated that it was vital to increase dockworker power worldwide. They also suggested that more resources be allocated towards these efforts and that links between the flag of convenience and ports of convenience campaigns be strengthened. This would ensure that material benefits for dockers could be delivered more effectively and the issue of cargo handling by seafarers resolved.

Delegates observed a minute’s silence to remember Pedro Zamora, the Guatemalan dockworkers’ leader, murdered in 2007 in the port of Quetzal, and all other dockers who had lost their lives in the course of their work.