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.


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.

Paddy Crumlin is new ITF President

13 08 2010

Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) has just been elected President of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) at the global union federation’s world congress in Mexico City.

Triumphant: Paddy Crumlin with outgoing ITF President Randall Howard

The ITF represents over 4.6 million members of 760 trade unions worldwide and its President is tasked with helping hold the organisation to account between these congresses, which set its policy for the next four years. Paddy Crumlin, is the 22nd person to take on the post.

“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.”

For more details please contact:

At the ITF in London, Sam Dawson: Tel: +44 (0)20 7940 9260. Email: dawson_sam@itf.org.uk

Paddy Crumlin in Mexico City, Tel: +61(0)418 379 660. Email: paddycrumlin@mua.org.au

In Australia, Zoe Reynolds, MUA Media and Projects Officer. Tel:(612) 9267 9134.

Mobile (61) 417 229873. Email: Zoe.Reynolds@mua.org.au

The Pause that Represses: Coca-Cola Pakistan Greets New Union with Death Threats, Abduction, Extortion and Dismissals

1 07 2010

The Coca-Cola factory in Multan, Pakistan, where workers are determined to resist management repression and fight for their rights.

Since forming a union at Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in the southern Pakistan city of Multan in June 2009, members have met with death threats, abduction, firings, extortion, forgery and fraud. Management’s vicious response to the workers’ fight for a union is a story drenched with violence, corruption, sleaze and escalating criminality.


The Multan plant is part of Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Limited. (CCBPL), jointly owned by Turkish bottler Coca-Cola Icecek (CCI) and The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) based in Atlanta. TCCC, which sits atop the global Coca-Cola system, has been informed of every illegal action by the Multan management, at every stage. What is Coca-Cola, upright and socially responsible corporate citizen, doing in a dive like this? Workers throughout the Coca-Cola worldwide system are demanding answers – and want the company to clean up the operation and respect worker rights. The story begins with…

Extortion and Blackmail

The Employees’ Union Coca-Cola Beverages grew out of the organizing efforts of the IUF-affiliated National Federation of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Workers (NFFBTW), whose membership includes 3 other Coca-Cola Pakistan plants.

Management’s response to union organizing in Multan was immediately hostile. As the union prepared for its founding congress on June 19, 2009, management began a campaign of blackmail and extortion targeting the 36 sales and merchandizing officers (SMOs) at the plant identified as active union supporters. On June 8 all SMOs were ordered to sign stamped, blank legal documents (the type used for affidavits or confessions) and to hand over signed blank personal checks. Those who refused this clearly illegal order were ordered to stay in the plant and barred from their sales routes – resulting in lost sales commissions amounting to a third of their monthly income. For 20 days SMOs were harassed into handing over these checks illegally. Four who refused were ultimately dismissed, together with three “temporary” workers directly employed at the plant, all of them strong union supporters.

When the NFFBTW and IUF informed both the national management of CCBPL and TCCC in Atlanta of the new union’s formation on June 25, when it filed for registration with the District Labour Officer, management responded with escalating attacks on union officers in an attempt to force the union to disband.

Faced with threats and intimidation even before the union’s registration, union officers took pre-emptive action by filing a petition on June 26 in the Punjab Labour Court for a “stay order” that prohibits management from taking action against them. Coca-Cola Multan management promptly violated the stay order through forced transfers and dismissals. Four union officers were sent home and told not to report to work. On June 27 union president Ghulam Rasool, who has worked at the plant for 18 years, was transferred to work a long-distance truck route to the northern province of Balochistan in order to eliminate direct contact with the Multan workers. Although this transfer violated the court order, the plant general manager dismissed the law as “irrelevant”: The union has filed contempt of court charges against management for violating the stay order – a procedure that involves criminal charges against management.


Attempted registration was followed by “night visits” to the private homes of union officers on June 27 and 28; eight Coca-Cola Multan managers tried to force union officers to quit the union or sign a letter withdrawing the union’s application for registration. On the morning of June 28, union joint secretary Riaz Hussain was abducted by managers, held in an unknown location and threatened until released later that day.

Through its intervention with TCCC, the IUF secured the reinstatement of the dismissed officers and the withdrawal of the union president’s transfer, coupled with guarantees against any further harassment and intimidation. Local management promptly violated these guarantees. When the union officers returned to work on July 9 they were followed by security guards and management staff throughout the entire shift, generating a climate of fear in which union members were not able to communicate with their representatives.

Political manipulation

Management used their political connections to exert pressure on the trade union registrar to reject the union’s registration. On July 10, the District Labour Officer finally succumbed. To avoid a lengthy legal wrangle, the union decided to submit a second registration application for the same union, renamed People’s Employees Union CC Multan. The application is still awaiting approval…

Death threats…

Local management became more desperate as the IUF and the NFFBTW increased pressure on TCCC and CCBPL to respect trade union rights in Multan, resorting to death threats against union officers and their families. Unknown men began visiting the homes of the union officers, including general secretary Muhammad Ashiq Bhutta, who is also national information secretary of the NFFBTW. They delivered a clear message from Coca-Cola Multan management: withdraw from the union or you or your family members could have “an accident” and be injured or killed.

With support from the IUF and the assistance of the NFFBTW the union officers’ families were quickly moved into hiding, some as far as 300 km away.

Women Workers’ Federation rally in support of the Multan  Coke workers.

Creation of a management union

To further block any possibility of the workers winning legal recognition of their union, management set up its own ‘union’, called the “Workers Welfare (Mazdoor) Union”. Through a combination of bribery and threats, CCBPL Multan management secured registration of their fake union on August 13.

How fake is fake? When the People’s Employees Union, the workers organization Coke Multan is trying to destroy, challenged management’s attempt to register their organization, Muhammad Shafi, identified by Multan management as the Mazdoor Union’s President, submitted a statement to the labour department on October 23 testifying that he was not the president of this organization, had never submitted an application for registration, had not attended a so-called founding meeting and that any signature of thumbprint was a fake. CCBPL Multan management ordered Muhammad Shafi to withdraw his statement. He refused and faced pressure and threats. In January 2010 management approached his family and friends to pressure him to withdraw his statement or face dismissal.

From fake union to fake labour contractor…

In addition to the 7 union members dismissed in the early stages of the union struggle, management last year dismissed 20 other direct Multan employees who were active union members. The termination letters were issued by ‘Muhammad Saeed Awan Labour Contractor’ despite the fact that these workers were directly recruited by CCBPL, and had never received payment from, heard of or ever seen Saeed Awan or any representative at any time during their employment at CCBPL Multan.

The dismissal letters contain no address letterhead for the shadowy ‘Saeed Awan Labour Contractor’. The official government database on employers paying into the mandatory pension scheme contains no such entity on record as supplying labour to Coca-Cola or any other business in Pakistan. In response to three different addresses provided by the company, the hunt for Saeed Awan ended in a meeting at an office where the person who claimed to be Saeed Awan was not allowed to speak by his “minders” sent by CCBPL senior management. Tracing the source of the registered termination letters from the hastily constructed Saeed Awan Labour Contractor disclosed that were in fact mailed from the home address of a Multan ‘gate officer’ who has stated that they were written not by him but by senior management, who ordered him to sign them.

The union has since documented the massive alteration of Multan union members’ social security cards. Union members have been ordered to turn in their cards, which are returned with “Saeed Awan contractor” added in different ink after “Coca-Cola factory”.

Through crude forgery of official documents and massive fraud, management is attempting to establish the fiction that union members at CCBPL are not in fact employed by the company where they have many years of service. This of course would exclude them from any collective bargaining relationship with Coca-Cola …if Saeed Awan Labour Contractor really existed. However, if it did then CCB PL would be guilty of even more crimes under Pakistan law, since there is no legal provision for a “recruitment agency” which leaves workers with the status of “contract worker” not directly employed by the user enterprise.

CCBPL now claims a total of 283 workers at Multan are employed by ‘Saeed Awan Labour Contractor’!

Not content with extortion, fraud, abduction, illegal dismissals, contempt of court and interference in the judicial process (blocking union registration), Multan management has recently opened the use of the Multan facilities to Moeen Qureshi, a well-connected politician, former Punjab state minister of sport and the cousin and brother-in-law of Amir Qureshi, Director of the CCBPL Southern Business Unit. Moeen Qureshi has on several occasions installed himself in the factor HR manager’s office and summoned union members for meetings, threatening them and warning them to stop their involvement with the union.

May 20 union rally calls for labour laws to be implemented and respected by management.

Coke’s Multan management is as unprincipled as they are desperate to block workers from exercising their rights. Yet despite all these illegal acts and the relentless anti-union hostility of management for nearly a year, the union officers and their supporters remain steadfast in their determination to win union recognition and become the IUF’s newest members in the Coca-Cola system.

The IUF holds TCCC in Atlanta responsible for what happens at its bottlers’ operations worldwide. Violence, dismissals and pressure on workers to prevent trade union rights and recognition are criminal acts.


ITUC Congress debates global employment crisis and the call for stronger regulations of the financial sector

25 06 2010
23 June 2010: As the ITUC’s Congress moved into its second day, the state of the world economy and the global employment crisis continued to be heavily debated. Leaders of some important international organizations were invited to take part in this debate. First out was Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark became the first woman to lead the UNDP in April 2009.

Clark echoed the concern expressed by many Congress delegates that the momentum for substantial financial regulatory reform seemed to have weakened and that the plans of some countries to exit rapidly from fiscal stimulus policies “has significant implications for employment growth”. Furthermore, said Clark, “It cannot be assumed that job creation will flow automatically from a resumption of growth. Often employment figures are the last indicators to move when growth recovers.” She put forward the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact as the path countries should follow to restore employment levels and support decent work.

Later in the afternoon, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and Pascal Lamy, Director General of the World Trade Organization gave speeches and took part in a panel discussion where they, along with ILO Deputy Director General Kari Tapiola, responded to delegates’ comments and questions.

Strauss-Kahn spoke of the positive impact of economic stimulus policies to prevent an even deeper recession, and stated that countries not beset by deep financial problems should maintain planned fiscal stimulus this year, given that the recovery has been very uneven. However he stated that some countries unable to finance additional debt were obliged to begin reducing their fiscal deficits now.

Even if trade unions and the IMF did not agree on the economic strategy governments should adopt, Strauss-Kahn stated that the IMF appreciated unions’ proposals made on behalf of working people and that the Fund had made efforts to ensure social safety nets were maintained to protect the most vulnerable and agreed with the need for more progressive taxation. He also announced that the IMF and the ILO would hold a joint conference next September in Oslo on the theme of employment creation.

Strauss-Kahn also spoke of the global trade union movement’s support for a financial transactions tax (FTT). Noting that the IMF had expressed its preference for a different kind of financial activities tax based on profit and compensation, he agreed with the ITUC that a substantial contribution from the financial sector is justified to pay for the cost of the crisis and to dampen overly risky behaviour in the financial sector. He stated that the specific choice between the FTT and another type of tax is “a technical discussion” that needed to take place.

Pascal Lamy of the WTO agreed with trade unions’ advocacy of stronger regulation on the financial sector, which had caused the global crisis, and observed that the global trade union movement had played a valuable role in pushing for greater coherence among international institutions. He invited trade unions to play an even stronger role in favour of regulation and coherence in the future, both on the national and international level.

Tapiola of the ILO added his concerns that, in recent months, employment has received less attention than fiscal considerations in some countries: “From our point of view, there is no recovery until there is a recovery of employment.”

In support of Global Social Justice and World Public Services Day: ″Global Justice Now!” say 1500 rally activists

25 06 2010
24 June 2010: About 1,500 trade union activists called on world leaders to move towards global justice at a rally held outside the Vancouver Convention Centre today. Delegates and guests to the ITUC Congress were joined by many local Canadian trade unionists, who together called for in-depth reform of the global financial system, including the introduction of a financial transaction tax. Rally speakers from all five continents also emphasised the critical role that public services play in our societies, and cheered in support of World Public Services Day, which is celebrated on June 23 every year. As Mody Guiro of the CNTS Senegal said: “Trade unions want strong public services at the service of the people and social security for all.”

The ITUC is convinced that, after decades of injustice, it is now the turn of workers and citizens to enjoy the benefits of globalisation. Workers and taxpayers bailed out the banks during the financial crisis. In return, they are now losing jobs and access to education, healthcare and other critical public services.

“We insist that G20 governments increase economic stimulus to create more jobs. The 34 million workers who have lost their jobs since 2008 need public services,” said Barbara Byers, Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Seventy million children around the world are still denied basic education, yet governments are cutting education budgets. This is plain wrong,” declared Susan Hopgood, President of Education International. “This is not only about public service workers but about all of us and our societies. This is about a commitment to collective values,” added Peter Waldorff, General Secretary of Public Services International.

Daniela Aleksieva, President of the Pan-European Regional Council Youth Committee talked about the importance of decent work for young adults and added: “It’s time to act now, because tomorrow depends on today.” Trade unions believe global social justice is the only equitable path forward from the crisis. “We have some clear messages to deliver: Now the People! No to austerity measures! Yes to jobs! Yes to a financial transactions tax,” said ITUC president Sharan Burrow, alluding to the past three days of discussions at the ITUC World Congress. The world is at a tipping-point between one future which can offer decent work, sustainable and balanced development, improved living standards and respect of human rights and another which would plunge millions into unemployment, poverty and helplessness, with all the dangers as well as suffering that would bring, Congress discussions indicate.

At the midday rally, short and intense solidarity messages were delivered from all over the world: “Now the people. Always the people. We want justice, we want parity,” were the rousing words of Thampan Thomas, President of Hind Mazoor Sabha India.