THE WORLD OF LABOR — July 30, 2011

By Harry Kelber

Olympics Firms Warned on Sweatshop Abuse

Marking one year before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the anti-poverty charity, War on Want, on July 30 warned that sponsor Adida will tarnish the Games unless it acts to protect the rights of workers making its products. War on Want is part of the Playfair 2012 campaign, a coalition of trade unions and charities calling on the organizers of the London Olympics and companies to ensure that workers producing sportswear and goods with Olympic logos are not exploited.

Adidas is the 2012 Games official sportswear partner, but has refused to ensure that its suppliers pay a living wage or that workers have a right to join a union.

In a recent survey of 83 factories, supplying sportswear brands, including Adidas, Nike and Speedo, the International Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation found that Sri Lankan workers, most of them women, earned only 10,000 rupees ($90), less than half of the requirement for a living wage.

Israel Crisis Escalates as Unions Step in

Described as the biggest crisis Netanyahu has faced, the Middle East protests have now spread to Israel. Today, unions have joined in what is being called the “Israeli Revolution.”

Israel’s national trade union, Histadrut, is lending its support to the youngsters leading the tent city protests over housing costs by threatening a general strike. A recent poll shows that 87 percent of Israelis now support the tent city protests that have grown from 6 tents to 400 last week and culminated in a march through the streets of Tel Aviv.

The protests and their participants are similar to those in the Arab world, Spain and Greece. It began with a Facebook campaign on the issue of housing costs, entitled “Democracy Takes to the Streets.” But this has now mushroomed into a movement involving discontent over all the social and economic problems faced by the majority of Israeli people.

The Fiji Government Will Stop Collecting Union Dues

There will be no deductions of union dues from a civil servant’s paycheck, the Fiji government announced. Attorney General Aryaz Sayed Khaiyum said: “The rights of workers have now Been enshrined in law and are therefore safeguarded.”

While this ends the government’s role as dues collector, it does not stop a worker from joining a union, Last year, payments for union dues in Fiji amounted to $2 million. The role of government is to prevent discrimination in the payment of wages.

Fiji unions are worried that their income will decline, once the government ceases to handle union dues payments automatically. Many members, they fear, will not only drop or forget to pay their union dues; they may decide to quit their union.

German Workers Retiring Later in Life

Latest figures show that German workers are retiring later, providing welcome news amid fears that Europe’s largest economy will suffer in years to come because of its ageing population.

Daily Bild reported July 27 that data from the German Pension insurance Federation revealed that in the past year, the average retirement age had risen both for men and women. For men, it was from 63.5 to63.8; for women, the age climbed from 62.9 to 63.3.

While the increases seem slight, taken across the economy, they provide a much-needed shot-in-the-arm to the workforce, which, experts say, faces a demographic crisis amid low birthrates and an ageing population.

Chilean Copper Miners Strike Global Company

Unionized Chilean workers at Collahuasi, the world’s third most productive copper mine, went on a 24-hour strike July 30, seeking better benefits and an end to alleged anti- union measures by management.

The action follows an ongoing strike that began July 22 at the world’s biggest copper mine, Minera Escondida, in northern Chile.

Separately, some 2,300 workers at the Escondida mine, where Anglo-Australian companies have a controlling stake, staged a work stoppage last week over unresolved contract disputes.

S. Korean Woman Spends 200 Days on Top of Crane

A South Korean woman is spending her 200th day at the top of a crane in protest against layoffs at a major shipping company. What started Kim Jin-Suk’s unusual protest was when Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction announced last year that it was cutting 400 jobs from its shipyard in the southern city of Busan.

She chose a crane where another trade unionist committed suicide several years ago during a separate labor row. Thirty-five meters (115 feet) above a windy shipyard, with a bucket for a toilet, this middle-aged Ms. Kim is staging a lonely protest against one of South Korean’s most renowned companies

“I came up here in the winter. It’s summer now and very hot,” she said, speaking on a solar-powered mobile phone. “I’m living in a metal cage. There’s no electricity. It’s a very confining space. I can’t read books and I can’t wash.” Ms. Kim says she won’t come down until the workers are reinstated.

To keep informed about workers and their unions in foreign countries, read our weekly column, “The World of Labor,”which we post here every weekend and on our two web sites: http://www.laborsvoiceforchange.org and http://www.laboreducator.org.