THE WORLD OF LABOR — October 8, 2011

By Harry Kelber

AFL-CIO Endorses ‘Occupy Wall Street’; unions Join Growing Protest Movement

The grassroots movement, “Occupy Wall Street,” that has captured the imagination and passions of millions of frustrated Americans, received the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. In its press stastement, the labor organization said: “We will open our union halls and community centers, as well as our arms and our hearts to those with the courage to stand up and demand a better America.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that anti-Wall Street rallies and marches have taken place in some 80 cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and Boston. On Oct.6, protesters marched past the gates of the White House, bringing their message of economic injustice to President Obama, and chanting ”Shame! Shame!’

The anti -Wall Street movement has reached out to people from all walks of life, especially unemployed workers, something the AFL-CIO has been unable to do after years of trying. Last year , the AFL-CIO staged a demonstration in front of the Bank of America, but the noisy rally had little effect on the bank’s practices.

U.S. Jobless Rate Remains at 9.1. Private Industry
Added a Disappointing 103,000 Jobs in September

The U.S. Labor Department reported on Oct. 7 that American employers added 103,000 net new jobs In September, indicating that the economy at least is not weakening and that businesses have weathered the oil price shocks and the Japanese-related supply-chain disruption earlier this year. The economy is not growing fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which held steady at 9.1 percent in September.

Local governments and school districts are cutting large numbers of workers. About a third of the jobs added by the private sector last month were actually 45,000 Verizon workers who had been on strike during August and simply returned to work. More than two years after the recovery officially began, 14 million people are still searching for work, a little less than half of them for six months or longer.

President Obama has been on a speaking tour to win public support for his $446 billion Jobs Act, while Republicans have been using the unemployment reports to attack him as an ineffectual president. Congress is expected to take up the jobs bill next week, with Republicans prepared to kill it, while offering no realistic alternative.

Thousands of German Airbus Workers Are on Strike

Some 11,000 employees of aircraft manufacturer Airbus struck on Oct. 7, the IG Metall union said, after employers and workers failed to agree on a new wage accord. Negotiations broke down last month after more than a year of effort to reach a deal on a range of issues, from an employment guarantee to a ceiling on the number of temporary workers that can be hired.

A major sticking point in the negotiations is over recommitments to increase employee productivity. “Only together can we secure the future of Airbus,” said Meinhard Geiken, a representative of IG Metall, as he called on management to return to the negotiating table.

The workers have offered productivity gains of 2 percent, worth one billion euros ($1.3 billion) between now and 2020 in exchange for guarantees of employment and maintaining four work sites in northern Germany. Management wants a higher rate of productivity of 8 percent, according to the union.

Fiat to Shut Two Plants in Italy; 2,200 Workers to Lose Their Jobs

2,200 employees in Termini Imeresi and 900 Irisbus employees in Avalino will lose their jobs if Fiat follows through with its decision to close the two plants in southern Italy. Affiliates of the International Federation of Metal workers in Italy have demanded a suspension of the decision in order to launch proper negotiations on the future of all concerned employees.

The employees and their unions have used all possible protest actions to be heard by Fiat and the government to negotiate with them about the future. They demand real solutions that guarantee their jobs and the industrial development of their region. They have obtained no response so far.

To explain the reasons for the planned closings, Fiat refers to the sharp decline in demand for city buses in Italy and to a lack of public funds. The political left has criticized the plans, saying that Inisbus manufactures a product that Italy absolutely needs. It states that the company’s bus fleet is obsolete, two times older than the European average

Swedish Cops March in Low-Wage Protest

Hundreds of Swedish police officers marched into unemployment offices on Oct. 4 and started looking for other jobs in Sweden’s major cities in a demonstration against the profession’s low wages. “This is primarily symbolic,” said police officer Johan Svanestrand. “Our main goal is to affect our current employers in a positive manner.”

Police in Gothenburg, Malmo and Stockholm all demonstrated for higher pay. In Stockholm, around 250 officers at a job center run by the National Employment Agency perused job vacancy listings. In Stockholm, a rookie police officer earns a monthly salary of 21,300 kronor ($3,120), taking home about 17,000 kronor, including working during non-office hours.

The Swedish Police Union expressed support for the officers’ protest. “There has been a growing frustration for some time now, which has become stronger among officers that their employer doesn’t understand that police work under lots of pressure and have a very stressful environment.”

Indonesian Workers Extend Copper Mine Strike for a Month

Union workers extended their strike at a massive Indonesian gold and copper mine on Oct. 5 for a second month, the largest strike in the country’s mining industry. About 12,000 of Freeport’s 23,000 Indonesian employees have joined the strike that began Sept. 15, reducing the company’s mining, processing and shipping from Grasberg, the world’s third largest copper mine

The stoppage has stoked concern of a broader push by workers for a greater share of the profits in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. Pilots and supermarkets staffs have also recently gone on strike. Freeport, the world’s largest publicly-owned copper miner, is also facing a strike at its sprawling Peruvian Cerro Verde mine.

Union leaders formally asked Peru’s government to define a wage deal that would settle the strike. The union has lowered its pay increase demand to $12.50 to $37 from $17.50 to $43 an hour. Earlier this week, Freeport said they had accepted a mediator’s suggestion of a 25 percent increase, which the union had rejected.

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.