THE WORLD OF LABOR — June 23, 2012

By Harry Kelber

With 50 Million Members, IndustriALL is Set for Action

A newly-formed global federation of industrial unions will be a force with the muscle to take on giant international corporations on behalf of workers, the president of the United Steelworkers (USW), Leo Gerard, said on June 19. The coalition, known as IndustriALL Global Union, is being formed by a group of 1,200 trade union representatives, meeting this week in Copenhagen, Denmark. It joins together three former global labor groups: the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions ((ICEM) and the International Textiles, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF).

“The creation of this massive coalition is a victory for working people across the globe,” said USW President Gerard. “Our solidarity is not limited by borders, language barriers or cultural differences.” It is still not clear how IndustriALL will operate or how it will reach down to the level of union members.

The press release contained no mention of other U.S. union delegates besides Gerard in attendance at the Copenhagen meeting. IndustriALL will represent 50 million workers in 140 countries

Botswana High Court Reinstates Thousands of Dismissed Unionists

The mass dismissal carried out during the 2011 public sector strike in Botswana has been judged illegal by the High Court of Botswana, All the affected workers will now be reinstated. The ruling of the Court reverses an utterly arbitrary and unjust act taken by the Director of Public Service Management, who, on May 16, unilaterally dismissed thousands of trade unionists.

“It is plain that the applications and members were not given a hearing before a decision that terminated their employment was taken. This was a fundamental breach of the rules of natural justice,” the Court stated, as it ordered the reinstatement of the dismissed workers.

The global union, Public Service International (PSI), that has three affiliates in Botswana, was active in the campaign to restore the jobs of those union members who had been fired. PSI represents 20 million working women and men in 150 countries.

Indonesia Plans to Send Home All 12,000 Workers in Syria.

The Indonesian Manpower and Transmigration Industry said it was set to bring home all Indonesian citizens from conflict-ridden Syria — about 12,000 people. It was said that the government would go so far as to forcibly send home those who refused to leave and that it could not guarantee the safety of those who chose to remain.

The government has encountered many difficulties in their evacuation plan. Some Indonesians said they were going to the United Arab Emirates, when, in fact, they turned up in Syria. The Indonesian government has applied a moratorium on sending migrant workers to the Middle East.

The government has set up hot lines through which Indonesian citizens can receive consultations on the latest developments in Syria or communicate with embassy or foreign officials on the evacuation process.

Air France Plans to Cut 5,000 jobs from Its Work Force

Air France said this week that it would eliminate more than 5,000 jobs or 10 percent of its workforce by the end of next year, part of its efforts to return the company to profitability at a time of deepening economic gloom across Europe.

The staff reductions are part of a three-year plan to reduce debt and shave more than $2.5 billion from operating costs, with an eye to restoring the airline to profit by 2015. Air France has said for years that its labor costs have been a major drain on profits.

“Air France is facing a fundamental choice about its future,” said Alexandre de Juniac, the airline’s chief executive in a statement. “Our business plan has two ambitions: to ensure Air France’s return to profitability and to better serve our customers. If we all make the necessary, equitably-distributed efforts, there will be no forced departures.”

Spain’s Coal Miners Block Roads in Mass Strike

Spanish coal miners burned tires and blocked roads on June 18 during a mass strike to protest against subsidy cuts that they say threaten tens of thousands of jobs. They conducted a massive march in the northern towns of Leon and Langrao in the latest of a month of protests The strike was also called in some 50 other coal mining towns.

Spain’s cash-strapped central government has slashed subsidies to the coal sector this year by 111 euros ($142 million) from 301 million last year, part of a wide-ranging cuts to lower its deficits. The miners say this is unfair, especially since the government has also sought billions of euros to stabilize the banking sector.

Spain has around 8,000 coal miners and the sector indirectly provides jobs to another 30,000 townspeople. Spain’s coal mining industry has been contracting for decades, with the direct workforce shedding more than 40,000 people in the past 20 years. The UGT and CCOO unions that called the strike have vowed to continue protesting and plan a march to Madrid.

Argentina Deploys Military Police in Fuel Strike

Argentine’s government sent military police to take control of fuel plants and get trucks back on the road on the first day of a truckers’ pay strike, that could cause widespread shortages in Latin America’s third biggest economy. The powerful truck drivers’ union defied a government order for talks and launched the three-day protest, disrupting fuel distribution throughout the country, a leading exporter of grains

The government initiated a criminal complaint over the strike, sparking the wrath of top union chief Hugo Moyano, who heads the UGT labor federation and whose son runs the truckers’ union. Both men are at odds with Argentina President Cristina Fernandez.

Labor disputes are common in Argentina due to double-digit inflation, but the Labor Ministry normally intervenes to avoid major disruption to the economy. In the current dispute the government and the unions are adversaries.

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