THE WORLD OF LABOR — July 28, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Lebanese Civil Servants Stage General Strike to Boost Pay

Lebanese civil servants carried out a general strike on July 24 at various ministries and public institutions to denounce the government’s failure to approve the long-awaited new salary scale for the public sector. The strike came in compliance with a call from the Union Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public school employees.

Public school teachers have boycotted marking the official examinations of grades 9 and 12. They are demanding a salary scale that would give them and other public school employees the raise that the private sector received in January. About 200,000 public employees could benefit from a similar raise.

In the south, secondary school teachers held an emergency meeting and decided to continue their boycott of grading examinations. Economy Minister Nicolas Nahas had a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and commented that the “committee’s actions could not yield [intended] results”

Launch Global Boycott of Hyatt Hotels

Hyatt hotel workers and their allies formally launched a global boycott of Hyatt hotels on July 23. Leaders from the NFL Players Association, the National Organization of Women (NOW), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Netroots Nation, Interfaith Worker Justice, and more, are joining Hyatt housekeepers at a press conference in Washington, D.C. to make a formal announcement about the boycott launch.

Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst hotel employer in America. Hyatt has abused housekeepers and other hotel workers, replacing long-time employees with minimum wage temporary workers and imposing dangerous workloads on those that remain.

The launch will be accompanied by a full week of demonstrations at Hyatt hotels and other actions in 20 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Boston. The Hyatt boycott has received the support of several global unions representing millions of workers in England, India and other countries.

New York’s Low-Wage Workers Rally for Their Rights

Wearing T-shirts, holding banners and banging drums in the punishing sun, the crowd at New York Workers’ Rising Day of Action represented taxi drivers, security guards, dishwashers, car washers and retail store clerks, among others. They all had one thing in common: they could really use a pay raise.

Many of the workers were union members, including a group from Con Edison’s utility workers, who are locked out in deadlocked negotiations, and public school teachers who have locked horns with the billionaire New York mayor over budget cuts. The strongest presence at the rally were non-union workers employed on precarious, temporary jobs.

Appearing alongside various political officials, workers expressed frustration with inadequate regulation as well as the steady erosion of workers pay and bargaining rights by employers through legal and illegal means.

Swazi Troops Stand by to Break Strikes

The army in Swaziland is on standby to break the public sector strikes that have gripped the kingdom for more than a month. Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula said soldiers would be available to help workers who wanted to go into work to defy the strike.

The government had already said it would dismiss any striker who did not return to work by July 24. Now, the police commissioner has warned that troops will be on hand to “ensure the safety’ of people who want to go back to work. Teachers and public workers are on strike for a 4.5 percent salary increase.

Over the past weeks, Swazi police have attacked peaceful protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets and batons in an attempt to stop them from gathering and marching. Strikers have also been concerned over the lack of democracy in Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. .

Israel’s Firefighters Win Big Gains, including Right to Strike

The Histadrut and the firefighters union have signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Internal Security that contains big gains for the workers. The two sides had long disagreed on whether Israeli firefighters should have the right to strike. In some countries, firefighters’ unions face severe legal restrictions on their right to strike.

Among the other gains are a one-time bonus payment of 10,000 shekels, a 15 percent pay rise and an agreed-upon compensation for working shifts, Saturdays and holidays. New firefighters will receive an additional 13 percent.

The agreement is part of a far-reaching reform of the Israeli’s firefighting services, following the disastrous Carmel blaze in December 2010, which claimed 44 lives. A report issued by Israel’s State Comptroller a month ago found a large number of operational failures.

Tunisian Police Fire Warning Shots at Protesters

Police fired warning shots and tear gas on July 26 to disperse protesters who attacked provincial government headquarters in the town where Tunisia’s revolution was born. Demonstrators also tried to torch the local headquarters of the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, after some of them broke down the door and sacked the offices.

Dozens of people, angry over their living conditions, converged on the government building in Sidi Bouzid and set fire to a tire, which they threw inside. The ministry said that about 150 people, day workers demanding to be paid, were involved. Union sources said more than 1,000 people took part.

The workers, who had not received their wages in several weeks, had been protesting peacefully for several days until being egged on by relatives and residents. It is not clear whether the protests will cease or what further steps the government will take to deal with them.

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.