THE WORLD OF LABOR: November 17, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Amnesty International on Global Strike

The staff of Amnesty International are on strike across the world, and a vote of "no-confidence" has been passed in its leadership. On the face of it, the human rights organization is being driven over a structural organization and a couple of dozen dismissals among its 700-member staff.

But the real problem goes much deeper and has even been characterized as a "struggle for the soul" of the human rights movement. There are disputes at the international and U.K. level of the organization, both of which are located in London. Staff at U.K. has called for the resignation of its director, Kate Allen. The Staff of the international have issued a vote of no confidence in Amnesty's Secretary General, Said Sheity, and his senior leadership team in their ability to continue leading the wider movement of the organization.

A senior director, Susan Lee, who runs Amnesty's program in Latin America, has now resigned in protest at the way staff are being treated. Picket lines have formed outside Amnesty's offices in Senegal, Paris, Uganda, Beirut, New York, Hong Kong and Johannesburg.. One official, Alan Scott of Unite, described Amnesty as "one of the most mendacious employers."

Millions of European Workers Join World-Wide Nov. 14 March,

From almost every country in the European Union, millions of workers went on a march Nov. 14 to protest against rising unemployment and taxes brought on by austerity measures. It was the first time that Europe has seen unified strike action with workers in Portugal and Spain, holding their first coordinated general strike, as part of a European Day of Action and Solidarity.

"In some countries, people's exasperation is reaching a peak," said ETUC general secretary Bernadette Segol in a press statement. "We need urgent solutions to get the economy back on track, not stifle it with austerity." "Europe's leaders are wrong not to listen to the anger of the people, who are taking to the streets," she added.

Spanish and Portuguese workers are also supported by sector- level strikes and demonstrations in Greece, Italy, France, Belgium and elsewhere. More than 40 labor movements from 23 countries are said to be involved in the Nov. 14 demonstrations.

Mexico Passes Controversial Labor Reform Bill

Mexico passed legislation on Nov. 13 overhauling the country's 40-yesr-old labor laws in a bipartisan effort that many say isn't strong enough. The far left claims the new laws favor big business; true reform has yet to come.

President Felipe Calderon, who steps down from the presidency Dec. 1 and originally proposed the legislation, said it would add hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and would allow women and young people to more easily access employment while boosting productivity. However, the left is concerned about the ease with which the laws gives employers the right to hire and fire at will.

The laws allow outsourcing of jobs, sidestepping the need to give workers any health benefits, and hire part-time workers for a fraction of the pay they would normally receive. The law was supported by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which will return to power after 12 years out of office.

Russian Teachers Union Collects one Million Signatures for Bill

To protest against stonewalling by lawmakers introducing a new education bill, the Education and Science Employees Union of Russia collected 1,081,934 signatures from its members and had them send 37,959 telegrams to the President, the Parliament and the Education Ministry

The union started this action after lawmakers dropped amendments made by the union to a draft Education Bill in an earlier consultation process. In fact, discussion with union officers and the general public had been undertaken since 2010 when the government decided to begin a process to adopt and alter the current education law.

When the union learned that its proposed amendments had been dropped, it decided to call on its members to join in a campaign to review the education law. The collection of over a million signatures, it was hoped, would convince the lawmakers to restore the dropped amendments.

The ILO Names Five Countries for Serious Violation of Rights

The ILO has named Argentina, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji and Peru — out of 32 countries examined — as the most serious and urgent cases regarding freedom of association. The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association examines cases concerning employers and trade unions on the rights to organize and collective bargaining.

The ILO governing body deals with violent acts in which four workers died and two others were injured. It demanded the murder of three trade union leaders in Cambodia, which happened between 2004 and 2007. The Committee strongly urged the Cambodian government to carry on its own investigation into the murder and punish those found guilty.

Turning to Ethiopia, the ILO Committee regretted that four years after its request for registration, the National Teachers Union (NTA) had still not been registered. The Committee has also had extensive talks with the Fiji government on compliance problems.

Colombian Government Judicial Workers Sign Pact That Ends Strike

Colombian judicial workers reached an agreement with the government on Nov. 13, ending a month-long strike that has paralyzed the country's justice system. Colombia's judicial workers are expected to return to their duties as of eight a.m. Nov. 14.

Approximately 60,000 judicial officers who are represented by the National Association of Professional Employees of the Judicial Branch have been on strike since Oct. 11. The protesters key demands were an increased judicial budget and higher, more equitable salaries.

The Ministry of Justice stated: "This is an historic agreement for the justice branch. It represents a significant salary increase for employees of the judicial and prosecution branches. As part of the agreement, the government will divide $672 million toward wage equalization.

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.