THE WORLD OF LABOR — January 9, 2011

By Harry Kelber

ILO Says Economic Crisis Cut Global Wage Growth by Half

The financial and economic crisis has cut wage growth by half in 2008 and 2009 says a new report by the International Labor Organization. (ILO).

Analyzing data from 115 countries and territories, covering 94 percent of the approximately 1.4 billion wage earners worldwide, the “Global Wage Report 2010/11: Wage Policies in Times of Crisis” says globally, growth in average monthly wages slowed from 2.8 percent in 2007, on the eve of the crisis to 1.5 percent in 2008, and 1.6 percent in 2009.

Excluding China from the aggregate, the global average wage rate drops to 0.8 in 2008 and 0.7 in 2009. The report cites considerable variations in wage growth rates across regions, saying that in Asia and Latin America, wage growth remained consistently positive, although other regions, like Eastern Europe and southern Asia experienced a dramatic fall. Advanced economies experienced a drop in the level of real wages, which fell in 12 of 28 countries in 2008 and in seven in 2009.

Israeli Diplomacy at Standstill as Staff Stages Slowdown

Everyone from the President of Russia to Filipino guest workers and new immigrants is being blocked from entering Israel as a work slowdown by the country’s diplomatic corps enters its 11th day.

The slowdown began last summer, as wage talks between the diplomatic corps union and the Foreign Ministry became deadlocked and have become more severe as the months go by. The latest escalation went into effect Dec. 27 and caused Israel a major diplomatic embarrassment this week when Dmitry Medvedev , Russia’s president, was forced to cancel a rare visit to Israel on January 16-19.

The diplomats’ slowdown deprives Israel of a voice in international affairs at a time when it is confronted with a host of sensitive issues as well as increasingly hostile world public opinion. Medvedev won’t be visiting Israel on this trip, but he will be meeting with Palestinean Authority Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Mines Became Death Traps for 105 in 2010

Turkey’s rapid economic growth has brought with it a high number of workplace accidents in mines, as scores of workers die every year. A total of 105 people died in 61 accidents, due to mine explosions and cave-ins last year, according to data from mining engineers.

Among European countries, Turkey ranks at the top in mine fatalities. In terms of global statistics, Turkey ranked third in mining accidents last year, just behind Russia and India, said Mehmet Torun, deputy chairman of the Chamber of Mining Engineers. “As mining is a hard and high-risk profession, serious measures should be taken to improve conditions,” Torun added.

The majority of accidents occur in coal mines, but many fatalities have occurred in marble plants, aluminum facilities, stone quarries, zinc installations and chrome mines.

FIAT Union Head Repeats Call for Jan. 28 Strike

The head of the hard-line Fiom Metal Workers’ Union repeated calls on Jan. 9 for a strike this month against productivity deals agreed to by other unions at Fiat’s Spa’s Italian auto plants. Following a meeting with leaders of the CGIL union federation, the umbrella organization of which Fiat is a part, Maurizio Landini reiterated his union’s opposition to the accords and said strike plans on Jan. 28 would go ahead.

Fiat has signed accords with moderate unions at its plants in Pamigliano, near Naples, and at Mirafion in Turin to increase the number of shifts, cut benefits and limit the right to strike, in exchange for investment commitments by the company,

The Fiat dispute has highlighted the battle to reform industrial practices in Italy and retain a national car industry. It has also exposed deep rifts in the Italian labor movement. Workers are due to vote on the accord. this week. Whatever the outcome of the vote, Fiom has said it will continue to oppose the accord, which it says is a threat to workers’ rights.

Unions Clash with Government over 90-Day Probation

New Zealand’s unions are predicting further clashes with the government over the 90-day employment trial period which comes into law in April. The 90-day trial for new employees was initially limited to firms with 20 or fewer employees, but it was extended to all businesses under a bill passed by Parliament in November.

Unions are predicting more protests this year as the battle continues over the government’s changes in employment laws, including the trial period. Latest concerns arise from a State Services Commission letter sent to all public service chief executives which, unions say, forces the legislation on all state sector employers.

Brenda Piloit of the Public Service Association says the commission is not giving the employers the ability to “opt out” of the 90-day exemption. So from April on, new workers can be dismissed within the period without being given a reason and without any redress for an unjustifiable discharge.

Heavy Transport Drivers in Egypt Begin Strike

More than 700,000 workers in Saudi Arabia still are not getting their salaries paid into their bank accounts, despite a Jan. 1 deadline for employers to ensure that they do. Introduced in September 2009, the WPS provides a bridge between the Ministry of Labor, employers, banks and money exchange centers to ensure that salaries are paid on time and in full.

Of the four million workers registered at the ministry, 3,300,000 now get WPS pay slips each month. However more than one in six still do not. Big companies have been quicker to join the system and 95 percent of firms that employ more than 100 people have signed up, according to Humaid al Suwaudi, the undersecretary of the ministry.

Small firms with fewer than 100 workers have been more reluctant to join the system. Companies not registered on the Wages Protection System (WPS) can no longer get labor cards for new staff. Within months, they will be subject to financial charges and “black points,” which will make labor cards for them more expensive when they do sign up.

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