THE WORLD OF LABOR — February 5, 2011

By Harry Kelber

U.S. Jobless Rate Drops to 9%; Only 36,000 New Jobs

The unemployment rate fell to 9 percent in January 2011, a drop of 4 %, but the good news was tempered by the fact that only 36,000 new jobs were created last month, while at least 150,00 jobs a month are needed to keep up with the growth in the U.S. work force.

Economists say that one of the reasons for the lower job rate is that a substantial number of people have given up looking for work and have dropped out of the labor market. The few new jobs created is because companies are reluctant to hire new workers and are getting along with their present staffs or hiring temporary workers who can be fired when they are no longer needed.

Creating more jobs for the 13.9 million people who are officially listed as unemployed by the government will require a huge expenditure of funds for infrastructure projects. It will be extremely difficult to get the multi-billion funding, since the focus in Congress is on slashing spending, including a proposal by President Obama for a five-year freeze on discretionary spending.

Global Unions to Support Egypt’s Protesters on Feb. 8

Trade unions around the world will join a ‘Day of Action’ for Democracy in Egypt on Feb. 8, following a decision by the ITUC General Council meeting in Brussels on Feb. 5. Unions will organize demonstrations at Egyptian embassies and continue to press their governments to demand a democratic transition in Egypt and to ensure that those responsible for the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations are brought to justice.

The statement by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said: “We will continue to push the international community to put pressure on the regime of Hosni Mubarak to respect the wishes of the Egyptian people. Our support for the Egypt’s independent trade unions and the other forces for democracy is unwavering.”

At the same time, U.S lawmakers are stepping up pressure to get Egyptian President Mubarak to step down. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, John Kerry (D-Mass), wrote an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times, asking Mubarak to pledge that neither he, nor his son Gamal, will run for the presidency that will take place in September 2011..

Pressure on Deutsche Telekom to Deal with U.S. Union

International trade unions are launching a global campaign to convince German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom to end anti-union discrimination and allow workers to join their union at its subsidiary T-Mobile USA, following a decision by the ITUC General Council in Brussels Feb. 4. The move comes after repeated refusals by the German parent company to stop the anti-union campaign waged at T-Mobile USA.

“We expect better from Deutsche Telekom,” said ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow. “With operations in some 50 countries, it has established union relations with much of its work force. However, in the United States, in particular, it violates its responsibility to be neutral towards trade unions and tries to keep unions out of its workplaces. We’re simply asking Deutsche Telekom to respect fundamental rights for all those who work for it around the world in line with international legal standards.”

According to Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union that represents Telekom’s unions around the world, Deutsche Telekom could improve its international reputation dramatically by simply ensuring that the fundamental human rights of its employees are respected everywhere.

Turkish Police Clash with Protesting Workers

Police fired water cannon and tear gas to force back thousands of workers and students trying to march on Parliament in the Turkish capital on Feb. 3 in a union-led demonstration against a draft of a labor law. The demonstration was unrelated to the turmoil sweeping Egypt and everywhere in the Middle East.

Opinion polls show Prime Minister Taayip Erdogan’s ruling Justice And Development Party, known as the AK Party, well set to win a third term in power at parliamentary elections due in June, though analysts note an increasing polarization of Turkish society between secular and conservative Muslims.

The workers were protesting against new employment legislation currently being debated by Parliament that they argue will reduce their rights and allow employers to exploit unregulated labor. The government says the law is needed to create a more flexible labor model.

Union Allowed to Bargain for 45,000 Airport Security Guards

The director of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced this week that a union would be allowed to bargain over working conditions on behalf of the nation’s 45,000 airport security officers although issues like pay will not be subject to negotiation.

John Pistole, the former director of the FBI, who has led the security agency since last June, said he would use the power granted him by Congress to authorize bargaining by airport security personnel on a limited set of topics, including rules governing vacation time and shift assignments, workplace transfers and recognition for commendable work.

The negotiations will take place on a national level, not with state or local affiliates. “The safety of the traveling public is our top priority, and we will not negotiate Security,” Pistole said in a statement. “ But morale and employee engagement cannot be separated from achieving superior security.”

Radical Irish Candidates Declare ‘War on the Rich’

People Before Profits” candidates in the Irish general election will “bring the war to the rich” and will lead a “huge struggle against major tax hikes,” the United Left Alliance said at its campaign launch. Gino Kenny, a candidate in. Dublin Mid West, said: “There’s an unbelievable amount of anger out there.” He added: “The IMF is a declaration of war against working people” who “have to pay this new universal social charge of up to 7 percent, which penalizes ordinary workers.”

Nine party candidates, five men and four women, will contest the election in Dublin, Waterford and Cork as part of the Left Alliance, which includes the Socialist Party and Independent Labor Party. Joan Collins, standing in Dublin South Central, said: “People feel the government has protected the wealthy, but ordinary people are seeing their pay packets being ‘savaged’ ”

Asked what bringing the war to the rich meant, Kenny said: it meant civil disobedience. “It means strikes, people on marches. It means people start empowering themselves,” he said.

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