THE WORLD OF LABOR — February 26, 2011

By Harry Kelber

200,000 Indian Workers March to Parliament to Air Grievances

In a historic march to Parliament on Feb. 23, about 200,000 people of India rallied in New Delhi, the capital, demanding control of rising prices, strict enforcement of labor laws, an expansion of the social security fund and a stop to the privatization of central public sector enterprises. The demonstrations were led by the three major Central Trade Unions (CTU) and the National Employees Federation (NEF).

In their memorandum to Parliament, the CTUs said that the Indian government is ignoring the protests of working people and is relentlessly pursuing policies that accentuate price increases through the deregulation of petroleum prices. It accused the government of permitting continuing speculation in commodity markets and allowing a huge stockpile of food grains in the Food Corporation of India to rot.

The CTUs also demanded concrete action to extend social security benefits to all unorganized workers without any restrictions on entitlements and the allocation of adequate funds for the National Social Security Fund. The government’s position is that rising prices is the result of higher wages for workers, a view that the CTUs strongly dispute. It is not clear rf and when Parliament will respond to the CTUs comprehensive demands

U.S. Labor Unity Grows During Wisconsin Standoff on Bargaining Bill

The crowd of union members and ordinary citizens who are protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining and other union rights has swelled to more than 70,000, with young people and families spending the night at the Madison capitol battleground.

Although the anti-collective bargaining bill passed the Assembly, it cannot become law until it is approved by the Senate. But, as of now, the legislature cannot okay the bill because it lacks a quorum. Until the missing 14 Democratic lawmakers are found and take their place in the state’s chamber, the bill remains in a virtual stalemate.

The protesters received a big lift when the Policemen’s Professional Association for Wisconsin, announced it would not expel people from spending the night at the Capitol, and that some police would stay in the building to protect those inside. Support for the public employee unions also came from the U.S. Council of Bishops. While American unions are relishing their growing solidarity, they know they will have to face some bitter, costly struggles ahead.

Egyptian Workers Strike for Higher Pay and Ouster of Corrupt Officials

Thousands of workers throughout Egypt continue their strike for higher wages and the ouster of corrupt managers. Fears are also rising there may be a backlash from supporters of ex-president Hosni Mubarak’s regime and the use of provocateurs to stop the democratic momentum. Anger is brewing below the surface, threatening to erupt as more time passes without the hoped-for changes being made. Moreover, there is a lack of consensus about what those changes should be.

The danger of provocateurs was brought up. Feb. 23 at a press conference given by the “national coalition,’ composed of a number of opposition groups and parties. The coalition said it would continue to curb attempts at counter-revolution. Thousands of police officers, who had been dismissed prior to the revolution, broke into the Interior Ministry office in Cairo and set fire to it. Important documents of the former Interior Minister were burned.

Meanwhile, some 1,800 in an agricultural processing facility in the southern part of the country threatened to set it on fire if their demands for fair wages were not met.. They are also seeking the dismissal of the manager whom they accuse of embezzling more than 35,000 Egyptian pounds.

Global Day of Action in Mexico Draws Unionists from 40 Countries

Union members, students and human rights activists from some 40 countries participated in the Global Day of Action , launched on Feb. 14 in Mexico and Australia simultaneously. The largest demonstration took place in Mexico City, with more than 50,000 participating for six days of marches, rallies and holding meetings with political figures to highlight massive labor rights violations in Mexico. The demonstrators expressed global labor’s deep concern about the Mexican government’s increasingly violent attitude toward independent unions,

More than 50 meetings were held with ambassadors or the political staffs of embassies from various countries. These meeting were important because the Committee on Freedom of Association will meet next week at the International Labor Organization (ILO) to discuss two significant complaints against the Mexican government regarding union autonomy and the protection of contracts.

An electronic campaign was initiated at the same time on Labourstart. So far, more than 345 0 electronic letters have been sent to the Mexican government, most coming from Canada, USA, UK, Mexico and Australia. The electronic campaign will continue for the next two months..

Millions of People in U.K. Worked Unpaid Overtime Last Year

A record 5.26 million people worked unpaid overtime last year, a TUC analysis of official figures revealed Feb. 25 to mark Work Your Proper .Hour Day. The TUC found that over one in five workers (21 percent) regularly worked unpaid overtime last year, an increase of 0.7 percentage points since 2009 and the highest proportion since 1997.

Public sector workers are the most likely to do unpaid overtime, wtth over one in four (26.3 percent) regularly putting in more than seven hours of unpaid overtime a week, compared to around one in six workers in the private sector. Workers in London are most likely to work unpaid overtime (27.8 percent).

The TUC is calling on employers to recognize the extra free hours that staffs put in and for everyone, including managers, to work their proper hours and by taking a decent lunch break and leaving work on time., Many employers exploit unpaid overtime to get an increase in production without having to hire extra workers.

Greek Police Clash with Anti-Austerity Protesters

Police fired tear gas at 100,000 workers, pensioners and students as they marched to Parliament to protest austerity policies aimed at helping Greece to cope with a huge debt crisis. Riot police fired scores of rounds of tear gas and flash bombs, choking the main Syndagma Square with smoke and sending crowds of striking protesters running for cover.

The 24-hour strike by private and public sector employees grounded flights, closed schools and paralyzed public transport in the first nationwide walkout this year. The long lines of protesters marched through the streets of Athens, chanting “”We are not paying” and “No sacrifice for plutocracy.” Police officially put the figure of marchers at 32,000.

Despite the many strikes, the Greek socialist government cut pay and pensions and raised taxes last year in return for a 110 billion euro ($150 billion) bailout by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that saved Greece from bankruptcy.. The private and public sector unions together represent 2.5 million workers or half the Greek work force.

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