THE WORLD OF LABOR — May 28, 2011

By Harry Kelber

Arab Workers Demand Jobs and Rights in Region

Tens of thousands of people across the Arab world have demonstrated to demand decent jobs, social justice and an end of repression. At trade union rallies across the region, from Iraq to the East to Mauritania to the West, workers from all walks of life added new momentum to the groundswell for democracy and workers’ rights, following the fall of the dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia.

Some 77 national trade union centers and sectoral trade unions across the region have also signed an “Arab Countries Declaration for Democracy and Social Justice,” adding even further pressure for change to the Arab Spring movement.

They are demanding a minimum wage, social justice, labor law reform and the creation of labor courts to tackle exploitation.

G8 Summit Must Deliver on Jobs, Say Global Unions

This week’s G8 summit of world leaders must develop an end to the global jobs crisis, the world’s trade union leaders are insisting. Over 30 million people who lost their jobs due to the economic crisis are still unemployed. ”Too few governments are taking the jobs crisis seriously,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The unions are calling on the G8 governments to meet their pledges, especially to Africa, where the aid shortfall was a massive $14 billion last year. They are also pointing to the backlash against poverty, corruption and incompetent economic strategies, which triggered the “Arab Spring.”

The trade unions are also insisting on a renewed push to tackle climate change, and for special action to assist Japan’s recovery from the devastating human and economic impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Protest Global Corporation’s Use of Lie Detectors

Unionists from around the world staged a protest rally at the annual general meeting of global delivery giant DHL in Frankfurt, Germany May 26. They were demanding an end to the company’s disregard for workers’ fundamental rights in some countries where DHL operates, as well as its use of lie detector tests.

Since unionists confronted DHL management over the use of detector tests on employees in Panama and Costa Rica, new cases in Colombia and South America have emerged. “The result of this practice is fear, unemployment and social exclusion as employees struggle under unwarranted suspicion,” explained Ivonne Jackson, lead organizer for UNI Global Union in Central America.

In addition to lie detector tests, DHL workers and trade unionists have revealed other anti-union practices, including-the suppression of union activities across many countries. In Guatemala, for example, it has been reported that DHL employees are dismissed immediately if it becomes known that they have met with trade unionists.

Paris FedEx Air-Hub Workers Strike over Pay Rise

Houly-paid workers at FedEx’s Paris hub at Roissy-Charles De Gaulle Airport have shown they are prepared to fight for a pay rise above the “derisory’ 1 percent offered by the highly profitable global delivery company. Flights to Memphis, Dubai and European cities were cancelled, and freight shipping and parcel deliveries were delayed after the 700 day-and-nighr staff walked out for three days.

The strikes came after FedEx made its one percent offer, rejecting joint union claims for a 5 percent rise at the start of the annual pay talks. Weeks earlier, FedEx’s CEO sold $26 million worth of shares in the company. Unions, including the ITF-affiliated CGT, CFDT and FO, are intent on pressing for a 5 percent pay rise at the hub, FedEx’s second biggest sorting center.

There is also mounting concern over the widening pay and benefits gap between full-time employees and the growing number of “precarious” workers the company is recruiting, About 40 temporary staff are believed to be working at the hub each day Temporary and fixed-term contract workers lack job security and miss out on a range of employee benefits, from pensions to health insurance.

Turkish Aviation Union Wins Strike on First Day

Workers at Turkish Engine Center (TEC), a company based near Istanbul’s Sabina Gokcen Airport, have reached an agreement on pay and conditions on the very first day of indefinite strike action. Members of Hava-Is, the Turkiszh Civil Aviation Union, have been involved in a five month dispute which ended with the management yielding to their demands.

A new collective bargaining agreement provides an overall wage boost of 12 percent, including an increase in social benefits over a three-year period from 2010 to 2012. Hava-Is represents 15,000 aviation workers, including pilots, cabin crews, ground handlers, technicians and mechanics.

Kemal Ulker, Hava-Is international relations and education officer, commented: “in the face of the company management’s derisory wage offer, 80 percent of those who voted supported strike action.” Ulker noted that international solidarity played a role in the union victory. A letter from the ITF to Pratt Whitney had “an important. impact,” Ulker said.

Brazilian Auto Workers Want Profit-Sharing at GM Plant

First-and second-shift workers at GM’s plant in Sao Jose dos Compos in Sao Paulo state voted unanimously to approve the strike after rejecting GM’s contract offer. The walkout at the plant will cost GM production about 950 vehicles at the plant, which produces about 400,000 cars a year.

“GM is living its best moment, with consecutive records of production,” said Vivaldo Moreira Araujo, president of the union. “Today’s strike was only the first step.” A GM statement said that the auto company had offered increases “substantially higher” than in 2010. Despite the strike, GM said it remained “open to constructive dialogue” with the union.

Brazil is a key overseas market for GM, with the company planning to invest 2 billion Brazilian Real (US $1.25 billion) in its local operations this year.

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