THE WORLD OF LABOR — June 25, 2011

By Harry Kelber

Court Dismisses Women’s Suit Against Wal-Mart

The Supreme Court decision, seen as a victory for Wal-Mart and Corporate America, makes it more difficult for employees to join together in a common lawsuit, unless they can identify a common injury. In a ruling on a secondary aspect of the case, all nine justices agreed that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco erred in allowing the mass action suit to move forward on claims seeking back pay.

Writing for five members of the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that under federal rules of civil procedure, the class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart should not have been approved because it lacked a single common question tying each employee’s claim for efficient resolution in a single trial.

The Wal-Mart litigation is not necessarily over. The female employees can file individual lawsuits claiming discrimination and seeking back pay. They could also break down the massive lawsuit into smaller, more focused lawsuits.

Chrysler, Fiat Unions Join Global Network

Chrysler and Fiat unions worldwide this week agreed to join in a global network aimed at a constant flow of information and defining common strategy. The unions said they may try t o replicate a worldwide framework agreement for minimum union rights that exists in Volkswagen, PSA- Peugeot and Renault.

“The network is a signal to Fiat that the unions are united,” Enzo Masini, auto coordinator at the FIOM union, said, in a statement: “A global company requires a global union.” Their first common act will be a letter to Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne asking for recognition.

The global union network was decided this week in meetings n the northern city of Turin, where Fiat is based. Union representatives from Fiat and Chrysler in France, Germany, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia and the United States attended.

Unions Protest EU’s Austerity Measures

The conservative-dominated European Parliament voted in favor of a series of austerity measures that have aroused the opposition of the European Federation of Public Service Unions, representing more than 275 unions with 8 million members.

For the European Federation, this means forcing member states into a strait-jacket that will squeeze public services, cut public spending and put pressure on the wages of nurses, teachers, police, firefighters and refuse collectors. It will also tax inspectors, child and elderly care workers and many other public service workers.

The Federation will continue to push for a comprehensive European economic policy with clear measures to introduce Eurobonds, a financial transaction tax (FTT) at a European level as a first step to a global FTT, fighting fraud and tax evasion and addressing the common tax base for corporate profits and minimum tax rate.

Unpaid Sri Lanka Workers in Iraq on Hunger Strike

Thirty Sri Lanka construction workers in southern Iraq have been on a five-day hunger strike because they have not been paid for the past two years by their Iraqi employers, the workers said. Thousands of South Asian workers are employed in menial jobs in oil-rich Iraq many working for catering, cleaning and transport contractors for the United States forces posted in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

The workers said they were each promised $2,000 a month to work for Talat Osam al-Deen construction firm, which had hired them to work on a government housing project in the southern city of Amara. The company failed to launch the project, which was then passed on to another firm.

Maitham Lefteh, a local provincial official, said: “The company owners had fled. We tried to solve some of the workers’ problems by giving each of them $200 and writing to the prime minister and the housing, but there was no reply, Lefteh added.

Spying on Workers Made Legal in New Zealand

A law change has made it legal in New Zealand to install secret cameras to spy on workers, and companies are employing private detectives to do so. But Wellington International Airport has fallen foul of the Employment Relations Authority for using a private investigator to install cameras to spy on the sexual activities of a manager before the law was changed. The new law went into effect on April 1.

Helen Kelly, president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, said using a private investigator and holding on to evidence isn’t the way to run a good business.” Kelly said the employers should raise the issues as they occur, so that the employees should have a chance to defend themselves.

Bangladesh Rickshaw Drivers Warn of July 3 Strike

Drivers of CNG -run auto-rickshaws called for an indefinite strike from July 3 to press home their 10 -point demands, which include fare increases in accordance with increases in CNG prices.

The 10-point demands also include punitive measures against the auto-rickshaw owners who collect extra fees from drivers, ignoring the government fixed rate; stopping police harassment in the name of driver license checking, and adopting a new system so that drivers can obtain a license without hassle.

To keep informed about workers and their unions in foreign countries, read our weekly column, “The World of Labor,”which we post here every weekend and on our two web sites: and