THE WORLD OF LABOR — July 9, 2011

By Harry Kelber

U.S. Economy in Slowdown; No Growth in Jobs

Only a net of 18,000 jobs was created in June, while the unemployment rate inched up to 9.2 percent from 9.1 percent in May. The depressing data signaled that the economic recovery might be in serious trouble. There were layoffs at all levels of government. Hiring by companies continued to be sluggish, with many firms using temporary help or investing in equipment.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama and John Boehner, speaker of he House of Representatives, were meeting in private to decide the mix of spending cuts and tax increases for a $4 trillion deal to cut the federal deficit. Sharp spending cuts may be in the offing for Medicare and Medicaid; Social Security may not be immune from changes, as well as programs that serve the poor and elderly.

There are 14.1 million persons who are officially listed as unemployed. Altogether, thee are some 25 million persons who are looking for full-time jobs and can’t find them. In addition, jobs must be found for 125,000 new entrants into the labor force each month.

Everyone agrees that the lack of jobs for millions of persons is a top-priority problem, but neither Congress nor the White House has come up with job-creating solutions

Union Condemns Closing of British Paper

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) denounced Rupert Murdoch’s closing of the News of the World, a British daily that has been in print for 168 years, calling it an “act of utter cynical opportunism.” The revelation about the paper’s use of hackers to spy on celebrities and victims of crimes sent shock waves to the news media, both in Britain and abroad.

The closing of the Murdoch paper meant the loss of 200 staff in the UK and Ireland, and put scores of freelance and casual writers out of a job. “It is not ordinary working journalists who have destroyed this paper’s credibility — it is the action of Murdoch’s most senior people,” Ms. Stanistreet said.

The closing of the News of the World is a calculated sacrifice by Rupert Murdoch to salvage his reputation and that of News International, in the hope that readers will switch allegiance to a new seven-day operation at The Sun. Murdoch’s son, James, said in a statement: “Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad. Yet those wrongdoers are still there today, at the top of the News International Empire, and ordinary staff at the paper are paying with their livelihoods.”

Report Reveals Weak Labor Laws In Europe

There are shortcomings in labor laws in European Union (EU) member states, including insufficient protection from anti-discrimination and unreasonable restrictions on the right to strike. The new report, submitted to the trade policy review of the 27 EU member states this week, also criticizes European Court of Justice rulings, which have eroded fundamental workers’ rights. It cites persistent discrimination against women at work.

“EU countries need to correct deficiencies in labor legislation to allow working people to fully exercise their rights under international law. Erosion of these rights leaves workers without proper protection, and holds down incomes at a time when Europe desperately needs economic demand to pick up,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Despite equality legislation, discrimination against women in the labor market continues. This includes a high concentration of women in low-paid jobs, a persistent gender pay gap, and lack of opportunities for women in senior management.

Starbucks Coffee Faces Strike in Chile

In late June, Starbucks Coffee workers in Chile voted to hold a strike on July 7, saying the $2.50 hourly wage is too low for them to afford lunch. A walkout at 30 Chilean outlets would be a first at Starbucks Corp.-owned stores. The company has 17009 locations around the world.

Could a strike in a small country in Latin America mar the company’s established image as a good employer? Starbucks has been one of Fortune magazine’s top 100 companies to work for from 2002 to 2011

The magazine has praised CEO Howard Schultz for ensuring that his employees have health insurance. Chile is home to only 675 of Starbucks’ 200,000 employees.

Canadian Union Plans National Fight Against Cuts

One of Canada’s biggest unions warns they’re taking their fight across Canada in preparation for cutbacks as the federal government tries to balance the budget. John Gordon, head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said his members are going to go to communities to explain what losing services would mean.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement, the minister with authority over public services, has said he believes he can find many savings the government needs through attrition as civil servants retire or take jobs in the private sector. The hope is that they can get 11,000 people per year through attrition, which would amount to a substantial savings.

Even if that number of people leave public service, more spending cuts will be unavoidable, some of Clement’s critics say. The Conservatives want to find $4 billion a year in savings to help balance the budget by 2014.

Indonesian Copper Miners Start Seven-Day Strike

About 8,000 workers at Freeport McMoran Copper & Inc.’s Indonesian unit kicked off a seven-day strike on July 4 in a move that could potentially disrupt operations. Freeport said it was not anticipating any impact on production. It claims on its website to have the world’s largest single gold reserve.

The workers have called for a renegotiation of their working contract, demanding a wage increase from $1.50 to $3 per hour, since they said other Freeport workers around the world are paid at least $15 to $20 an hour, a union official said.

From the eight companies Freeport owns, Indonesia is the Biggest contributor in terms of revenue. “We deserve something more,” said Virgo Solossa, the organizational head of Freeport Indonesia Labor Union.

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