THE WORLD OF LABOR — August 6, 2011

By Harry Kelber

A Global Minimum Wage System Needed for Economic Recovery

The global economy is suffering from severe shortages of demand. In developed countries, that shortfall is explicit in high unemployment rates and large output gaps. In emerging market economies, it is implicit in relying on export-led growth. In part, this shortfall reflects the lingering disruptive effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession, but it also reflects globalization’s undermining of the income-generating process.

One mechanism that can help rebuild this process is a global minimum wage system. That does not mean imposing U.S. or European minimum wages in developing countries. It does mean establishing a global set of rules for resolving differences in minimum wages, Traditionally, each country establishes its own minimum wages under internal conditions, without regard to. to its neighbors.

Instead, countries should use a minimum standard that is a fixed percentage of their median (average) wage. Thus, the minimum wage will automatically rise with the median wage. Also, if a country wants to set a higher minimum wage, the adjustment would be easy. The global system would only set a floor, not a ceiling in its minimum wage system.

Indian Banks Hit by Nation-Wide Bank Strike

A majority of banking transactions across India were delayed as about one million staff people of the nation’s banks went on strike to protest proposals to divest the government’s equity stake in state-run institutions, apart from demanding a host of welfsre schemes. “The nation-wide response to the strike call is good,” said the convener of the United Forum of Bank Unions, CH Venkatachalam.

“Cheque-clearing operations have also been impacted,” said a senior officer of the Forum, which is an umbrella body representing unions in the banking industry. But he admitted that some foreign banks were functioning normally.

“We demand that public sector banks should not be privatized, and government’s capital equity in our banks should not be reduced.” Other demands include no merger of state-run banks, and no outsourcing of permanent banking jobs.

TUC Launches New Microsite to Help People Know Their Rights

BasicRights @ Work will introduce vulnerable workers (people who have little knowledge of their employment rights, who find it hard to access advice and who do not have the ability to protect themselves against abuses of their rights) to employment rights in the U.K. and how to enforce these rights through statutory enforcement bodies.

The site, put together by the TUC Union Modernization Fund, has details Of the employment rights that apply to different categories of workers, information about basic rights from the National Minimum Wage, about working time and annual leave entitlements, and advice on how to enforce your rights at work.

Vulnerable workers, especially in low-paid sectors, such as care, cleaning, hospitality, security and construction, can find themselves working excessively long hours, sometimes with no contract of employment. Their work can be insecure, and they are regularly paid below the minimum wage.

AFL-CIO Council Lauds Middle East Workers’ Fight for Freedom

The AFL-CIO Executive Council, at its meeting on Aug. 5 at the National Labor College. praised workers and their trade unions for their roles in the popular uprisings against corrupt regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrein and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

The Council statement said: “After enduring decades of repression exercised by governments with the support of the West, including the United States, the workers and people of Tunisia and Egypt have mobilized by the millions for democracy and fundamental rights. The AFL-CIO and the global labor movement salute the independent trade union movements in both of these countries and support their aspirations for social justice.”

The Council also called on the U.S. government to change its lack of support For the workers and the people of the Middle East and North Africa.

Journalists Condemn NATO Bombing of Libyan Television

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the NATO air strikes against Libyan state television, which took place last Saturday in Tripoli, killing three jourmalists and injuring 15 staff members, according to its director of the English service, Khalid Basilia.

NATO confirmed that it bombed transmitters without giving any details of casualties, posting on its website that their aim was to degrade Libyan leader Gaddafi’s “use of television as a means to intimidate the Libyaan people and incite acts of violence against them.”

The IFJ response: “We utterly condemn this action, which targeted journalists and threatened their lives in violation of international law. These kinds of actions that use violence to stifle dissident media spell catastrophe for press freedom,” said IFJ General Secretary, Beth Costa.

Steelworkers Accept Honeywell Contract After a Long Lockout

Members of a steelworkers local union in Metropolis, Illinois, ratified a three-year contract with Honeywell, Inc. on Aug. 2, officially ending a lockout that began June 28, 2010. The 228 steelworkers at Honeywell convert milled uranium, known as yellow cake uranium, into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which is used in nuclear fuel enrichment.

The lockout was marked by Honeywell’s decision to resume full production nine weeks into the company’s work stoppage, and then re-start operstions with inexperienced scab replacement workers. Twice in the months that followed, the plant saw near-miss tragedies due to mishandling of dangerous chemicals.

Steelworkers Local 7-669 members will begin returning to work on Aug. 15. Some 150 workers will be assigned to training and re-certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The work force will be returned to their jobs under a planned schedule.

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