THE WORLD OF LABOR — August 13, 2011

By Harry Kelber

Japan and Norway Unions Help Thailand Truck Drivers

Unionists in Japan and Norway are standing by railroad workers in Thailand who are bearing the brunt of their employer’s anti-union actions that have been reinforced by a labor court order in Thailand. Seven members of the Thai ITF affiliate, State Railway Workers Union of Thailand (SRUT) face dismissal, and a claim for damages after a decision by the Central Labor Court.

The court supported management’s view that mechanisms, such as the “dead man’s grip,” were supplementary rather than essential devices. The dispute arose after railway workers refused to operate unsafe trains on October 2009, following three major accidents. The union is appealing the court’s decision.

In Norway, transport unions protested outside the Thai Embassy in Oslo on Aug. 11 in support of SRUT. They also delivered a protest letter, which the ambassador promised to convey to the Thai government. Two days earlier, ITF Tokyo office representatives met with officials of the Thailand embassy in Tokyo and presented a letter expressing their concerns about the dismissals and punitive actions.

300,000 Israelis Take to the Streets for Social Justice

More than 300,000 people took part in demonstrations across Israel last night (Aug. 11) to protest the high cost of living. The largest was in Tel Aviv, where an estimated 280,000 participated in one of the biggest demonstrations in Israel’s history.

Chants of “The people demand social justice” echoed through the center of the city. In contrast to the two previous rallies, there were no calls from the stage for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gadt Shabtai, one of the leaders of the protest, said that even if large numbers had not attended the demonstration, it was clear that most residents supported the protests. The issues go beyond the lack of housing and include the high cost of living overall, he said.

Egyptian Labor Flaunts Anti-Stike Law

The anti-strike law issued by the government in March has had no effect on mounting industrial action by Egyptian workers, as labor watchers report. Five months after the issuance of an Egyptian anti-strike law, workers are still demonstrating. The NGO for Children of the Earth for Human Rights counted 22 sit-ins, 19 strikes, 20 demonstrations and 10 protests in July.

The first ruling by a military court against five workers occurred -in July on charges they protested with their co-workers in front of the oil ministry. Though the number of protests have diminished, compared with the previous month, protests are still going on, the NGO said.

Though they continue, labor actions have fallen off over the last few months, compared with the period that immediately followed the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarack on Feb. 11.

Striking Greek Taxi Drivers Offer Free Rides

In Greece, striking cabbies were giving free rides to thousands of tourists, taking them to archeological sites as part of a three-week protest at government plans to deregulate their trade, while others took part in more conventional protests.

Beginning at dawn, taxi drivers periodically blocked the road leading to the Transport Ministry in support of their three-week strike. To deflect criticism that their strike is harming Greek tourism at a critical time for the country, taxi drivers offered free rides to cruise ship passengers to Patras port in western Greece and to historic sites and landmarks.

Taxi owners are demanding that the government reverse a plan to increase the number of taxi licenses that can be issued. A series of meetings between the Transport Ministry and union leaders has failed to produce any compromise.

Huge Turnout Expected In Seoul at Rally for Change

A two-day “Hope Rally” will be held, starting Aug. 20 in the Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall. It has drawn particular attention due to the en masse participation of the five opposition parties, the labor sector and civic organizations.

Some are forecasting that the rally could become a springboard for opposition unity and policy alliances. The topics covered by the rally include not just the HHIC layoffs, but the gamut of social issues, including the government’s educational policies.

Thousands of Building Workers in Burma Lose Jobs

The Building and Woodworking International (BWI) is alarmed to learn about the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs due to the suspension of numerous construction projects in Burma’s capital, Nanypildaw.

Over 3,000 workers are reportedly leaving the capital every day, with more than 20,000 having left in the first week after the halt in construction was announced. The only construction projects are reportedly continuing for the military and the ministers, while all others have been stopped. Many companies have been left in debt to their subcontractors, and workers have not been paid for work already done.

The BWI calls on the Burmese government to protect the rights of workers in the construction sector to ensure that they are adequately compensated for their work, and are free from exploitation. Workers must be allowed to form and free trade unions, the BWI statement said.

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