THE WORLD OF LABOR — August 20, 2011

By Harry Kelber

Police Fire Teargas at Tunisian Protesters

Tunisian police fired teargas on Aug. 16 at a rally by hundreds of people protesting the lack of political reforms since the overthrow of the government of President.Zine EL-Abidine Ben Ali in January. A second demonstration was called by the General Workers Union (UGTT)

The main UGTT trade union had called for a peaceful march to demand that the objectives of the January revolution be attained. The marchers, estimated at about 2,000 people, denounced the traditional government, headed by Prime MinisterBeji Caid Essebsi, and accused it of failing to do enough to press ahead with reform in the north African country. The protesters shouted "new revolution" and "the people want the system to fall," as well as accusing the Interior Ministry of "terrorism."

A dozen police armored vehicles sealed off the main Habib Bourguiba Avenue to prevent demonstrators from marching on the interior ministry. This protest degenerated into violence, while a peaceful demonstration took place outside the city limits.

Samsung Told to Improve Korean Workers' Safety

Samsung Electronics Co. has been asked by local authorities to take costly measures to better protect its workers, after a series of leukemia-related deaths in its semiconductor manufacturing lines. The Labor Ministry said (Aug. 17) that it was asking the world's top maker of computer memory chips to take steps, including hazard assessment of all chemicals used in its entire semiconductor manufacturing process and hiring industrial medicine doctors.

The request came after Labor Minister Lee Chae-pi visited one of Samsung's chip manufacturing plants where five workers died. The ministry estimated that the measures would cost Samsung around 100 billion won ($93 million) until 2020.

Samsung refuted a court order favoring the victims by stating that a self-commissioned study conducted by U.S.-based firm, Environ, which claims to have found no link between leukemia and the Samsung plants.

About 30 Immigrant Schools in Beijing Ordered Closed

Approximately 30 private schools, set up to provide a basic education for children of migrant workers in Beijing, have been ordered to close, leaving nearly 30,000 students with an uncertain future as the new school year begins, the Beijing News reported.

The affected schools are all located in the outlying districts of Daxing, Chaoyang and Haidian that have been home to migrant worker families for many years, even decades, but are now under increased pressure from property developers, as the city expands ever outward. At least one school, which provided schooling for 800 children has been demolished.

The Chaoyang District Education Department announced that not one students would be left without a school place. and that measures were being taken to find alternative schools. The government claims that all students that students that can produce proof of attendance at local schools will be allowed to study at state schools, free of charge, while other students will be allocated places in schools approved by the education department.

Ohio Governor Offers to Change Anti-Union Law

Ohio Governor John Kasich and top Republican lawmakers said Aug. 17 that they were offering to change a new law limiting collective bargaining in an attempt to keep a repeal effort off the November ballot. The administration released a letter asking for a meeting on Friday to discuss a compromise with 10 union leaders authorized to negotiate on behalf of "We Are Ohio," a group pushing for a repeal of the law.

The letter repeats Kasich's confidence that he can win in November, but it signals a desire to avoid a costly ballot battle. "A divisive fight on these issues that could be possibly avoided is in the best interests of everyone," the letter stated.

The law restricts collective bargaining rights for more than 350,000 teachers, police officers, state employees and others. It allows public workers to negotiate wages, but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It bans public employee strikes and gets rid of automatic pay increases.

Bahrein Union Leaders on Hunger Strike

Bahrein nurses are into their 12th day of a hunger strike to protest what they claim is "illegitimate detention" in a Bahrein prison, along with hundreds of teachers, doctors and nurses who protested on doing their jobs in the face of attacks and abuse from government security forces.

The Bahrein Center for Human Rights charges that since the government crackdown in mid-March, many activists, professional s and unionists have been targeted by being subject to arbitrary arrest, physical and psychological abuse, torture, dismissal from their jobs and prosecuted at military and civilian courts.

Teachers are among the groups singled out for criminal misconduct by the government, controlled by King Hamad binIsa AlKhalifa. Thousands of teachers have been fired from the public education system for their failure to "toe the party line" in the classroom.

Chrome Miners' in Albania are on Hunger Strike, in Shifts

A strike of 700 chrome miners against Albanian Chrome is continuing, with the company saying it is willing to negotiate with their workers, but not with the union' that represents them. .

Ten of the workers are on a hunger strike that is being conducted in shifts. On Aug. 15, 10 Bulqiza miners, who had been fasting for 23 days, were replaced by ten others. The following day, work stoppages also began at the mines at Puka and Rrezhen.

Kol Nikollaj, who heads the miners' union, said the strikers are demanding a 20 percent increase in salaries — including pay for the workdays lost during the strike — and improved working conditions, such as places to eat and shower.

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: https://www.laborsvoiceforchange.org and https://www.laboreducator.org.