THE WORLD OF LABOR — September 10, 2011

By Harry Kelber

U.S. Economy Had Zero Job Growth in August

The United States economy gained zero jobs in August, stoking fears of a continuing recession. The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent. There are about 26 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work. The unemployment job rate for African-Americans is almost twice the rate of white people.

This year, the attention of both President Obama and top Republicans have focused on debt reduction through massive spending cuts, which add to the jobless rolls. The Republicans are opposed to heavy spending on job-creating infrastructure projects.

The AFL-CIO has resolved to become an “independent labor voice” that will decide on its own political agenda, without relying on the guidance of the Democratic Party. In the 2012 elections, it will support those candidates who will speak favorably on pro-worker issues. The Federation will use SuperPac in its election campaign to reach a wider audience.

Qatar, an Arabian Emirate, boosts Pay and Pensions of Its Employees

Qatar, which has a border with Saudi Arabia, will hand out significant salary, pension and benefit increases for its state and military employees, consisting of as much as 30 billion riyal. (US $8 billion) . The reason for Qatar’s generosity to its subjects is to prevent the unrest and protests that have troubled other Arab states.

Qatar has been ruled as an absolute monarchy by the Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. This tiny Persian Gulf state is said to be the richest country in the world, with a per capita income of $68,000. It played an important role in overthrowing the Qaddafi government.

Qataris constitute about 20 percent of the population of 1.7 million, and only 6 percent of the workforce. Its economy is expected to surge 18 percent this year, with the government planning to spend more than $125 billion in the next five years on construction and energy projects.

Brazilian Autoworkers Get Big Pay Boost at Renault

Autoworkers in Sao Jose de Pinhais, Brazil, voted in favor of the new agreement that is considered the biggest wage deal in the entire history of wage negotiations in Brazil. The contract covers Renault’s 5,700 employees and will remain in effect from 2011 to 2013.

The contract gives auto workers up to a 20.19 percent real wage hike, in addition to the inflation indexation, plus R$61,500 as part of their profit-sharing bonus. The agreement was negotiated by the Brazilian affiliate of the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF).

Sergio Butka, a top union official, said: “This agreement is a response to those who criticize the workers’ struggle for better pay, saying it will scare away companies from our state. Thanks to this agreement, profit-sharing and bonuses have not reduced competitiveness.”

Egypt’s Military Issues Warning to Strikers

The Egyptian ruling military council told Prime Minister Essam Sharif and his cabinet they must discuss a “deteriorating security situation.” The military council met with the prime minister for three hours on Sept 9 to decide on how to stabilize the country and prepare for elections later this year.

What worried the military council was that in the last few days, thousands of workers, including postal employees, have begun a series of economic strikes that disrupted production across the nation, and others, including doctors and 22,000 textile workers, are planning to join the strike wave at the start of next week.

To prevent further economic disruption, the prime minister issued six directives that ordered the police to take whatever actions were necessary to prevent economic disruption.

Turkey Is Urged to Revamp Worker Rights Law

Turkish and international unions on Sept. 9 called on the Turkish government to revamp its legislation to guarantee the basic rights of workers. The unions made the call in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, at the end of the second annual global meeting of the Global Union Federation (GUF), attended by representatives from unions across the world.

“To qualify as a modern, dynamic and democratic country, Turkey needs first to fix its clear deficit of rights that exist in the country today,” said Ron Oswald, general secretary of the International Union of Food, Agriculture Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations.

With growing privatization in Turkey, multinational conglomerates have come to the forefront. To be able to deal with them, we need international logistical effectiveness to match their strength, the delegates agreed.

Thousands March Against Swaziland King

Thousands of people marched on Sept. 8 against the appointed government in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, a day after clashes with riot police, in which several protesters were arrested and beaten.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has demanded reforms to what is officially Africa’s most bloated bureaucracy, before it lends any money to the country. On the verge of bankruptcy, the government has been keeping its head above water by eating into central bank reserves and running up huge arrears.

Swaziland’s king, Mswati III, has occupied the throne for 25 years. He has at least a dozen wives and a fortune estimated at 200 million dollars.

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