THE WORLD OF LABOR — February 5, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Governments Urged to Act on U.N. Jobs and Social Protections

The International Confederation (ITUC) has welcomed calls by the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon for governments to act on job creation and universal social protection in a report being presented at the U.N. Commission on Social Development.

“For economic growth to contribute to poverty reduction, macroeconomic and social policies should focus on job creation, reducing inequalities and providing social protection,” the report stated. It concluded that the trends toward austerity in response to the debt crisis, if not reversed, will worsen inequality and exclusion, and ultimately dampen prospects for economic recovery.”

The report also reflects the trade union view that increasing workers’ bargaining power has a positive impact on reducing poverty and inequality and that “provision of minimum wages and employment protections can be important tools.”

U.S. Economy Created 243,000 Jobs in January

The U.S. economy had one of its favorable months in January, when it generated 243,000 new jobs, while the unemployment rate fell from 8.6 percent to 8.3 percent. Many economists viewed the latest figures as a welcome sign that economic recovery is will on its way, while others said that, with more than 20 million unemployed and underemployed, the economy was quite fragile and needed sustained support.

While the economy has gained strength for almost six months, a prevailing view is that it will take years to restore the country to the economic health it enjoyed before it was hit by the economic crisis.

What worries many Americans, especially those with investments overseas, is the danger of a financial collapse in several European countries. If that happened, the U.S. would face severe problems in the global financial markets.

East Asia Week of Action Starts February 6

Unions and the International Federation of Transport Workers (ITF) are working together to stage an East Asia week of action from Feb. 6 to Feb. 10. Actions will take place in Japan, Korea, Russia and Taiwan.

ITF Japanese Coordinator Fusao Ohori explained that the campaign in this region focuses on the safety condition of life-saving appliances, cargo and cargo work equipment; also the working conditions of the crews. “Del Monte-operated ships will be receiving attention, since the company refused to sign an agreement,” he said.

Korean strategy for this week is checking incoming ships one week before arrival, sending a warning letter to the owner, then carrying out a physical check. The Russians and Taiwanese will also check life-saving equipment and the working conditions of their members on ships in their region.

Electrolux on Strike in Romania

As many as 860 employees of an Electrolux plant in Satu Mare in northern Romania went on an indefinite strike on Jan. 24, after the company management refused to sign a new collective agreement with the same conditions for 2012.

The leader of the Free Trade Union, SAMUS, declared: “No matter what the duration of the strike and the consequences, the people are determined to go on,” The union is also conducting side rallies in Satu Mare to strengthen their support within the city.

The walkout started after the company ignored a two-hour warning strike. Electrolux managers have been silent about the strike, and have given no indication how they intend to deal with the work stoppage.

Canadian Rio Tinto Lockout Nears One Month

Iraq’s female civil servants are up in arms over a new government directive telling them to wear “modest” clothing. The directive, issued Dec. 18, is a list of “don’ts” that include no close-fitting t-shirts, tight trousers, short skirts and sandals, as well as no ostentatious or glittery clothing in general.

The directive has quickly drawn the ire of government staffs. “We, as public employees, consider clothing a personal affair,” said Hamsa Salah, who works for the state administration. “”No institution, no industry has the right to infringe on this and officially impose certain attire. We reject this.”

Very few women in Iraq dress to attract attention to themselves in a society where men have built a history of violence against them. Although in11 percent of Iraqi families, women are the main breadwinners, their rights as workers are limited. There is a tolerance for discrimination and harassment. Gender inequality is a fact of life in Iraq.

The Philippines Are Charged with Failure to Resolve Murder of Unionists

The Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) has charged that the Philippine government has not done a lot to resolve the murder of trade unionists. It refuted the claims of the Philippine government, stating that the cases of only three of the 39 murdered unionists are currently on trial and all of them involve only the “hired guns.”

Josua Mata, speaking on behalf of the ALP position, recommended that clear benchmarks be set by the government to say that the reforms made are actually working. The hearing took up the cases filed by the International Labor Rights Forum.

Mata also supported assertions by PALEA’s president, Gerry Rivera, about the rampant use and abuse of contractual labor in the country, which prevents workers from actually enjoying their rights, including their right to join unions.

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