THE WORLD OF LABOR — February 12, 2012

By Harry Kelber

World Union Supports Egyptian Dock Strike

Dockers in the Egyptian support of Sokhna, set to strike Feb. 12, are receiving support from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), which represents 4.5 million workers in the transport industry worldwide.

The 1,200 port workers in Sokhna on the southern approach to the Suez Canal are demanding that their employer, Dubai Ports World, implement an agreement from last October to settle pay compensation claims including hardship allowances.

A three-day sit-in was started on Feb. 9, as talks between the union, the company and parliament members broke down. There will be an indefinite strike starting Feb. 11.

The global federation has called upon Prime Minister Kamal al-Gonzouri and Sokhna’s top manager, Captain Rustom Dastoor, to help bring about a solution to the dispute. It has asked its transport union members to keep a close eye on developments.

Last September, the army was used to evacuate all workers from the port, during a “go slow” action by the workers. Members of the union’s board were detained several hours by the authorities.

Bilal Malkawi of the ITF Arab World Office commented: “The situation in the port has now escalated and the union has no option but to take strike action after discussion ended without positive results.” The ITF is standing firmly behind the union and is calling on its affiliates to do the same.”

Greeks Strike in Defiance of EU Ultimatum on Debt

Greece was hit by a new barrage of strikes and protests on Feb. 9 against draconian budget cuts in defiance of a Eurozone ultimatum for even tougher conditions for a debt rescue. The new austerity measures have pushed Greece’s fragile coalition government to a breaking point.

But Eurozone’s finance ministers are demanding clear commitments in a rapidly souring climate around drawn-out talks about a second rescue operation. The ministers adopted a decision on a new bailout to save Athens from bankruptcy, giving Greek officials less than a week to meet three conditions in exchange for 150 billion euros (US $172 billion) in aid.

The hard line in a new five-day deadline from the Eurozone was clear. “The Greeks have to help themselves. There is no other way.” But Greek unions went ahead with a 48-hour general strike against what they described as “barbaric:” wage and pension cuts. More protest action is planned for Sunday, Feb. 12.

German and Finnish Unions Fight Against Cuts at Nokia Siemens

The Finnish-German telecom equipment maker, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), said on Feb. 7 that it was going to cut 4,100 jobs in Germany and Finland. Earlier, in November 2010, the company declared that 17,000 jobs would be slashed out of its 74,000 global workforce.

In Germany, NSN plans to shut down 30 factories, including its biggest one in Munich that has 3,600 employees. The work will be concentrated in the five remaining plants. Both the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and various works councils have organized continuous protests against the announced cuts.

In Finland, the unions foresee waging a two-way struggle against the cuts. One way is to conduct high-pressure negotiations with company managers. The second activity consists of finding jobs and other possibilities for workers whose jobs are to be eliminated.

Japanese Auto Union Supports Democratic Elections at Honda Mexico

The International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) joined with representatives of the Confederation of Auto Workers’ Unions (JAW) in late January to offer their support for fair and neutral elections to be held at Honda in Mexico. in accordance with International Labor Organization (ILO) statutes.

The workers at Honda Mexico have been covered with a protection contract with a CTM union for over 25 years. Seeking real representation and collective bargaining rights and resisting the CTM protection contract, the workers chose to create an independent union called STUHM, which gained official recognition in September 2011.

Companies operating in Mexico frequently enter so-called “protection contracts,” which often provide only for minimum wages and conditions. Crucially, employees have no knowledge of these “contracts.”

Police Stage Strike Prior to Carnival in Brazil

Police officers in Brazil staged a strike for an increase in salary in the states of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, a week before the country’s famous carnival was scheduled to start.

Despite the assertion of Col. Alfredo Castro, commander of the Military Police of Bahia, that the end of the strike has been declared, the fact is that, the state’s policemen decided last night to continue their protest.

The decision to initiate the protest was taken at a meeting with more than 2,000 representatives from a total 70,000 police force. It was not clear how much of a wage increase the police wanted and what they would be willing to settle for.

Warning of Worker Shortage by 2018, Says Chinese Analyst

The overall supply of manpower will fall short within six years because of an aging population, the Chinese government unofficially warns. “Due to the retirement of post-war baby boomers, who will soon leave the labor force, the growth, in manpower supply will be hindered, “ said a government spokesman on Feb. 9.

The government said it would put in place various talent admission schemes and streamline the application procedures for employment visas. It will also introduce relaxed measures to attract non-local students to work in Hong Kong after graduation.

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