THE WORLD OF LABOR — March 10, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Women in Manufacturing Face Fourth Largest Pay Gap

A new report from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reveals that, worldwide, the average gender pay gap of 18 percent remains unchanged for 10 years, with women workers in manufacturing facing, on average, the fourth largest pay gap. The report, released on the eve of International Women’s Day (March 8), looked at women’s wages in 43 countries, twice the number of previous studies.

“For the last decade, we have seen women’s wages hitting a road block. The pay gap remains frozen in time almost everywhere. Asia is the continent with greatest wage differential between men and women, with no progress being made for over a decade,“ said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

More unionized sectors, such as the public sector, tend to have lower pay gaps. Those with lower unionization rates and low wage levels, such as retail, hotels and restaurants, as well as agriculture, tend to have higher gaps. Part of the problem is that many workers are not paid a decent minimum wage, Burrow said.

Demand Saudi Arabian King End Slavery of Domestic Workers

The international union movement is marking the occasion of International Women’s Day by writing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, calling on him to support laws that give domestic workers the same rights as other workers. Most workers are migrant women from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines and India.

The migratory sponsorship system puts foreign workers at the mercy of the employer or sponsor, who hold their passports and process their residency permits. Saudi Arabia does not protect the rights of workers to form and join unions and to bargain collectively.

The Saudi government was singled out for abuses of workers in reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in 2011. There are documented cases of employers cutting off the ears of domestic workers, burning them with irons and forcing nails and needles into their bodies.

Canadian Auto Union Donates $100,000 to Women’s Shelters

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) is donating $100,000 to 50 women’s shelters across Canada in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012. On that day, women from the Canadian Auto Workers Union will join with other women at forums, marches and rallies in communities across the country.

“International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate and mobilize, a day to energize and strengthen the feminist movement for the future,” said Julie White, director of the union’s women’s program. “It’s critical to remember that the gains that women have made are not secure, and that the assaults on gender equality in Canada have been broad and sweeping under the Harper conservative government,” she said.

In addition to making an annual donation, CAW is urging the federal and provincial governments to provide core funding to agencies that provide services to women and their children, who are fleeing from violent relationships.

Central Asian Women Encounter Hardships as Migrants to Russia

Not so long ago, it was virtually unheard of for Central Asian women to head to Russia on their own in search of work. Financial necessity amid an extended economic crisis is breaking down many such cultural and religious taboos. But the sharp increase in the number of women leaving the region in search of work is accompanied by unforeseen and worrying consequences.

Language barriers often contribute to a lack of awareness of Russian regulations and migrants’ rights. Many are afraid to go to the authorities to register complaint. These factors, among others, l eave female migrants vulnerable to a number of unforeseen dangers, including inhumane work conditions, blackmail, extortion and physical and sexual abuse.

There are no exact figures about the number of female migrants in Russia, but authorities say that the percentage has doubled in the past few years. “Now we’re talking about at least 120,000 Tajik women becoming illegal migrants,” says Muzaffar Zarifov, an official of Tajikstan’s state migration service.

Unions Press DHL to Guarantee Rights to All of Its Global Workforce

A coalition of global unions wants DHL, the world logistics giant, to guarantee the same basic rights to all its workers, wherever they are. This would make the company’s use of intimidating tactics reported by the staff at some of its global subsidiaries as unthinkable as the idea of employees in its German home base being treated that way.

“The best way for DHL to celebrate the kind of good practice they like to point to is to spread it across all heir operations,” commented Alan Tate, UNI Global Union Campaigns Director. “For us, this has always been about two things: dialogue and a negotiated global framework agreement.

Last month, DHL’s Excel subsidiary was fined $283,000 for health and safety violations, after the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration found that over four years, DHL intentionally failed to report 42 serious injuries to workers at a plant it runs for Hershey chocolates.

Brazil’s Trucker Strike Leaves Gas Pumps Near Empty in Sao Paulo

Gas pumps in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and financial capital, were running dry March 7, due to a truckers’ strike that began two days ago. At least 50 fuel stations were completely out of gasoline, ethanol and diesel. Another 31 stations had no ethanol and 35 stations no longer had diesel for sale. The capital has about 2,000 fuel stations.

Truckers declared a strike against new driving restrictions in the city of Sao Paolo that prevent them from using many central streets and arteries during peak hours. Taxis, which ride on natural gas, provided through pipelines, were affected, and some taxi drivers expect business to pick up if the shortage lingers.

Since the courts have declared the strike illegal, unions participating in the work stoppage could be fined $1 million real ($568,828). Sao Paulo is a city of 11 million people and seven million vehicles. Traffic congestion is notorious

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