THE WORLD OF LABOR — April 14, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Indonesia Ratifies Convention on Migrant Workers

Indonesia’s Parliament on April 12 ratified a U.N. convention on the protection of migrant workers in a move that will offer greater rights to millions of Indonesians working abroad. “The next step is to sign national legislation with the standards already set,” said lawmaker Rieke Diah Pitaloka.

Ratification obliges countries to ensure workers’ basic human rights, as well as the right to return to their home countries, the right to be informed of conditions before taking up employment, and the right to form unions.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry estimates that at least three million Indonesians work abroad, but poor documentation suggests the true number is likely much higher.

Kenya’s Aviation Union Strikers Ignore ‘Return to Work’ Order

More than 300 airport workers have struck the Kenya Airport Authority (KAA). to protest low salaries and demand an increase in meal allowances. Operations at the country’s airports have been disrupted; local and international passengers have complained of delays. The strikers marched to Cobu’s offices at Solidarity House to protest against the new NHIF rates.

The Aviation and Allied Workers Union has rejected the new NHIF rates and has refused an order to end their strike and return to work that would lead to their discharge if they failed to comply. Cobu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli blamed KAA for the continuation of the strike A KAA statement called the strike illegal and said that under the Employment Act, desertion of duty may lead to dismissal from service.

Over the last few weeks, the KAA has been negotiating with the union on ending the strike, but thus far no agreement has been reached, even after the courts ruled that the strike was illegal. A letter from the Ministry of Labor, dated April 2, advised the union to withdraw the strike notice and give dialogue a chance.

Labor Organizer who exposed dangerous Conditions Is Tortured and Killed

A labor organizer who helped ABC News expose dangerous working conditions at garment factories in Bangladesh was tortured and killed last week, according to authorities. “All indications are that Aminul Islam was murdered because of his labor rights work,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Commission, an American group working to improve conditions at factories abroad that make clothes for U.S. companies.

Islam had been serving as a senior organizer for the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity. . He had most recently been involved in efforts to organize workers at garment factories owned by a company called the Shanta Group. According to shipping records, the company makes clothing for numerous well-known American companies, including Tommy Hilfiger, Nike and Lauren.

Bangladesh is currently the cheapest place in the world for garment manufacturers to make clothing. Workers can make as little as 21 cents an hour. According to organizers, many workers are kept under locked gates, despite highly inflammable garment material.

Australian Steelworkers Meet in a Bid to Save Their Industry

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) will hold an emergency meeting of steelworkers from across the country in Melbourne on April 12 to address the worsening crisis facing the steel industry. More than 80 steelworkers from all major steel plants will meet with representatives of federal and state governments as well as heads of industry, to discuss and plan strategies to save the struggling Australian steel industry.

AWU National Secretary Paul Howes said the crisis facing the steel industry had worsened in recent months and that more was needed to be done to save the strategically vital sector. “We have already seen over1,000 jobs go from BlueScope’s Porr Kemble and Western Port plants, and Onesteel has confirmed that it will shed up to 430 jobs by the end of this financial year.”

“Steel is an important strategy resource,” Howes said. “Without a steel industry,” there is no manufacturing industry. ”Key issues to be discussed at the meeting include illegal dumping from overseas markets; lack of action from the Reserve Bank, and the impact of the mining boom.

Brazil’s World Cup Construction sites Disrupted by Strike over Wages

Workers building a World Cup stadium in Northeastern Brazil decided to remain on strike to demand better pay and improved benefits. The strike in Fortaleza entered its second week after workers rejected an offer made by the construction companies involved in the project.

Workers in the northeast city of Natal also refused to return to work despite losing a court decision ordering them to halt their 10-day work stoppage. Employers said that if the strike continues, it would jeopardize the construction of the stadium. Workers said they would not return to work until they got a better offer.

Employers have offered wage increases of from 14 percent to 21 percent, depending on skills, but strikers have rejected the offer as insufficient. World Cup organizers said that work on the Castelao stadium was 60 percent completed. It will host six World Cup matches.

Brussels Transport Strike Extended after Fatal Attack

Brussels public transport workers decided to extend their strike by at least two days, keeping buses, trams and metros idle for almost a week after a colleague was fatally beaten. The work stoppage, which was on its fourth day, will continue until the same day as the funeral for a supervisor who died after being punched in the face, following an accident between a bus and a car.

The government has announced plans to deploy 400 extra police officers in Brussels and recruit 50 agents for the public transport system, following Saturday’s assault, but it will take months to materialize. Unions have demanded quicker action to stem what they see as an alarming number of attacks on public sector transport workers.

The supervisor, 56-year-old Iliaz Tahiraj, was punched in the face by a friend of the driver of the car and died later in the hospital. A suspect, Alexandre Vander Elst, 28, was remanded in custody after giving himself up to police.

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