THE WORLD OF LABOR — April 21, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Unions Challenge G20 to Invest 2% of GDP in Green Jobs

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called on G20 finance ministers to drive investment of at least 2 percent of GDP in the green economy. This follows an independent economic analysis by the Millennium Institute called the green investment model, which shows that new investments of GDP in just six of the G20 countries in each of the next five years, could create up to 42 million jobs.

The analysis said that 24 million jobs could be created in Australia, Germany and the USA over 5 years, and emerging market economies, including Brazil and Indonesia, could create over 18 million jobs. The G20 are the world’s largest economies.

If investing 2 percent of GDP over five years can create 42 million jobs, imagine how many jobs could be created if finance ministers would drive investments in all G20 countries?

G20 ministers have to shift from austerity, that is creating despair, to growth and job creation. Putting people back to work, especially young people, is the only way to avoid a detonating social time bomb, the ITUC said.

Unions Push to Get Rio Tinto Off the Olympic Podium

Union members and workers handed out replica Olympic medals to Rio Tinto shareholders, saying: “Don’t let Rio Tinto tarnish the Olympic games.” They raised questions at the company’s annual general meeting in London on April 20.

Mining and metalworkers’ unions from around the world are campaigning to stop mining multinational Rio Tinto from supplying the gold, silver and bronze for medals at the London Olympics in June. Rio Tinto, sponsors of 2012 London Olympics, is providing 99 percent of the metal for minting the metals

The campaign has been developed in support of nearly 800 Canadian metal workers and members of the United Steelworkers (USW), who have been locked out of a profitable Rio Tinto smelter, because they refused a plan that put new starters on insecure arrangements with half the pay. Workers in Alma, Quebec, have been locked out of their jobs since Dec. 30.

Public Sector Workers In Slovenia Strike against Pay Cuts

Public workers in Slovenia are on strike against efforts of the government to cut wages as part of an austerity plan. The strike, which involves some 80,000 public workers, closed most schools and kindergartens across the country in the largest work stoppage in Slovenia, since it declared its independence from socialist Yugoslavia in 1991.

The strike presents a serious message to the government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who took power in February, and who has warned that the country is “on the edge” and that the budget must be cut from 6.4 percent in 2011 to 3.5 percent this year. Public sector workers’ wages and benefits will bear the brunt of the belt-tightening. Parliament is scheduled to debate the budget cuts next week.

Union leader Strukelj said the unions might agree to pay cuts if the government backs down on plans to increase class sizes and working hours for teachers that would result in layoffs. The strike, which is planned to last one day, but could be extended, does not involve transport workers.

Workers Building Big Dam in the Amazon Plan to Strike

Workers constructing the huge Belo Monte dam in Brazil’s Amazon jungle will go on strike next week, a union leader said June 20. About 7,000 workers agreed to walk off the job Monday, because they haven’t reached an agreement with the construction company on two points, said Roginel Gobbo, vice president of the construction workers union in the state of Para.

Workers want hometown visits every three months instead of the current six. They also want the value of their monthly meal vouchers more than tripled — from 95 meals ($51) to 300 meals ($160), Gobbo said, adding that wages and other issues will be discussed during year-end contract negotiations.

When completed, the $11 billion, 11,000-megawatt Belo Monte will be the world’s third largest, behind China’s Three Gorges dam and the Italpu dam that straddles the border of Brazil with Paraguay.

Russian Workers’ Actions Express Growing Discontent

The number of labor protests in Russia has increased sharply this year propelling the total to be the highest in five years. There were 61 worker strikes and protests during the first three months of 2012, according to the findings of the Center of Social and Labor Rights.

More than 100 Russian employees of the German-owned Benteler automotive plant walked off the job, demanding a salary increase, saying that their wages were lower than those paid by other automobile plants. The plant’s unions forced management to consider their demands after Governor Anatoly Artamanov stepped into the dispute.

Although the majority of workers protesting conditions at their plants do not employ political slogans to express their dissatisfaction, their distrust of the government could be seen in the poor election results for the ruling party in the region.

Despite Record Profits, Company Closes Unionized Factory in Mexico

Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) has announced plans to close its Interiores factory in Puebla, Mexico, less than one year after signing a collective bargaining agreement with an independent union, affiliated with the National Union of Mine and Metalworkers (Los Mineros).

The JCI workers had previously been “represented” by a protective union imposed on them by their employer had fought long and hard to be represented by a union of their own choice.

The 400 company employees will lose their jobs when JCI moves production to another Mexican facility, ostensibly for financial and “logistical” reasons. According to Los Mineros, the plant closure is “really an attack on independent and democratic trade unionism.”

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