THE WORLD OF LABOR — April 28, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Anti-Terror Laws Haunt Pakistani’s Unionists

As international Labor Day approaches, rights groups in Pakistan are redoubling their efforts to win freedom for six incarcerated union leaders in Faisalabad, the country’s textile hub, who are currently serving combined jail terms of 590 years for supposedly violating the country’s ‘anti-terror” laws.

The six leaders of power loom workers are charged with attacking a factory, injuring its owners and burning it down on July 20, 2010, charges that all six individuals have denied. Still, police were forced to add clauses from anti-terror laws to their report that the court accepted in its ruling, leaving the labor activists languishing behind bars.

In actual fact, the six unionists were not terrorists, but leaders of the Labor Quami Movement (LQM) that-sponsored a strike, involving 100,000 power loom workers who were demanding a 17 percent wage increase. LQM is raising funds for families of the jailed unionists who are in distress.

Brazilian Mining Giant Under Fire for Environment Damage

Social movements from several countries accused Brazil’s Vale, the world’s second largest mining company, of causing serious accidents between 2010 and 2012. According to estimates by social groups,, the Brazilian company, which was privatized in 1997, caused environmental damage in 2010 on a total of 742 square kilometers.

The international network, a United Steelworkers partner organization, points out that the company emitted 80 million tons of carbon dioxide — one of the main, greenhouse gases — in 2010, and 6,000 tons of particulate matter (such as smoke, soot or dust), 29 percent more than in 2009.

The executive director of the Brazilian NGO Social Justice, Andressa Caldas, says Vale’s environmental damage is even worse than reported. “Vale has a huge impact and has violated human rights, not only in Brazil, but in 37 other countries where it operates,” Caldes said.

UNI Steps up Campaign against Firings by Major British Company

UNI is joining affiliate UNITE at Mayr-Meinhof Packaging (MMP) shareholders’ meeting on April 27 in Vienna to protest the illegal sacking of the 149 workers in its Liverpool workforce. The 149 U.K. workers were dismissed without warning last month.

Union officials have written the CEO of the Austrian multinational company urging him to reinstate the dismissed U.K., workers, reopen the Bootle factory and negotiate with UNITE in good faith. The union has received a reply from MMP’s chief, Wilhelm Hormanseder, who denies the illegality of shutting down the factory and dismissing the workers without notice.

UNITE is calling on the Norwegian government, which is a shareholder in the Bootle company, and other shareholders to ensure that MMP complies with its obligation under European and U.K. law to engage in talks with UNITE.

Occupiers and Unions, will celebrate May Day in New York City

On May Day, the traditional workers holiday that falls on May 1 this year, the Occupy movement will join hundreds of unions, immigrant rights, grassroots organizations and countless numbers of people in New York City’s streets, under the banner, “legalize, unionize and organize.”

Over the course of May 1, Occupy activists are also expected to join dozens of union picket lines throughout the city. And then, activists and union groups will join immigrant workers in a permitted march down Broadway from Union Square to Wall Street.

May Day was declared a national workers holiday in 1886, a year of mass strikes across the country, with a demand for an eight-hour workday. Today, unions use May Day in rallies and marches to dramatize their campaigns for worker rights. In the U.S., the AFL-CIO favors celebrating the official Labor Day, established in 1882, on the first Monday in September.

100,000 Indonesian Workers to Rally on May Day

Several of Indonesia’s largest unions have announced their plans for May Day, with their intention to stage a rally involving at least 100,000 of their members throughout Jakarta, according to a national meeting in South Jakarta on April 19.

Said Iqbal, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers, outlined five demands to the Indonesian government, which includes guaranteeing pensions and social security, He called on the government to revise its low-wage policies and condemned outsourcing.

Workers’ representatives said they planned to use at least 3,300 buses to send to Jakarta for the protesters, adding that they had already coordinated with the police to make the demonstration peaceful. Said added there should be no cuts in government subsidies for education and fuel.

Ireland’s Unions to Resist Cuts in Allowances

Any move by the government to reduce allowances currently paid to staff will inevitably lead to a confrontation, the union representing lower-paid personnel in the Civil Service has warned. In an address to the opening day of the CPSU annual conference in Cork, the union’s general secretary, Eoin Ronayne, said its members had already endured a 14 percent cut in pay.

Ronayne stated that increments were not bonuses or productivity payments, but were “legitimate service-based increases that recognize the skills and experience of staff, as they move from a lower starting salary to the full value of the rate for the job.”

Unions have sharply protested the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform plan to move the pay arrangements for CPSU members from the current weekly basis to a monthly payment cycle. This move has” struck fear and panic among many workers, who worry about living on only one paycheck a month.

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