THE WORLD OF LABOR — May 12, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Europe May Favor ‘Growth Plan’ of French President

The election of Francois Hollande as French President may shift Europe’s attention from bleak austerity to a growth strategy as a solution for the financial problems of several troubled countries in the European Union (EU). David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, urged European governments to stand “four square behind Hollande to ensure there is a growth strategy in Europe.

Begg said the election of Hollande had broken the “group think” that has gripped the European establishment in recent years and that they now had a stark choice: persist with a singular policy of dogmatic austerity and bring the house down, or start buying into some of our solutions.”

Begg said Europe needed its own “New Deal” in the form of a massive growth stimulus and a means of dealing with public and private debt. He said this strategy “could give us some influence on our destiny. It would put us in the vanguard of the drive for growth, while not isolating ourselves from the European mainstream.”

Death Threats Continue Under Colombian Trade Pact

Since the announcement that the U.S.-Colombian Trade Agreement would enter into force on May 15, the violence and threats against human and workers’ rights advocates actually have increased. Rather than advancing human rights in Colombia, the implementation announcement seems to be increasing the complacency of the Colombian government — and is having devastating effects on Colombia’s population.

Two weeks ago, Daniel Aguire, a leader of SINALCORTEROS, (a union that sugar cane cutters are organizing) was shot and killed on his way home one evening. Aguire led the sugar cane work stoppage of 2008 and was one of the main organizers for the workers. His death is a major blow to those trying to rid the sugar cane sector of illegal cooperatives, so workers can organize and bargain collectively.

The Colombian government is touting its work in the palm oil plantation of Puerto Wilches as a success, but agricultural workers there received death threats in April, and many have left the area in fear of their lives.

788 Nigerian Doctors Are Fired, as Unions Strike

Operations of Nigeria’s public hospitals will be crippled around the country, starting from May 12, as health workers’ unions declare an indefinite strike to demand parity in wages with doctors and dentists. The Joint Health Sector Unions comprise pharmacists, nurses, midwives, technologists, senior staff of University teaching hospitals and research institutes, as well as the non-academic staff of educational institutions.

The unions want a review of the retirement age for health workers; a provision for eight union members to be on the management board of teaching and tertiary hospitals, and promotion for qualified health workers. They also want restoration of allowances for consultants and specialists and payment for call duty.

Polish Workers ‘Chain-In’ Lawmakers over Pensions

Hundreds of Polish trade union members, protesting against plans to raise the retirement age, chained together barriers meant to keep them out of Parliament, on May 1, locking themselves in for more than an hour. ”We will decide when they leave Parliament,” Solidarity trade union leader Piotr Duda, said. Many protesters waved flags emblazoned with the union logo as they surrounded the building.

Union members blocked lawmakers from leaving Parliament after they voted to raise the retirement age as part of the government’s drive to put public finances on a more sustainable path. The reform has sparked the biggest protests in years.

Under the reform, men and women will eventually retire at 67 — instead of 65 for men and 60 for women as at present. Workers will be able to receive early partial pensions, as part of a compromise reached within the governing coalition.

New Report Shatters DHL’s ‘Good Conduct’ Claim

Global trade unions will unveil a report into how Deutsche Post DHL treats its workers, at the company’s AGM in Frankfurt on May 12 . They will launch a white paper that exposes “a shameful record of union avoidance outside of Europe and overuse of temporary or agency workers.” Shareholders are being urged to help clean up the logistics’ multinational, and ensure that high standards are met throughout the operations.

In many countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and India, subcontracted workers have been paid substantially less than regular workers, while doing exactly the same work. In Columbia, Costa Rica and South Africa, the company has forced workers to submit to lie detector tests. The company has been fined almost $300,000 for violations of health and safety laws.

The report provides a whole raft of evidence holding the company to account and demanding it meets its aspirations as a responsible enterprise in every country where it operates, not just in its home base, Germany. The campaign is being supported by the 175-million member International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Workers React to Brazil’s Rush to Build Dams in the Amazon

After a 26-day strike by 17,000 Brazilian workers last month, a faction of laborers, furious over wages and living conditions, began setting fires to the construction site at the Jirau Dam, one of the largest in the Amazon region. They burned down more than 30 structures and looted company stores before firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Brazil is leading a rush among Latin American nations to build an array of dozens of dams in the Amazon. The authorities expect at least 20 important hydroelectric projects, including the Jirau and Santo

Antonio Dams, to be built here in the next decade. But worker unrest has grown over pay, working conditions and time allowed to spend in their homeland.

The advance of he projects has opened Brazil to criticism from environmental groups, which say that the displacement of indigenous peoples and the flooding of swaths of rain forest — potentially releasing large amounts of methane gas — outweigh the dams’ benefits.

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