THE WORLD OF LABOR — June 8, 2012

By Harry Kelber

Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights

The year (2011) was a difficult and often dangerous time for workers throughout the world, with those who dared to stand up for their trade union rights facing dismissal, arrest, imprisonment and even death. That, in essence, is the picture that emerges from the annual survey of trade union violations published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). This year’s survey examines 143 countries.

Colombia is once again the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. Of the 76 people murdered for their trade union activities, not counting the workers killed during the Arab Spring, 29 lost their lives in Columbia. And in Guatemala, yet again, trade unionists paid a heavy price, with 10 assassinations committed with immunity. Eight trade unionists were murdered in Asia.

The worldwide trends highlighted in the survey include the non-respect of labor legislation by governments, the lack of funding for labor inspections and worker protection the lack of rights and the abuse faced by migrant workers throughout the world, particularly in the Gulf States, and the exploitation of the largely female workforce in the export processing zones around the globe. Among the most vulnerable are the 100 million domestic workers.

About 10,000 Singapore Civil Servants to Get Pay Raise Next Month

More than 9,500 lower-wage civil servants in Singapore will get a pay raise next month on top of a 0.3 monthly bonus being paid out across the civil service sector. The built-in increase of $30 to $60 a month for Divisions III and IV officers was given in line with the National Wages Council’s (NWC) latest recommendation.

While the government has given mid-year wage hikes before, with the last one in 2001, this one is targeted at its lowest staff employees. The pay of this group will be increased by from 3 percent to 10 percent. In a statement on June 5, the government emphasized its strong commitment to help raise the salaries of lower-wage civil servants.

Singapore is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It is composed of 63 islands. It has a free-market economy and a per capita GDP higher than that of most developed nations.

Turkish Law Banning Aviation Strikes Becomes Official

After a one-day slowdown and several flight cancellations last week, a lawmaking it illegal for the aviation industry to either strike or hold lockouts received presidential approval. As part of the new law, unlicensed taxi drivers and passengers who ride these taxis will also face heavy cash penalties.

Following the short strike, some 200 Turkish Airlines staff were laid-off for participating in the walkout. The strike resulted in a $2 million loss for the airline, which will probably sue the union for damages.

Meanwhile, the union, Hava-Is, said that it was going to appeal the law by taking it to the Turkish Constitutional Court. The union president, Atilay Aygin, said he was not surprised that the law was passed, but that he was going to continue his efforts to repeal the law.

French Government Restores Retirement at 60 for 100,000 Workers

France’s new Socialist government is set to restore the right to retire at 60 to about 100,000 workers, a symbolic partial reversal of one of the measures that the previous president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was most proud. The cabinet meeting on June 5 is to restore the right to retire on full pension at 60 to people who started work at 18 and have paid contributions for 41 years. The decision should come into effect within three weeks.

The move was a key promise of Francois Hollande’s election campaign, although his failure to reverse the whole measure disappointed many trade unionists and left-wingers. “That’s a step forward socially, after all,” commented Francois Chereque, the leader of the reformist CFDT trade union federation.

Sarkozy’s imposition of retirement at 62, which also limited the pension rights of millions of workers, who had not paid contributions for long enough, sparked union protests but was welcomed by businesses and pro-austerity economists.

Grave Concern for Algerian Unionists on Hunger Strike

With the hunger strike of nine Algerian trade unionists entering its fourth week, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has expressed grave concern for the health of the strikers. It is calling on Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflicka to intervene.

The nine senior representatives of the union of courthouse clerks launched their hunger strike as a result of the refusal of the Justice Ministry to deal with a series of employment grievances affecting Justice Department employees. They also protested the government’s continued refusal to recognize their trade union, the National Independent Union of Public Administrative Personnel.

Shusan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, urged the Algerian government to abandon its policy of confrontation and extend recognition to the union as an important step to settle the dispute.

Finnish Unions Plan Action Against Nuclear Utility

A group of Finland’s unions say that the TVO power utility has not moved to improve pay and working conditions for the mostly foreign workforce employed at its construction site, Ulkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant. The company denies the charge.

Antti Rinne, chairman of Pro, the labor union, said that a strike or other action may be taken against TVO. A group of unions held talks with the company during the spring, but the required changes demanded by the union have not materialized.

Unions say that healthcare is lacking at the site and that workers who are injured on the job may be sent back to their home countries. There have been cases where a subcontractor punished workers for joining a union.

To keep informed about workers and their unions in foreign countries, read our weekly “The World of Labor,” posted here and on our two web sites: : and