Indonesia has announced its intention to ratify an international convention on the protection of migrant workers.
The House of Representatives and the government reached an agreement to ratify the United Nations (UN) Convention on International Migrant Workers and Members of their Families on Thursday.
“The agreement to ratify the convention reflects the government’s commitment to protecting the rights of all Indonesian migrant workers. This is just the start of efforts to further protect our workers abroad,” Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.
Marty added that the ratification would require Indonesia to harmonize all domestic laws regarding migrant workers’ protection in line with the UN convention.
The UN adopted the convention in 1990.
Indonesia will be the 46th country from all UN member states to ratify the convention, and the second Asian country to do so.
Migrant Worker, a nongovernmental organization that promotes the rights of Indonesian migrant workers, welcomed the planned ratification, believing that it would provide the legal foundation to protect all migrant workers and members of their families.
“This is just the beginning. We will further endorse its implementation so that the rights of our migrant workers are truly guaranteed,” Anis Hidayah, Migrant Worker’s executive director, said.
Striking migrant workers are claiming serious exploitation, including docking pay for so-called “bondage payments” and holding passports, at a seafood factory in Thailand.
The factory in question, the Phatthana Seafood Company, is believed to be a key exporter to Australia, the United States and Europe.
It is also said to be part of the Rubicon group, a collection of seafood factories that supply the US giant Wal-Mart.
Up to 2,000 Cambodian and Burmese workers are striking at the factory, and while it is on the approved list with the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, it is unclear whether it is currently exporting to Australia.
Advocates on site claim workers who wanted to leave the factory for the annual Thai new year Songkran holiday this weekend have been given their passports back for a fee of 1,000 baht ($30) paid to the employer.
Those who have not paid the fee have allegedly not had their passports returned.
The practice of trafficking illegal workers then forcing them into debt bondage in Thailand is not uncommon, but in this case the workers are employed legally and the factory is a major global seafood exporter.
Migrant advocate Andy Hall from Thailand’s Mahidol University has been pursuing the case and says the protest escalated quickly.
“The management apparently decided to reduce the benefit for the workers and almost immediately a protest erupted,” he said.
“Workers were very angry so they gathered outside of the gate, and it started to get a little bit heated and there were police brought in, shots fired and now we just have a situation where we have a lock-out.”
The protest comes after the freshly elected Thai government moved to impose a minimum wage, taking take-home pay in the province from 176 baht ($5.50) per day to 246 baht ($7.70).
It is believed the change may have motivated the factory’s owners to scrap a 20 baht daily food allowance – and that 62c loss has infuriated workers.
Mr Hall says the exploitation claims, if proven, are disturbing.
“The evidence suggests this is quite a large factory and an international exporter from what the reports have been saying. If so then the conditions would be particularly bad because generally with these international factories they are monitored quite closely,” Mr Hall said.
“We often find that in smaller factories with smaller workforces – prawn peeling sheds or things like that – we often find very exploitative conditions including trafficking, forced labour, violent failure to adhere to the minimum labour standards.”
“But this is an exceptional case because the workers actually are some of the first workers to come in through the new legal import system.”
International importers rules outlaw debt bondage and the holding of passports by employers, and Mr Hall says Australia should be asking questions about the origins of its seafood.
“Seafood is one of the most significant export products from Thailand – making up something like 50 per cent goes to the US,” he said.
“But there’s also a large amount going to Europe, Australia and within Asia and this is the responsibility of the corporations. It is also the responsibility of people in countries like Australia to be asking and demanding answers about where their seafood does come from.”
Permanent workers of telecom equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks India staged a sit-in strike on Monday protesting against over 50 workers being barred from entering the factory and an enquiry being launched against them.
“On April 4, the company barred entry to the factory to 52 workers without any reason. The management has also initiated an enquiry against the workers. We are protesting against these actions. Representations sent to Nokia Siemens Network’s headquarters in Finland did not elicit any response,” E. Muthukumar, president of Nokia Siemens Networks India Thozhilalar Sangam, which is affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said.
Tracing the genesis of the labour problem, Muthukumar said: “The workers’ trouble with the management has been simmering since February when another union wanted to establish a base. Immediately the company transferred 15 workers to Kolkata without giving any advance notice or joining time. We later took up the transfer issue with the management.”
He said all the 260 permanent workers were not allowed inside the factory between February 15-23.
“At the conciliation meeting held by the Assistant Commissioner of Labour, the management agreed that the workers would be allowed and other issues would be sorted out by talks. Today (Monday) the company announced initiation of enquiry against the 52 workers, including union office bearers,” Muthukumar said.
Nokia Siemens Networks has its plant at Oragadam, around 45 km from here, and employs 260 permanent workers and 100 contract labourers.
“The production operations at Oragadam facility are running normally. We have offered our colleagues an opportunity to have an open dialogue to understand the employees’ concerns in a manner that is mutually conducive and rational in approach. We continue to treat all our employees with utmost respect and appreciation as we have in the past,” Satendra Singh, head of manufacturing operations, India was quoted in a statement issued by the company.
Refuting that Muthukumar said: “Production has come to a halt. Around 170 workers are on sit-in strike and several workers are outside the factory gates. We have asked female workers to be at home.”
A conciliation meeting is slated between the union, management at the Assistant Labour Commissioner’s office on Tuesday.
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 Consortium, an American group working to improve conditions at factories abroad that make clothes for U.S. companies. “This depraved act signals the deterioration of an already grim labor rights situation in Bangladesh, which is now the fourth largest exporter of apparel to the U.S.”
Islam had been serving as a senior organizer for the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), and 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 Ralph Lauren.
Islam had also helped arrange interviews for ABC News with survivors of one of the deadliest recent factory fires in Bangladesh — interviews featured in a recent report that aired on “Nightline” that focused on designer Tommy Hilfiger and the parent company that manufactures his clothing line, PVH Corp.
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, and according to labor organizers, shoddy wiring and locked gates are frequent at Bangladeshi clothing factories despite their highly flammable contents. Over the past five years, nearly 500 workers have died in a series of gruesome fires.
Islam was last seen Wednesday evening outside the offices of BCWS, after having closed the office early because he believed the office was being monitored by Bangladeshi officials, according to information gathered by Nova. Two days later, a photo of Islam’s body appeared in a Bangladeshi newspaper alongside a report about unidentified remains having been discovered. His wife recognized the photo.
This article considers whether the Australian practice of compulsory arbitration for certain kinds of labour conflicts has relevance to China. China continues to emphasise collective negotiation and collective contracts as a major method of regulating labour relations issues such as wage adjustment. In recent years, there has been considerable experimentation at the provincial and local level that goes beyond negotiation at the enterprise level. Some cities have introduced industry-level negotiation. For example, Guangdong province has been debating rules which better recognise that collective contract negotiation process is not simply one of amiable consultation, but often involves hard bargaining.
This article would first look into the making of this Collective Contract, introduce the key players and describe how they interact and view the process. The first part is written based on newspaper clippings. Then the author will discuss the significance of this case, to see if the Collective Contract would eventually improve the working conditions of the catering workers, if the case is worthy copying or can act as a reference for workers from other industries, and what the remaining concerns are.
Collective bargaining has been one of the corner stones for workers movement not only in their quest to achieve better working and living standards but also to carve out political and social space that allows them to shape their future. In face of the mighty ‘capital’, only the ‘collective’ power of workers has allowed them to bargain and negotiate since the inception of industrial development. By the 20th century, as a result of workers struggle, collective bargaining and freedom of association were recognised as basic rights and many countries institutionalised collective bargaining by framing laws and creating institutions predominantly acting to mediate between capital and labour. For some time, collective bargaining thrived in the West with organised labour represented by trade unions negotiating and bargaining with industry under supervision of the State. However, the past few decades have turned out to be ‘game changer’ with ‘neo-liberalism’ taking over as the predominant economic and political discourse with the agenda to re-establish capital accumulation and restore the power of economic elite. This no doubt involved restructuring of the production space forcing workers to compete in the ‘race to bottom’ for lowest wages and vulnerable employment. Living up to its character, neoliberalism also ensured hostility against any forms of social solidarity and collective actions that could constitute barriers to the unprecedented capital accumulation. This led to a serious decline in the membership of the unions – key pillars for collective bargaining, thus tilting the balance completely in favour of capital. The ‘collectivity’ of labour has been under constant threat with the restructuring of labour relations that have emphasised on the individuality of workers with ‘flexible’ work being the order of the day. Workers became ‘divisible’ into temporary, contract and part-time workers and thus turning invisible. Capital mobility and financial globalisation have further weakened the labour bargaining power. The new century is witnessing a complete mismatch between labour that is organised within the national framework, trying to take on an almighty multifaceted and multinational capital that works beyond the control of nation states.
Asia in itself has been a different story with institutionalised collective bargaining only covering a small section of the workers as despite the diversity in the Asian region, very low level of organised workforce has been a persistent constant. They have been facing similar challenges as elsewhere and the existing low membership is further declining. Within the formal or organised sector, the enterprise level bargaining has been the dominant form of collective bargaining rather than sectoral or industry-wide bargaining. On the other hand, majority of the working population in Asiacontinues to work in the vast informal sector beyond the coverage of state laws, thus excluded from the ‘formal’ and legal mechanisms of collective bargaining.
The present issue of Asian Labour Update attempts to portray what collective bargaining in Asia entails. Case study by Han Guijun on the collective contract in the catering industry in the Wuhan city, China, considered to be covering largest number of workers (450,000) in China, analyses the problems of very ‘top-down’ process of collective bargaining where workers seem to have no say in their representative or the process in itself. This case study exemplifies the fears that many have with respect to Chinaand of the role that single workers union in Chinacan play in effective collective bargaining in absence of – freedom of association. India on the other hand, as described by Surendra Pratap in his article, has neither ratified ILO convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise 1948 (C. 87), nor the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (C. 98), as reflected in the Chapter on India. It has to be acknowledged that the institutional framework for collective bargaining is at different levels of development in India. As reflected by the article on compulsory arbitration, Sean Cooney compares the situation of arbitration in Chinaand Australiaand reflects that the existing laws in Chinado not deal effectively with the problem if the employer refuses to bargain, which happens in many cases. He further shares the Australian experience, where statutory tribunal, Fair Work Australia plays a vital role in arbitration and effectively deals with employers’ refusal to bargain. Finally, in the lead article – Beyond Collective Bargaining written Sri Wulandari explains the concept of ‘collective bargaining’ that goes beyond the regulatory framework and effectively covers majority of working population in the informal sector. Collective bargaining carries different connotations for different workers and in case of informal workers collective bargaining begins with the struggle for getting recognition as workers. Asiais home to the majority of working poor in the world who remain marginalised and excluded. Based on the experience of workers’ organisation in the Southeast Asian region, the paper highlights the struggle of working poor in defining their identity, forging alliances and their efforts to create a democratic space that allows them to bargain for their future themselves.
In Asia, the flexibilisation of labour market, a network of supply chains with multiple layers which blurred the employer- employee relation. Capital has invaded into social spheres and generally speaking society as whole is subordinated by the circuit of capital. Therefore, the conceptualisation of collective bargaining as resistance against this subordination becomes essential. It then becomes a political act that involves recreating social solidarity and figuring out alternate social relations. It involves cross sectoral alliances between different workers – industrial workers, farm workers, and self employed urban poor to bargain collectively beyond the membership benefits and beyond nation states. Collective bargaining becomes bargaining for identity, dignity and broader political struggle for democratic control.
As observed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007, “Collective bargaining is not simply an instrument for pursuing external ends…..Rather, collective bargaining is intrinsically valuable as an experience in self-government”.
A task force will soon be formed to help remove lacunas from the ‘Home-Based Workers Bill’ within three months so that it could be tabled in the provincial assembly again. Once passed the bill would ensure rights to thousands of home-based workers in the province.
The consensus in this regard was developed during a consultative meeting called here on Saturday to discuss ways to improve the bill, as the assembly had once rejected it due certain lacunas.
The task force would have representation of the government, non-governmental organisations and employers and workers.
“Earlier, it took us three years to prepare and get the bill for the rights of home-based workers to the provincial assembly where it was rejected the very next day,” said Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Shazia Tehmas while sharing her experience with participants of the consultative meeting on the subject.
The MPA said that labour, social welfare and finance departments did not help her remove the lacunas from her private’s member bill, which was meant to legally recognise the labour of such workers.
She said that officials of the department concerned delayed the entire procedure and did not help her remove the lacunas, which resulted in the failure to get the bill passed.
The consultation was organised by Aurat Foundation and HomeNet, which had been holding meetings with the stakeholders to develop consensus on the legislation concerning home-based workers.
On the occasion, the gathering decided to form a task force, which should help remove lacunas from the bill within three months so that it could be tabled in the provincial assembly.
Sitara Ayaz, provincial minister for women development, said that the bill was lying with the labour department and assured the PPP lawmaker of government’s support next time it was tabled in the assembly.
She requested the organisers of the meeting to include in the consultations the industries department, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority and Women Business Development Centre. Parveen, a home-based worker, said that the
ministers and those from the NGOs should not forget about them once the meeting was over. She recalled that the prime minister had announced soft loans for the home-based workers, but nothing happened. She said that they had been working
without a proper law, which recognized their work and ensured them minimum wages and other benefits.
Khalid, who hails from Islampur area of Swat where silk and woolen shawls are produced by home-based workers on over 5,000 looms, raised the issue of lack of proper data of such workers. He demanded the government departments should first set theirfigures right and then make laws about such workers.
Umme-i-Laila, representing the HomeNet, said that the number of home-based workers was rising, but in the absence of any law they were deprived of many benefits. She said that the ILO Convention was important for home-based workers because it
had set the minimum standards for pay and conditions of employment, which could be translated into national policies or laws.
US officials have met with labour organisers in Rangoon to discuss the implementation of a new law that gives workers in Burma unprecedented rights to organise and protest.
Five US officials, including State Department deputy assistant secretary Daniel Baer and International Labour Affairs special representative Barbara Shailor, were involved in the talks yesterday.
Zaw Nyunt, chairman of the All-Burma Workers Solidarity League (ABWSL), told DVB that the officials were observing the enactment of the Labour Organisation Bill. He said that Burmese labour leaders would be offered assistance by the US if needed.
“It’s remarkable that they arrived two days after the labour law became effective and said they would like to discuss matters regarding [the law],” said Zaw Nyunt.
The passing of the law brings to an end the draconian 1962 Trade Unions Act that effectively banned all trade unions in the country. Burmese workers can now legally go on strike, with the proviso that if they work in the private sector they give three days notice, and if in a public utility, 14 days.
But problems still remain for workers, despite the bill having been showcased as a key signal of the government reformist agenda. Zaw Nyunt said that workplace conditions were not being properly addressed.
“We also discussed the mistreatment of workers and the unfair salaries, considering our ASEAN neighbours have minimum wage specifications that are essential for workers’ rights but our country doesn’t have that,” he said.
The bill allows for the formation of unions with a minimum size of 30 people, which members can join or leave of their own desire. Workers can legally go on strike and protest for workers’ rights as long as it does not block transport or security infrastructure.
Included in the bill is new legislation that imposes severe penalties on employers who breach its regulations. A fine of 100,000 kyat ($US120) or a year in prison is possible for any employer that fires a worker who joins a union or goes on strike.
Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Police are accused of breaking a 21-year-old woman’s nose and injuring two other women as about 900 workers marched from the Win Shing-tex Cambodia garment factory in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district yesterday.
Man Vanna, the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Unions (C.CAWDU) deputy president at the factory, said garment worker Ry Mom’s nose was broken, causing her to faint, after police officers struck her with batons and punched her several times just a kilometre from the factory.
“The workers had nothing in their hand beside banners, which they carried to ask the factory’s owner to find a solution for them after 10 days of striking without result,” Man Vanna said, adding that about 100 police officers had gathered to stop protesters from marching to the Ministry of Labour.
Two other women received cuts to the face and head. Commune and district police refused to comment.
Workers began striking on March 16, demanding the reinstatement of five suspended unionists and an increase in transportation allowance.
At the heart of the dispute is a collective bargaining agreement that the union has been trying in vain to secure for nearly a year, Ath Thorn, head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), told the Post last week.
According to Ath Thorn, Win Shing-tex had tried to set up a rival union and discouraged employees from joining C.CAWDU, an independent member of CLC that represents more than 50 per cent of workers at the factory and therefore has the right to negotiate a collective agreement.
C.CAWDU representatives met with factory management yesterday for closed-door discussions that lasted more than five hours.
San Sopha, a labour dispute official for C.CAWDU, said the company had promised to increase payments for transportation and reinstate the suspended union leaders.
Negotiations will continue after Khmer New Year.
“More than 20 announcements in a joint convention will be negotiated,” San Sopha said, adding he would file a complaint against the police for their use of violence. “We have photos of police attacking workers,” he said.
Chhin Tao, administration chief at Win Shing-tex, said the workers had promised to return to work today.
“Actually, the company and administration officers were not wrong, but in order to settle this and for the face of the nation, the company agrees to accept the workers’ requests,” he said.
Dave Welsh, country director of the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, said yesterday’s violence would not have occurred if the factory had properly negotiated.
“The larger issue here is that this is one of the rare instances where an independent union is in a position to reach a collective agreement with factory management,” he said. “It’s rare to see a single independent union represent more than 50 per cent of employees and therefore have most representative status [MRS].
“[C.CAWDU] has this, but it is being denied the chance to pursue a collective bargaining agreement. . . . What other recourse do [workers] have other than to protest?” he said. “Had this agreement simply gone through, it would have been unthinkable that any violence would have occurred.”
Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general Ken Loo did not say whether factories discriminated against independent unions, but said C.CAWDU had “gone back on their word numerous occasions”.
Protests against Indonesia’s plans to increase government-controlled fuel prices by 33% spread Thursday, with thousands joining sometimes violent rallies across the archipelago.
While Jakarta has yet to see anything close to the tens of thousands of angry citizens blocking traffic and commerce that some politicians had worried about, thousands of people, often from student and labor groups, have been protesting across the country this week. One group clashed with police and looted stores in Makassar on the island of Sulawesi on Thursday while on Maluku island, protesters blockaded an airport, forcing airlines Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air to divert flights.
Some unions and student groups warn that the protests are only going to intensify ahead of a vote on the fuel-price increase scheduled for Friday in the country’s parliament.
“We refuse to accept this hike,” said Fadli Ferrianza, a leader of a group of students shouting and waving flags in front of the presidential palace, home and workplace of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday. “Yudhoyono and [vice president] Boediono are leading the country in the wrong direction. It’s going to trigger inflation in all the basic goods including food.”
The president tried to calm protesters by saying Indonesia’s economic growth could stall if the fuel-price rise is scrapped. “If we take the popular choice, I will only feel guilty because the economy will suffer,” Mr. Yudhoyono said in a statement.
For years Indonesians have paid one of the lowest rates in the world for gasoline—the equivalent of about $2 a gallon—thanks to government subsidies. However as oil prices have surged and Indonesia’s domestic oil production has dwindled, the fuel-subsidy bill has ballooned to more than $15 billion a year—more than 15% of the national budget.
Economists say Southeast Asia’s largest economy, which has a population of 240 million, needs to get its citizens to pay more at the pump so it can control its budget and have more to spend on its overstretched roads, ports and power plants.
Protesters say the government can afford the subsidy, while the more than 100 million Indonesians who live on less than $2 a day can’t afford to pay more for motorcycle fuel—or shoulder the higher bus fares or food prices that the fuel-price move is likely to trigger. Economists say inflation could reach 8% year-on-year compared with less than 4% now.
How the protests are handled is seen as an important measure of Indonesia’s ability to push through unpopular but necessary reforms. With Mr. Yudhoyono and his party’s public ratings plunging on the back of corruption scandals, the fuel-price plan has emerged as a crucial test of whether President SBY, as he is called here, has become a lame-duck president more than two years away from the next presidential election.
A fuel-price rise has been repeatedly proposed and delayed for more than a year, but officials now say that rising global oil prices mean it can’t be delayed any longer even if the move results in faster inflation.
“We expect the new budget will be passed despite some public protests,” said Stephan Hasjim, a Jakarta-based analyst at Nomura Equity research in a report. “We view this outcome as positive for Indonesia’s macroeconomic fundamentals as the fuel-price hike should lead to better allocation of public spending, a sustainable fiscal policy and lessen the pressure on the current-account balance.”
The government is taking few chances and has dispatched more than 20,000 police and military personnel to control the crowds. In many of the protests Thursday there were more police than protesters. People in power have reason to be nervous. A big gasoline-price increase in 1998 may have been the last straw that triggered the mass protest that toppled dictator Suharto. Protests in 2002 also forced the government to scale back plans to lift prices.
While it is still uncertain whether Mr. Yudhoyono’s administration has the votes it need to force the change, analysts expect the increase to be passed, along with plans to use much of the money saved as a temporary monthly handout to poor families most affected.
Still, groups opposing the measure say that while they hope to block the plan in parliament, they will continue to protest even after the hike is expected to take effect on Sunday.
“The game is not over,” said Rieke Diah Pitaloka, a labor activist and lawmaker. “If we fail to block the plan at the House of Representatives we will march the streets. You’ll see.”
By Baradan Kuppusamy
KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 25, 2012 (IPS) – Malaysia plans to introduce a national minimum wage for its workers against stiff opposition from employers and manufacturers who warn that such a policy would shut down nearly 200,000 small and medium enterprise (SME) units.
Human resources minister Subramaniam Sinnapan has dismissed the manufacturers’ claims as “false and alarmist,” but Prime Minister Najib Razak appears rattled and has delayed an announcement until May 1.
“I will study the matter in-depth and make an appropriate announcement on Labour Day,” he was reported as saying by the ‘The Star’ daily on Mar. 20.
The government is caught between having to shore up votes in an election year and meeting the demands of manufacturers.
Najib cannot ignore warnings by Malaysia’s Employers Federation that the closure of 200,000 SME units would mean the loss of four million jobs in a population of over 28 million people.
Adding to the pressure, the opposition-ruled state of Selangor declared a Malaysian ringitt 1,500 (487 dollars) minimum wage for its employees, starting Jan.1.
But, Selangor has had to set aside 97.5 million dollars to assist state-owned companies that are unable to pay the new wages.
“Four million of them earn less than 162.5 dollars a month,” said Arulchelvam Sinnaiyan, secretary-general of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia, a small but vocal party that has two lawmakers in parliament.
According to a UNDP country report, Malaysia is one country in Asia that has a wide income gap, with the top 20 percent people enjoying 70 percent of the wages and the bottom 60 percent earning 20 percent.
A middle class of 20 percent struggles to pay off loans on houses, cars and credit cards.
In the 2008 general elections, the bottom 60 percent of voters, many of them SME workers, rebelled, choosing the opposition Pakatan Rakyat over the ruling National Front (NF) in the biggest upset since independence from Britain in 1957.
The ruling NF government wants to fix minimum monthly wages at 292. 60 dollars for SME workers, but manufacturers say they are already struggling to stay afloat on a profit margin of three to six percent and will lose out to competitors in Asia, especially China and India.
The country is trapped in a low-cost economy and has to move out to higher skills and higher cost manufacturing as neighbouring Singapore did in the past two decades.
But the biggest hurdle is the upcoming general election whose outcome can go either way. While Najib is popular, he has a lot of baggage carrying the NF, especially corruption issues.
In the latest of a series of scams, a minister was forced to resign after her family diverted funds meant to make the country self-sufficient in beef production into buying plush condominiums and expensive cars.
Najib sees the four million SME workers as potential voters, many of whom are struggling on wages that are way below the official poverty line of 247 dollars a month.
“A minimum wage of 293 dollars is great news and shows how desperate they are to win. It shows the power of our votes,” said factory worker Muniandy Ramasamy, 42, of Kajang, a city about 30 km south of the capital Kuala Lumpur.
“I can now take home a decent wage with that,” he said, adding that while his basic pay is low, he earns more by working overtime.
He also gets other incentives to take home 390 dollars, barely living wages in Malaysia.
Najib has been giving ‘One Malaysia’ aid to low-income families totalling nearly 650,300,764 dollars and has promised more doles if the economy improves.
“Giving minimum wages is a smart move considering the opposition from employers…it forestalls potential protests and wins him votes in the crucial election,” says Denison Jayasooria, head of the Social Strategic Foundation, a government-funded entity.
“Employers have said before that they would rather die than agree to a minimum wage policy, but Najib has to win them over,” he told IPS.
Jayasooria said having a minimum wage policy would also help lift the economy out of a low-cost morass.
Many of Malaysia’s neighbours have minimum wage packages and use them as a social safety net to help lowly paid workers manage in tough times.
These countries, including Thailand and Indonesia, plan to raise wage levels to counter the widening income gaps and prevent possible political upheavals.
Labour advocates are already calling for minimum wage deals in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
China, the world’s manufacturing hub, is raising its minimum wage by 13 percent in stages over the next five years.
A minimum wage policy is one of Najib’s most important reform planks. He needs to convince SME workers that the government stands for them and not just for the rich, powerful and well connected
A Goldman Sachs employee on Thursday recounted in a faltering voice how he toiled away in the back offices of the bank’s Japanese operations for nearly a decade before being told last year that his job was being eliminated.
He is now fighting back. At a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday, the finance professional said he and a group of former Goldman Sachs employees had founded a union to demand their jobs back in what lawyers said was a rare instance of organized labor in finance’s highest echelons.
“I would just like to be treated as human,” said the former employee, who said he was recruited by Goldman Sachs straight out of college and worked in operations before being laid off in August. He said Goldman Sachs representatives pressured him at combative meetings to take a six-month severance package, a sum he said was inadequate.
He appeared at the news conference in a mask and refused to give his name or nationality, only saying that he was not Japanese and using the pseudonym “Adam Lee.” He said he was concerned that identifying himself would jeopardize his chances of getting future jobs in finance.
“We are currently in discussions with the National Union of General Workers over a termination dispute,” a Goldman Sachs spokesman said. “We are negotiating in good faith.”
Goldman’s Japan office was set up in Tokyo in 1974 and employs about 1,300 people. Laid-off employees may have a strong claim of unfair dismissal in a country with some of the most protective labor laws in the world. Japanese companies have long been expected to offer their workers lifetime employment, a system long upheld as vital to the country’s social cohesion.
“Personally, this labor union makes me laugh,” said Kunsen Gen, a managing partner at the Minato International Group, a Tokyo-based legal practice that handles labor disputes. “They should have known from the start that layoffs are a risk in the cutthroat world of finance.”
But legal precedent in Japan suggests that the former employees could be successful in claiming wrongful dismissal, Mr. Gen said.
Japanese laws require, for example, that even underperforming employees must be given ample time to improve and learn before a company can show them the door. For layoffs, a company must show that it is on the verge of bankruptcy, and that staff cutbacks are necessary to stay a going concern.
“It would be hard to argue that Goldman Sachs is in danger of going bust,” Mr. Gen said.
The Tokyo-based National Union of General Workers, which helps foreign and other workers in Japan, said it was working with three other former Goldman Sachs employees negotiate severance packages. It is also helping run the fledgling union at the investment bank, called the Goldman Sachs Japan Employee Union, which recently set up its own Facebook page .
The union refused to disclose how many members it had. A second former employee of the bank said at the news conference that he had also worked at Goldman Sachs for about 10 years before being fired last year, one of about 2,400 jobs the bank eliminated worldwide last year amid a precipitous revenue drop.
Mr. Lee, meanwhile, said that with no paycheck since February, he had started to dip into his savings. He declined to reveal his salary at Goldman or the size of his nest egg, however.
“You might think I’m rich, but the back office doesn’t make that kind of money,” he said, adding that he “may even have to move apartments.”
After more than 1000 days of struggle, workers dismissed from Ssangyong Motor’s Pyeongtaek factory in 2009 have yet to be granted negotiations with the company’s Indian management. Workers were dismissed in the process of structural adjustment in preparation for Ssangyong Motor’s sale to the Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group. At that time, dismissed workers were joined by their still-employed colleagues in a 77-day strike and factory occupation under the slogan, “We will live and survive together.”
Ssangyong Motor workers
The Korean government responded to the 2009 struggle with brutal and bloody suppression. It mobilized armed special police forces and helicopters, which rained pepper spray on the desperately struggling workers.
The struggle ended with the company agreeing to reinstate the dismissed workers after a year of unpaid leave. Yet neither the government nor the company has shown any accountability in the aftermath. Not even a small part of the agreement reached between the workers and management has been implemented. In the meantime, 22 workers and their family members have committed suicide due to deep sorrow and desperation.
Continuing the struggle, the Korean Metal Workers Union Ssangyong Motor Branch and many social movement organizations including PSSP have pitched ‘Hope Tents’ in front of the Ssangyong Motor factory in Pyeongtaek since December 2011. They organized national demonstrations called ‘Day of Siege against Ssangyong Motor’ three times in December, January and February. Thousands of people participated. On April 21, they will hold the 4th ‘Day of siege’.
The Ssangyong Motor struggle epitomizes key issues faced by Korean workers, including mass layoffs, state violence and speculative foreign capital. We must build broader and firmer solidarity and strengthen our struggle if we are to win reinstatement of the dismissed workers, prevent further deaths and confront the wider social problems that Ssangyong Motor represents.
RIAWM International Department
300,000 migrant workers keep Hong Kong’s households moving. Now, amid claims they are treated as second class citizens, the city’s maids are challenging laws that forbid them from getting permanent residency.
Invisible for most of the week, this army of domestic workers emerges on to the streets on Sunday afternoons, to socialise and meet with friends. They are a familiar sight, but are currently at the centre of a heated legal battle. The Mission for Migrant Workers vocally campaigns on their behalf, against authorities not afraid of dubious tactics, like stirring up public bias by claiming hundreds of thousands of them might settle on the already crowded island. “I think there is a racial element to this”, claims a lawyer involved in the campaign. Mistreatment of the maids also remains a serious issue. Wahyuni’s employer terminated her contract whilst she was receiving treatment for cancer. For her, “every day is painful”.
There are bias and discriminatory position and action towards foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong which have been systematically planned, initiated, and fanned by the right wing – Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and its trade union, HK Federation of Trade Union. This right wing group has been successful largely because the case of right to abode coincided with the election time.
Weeks after winning a major commitment from American clothing giant Phillips-Van Heusen to improve labor conditions in the garment factories of Bangladesh, one of the leaders of the workers’ movement has been found murdered, his body showing evidence of brutal torture.
Aminul Islam, a head of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, disappeared from the country’s main textile center of Ashulia on Wednesday after receiving a call from a worker requesting assistance.
“His legs had severe torture marks including a hole made by a sharp object. All his toes were broken,” the local police chief told AFP.
Police discovered his body dumped by a roadside Friday, reportedly burying it in “a state-run graveyard the next day after finding no claimant.”
BCWS’ Kalpona Akter, who was arrested and imprisoned along with Islam in 2010 on charges related to their labor activism, accused Bangladeshi security forces and garment firm owners of responsibility for her colleague’s murder.
Islam, 40, had fought for years to organize garment workers to push for higher wages and safer factories, forcing one of the worst paying countries in the world to increase the minimum wage in 2010. Last month the BCWS was featured in an ABC News investigation into labor violations in Bangladesh’s apparel industry.
The ABC story focused on a 2011 factory fire that killed 29 workers and led Phillips-Van Heusen to commit more than $1 million to improving standards in the factories that produce clothing for many of the world’s most recognizable brands including Calvin Klein, Nautica, Kenneth Cole and Timberland.
A press release from the International Labor Rights Forum indicated that Islam had feared for his safety just hours before his disappearance after spotting a police van while attending evening prayers.
Akter said Islam had been tortured in 2010 by members of Bangladesh’s National Intelligence Service:
“They took him to the agency headquarters, tortured him, broke one of his toes and then took him to (the northern district of) Mymensingh from where he miraculously escaped.”
Some of Thailand’s top garment companies will move their operations to Burma in the coming year.
At least six leading garment manufacturers plan to set up shop to take advantage of lower wages by the second half of the year, according to an article in The Nation newspaper on Saturday. The companies would hire up to 3,000 workers, officials said. More than one dozen of Thailand’s largest garment manufacturers have moved to neighboring countries which offer a cheaper labour force.
The companies would start operations by investing about US$ 10 in each plant for a total of $60 million.
Thailand is already Burma’s second largest investor, following China. It is investing heavily in the oil and natural gas sector, and is expected to also take advantage of Burma’s cheaper labour force and its close proximity.
Vallop Vitanakorn, an adviser to the Thai Garment Manufacturers Association (TGMA), said, “The general election on April 1 will show that Burma will not move backwards. This will ensure that the country will have a clearer policy to promote growth and revise rules and regulations to facilitate investment.”
Burma’s labour costs are one-third lower than Thailand’s, according to the article.
Thailand current has a shortage of labour, said TGMA president Sukij Kongpiyacharn, and the plan to raise Thailand’s minimum wage next month to Bt300 (about $10) a day has encouraged the move.
Last year, many Thai garment producers have moved to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
Sukij said he expected more than 10 local apparel producers would set up new plants in Burma this year.
“Factories in Burma will be larger than the other plants that Thai investors have set up in other Asean countries. Burma is the highest-potential destination for investment, since it has a large domestic market as well as being an export base to The Italian-Thai Development Plc. (ITD), the developer of the Dawei deep-sea port project on the southern coast of Burma, is in the process of securing around US$ 8.5 billion to move ahead on the infrastructure phase of the massive mega-billion energy project.”
Thailand’s largest construction company by market value, ITD will require the backing of Thailand, Burma and a blend of international partners.
The energy project will cover 250 square kilometers. Located on the Andaman shoreline, Dawei is about 350 kilometers west of Bangkok. The project will supply oil and other goods to Southeast Asia, bypassing the Strait of Malacca and cutting costs.
The Dawei Special Economic Zone includes an integrated steel mill, power plants, a petrochemical complex and a fertilizer plant.
The collective bargaining in India remained limited in its scope and restricted in its coverage by a well defined legal structure. Actually, the labour laws systematically promoted and perpetuated a duality of labour-formal sector workers enjoying better space for collective bargaining and informal ones with no scope for collective bargaining. To understand this, we can discuss in brief about the labour legislations in Indiaand their scope and coverage.
This paper looks at the issue of collective bargaining beyond the regulatory framework. The title ‘Beyond Collective Bargaining’ suggests a process wherein informal workers may be able to constitute some form of political power.
Philippines has ratified all eight core ILO labour Conventions. In view of
restrictions on the trade union rights of workers, discrimination, child labour, and forced labour, determined measures are needed to comply with the commitments Philippines accepted at Singapore, Geneva and Doha in the WTO Ministerial Declarations over 1996-2001, and in the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its 2008 Social Justice Declaration.
Trade union rights are recognised in the Philippines but with many
restrictions. In practice, there is an environment of violence and intimidation
against trade unions. Employers and state authorities make use of anti-union
practices in order to curb unions’ rights. Killings of trade unionists have declined
since 2009 but continue to take place with impunity. Furthermore, the increasing
replacement of long-term employment contracts with subcontracted or contractual labour curtails union membership.
Discrimination on various grounds is prohibited but it is a problem. Women
are concentrated in low skilled, low paid occupations and face a sizeable pay gap.
The laws on indigenous peoples’ rights are not effectively enforced and many
indigenous persons have lost the means to exercise their traditional occupations.
The legislation on child labour is not in conformity with ILO Conventions 138 and 182. In practice, child labour is prevalent and many children are exploited in the worst forms of child labour. The government is endeavouring to address the situation and has made some progress to this end.
Forced labour and human trafficking are problems. Many women and girls
are forced into domestic servitude and prostitution and men are coerced into debt peonage in agriculture and fisheries. The government is making some efforts to eliminate trafficking and forced labour but prosecutions are rare and some police agents are complicit.
Doctor Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, president of FUTA (Federation of University Teachers Association) says that the university teachers would engage in a token strike on 26 of April as a protest for failure to address their demands on rectifying salary anomalies. He states that the university teachers island wide support the strike and that a protest campaign and a seminar have been organised on the same day.
Indonesia’s largest coal producer, PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC), through its mine services contractor Thiess Pty. Ltd. of Australia, has brutally attacked members of two ICEM-affiliated mine unions through police and military force. The dispute dates to the fourth quarter of 2011 when miners working for KPC, part of Indonesia’s Bumi Resources, first took strike action when it became obvious that neither Thiess nor KPC intended to grant a renewal collective agreement.
But the dispute at KPC’s Sangatta mine in Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo turned violent on 24 March when 400 striking workers gathered at the coal company’s office in East Kutai district on the counsel of a local citizens group to offer themselves back to work following a second strike dating to last November.
They were immediately attacked by a regional military brigade serving the interests of Thiess and KPC. Twenty miners were severely beaten and hospitalised. Another 12 were immediately detained and throughout the night of 24 March and into the next day, police and military rounded up another four union leaders and jailed them.
By this weekend, most of the unionists had been released but police and regional military are still holding two union leaders, the Vice President of the local branch of ICEM affiliate Chemical, Energy, Mines, Oil & Gas Workers’ Union of FSP-KEP, Sumardi, and the Secretary, Maxi.
The leader of FSP-KEP, D. Patombong Sjaiful, called the situation now “critical” and pleaded that global trade union attention is given this grievous repression by brute force. In the second time in a fortnight, Jakarta-based FSP-KEP today dispatched a mission to east Kalimantan province, this time to win the freedom of the two remaining unionists.
The other ICEM-affiliated organisation with membership at KPC is the regional mining and energy union FPE, part of the Indonesian confederation SBSI. Some 2,200 miners work at KPC’s two open-cast thermal coal mines of Sangatta. FSP-KEP has some 1,400 members, while FPE has 200. KPC also consists of five smaller mines at the nearby Bengalon mine.
The dispute began following the expiration of a two-year agreement on 5 October 2011. Thiess Indonesia management foretold its strategy to eliminate the collective agreement by telling the unions a new agreement would not be valid until after negotiations were complete. And then the stalling began.
The mineworkers’ only choice was to strike and the first work stoppage occurred from 10 November to 27 December, from which six union leaders were sacked. When the two sides finally did return to bargaining on 28 January 2012, union leaders were summoned to police offices in East Kutai district where they were surprised to see that the police commander representing the company in talks.
Two days earlier, KPC sent a letter that the status of the six union leaders would not be on the agenda. Miners began a work slowdown resulting in 264 workers getting the sack that, in turn, caused a second strike.
When Sjaiful and other FSP-KEP leaders visited in mid-March, an agreement was sorted out between the police, a local parliamentarian, and the citizens’ group calling for the strike to cease, recall of the dismissed workers, and a return to negotiations.
But Thiesse and KPC rejected that. When strikers came to the company’s offices then on 24 March, they were met by police and the mobile brigade wielding batons and other instruments of force.
The ICEM condemns Thiess, part of Australian Leighton Holdings Ltd. (LEI), whose ultimate parent is the German global construction giant Hochtief AG, for utilising police and military intervention to avert legitimate collective negotiations. It also holds Bumi Resources accountable for this contemptible display of anti-social conduct in its home country.
Philip Morris International’s stock has climbed in 2012 driven by its strong full-year earnings and overall optimism in the macro-economic environment. We believe there is further upside to the stock as the company continues to perform impressively in Asia. As per our estimates, Asia contributes more than 40% to the company’s stock price. Customer loyalty is high for cigarette brands and with names such as Marlboro, L&M, Bond Street, and Parliament in its portfolio, the company can surely leverage its brands to tap the opportunities offered by this region. Philip Morris International competes with British America Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco Group, among others.
We have a revised $96 price estimate for Philip Morris International, which is about 10% higher than the market price.
Asia To Drive PM Higher
Firstly, Asia is the only region where the market size continues to grow. Indonesia is an attractive market with its market growing by close to 9% in 2011 and 4% in 2010. In absolute terms, the country alone consumes one-fourth of the cigarettes in Asia. In India too, the consumption of tobacco has traditionally been in forms other than cigarettes. With incomes rising quickly in the country and people adopting more western lifestyles, consumers are taking up cigarettes as the preferred choice of consumption of tobacco.
We expect the revenue per cigarette in Asia to rise from $0.066 in 2011 to $0.086 by the end of Trefis forecast period. Inflation is usually higher in developing countries, so it is easier to justify a price increase.
Moreover, excise taxes (as a percentage of revenues) are still low compared to other regions which ensures higher profitability for the company. Besides, regulations are relatively lax in Asian compared to Western countries, and with strong lobbying, the tobacco companies can ensure it takes a long time before taxation rates start approaching those in the developed world.
For 2011, the excise tax in Asia, as a percentage of revenue, was 45.4% compared to 69.1% in Europe. For East Europe, Middle East and Africa, the corresponding figure was close to 55%.
EEMA is another attractive region for the company. Cigarette volumes have been flat for the past few years, while the company has been able to grow its market share. EEMA contributes around 24% to the stock price, as per our estimates.
By Marwaan Macan-Markar
In a move expected to deepen political reform, the quasi-civilian government in Myanmar (also known as Burma) is permitting the distribution of leaflets that will help thousands of people in the country’s ethnic enclaves learn to resist forced labour.
The leaflets offer residents in the ethnic minority areas a chance to raise the alarm with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) about the horrors they endure at the hands of government troops deployed in their areas.
The Shan ethnic minority is the first to benefit from this new measure, one among a growing list of reform policies – including freeing political prisoners, easing the iron grip on the media and permitting public campaigns by political dissidents – that President Thein Sein has ushered in during his first year in office.
The one-page, A-4-size sheets of paper that have been flowing from Yangon (also known as Rangoon), the former capital, to the Shan state since January has been hailed by the ILO for using the local Shan language – stepping away from the policy of previous military regimes to suppress ethnic languages.
Following the distribution of nearly 30,000 leaflets in the Shan state over the past two months, the ILO has set its sights on raising awareness about its “complaints mechanism for forced labour” in six other ethnic areas, where Burmese troops have been fighting separatist rebels.
“The government agreed this year for the production of the ILO’s awareness raising materials on the complaints mechanism for forced labour in other languages, including Karen, Kachin, Chin, Rakhine and Mon,” says Steve Marshall, the Geneva-based body’s representative in Myanmar.
“It is hoped that these will be available for distribution very shortly,” Marshal said.
“This dramatic change is clearly linked to the new government’s response to the issues ILO is raising, reflecting the change of leadership, philosophy and priorities of the government,” Marshall said in an interview in Bangkok.
But reaching this milestone has been tough. The ILO office in Rangoon began pushing the case following a March 2008 decision by the ILO governing body to raise the need for “the production of awareness raising materials on forced labour, explaining the agreed ILO complaints mechanism in the country.”
Then military strongman Senior Gen. Than Shwe permitted the brochures to be printed only in Burmese, the language of the country’s largest ethnic group and it It took two years of negotiations between the military regime and the ILO to “get agreement to the wording”.
Since its June 2010 distribution in the central region, which is home to majority ethnic Burmese in the country of 55 million people, the ILO noticed a steady increase in cases being lodged.
While a mere drop when compared with the scale of such human rights violations, the over 1,160 forced labour complaints that the ILO has received in the past four years offer a glimpse into who the victims are and the abuse they have been subjected to.
The majority of cases from the dominant Burmese side have been children forced to swell the ranks of the military, according to the ILO.
The few complaints of forced labour lodged by ethnic communities have ranged from villagers compelled by troops to help build public works, carry goods and ammunition for the Burmese army and clear land.
But, human rights groups have long accused the Burmese military of more violations in areas where battles with ethnic separatist groups have raged since 1949. They have included slave-like duties to clean military camps, build military structures and walking ahead of troops in terrain infested with landmines.
“Whether it is carrying supplies for the army, building their camps, standing sentry duty along roads or serving as vassals for under-supplied and poorly disciplined garrison battalions, the Burmese army as it currently stands is a burden to local communities,” says David Scott Mathieson, Burma consultant for Human Rights Watch (HRW), the New York-based global rights lobby.
Consequently, the plight of forced labour victims in the ethnic areas was not forgotten during the early round of peace talks that the country’s largest rebel groups – the Karen and the Shan – have had with the Thein Sein administration since late last year.
The Karen National Union (KNU) demanded an immediate end to “forced labour, arbitrary taxation and extortion of villagers” as the sixth item in an 11-point plan for peace talks with Burma’s railway minister, Aung Min, head of the government negotiating team.
“Fighting in the Karen area has resulted in a lot of forced labour, so we wanted it included in the early round of talks,” David Tharckbaw, KNU vice-president and head of the movement’s peace committee, said during a telephone interview from the Thai-Burma border. “They (the Burmese government) accepted these concerns in principle.”
But complaints have continued, given the presence of nearly 200 military camps in the Karen state, near the Thai border. “As of February 2012, forced labour was ongoing in five villages in the Tantabin township,” revealed the Karen Human Rights Group in a Mar. 12 field report.
A similar picture prevails in the Shan state. “Forced labour was discussed during the talks but never put on the agenda,” says Khuensai Jaiyen, editor of a Shan news agency and a member of the Shan negotiating team in talks with the government.
“It is time the Burmese army mends its ways to build up trust among local ethnic populations,” he explained during a telephone interview from northern Thailand. “They should end forced labour.”
The government’s nod to the ILO taps into such a prospect. “This initiative will be valuable support to ongoing ceasefire and peace talks,” says ILO’s Marshall.
All Nepal Auto Mechanics Workers’ Association unit at GO Ford Autocare has shut down the service centre of Ford vehicles in Shyambhu asking the management for 100 per cent pay and perks hike.
“The UCPN-Maoist affiliated unit of mechanics association has locked the autocare centre since March 18, though they have been on strike from March 11,” said the management that has also locked the autocare centre since yesterday.
“We want them to start the work and sit for talks,” the management said, adding that the union had put forth its 21-point demand on March 9.
Last year, on February 13, too the union went on strike forwarding 11-point demand, but both the union and management had settled the issue through talks agreeing that there will be no strike for another two years.
But the union went on a strike in a year, the management accused. The union has also started disturbing the Go Ford Automobiles in Thapathali from March 21.
The trade union affiliated to UCPN-Maoist has demanded 100 per cent salary and allowance hike, and 10 per cent bonus, which according to the management is hard to fulfill.
The management also claimed that the union itself is registered under a wrong company.
The GO Ford Autocare in Shyambhu and GO Ford Automobiles in Thapathali are separate companies, according to the management.
“The union of GO Ford Autocare in Shyambhu has been registered under GO Ford Automobiles in Thapathali.”
GO Automobiles (GO Ford) is the automotive division — that is administrative centre — of Golchha Organisation, whereas the GO Ford Autocare is the service centre that employees around 65 workers.