BWI – October 18, 2011

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BUILDING AND WOOD WORKERS’ INTERNATIONAL (BWI)

BWI OnLine – October 18 2011
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October 17, 2011

NEW ZEALAND:  BWI Welcomes FIRST Union

The BWI is proud to welcome New Zealand’s newest union: FIRST Union.“It is great to see foresight and a total commitment to best serving members’ needs at the workplace and in the community” commented Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary. “The amalgamation of the NDU and FINSEC into FIRST Union shows the union’s strategy of reaching out to members and reaching them effectively, combining resources and capacity to get results for New Zealand’s workers”.

The National Distribution Union, BWI affiliate in New Zealand, and Finsec have joined forces to form FIRST Union, which combines 23,000 workers from the NDU’s four sectors of retail, transport and logistics, textiles, and wood, with nearly 5,000 finance workers from Finsec. FIRST Union was launched in Auckland on 13 October 2011.

Robert Reid, formerly of the NDU and now FIRST Union General Secretary, said “FIRST Union will give a new generation of workers the opportunity to discover the power of working collectively to improve the lives of themselves and their families.”

He said that the NDU had a proud history as a struggle based union, proving itself most recently during the Progressive lockout in 2006, and had regularly been involved in wider issues affecting workers such as supporting Ngati Whatua at Bastion Point, opposing the 1970s dawn raids on Pacific Islanders and supporting timber workers poisoned by PCPs and other chemicals.

Robert Reid said that both the NDU and Finsec were themselves formed from amalgamations, and they and their component unions would live on within FIRST Union, which had chosen as its slogan ‘putting workers first’.

The BWI looks forward to a continued strong partnership with FIRST Union.

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October 16, 2011

Africa Youth Has Submitted An Organizing Guideline To Afreco 2011

BWI Africa and Middle East region youth have held a meeting at the Afreco held in Accra from 10th to 13th October. This regional meeting has given opportunity to Africa and middle East youth to discuss issue related to youth activities and youth integration in trade unions’ activities in Africa.
A panel has shown that during the year 2011 youth have played a key role in the success of Arab spring in North Africa and the Middle East. Youth role has been also efficient in the social and political development in many countries in sub-Sahara countries.

After a review of what have been achieved from August 2010 to October 2011, Justina Jonas from MANWU Namibia, the chair of Africa Youth committee and her colleagues have adopted a youth draft organizing guideline which has been submitted to AFRECO in support to youth mainstreaming in the BWI sectors and their integration in programs and activities in Africa.

The development objective of the organizing guideline is to give a framework to BWI affiliate to include the youth issue in their agenda and the lead the unions in developing their own agenda and strategies on youth. The specific objectives are:

– BWI Affiliates in Africa and Middle East to include the youth issues in their agenda/program and budgets
– To promote the representative of young men and women in BWI Africa and Middle East Regional and Union structures
– To train future leaders to carry the Trade Union tradition in the Region
– To inculcate Trade Union and political ideology into the youth
– To create strongly youth network at national, Sub region and regional levels
– To achieve decent work for young man and women through building strong trade unions.

Africa youth document is proposed to submitted to the BWI at global for youth mainstreaming in the BWI structures.

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October 15, 2011

The BWI Celebrated the Year of the Forests in Ghana

Building of wood workers international celebrated the international year of the forest in Bewuanun, Awutu District in Ghana under the theme: “Sustainability for Future Generations”. The minister of land and natural resources Mike HAMMAH, the President of BWI Klaus Wiesehügel, the BWI education secretary and director of forest, Tos Añonuevo representing the BWI general Secretary Ambet Yuson and the BWI Afreco President Piet Matosa, have unveiled a plaque dedicated to the year of the Forest on 13th October 2011. This historic event was graced by the District Chief Executive of Awutu SENYA, DR Mutu ALANS, the “ Nananos” traditional Chiefs of the Community, the BWI affiliates in Ghana as well as affiliates from Africa and the Middle east who attend the AFRECO and Side events in Ghana, the pupils, teachers, women and youth around the site.

The BWI president Klaus on his speech has highlighted the need of linking the sustainable management of the forest with the Decent work agenda. He therefore asks all stakeholders to work togheter to protect and sustain the forest and the jobs for the future generations. He concludes by underscoring the need to prioritize decent work and decent life. The minister Lands and natural resources of Ghana Mike Hammah encouraged the need for partnership amongst stakeholder to raise awareness on sustainable management conservation and sustainable development. He committed the government of Ghana to prioritize non consumptive management of the forest and to allocate the necessary resources to create eco-tourism zones for the benefit of the local communities and the entire country.

A tree plantation session ing the celebration where more than one hundred trees have been planted. The BWI Africa and Middle East remembered the late Prof Wangari Mathai first African woman nobel price and in her honor the regional Representative Crecentia Mofokeng and the General Secretary of Kenya quarry Brother Wafulla Wa Musamia planted a tree.

The Celebration ended with a 10 minutes work of all participants through the Forest to admire the goodness of living in a sustained forest.

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October 14, 2011

Jeld-Wen Dispute Update:  CBA Rejected by Jeld-Wen’s Workers

In an overwhelming rejection of Jeld-Wen’s offer to reduce their real-value wages, 75% of workers voted to reject the company’s CBA offer.

Despite attempts to circumvent union involvement in the workplace ballot, in a gross manipulation of Australia’s enterprise bargaining laws, union members voted overwhelming to remain steadfast in their demand for better wages and condition and respect from Jeld-Wen management.
Jeld-Wen must now accept the results of the democratic rejection of their offer. The CFMEU is calling on the company to return to the bargaining table in good-faith and make an offer which union members can accept with dignity.

The BWI congratulates the union members at Jeld-Wen on the result of their ballot, continues to support their action to demand decent wages and conditions. The BWI supports the CFMEU’s campaign and calls on Jeld-Wen to show respect to their workers.

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October 14, 2011

The BWI Welcomes Release of Seven Trade Unionists From Prison in Burma

“The release of the 7 trade unionists, along with the recently announced amnesty for 6,359 prisoners, is a positive sign from the governing regime in Burma. However, if the government is genuine about making up for past wrongs then further action must still be taken,” said Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI.

He continued, “Although the release of prisoners is a good start, we continue to call on the government to undertake genuine political reforms which will see a stop to the rampant forced labour being practiced in Burma and ensure the respect for real and democratic trade unions to organise and collectively bargain.”

In a statement to the international trade union movement, the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB) has supported the release of FTUB members from prison but questioned whether this constitutes real action and reform from a government which continues to abuse their power and follow dangerous and corrupt practices, denying the right for freedom of association.

“Transparency is not achieved by just passing laws and asking for others to say so. Transparency will only be acknowledged by others when those who are in power practice, and respect, their own laws.” said the FTUB; continuing that there “are (continuing) issues that (have) invited the financial services sanctions on Burma and unless these are discussed at the Parliament and solutions are discussed and made into laws, FTUB will continue to request to the international community for continued financial sanctions.”

The BWI will continue monitoring the situation in Burma to ensure that small developments cannot be claimed by the government as evidence of major reform. Much work still needs to be done by the Burmese government to prove that they have rejected their corrupt, dangerous, and illegal practices and continued denial of workers’ right and freedom of association. Unfortunately, despite token gestures, there remains strong evidence that there is a long way to go before the Burmese government can command credibility with actions such as the release of only 7 trade unionists.

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October 13, 2011

Those Responsible Should be Punished!  After the five deaths and seven injured workers, how long can PNoy keep his silence?

“Those responsible should be punished! We seek full justice to all the victims and their families of the accident which happened at the Keppel Subic Shipyard.” This is the statement of National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW), an industry union in the construction industry and an affiliate of BWI as it mourned with the families of workers who died in the Keppel Subic Shipyard on Oct. 7, 2011 when a 42-ton elevated steel ramp used as a bridge collapsed.

Based on the Keppel management statement, the incident occurred at a dock where a vessel was being repaired. A stern ramp fell on a scaffolding underneath a ramp where the workers were working. As a result, five of the workers died while seven were injured.

“Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and our sincerest sympathy to all the injured workers. We knock on the Aquino government to quickly meaningfully respond and investigate this accident. At the outset, however, the Keppel’s management should be held liable to its failure to observe strictly laws on occupational health and safety standards,” said by Atty. Ernesto Arellano, national president of NUBCW.

Similar to Hanjin Shipyard

“Just like in Hanjin Shipyard, since January 2011, we recorded 4 deaths and 23 accidents brought to the hospital. Some were not recorded due to managements’ deliberate policy to suppress information. At present, we are monitoring the condition of Ronaldo Alvarez, who was confined in the hospital last 4, 2011 and went through three operations including blood transfusion. He was caughtbetween panel boards and metal sheet painfully twisting his lower torso. This incident was preventable if a warning sign had been installed in his area and caution are exercised by their Korean Foremen.” Arellano continued.

Ironically, the incidents happen amid the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) effort to conduct cultural orientation training and monitoring duties of its TASK FORCE HANJIN.

He explained that during the peak of the deaths in 2008, the workers struggled to organize themselves into a union which the management contested. Their just struggle has gone for almost four years. It resulted in eighteen cases of illegal dismissal, affecting forty workers which remain mostly unresolved.

“Clearly, Hanjin and Keppel are remiss in implementing both international and national laws on occupational health and safety and basic workers right; they should be made accountable for the deaths of their workers,” he said.

“If Pres. Aquino is really keen in leading the country to a straight path, he must start breaking his silence and then he must start by looking after the welfare of the workers of the Hanjin shipyard, as well as the Filipino workers as a whole.” Arellano ended. ###

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October 13, 2011

BWI Affiliates Build Strategies at Amazon Basin

September 28-30, BWI affiliates met certification bodies at the Amazon region in Brazil, at Pará state, to establish strategies regarding use certification systems as a tool for organizing workers in forestry and wood industries. There were 13 leaders from 10 trade unions and federations from over the country that discussed with representatives from FSC and IMAFLORA the actual implementation of social standards at Chain of Custody certification. Through a second course promote by BWI with Institute of Tropical Forest (IFT), the leaders debated about certification systems, climate change and health and safety.

The meeting was finished with trade union proposals to IMAFLORA in terms of how to work, or what to focus in social audits. At the same way, the leaders consolidated a document regarding workers´ perspectives regarding certification system in Brazil that we can highlight some key-points:

– There is a discrepancy between the social, environmental and economic chambers in FSC in terms of participation and membership, as there is a prominence of the economic chamber;

– Trade unions should take an active part in public consultations in the process of certification, as in audits process at certified companies;

– FSC should promote regular actions with the stakeholders (trade unions, communities, etc.) to promote the necessary information for the proper understanding of the certification system. This also means that there is a need to be promoted training processes and building capacities to leaders that represent workers in certified companies. This is crucial for trade unions to integrate the social chamber of the FSC and recognize the space as an opportunity to take action to improve working conditions in certified companies;

– There is a need for trade unions take the issue of certification in terms of policies to be followed by organizations, and that the expand the debate internally and externally;

– The secretaries of the trade unions should take the issue of certification on a regular basis with leaders chosen to be responsible for monitoring policies related to the certification issue;

The BWI reaffirms its support for Pinyo Rueanpetch, Banjong Boonnate, Sawit Kaewvarn, Thara Sawaengtham, Liam Moke-ngam, Supichet Suwanchatree and Arun Deerakchat and other dismissed members of the State Railway Union of Thailand (SRUT) and continues to call on the government to withdraw the dismissal notices and the punitive levies (totalling 505,000 USD) issued against the workers. Furthermore, the dismissal notices were issued based on a finding of the Central Labour Court, whose decision is currently being appealed in the Supreme Labour Court by the SRUT, so the action is invalid and unfair.

Workers must not have punitive action taken against them for standing up for their health and safety at work. If working conditions are endangering lives then union members must be able to take protected industrial action and not be held liable for losses or have their job security threatened. Companies must maintain proper safety guards in the workplace to ensure the safety of workers on site and the public who come into contact with the worksite.

In 2009 the SRUT took industrial action and refused to let members drive their trains, for fears of inadequate safety standards on State Railway of Thailand (SRT) trains, following a series of major accidents in October 2009. The SRUT, an ITF affiliate, was supported in its industrial action and used a clause concerning procedures for safety standards in SRT trains in their Collective Bargaining Agreement to take action.

The BWI has worked closely with Sawit Kaewvarn, as the General Secretary of SERC, collaborating on complaints to the ILO to ensure the provision of social insurance to migrant workers in Thailand, campaigning on the ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, and the trade union development and education of the wood-based sector of SERC.

The BWI again calls on the Thai government to withdraw the SRUT members’ dismissal notices and repeal the punitive levies handed down to the workers.

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October 10, 2011 

Thailand:  BWI Supports SRUT Struggle

The BWI reaffirms its support for Pinyo Rueanpetch, Banjong Boonnate, Sawit Kaewvarn, Thara Sawaengtham, Liam Moke-ngam, Supichet Suwanchatree and Arun Deerakchat and other dismissed members of the State Railway Union of Thailand (SRUT) and continues to call on the government to withdraw the dismissal notices and the punitive levies (totalling 505,000 USD) issued against the workers. Furthermore, the dismissal notices were issued based on a finding of the Central Labour Court, whose decision is currently being appealed in the Supreme Labour Court by the SRUT, so the action is invalid and unfair.

Workers must not have punitive action taken against them for standing up for their health and safety at work. If working conditions are endangering lives then union members must be able to take protected industrial action and not be held liable for losses or have their job security threatened. Companies must maintain proper safety guards in the workplace to ensure the safety of workers on site and the public who come into contact with the worksite.

In 2009 the SRUT took industrial action and refused to let members drive their trains, for fears of inadequate safety standards on State Railway of Thailand (SRT) trains, following a series of major accidents in October 2009. The SRUT, an ITF affiliate, was supported in its industrial action and used a clause concerning procedures for safety standards in SRT trains in their Collective Bargaining Agreement to take action.

The BWI has worked closely with Sawit Kaewvarn, as the General Secretary of SERC, collaborating on complaints to the ILO to ensure the provision of social insurance to migrant workers in Thailand, campaigning on the ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, and the trade union development and education of the wood-based sector of SERC.

The BWI again calls on the Thai government to withdraw the SRUT members’ dismissal notices and repeal the punitive levies handed down to the workers.

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October 10, 2011

Malaysia:  Parliament Passed Amendments on Employment Act, MTUC Dismayed

Malaysia’s lower house, after only five hours debate, has passed a bill to amend the country’s labour laws which could significantly curb workers’ rights and ability to organise in the workplace.

Following the Government’s decision to rush the legislation through parliament, the MTUC is looking at options to lobby politicians and the public to have the law rejected by the Senate or have royal assent withheld. While there is slim chance of the legislation being defeated now it has passed the Lower House, unions will continue to look into how to defeat the changes.

The Employment (Amendment) Bill 2011 Bill was passed through the Lower House despite previous assurances to the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) from the government that the Bill would be delayed until the end of the month to allow greater debate and consultation among unions and employers. In a statement to media and supporters on 3 October 2011, MTUC President Khalid Attan (General Secretary of BWI-affiliate TEUPM) said that the Human Resources Minister, Subramaniam, had agreed to look into the matter further. It however turned out that the Government had no such intentions and would instead ride rough-shod over the unions’ demands.

On 6 October 2011, after only 5 hours debate, the Bill was passed. The main changes in the law relate to the ability for contractors of employment (employment agents) to be recognised as employers – rather than middlemen, changes to maternity leave provisions and the sexual harassment protections.

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October 8, 2011

TOGO:  FTBC Is Training Its Youth On the Labour Movement

The Federation of Construction and Woodworkers of Togo FTBC affiliate to the BWI has adopted in its action plan a firm resolution to grant a special place to young workers within its file and rank branches by adopting a policy of increased recruitment and training of young people in the construction industry, in the building, forestry and environment.

Since the year 2009 with the support of partners such as CNV Vakmensen of Holland, the union initiated the training of young people in the construction industry to address the crisis of shortage of skilled workers, master new technologies in the construction. Gradually, the youth are integrated into the union activities and seminars for additional training in trade union matters.

The union has provided for the youth in the vocational training center and youth working in the informal sector to prepare for the workforce and equip them for organizing, knowledge of the collective agreement, the Labour Law and the ILO core conventions while reminding them to organize or engage in organizations of their industries to protect their material and moral interests.

Within this framework, a training workshop was held from October 6 to 7 in Lome on behalf of 25 young people and FTBC has joined the BWI coordinator for West Africa Abdoul Karim Ouedraogo to explain the policy of the BWI for Youth and the youth network activities in Africa and the Middle East.

During the closing ceremony, the General Secretary of FTBC Ayao Antoine Gbandjou explained that his organization will always give special emphasis to youth because they are the backbone of organized labor in the construction sector. He promised to convey the resolutions from their workshop at the AFRECO meeting which will take place in Accra from 10 to 14 October 2011.