BWI OnLine – April 20, 2009

South Korea: ILO CFA Reiterates its Recommendations Regarding the Complaint Filed by BWI on behalf of KFCITU

On 25 March 2009, the Committee of Freedom of Association (CFA) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) reiterated its recommendations made in 2006 in relation to our complaint filed on behalf of the Korean Federation on Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU).

“This year’s CFA report reaffirms our belief that the KFCITU’s organizing activities were in fact legitimate and that the repressive measures taken by the South Korean government to stop it were indeed illegitimate,” stated Anita Normark, General Secretary of BWI. She continued, “When the recommendations were first made in 2006, BWI strongly urged the South Korean government to recognize and implement the recommendations. Shockingly, the government made further allegations to undermine the KFCITU. The CFA has clearly seen through this charade and once again reiterated the recommendations that it had made three years ago.”

In 2004, IFBWW had filed a complaint stating that the South Korean government’s discriminatory prosecution and imprisonment of KFCITU union officials and organizers were in contravention of ILO Convention 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection and the Right to Organize Convention, 1948) and 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949).

In March 2006, the CFA expressed “its deep concern at the fact that the exercise by the KFCITU of legitimate trade union activities in the defence of construction site workers, including through collective bargaining, has been perceived as a criminal activity and give rise to the institution of massive investigation and police intervention.”

This year the Committee reiterated previous recommendations and once again called on the South Korean government, “to take all necessary measures for the effective recognition of the right to organize of vulnerable ‘daily’ workers in the construction sector, notably by refraining from further acts of interference in the activities of the KFCITU’s affiliates representing such workers.”

“We hope that the South Korean government will this time take the seriousness of the CFA recommendations and take the necessary steps to implement them,” stated Ambet Yuson, Regional Representative of BWI Asia Pacific Region. He continued, “We take particular note of the Committee’s recommendation calling on the government to fully investigate into the death of Ha Joong Keun to determine those who are responsible and to prevent similar deaths. It has been nearly three years since the death of Ha Joong Keun, who died as a result of injuries. He suffered when riot police severely beat him during a demonstration in support of strike lead by the Pohang local union.”

Even though the South Korean government has not ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98, it has an obligation arising from its membership in the ILO to respect and enforce the principles, which are the subject of these conventions. BWI will continue to monitor the situation and will work closely with the KFCITU to urge the OECD to strongly monitor the labour rights situation in South Korea.

Opposing the Exploitation of Migrant Forestry Workers in Sweden

The Swedish Wood & Forestry union, a BWI affiliate, has informed of another case of migrant forestry workers being swindled out of their rights by a foreign-based labour agency.

The company, based in Latvia, called Rent a Pro, is being taken to court by the union with a demand for over 1 million SEK (USD 121,000) in damages. The company has been supplying workers to 2 companies in the Swedish forestry industry, including the multinational forest products giant Stora Enso. The union is representing its 13 members who were employed by the company, all of whom are of Polish origin.

According to the union, the company has broken a number of laws and collective agreements. The 13 workers were employed by the company in the summer of 2008. For 2 months they received no wages, overtime payments, per diem, holiday pay, among others. The work they were carrying out was being supervised by a Swede, in turn employed by another company. Rent a Pro claims that it should not pay for the work being done, since it was being supervised by someone else. Rent a Pro is a member of the relevant Swedish employers’ organization, SLA, and is therefore bound by the industry collective agreement in force.

The 13 workers are claiming unpaid wages etc. to a value of between 40,000 and 120,000 SEK each (around USD 5,000 to USD 14,000). The total claim for the workers combined is around 1 million SEK, with a further claim of 600,000 SEK in interest (over USD 70,000). Should the company lose the legal case, then there could be an expensive result, particularly if it has to pay legal costs as well.  (Source)

Poland:  Alpine Wins Bid for Construction and Renovation of Stadiums

Austria’s builder Alpine won the bid to build two stadiums in Poland ahead of the European soccer championship in 2012. The contracts reach 184,5 million euro.

A first stadium of 44.000 seats will be built in 20 months in Gdansk. For the other stadium renovated in Poznan, 47.000 seats will be made available in less than 17 months.

Burma: Military Regime Arrests Trade Union Members

On April 1, 2009, five members of the Federation Trade Unions Burma (FTUB) were arrested in their homes in Rangoon after returning from border areas where they had participated as delegates in the 1st National Congress of FTUB. The five members have served as non-violent advocates and campaigners for workers’ rights and the improvement of wages and working conditions for workers inside Burma. The BWI fully supports the FTUB and strongly condemned these unlawful arrests.

Anita Normark, general secretary of the BWI said: “We condemn these arrests violating Burma’s commitments to the ILO. We call on the immediate and unconditional release of these five FTUB members, an end to the threats against family members and respect of ILO C. 87 ratified by Burma.”

Among the members who were arrested:

  • U Zaw Myint Aung (Teacher, South Okkalapa)
  • U Soe Oo (Textile Factory Worker, Shwe Pyi Thar)
  •  Maung Tun Nyein (Worker, Shwe Hninsi Textile factory, Hlaing Thayar)
  • Khine Lin Myat (Worker, UMH Textile factory)
  • Shwe Yi Nyunt (Nurses Aide and Law Student and Member, FTUB Women’s Committee) 

 The BWI has addressed a strong message to the Burmese General Than Shwe on 13 April 2009.

International Workers’ Memorial Day – 28 April 2009

Your job should provide you with a living – not cause your death.

International Workers’ Memorial Day 28 April 2009: ORGANISE! CANCER NO THANKS!

Each year on the 28th April trade unions around the world organise events to celebrate International Workers Memorial Day. The purpose is to highlight the preventable nature of workplace accidents and ill health, and to promote campaigns and union organisation to improve health and safety at work. It is also a day to remember all those who have died because of their job.

You can help to change things for the better by joining us in the BWI campaign for good, safe jobs. Click HERE.