IndustriALL Headlines #115, October 30, 2014

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL’s Press Department.
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“No more mine deaths. Turkish Government must ratify ILO C176, now, without delay”, says IndustriALL Global Union
Building Strong Unions in Myanmar
Belaurusian Unions Prepare to Struggle Against Short-Term Contracts
Brave Struggle of Iraqi Energy Unions Inspires the Movement
IndustriALL in Solidarity with Moroccan General Strike

“No more mine deaths. Turkish Government must ratify ILO C176, now, without delay”, says IndustriALL Global Union 

October 28, 2014 – A culture of profits over people in Turkey’s mining industry once again has resulted in probable deaths. Eighteen trapped miners are 300 metres below the surface at the mine near the town of Ermenek in Karaman province.

Twenty workers have either been rescued or escaped on their own from the flooded coalmine, but hopes are fading for the remaining 18 trapped underground. Although water is being pumped out, the risk grows as time passes with the men still underground. There has been no contact established with the trapped eighteen.

The cause has not yet been established of the water surging into the mine. But it is the strong belief and argument of IndustriALL Global Union that every mine accident is preventable.

Over 3,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 have received various injuries since 1941 to the present day in mining accidents in Turkey. There are 740 coalmines and 48,706 miners in in the country.

It is less than six months since the industrial homicide at Soma that killed 301 Turkish mineworkers on 13 May; now eighteen miners are trapped in the flooded Has Sekerler coalmine.

Just recently, the Turkish Cabinet sent a draft bill to the Parliament to ratify ILO Convention 176 on Safety in Mines after effective struggle and lobbying by global and national unions together with strong public opinion. However it is still pending on the agenda of the Parliament.

The International Labour Organization earlier this month organized a National Tripartite Meeting on Improving Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in Mining in Turkey. Government, workers’ and employers’ representatives and other relevant stakeholders concluded with agreement on the main elements of a roadmap on how to improve occupational safety and health in the industry.

Furthermore, the Turkish Parliament in September passed a bill that brings some new rights for miners on working hours, severance payments, retirement age, lowest wage to be double the legal minimum wage, as well as some legal entitlements for Soma victims and their families. However a comprehensive approach for health and safety issues in mines is still missing.

IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan stated:

“The attention of the world’s media is once again turned to the senseless danger that Turkey’s mineworkers are put under by an unregulated industry. Now it is simply not an option for Turkey’s government to ignore the calls for action on safety and health in mines. The urgent first step must be the ratification and implementation of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 176 that will bring the industry in line with international standards. Workers lives are not a commodity to be traded off against expenditure on safety.”

IndustriALL Global Union is sending letters to the Turkish Parliament Speaker, Prime Minister, leaders of opposition parties with factions at the Parliament, and individual members of Parliament to accelerate the process of ratification.

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Building Strong Unions in Myanmar 

History in the making – First forming Congress of IndustriALL Workers in Myanmar.

October 29, 2014In a country where trade unions were banned until 2011, the founding congress of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar, held on 18 and 19 October, marks an important leap forward for the trade union movement.    

Until 2011, any kind of trade union activity was strictly forbidden in Myanmar. In October that year, a bill on trade union entities was passed. It came into force in March 2012, allowing trade unions to be organized at the work place. Trade union leaders who had fled Myanmar began returning to the country.

In September 2012, following decades of exile, the Federation of Trade Unions – Burma (FTUB), now Federation of Trade Unions – Myanmar (FTUM), and its leaders were allowed to return to the country and to continue their trade union activity. Now, barely two years on, FTUM general secretary Maung Maung counts 622 affiliated unions with 43,500 members – 50 per cent of the 1,225 unions registered in total in Myanmar.

Founded at the congress on 18 and 19 October this year, the Industrial Workers Federation comes under the umbrella of the Federation of Unions in Myanmar. The 30 congress delegates were from the 37 basic labor organizations with 6,500 paying members. Myo Myint from Shwe Mi Plastic Factory Workers Union was elected as the Federation President.

The delegates ratified the statutes of their federation and experienced the joy of electing their leadership through secret balloting. The action plan prioritized organizing, capacity building on dispute settlement, minimum wage campaign, building good industrial relations, and improving working conditions. They will also use resources to address women, youth issues and migrant workers.

Paving the Way for Collective Bargaining

IndustriALL’s training on collective bargaining held in December 2013 led to the conclusion of an agreement with Yes Garment. It is the first in the sector to guarantee increased wages, improved industrial relations and better working conditions.

The campaign for a minimum wage continues. The current average daily wage is a meager USD2. Campaigners are fighting for a raise to USD4. The government has announced that it will undertake a survey on the cost of living for workers at the end of 2014.

IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary Annie Adviento says:

“The unions are optimistic, but a lot of international pressure will be needed for the government to translate their commitment to real work.

“We welcome the organizing activities of unions in Myanmar and will continue to support their fight for good working conditions and a decent minimum wage.”

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Belarusian Unions Prepare to Struggle Against Short-term Contracts 

October 30, 2014On 24 October 2014 in Minsk IndustriALL Global Union held the workshop to evaluate «Possible joint actions of Belarusian unions against precarious work. Possibilities for strengthening cooperation of trade unions in Belarus against the system of short-term labour contracts. ”   

The workshop was the result of the decision of the IndustriALL Executive Committee based on the recommendations made by the Mission to Belarus held in March 2014. Some thirty trade union leaders and activists from all four affiliates were present at the workshop.

Ivan Mohnachuk, member of IndustriALL Executive Committee and chairman of the Russian Independent Coal Employees’ Union – ROSUGLEPROF, shared Russian unions’ experience about the threat that upcoming privatization of enterprises represents to the workers and trade unions in Belarus. He said that one of the first steps of the new owners will likely become a so-called “production’s optimization”, in reality meaning a massive reduction in employment. In Belarus workers remain particularly vulnerable because of the widely spread short-term employment contracts.

Vadim Borisov, IndustriALL representative in CIS countries, reported about the actions taken by the global trade union movement aimed at restraining precarious forms of employment. He described in detail various forms of precarious employment extensively used in the countries of the region.

Svetlana Klochok, chair of the Belarusian Trade Union of Chemical, Mining and Oil Industries Workers (BELKHIMPROFSOYUZ), spoke about the actions of her organization to limit the negative effects of the massive use of short-term contracts in Belarus.

Nikolai Zimin, chairman of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union, called for resolute measures in the fight for abolition of the President Lukashenko Decree No. 29, 1999, which shifted almost entire working population to short-term contracts in Belarus.

Alexander Bukhvostau, chairman of the Free Trade Union of Metalworkers, SPM noted that the system of short-term contracts in the first place victimizes the most active citizens, many of whom are activists of free trade unions not affiliated with the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus.

Leader of the Radio and Electronic Industry Workers’ Union (REP) Gennadi Fedynich, presented an initiative aimed to collect signatures for a collective letter demanding to amend the Labour Code of the Republic of Belarus. Fedynich hopes that the changes will help increase the security of workers employed on short-term contracts and neutralize the Presidential Decree ? 29 “On additional measures to improve labour relations, strengthen labour and executive discipline.”

SPM supported the proposal and is now preparing to take part in the campaign to collect signatures in support of the initiative together with REP. The aim of the campaign will be to collect 50,000 signatures, then the initiative will be passed through the Central Electoral Committee for consideration by the Parliament.

“IndustriALL Global Union is happy that our Belarusian affiliates work and struggle together against their common challenge which is short-term contract system,” said Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary. “The campaign in Belarus will continue to get our support within our global campaign against precarious work”.

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Brave Struggle of Iraqi Energy Unions Inspires the Movement

October 30, 2014IndustriALL’s partner organization AFL-CIO Solidarity Center this month released an important report on the status of Freedom of Association in Iraq’s electricity sector. The report finds that new trade unions in the electricity industry have been central to building new union structures and achieving significant gains for workers especially in the public sector.

Public sector trade unions have been illegal in Iraq since 1987. The unions still form but have no protection from the judiciary, including when the authorities have seized their offices and finances. Government attacks on the public sector unions has included punitive court cases and forced transfers of activists to work sites miles away from their home.

Through interviews and questionnaires with a sample of electricity sector workers and trade unionists, the Solidarity Center study tracks the history of trade union development before and after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. The findings are that although labour laws have not changed, both new and pre-existing unions have grown significantly since 2003.

Key gains won by the electricity unions, as highlighted in the report, include the 2003 increase of 30% negotiated with the US Military Ruler; the 2007 new risk allowance of 75% salary after a confrontational campaign; the 2008 changes to job scales in the industry that made promotions more widely accessible; 2008 permanent employment for hundreds of contract workers, and payment of owed holiday allowances.

Following strong union campaigning in June 2010 a crack down came in July 2010 with harsh new laws including expanding the anti-terrorism legislation to be expanded to trade union activities. The study strongly found that the harsh crackdown by the Ministry of Electricity over the last four years was primarily meted out because unions were calling attention on serious corruption inside the ministry.

There has been a long-standing campaign for reforms to the Iraqi labour law, including with international campaigning and lobbying by IndustriALL Global Union and the ITUC.

IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan stated:

“Our Iraqi sisters and brothers time and again inspire all IndustriALL with their brave struggles. Leaders of IndustriALL affiliates in Iraq have received death threats against them and their families, sham trials and reprisal dismissals. But they continue to organize and we will always stand by them in their struggle to build union power.”

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IndustriALL in Solidarity with Moroccan General Strike 

October 28, 2014Morroccan workers across all public and private industries conducted a 24-hour general strike on 29 October, in protest of the government’s blocking out of unions from important labour policy decisions.

Frustration is high in the Moroccan trade union movement after the government has refused all collective dialogue on a raft of fundamental issues facing workers. Those issues include wages, working conditions, pensions, social compensation, under a context of serious reduction in purchasing power as utility and transport costs are increasing.

The government’s refusal to conduct dialogue with the unions on these core issues violates national labour legislation as well as the ILO standards.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina wrote to the Moroccan affiliated unions on 28 October:

“We stand firm in solidarity with Moroccan workers in their national strike, which will take place tomorrow 29 October, calling on the government to sit down with the unions to negotiate collectively matters of fundamental importance to workers and citizens alike such as wages, working conditions, the Compensation Fund and the National Pension Fund.

IndustriALL Global Union calls on the government of Morocco to address without any delay the legitimate concerns and demands of the Moroccan workers.”

The strike action is called and organized by the three main national trade union centres in the country, The Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT), Confédération Démocratique du Travail (CDT), and Fédération Démocratique du Travail (FDT).

The Moroccan government are under pressure from international lenders, through the International Monetary Fund, to cut public spending and implement the anti-worker reforms to pensions and social provisions. But the strong, united message from the general strike tomorrow is for the regressive reforms not to be included in the 2015 budget.

Much of the subsidies under threat now were those won by the social movement in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. Government spending then kept the regime in place, while neighbouring countries’ autocrats were removed from power.

“We have been the first to want reforms, but it is up to the government to support the costs as workers should not have to pay for the manager’s mistakes,” Miloudi Moukharik, leader of the biggest Moroccan labour union, UMT, said.

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