IndustriALL Headlines #73 – Jan. 9, 2014

IndustriALL Headlines are produced by IndustriALL Global Union


Photo from a workshop in mid-December 2013 where IndustriALL affiliates decided
for a common demand on minimum wage equal to 157 U.S. Dollars.

Global Union Bodies Demand Justice for Cambodian Workers

January 6, 2014:  IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) have expressed horror at the violent repression of garment worker strikes by security forces and government-backed vigilantes.

Workers had been demonstrating peacefully demanding an increase in the minimum wage. At least four workers were killed and 39 injured during a crackdown by security forces on Friday. Trade unionists and labour rights supporters have been targeted for attack as workers demanded a minimum wage above the government offer of US$100 per month, which is woefully insufficient to meet the rising cost of living. Over 23 have been arrested, their whereabouts unknown, and summonses have been issued for several union leaders.  

Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL, said “The right to strike for a higher minimum wage is solidly protected by the international right to freedom of association, enshrined in ILO Convention 87 – which Cambodia ratified in 1999. The threats, arrests, and the killing of trade unionists for the exercise of that right is an extremely grave violation and must be condemned. Any encouragement of that violence by garment manufacturers must end.”  

UNI Global Union’s General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “In Bangladesh we’ve witnessed how the race to the bottom in the garment sector has led to death and destruction. The Cambodian garment workers are also in jeopardy. This current wave of protests is the legitimate reaction of those workers who deserve a fair wage and decent conditions and must not be silenced by violence. “ Jennings added, “The global brands with connections to these Cambodian factories have a responsibility to raise standards. We’ve seen with the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord that a sea-change is possible.”  

“Cambodia’s government must return to the negotiating table and agree to a fair wage for garment workers and cease the dictatorial repression of legitimate strike action by workers. It should immediately release all those detained, and ensure that those responsible for the killings and violence are brought to justice,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.  

Cambodian unions are seeking a minimum monthly wage of up to US$ 160. Factory owners have responded by offering “no-strike” bonuses and wage adjustments well below the level needed for workers to make ends meet. Employers in the garment sector, a US$5bn annual export industry which increased production by over 20% last year, have been resisting attempts to improve and enforce labour laws and to publicly expose companies which breach the law. Indeed, the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia (GMAC) has played an insidious role, threating to move production if labour unrest was not quashed and even recently praised the government for the lethal use of force against the protestors.

Apple’s Labour Rights Monitor Finds Little Progress at Foxconn

December 20, 2013:  After three years of engagement at three Foxconn factories in China, the FLA has released its third and final verification assessment. Despite big promises to deliver labour rights improvements, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), tasked by Apple to remedy rights violations at its supplier Foxconn, has achieved little.

While the assessment points to some reforms – health and safety improvements and reduction of the working week (although not to the level of complying with Chinese law) – there has been little if any progress on key issues of wages and back pay. FLA had promised that compensation would increase sufficiently to offset any reduction in overtime hours and that workers would receive compensation for the vast amounts of unpaid overtime they had already done. In addition, a study would be done to determine the amount of compensation necessary to provide for the basic needs of workers. Yet this third and final assessment report does not mention any of these promises.  

Critically, the report confirms that there has been no further progress on union elections and fails to address the fundamental problem of the majority of union leaderships in all factories being composed of managers.  

Overtime hours continue to violate Chinese law, despite promises that illegal overtime would end by July 2013. Foxconn does not even comply with Apple’s own weaker standard of 60 hours per week, which is well in excess of the maximum hours allowed by Chinese law. During the period July-October 2013, it is reported that 78 to 84 percent of workers worked hours that exceeded Chinese law.  

The FLA also promised to look at additional facilities that together make more than 90 percent of Apple products, yet has only presented information from the original three Foxconn factories which currently employ fewer than one fifth of the workers producing for Apple. Numerous worker rights violations continue to be reported throughout the Apple supply chain.  

Despite these failings, FLA still manages to give Apple a remedial completion score of 98.9 percent.  

Reacting to the report, IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina said:  

“This only goes to demonstrate how ineffectual and misleading company-driven auditing models such as FLA are. Promised compliance has not been delivered and labour rights abuses in Apple’s supply chain continue.”

Glencore Xstrata Acts True to Form in Peru

December 27, 2013:  Glencore Xstrata is using unfair dismissals, coercion and interference in union affairs to prevent technicians at the Antapaccay copper company in the Cuzco region of Peru from unionizing.

Labour relations took a turn for the worse after Xstrata acquired the company and told 450 technicians and administrative employees that they henceforth held ‘positions of trust’, an impressive term which in practice was no more than a loophole barring workers from being covered by collective bargaining.  

Last month, the situation reached a new low. Wanting a voice at work, a group of employees decided to form a union. On the day after the union registration came through, however, all thirty-five founding members were dismissed. The company then offered to take them back on condition they agreed to quit the union and to sign a letter to that effect drafted by the company’s lawyers. Thirty of them agreed; the five who refused were not reinstated.  

Last week the company lawyers set to work again, this time preparing a letter in the name of the former union members asking the labour authorities to deregister the union because its affiliation had dropped below the twenty members required by law.  

Clearly, Glencore Xstrata does not believe in the universal right of all workers to join and form a union without interference or discrimination.  

“IndustriAll Global Union is supporting the Sindicato de Trabajadores Funcionarios de la Compañía Minera de Antapaccay in demanding respect for the right to organize and to bargain collectively.”

Compensation Fund Created for Rana Plaza Victims

December 27, 2013:  After several rounds of talks led by the ILO, an agreement on a comepensation fund for the vicitms of the Rana Plaza industrial accident has been reached.

IndustriALL Global Union is happy about the Arrangement on compensation for the victims of the tragedy at the Rana Plaza collapse. The arrangement has been reached in long talks led by the ILO and with the participation of IndustriALL, the Clean Clothes Campaign, a number of brands and retailers, the Bangladeshi government, BGMEA and BKMEA.  

Talks on the details continue, but already the Arrangement is a comprehensive solution that will deliver fair compensation to the families of 1,100 workers who died in the Rana Plaza collapse on 24 April, and to 2,500 injured workers.  

A number of global clothing brands and retailers have already committed to the Arrangement.  

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina says:  

“We now call upon all companies that sourced from Rana Plaza to contribute to the compensation fund.”

 “I find the silence of Walmart and other brands who were clients of suppliers in the Rana Plaza shameful. They should show their respect for the workers who lost their lives or were injured while producing clothes and profits for the companies.”

Global Labour University Announces New Master Programs

January 7, 2014:  Global Labour University (GLU) network invites applicants with experience in labour and social movements to apply to Master programmes on sustainable development, social justice, international labour standards, multinational companies and trade unions, economic policies and global institutions.

The programs are developed on the basis of a collaborative work between universities and workers’ organizations across the globe and offer applicants a unique opportunity to engage effectively in social dialogue, public debate, and policy implementation.  

Master programmes are offered in:  

  • M.A.’Labour Policies and Globalisation’ (University of Kassel & Berlin School of Economics and Law / Germany)  
  • M.A.’Labour and Development, Economic Policy, Globalisation and Labour'(University of the Witwatersrand / South Africa)  
  • M.A.’Social Economy and Labour’ (University of Campinas / Brazil)  
  • M.A.’Globalisation and Labour’ (Tata Institute of Social Sciences / India)  

The Global Labour University is a collaboration between the International Labour Organization (ILO), universities and trade unions and offers postgraduate programmes on labour policies, economics, workers’ rights, globalization and development to trade unionists around the world.  

The final deadline for applications is 1 March 2014. A limited number of scholarships will be awarded to qualified applicants in need of financial support. For application and programmes’ details, please visit ?