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workers' rights

South Africa: Workers need to speak with 'one voice', but whose voice?

[For more on COSATU, click HERE. For more on South Africa, click HERE.]

By Terry Bell, Cape Town

September 14, 2014 -- Terry Bell Writes, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission --  The labour movement is coming under increasing pressure as the global economic crisis continues to bite. On the South African front the pressure is growing as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) labour federation fails to deal with the internal divisions that threaten to tear the federation apart. Or at least further fragment the country’s largest union organisation.

This much has been admitted by COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. He noted in August that “unions are in a state of paralysis”. Addressing the Food and Allied Workers’ Union congress in Johannesburg he said that “workers’ issues are being sidelined even by COSATU itself”. And it is the unions themselves that should sort these matters out.

Aotearoa/New Zealand: A history of the Unite Union

By Mike Treen, Unite national director

[All four parts of this series can be downloaded as a single PDF file here.]

June 27, 2014 -- Unite News, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- The following history was prepared as part of the contribution by Unite Union to the international fast food workers' meeting in New York in early May. Union officials and workers were fascinated by the story we were able to tell which in many ways was a prequel to the international campaign today.

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South Africa: Historic win for striking platinum miners (+ video report)

June 25, 2014 -- Real News Network -- Patrick Bond provides an update on platinum miners' strike in South Africa is Patrick Bond. Patrick Bond is the director of the Centre for Civil Society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Bond is also the author of the book, South Africa: The Present as History and Elite Transition.

By Gillian Schutte and Sipho Singiswa

June 25, 2014 -- SACIS -- The stadium in Phokeng outside Rustenberg exploded in jubilation when the end of the longest strike in South African history was announced on June 23. Men and women waved their arms victoriously in the air and resounding ululations and cheering reverberated as a great burden of domestic hardship lifted. Workers had changed history.

They had valiantly resisted the dogged state and corporate attempt to smash their strike despite the personal hardships that they had to endure to reach this point. It was they who dealt a blow to capital because it was they who held out determinedly and who accumulated five months of unpaid accounts, became black listed, kept their kids out of schools through necessity and went without food. They are indeed, the central heroes in this story.

New strike wave hits China

The most recent strike, one of the largest in China in many years, is taking place at a Taiwanese-owned factory complex, Yue Yuen, in the city of Dongguan.

For more on China, click HERE.

May 3, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- Peter Boyle spoke to Kevin Lin, who is doing research for his PhD at the University of Technology Sydney on the labour movement in China, about the background to a new wave of strikes in the country.

Lin will be speaking at the “People's Power in the 'Asian Century'” conference, a one-day public event organised by the Socialist Alliance in conjunction with its 10th national conference in Sydney, June 7-9. Find out more about the conference and register (“early bird” discounts if you register before May 18) HERE .

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There seems to be a new labour upsurge in China. What can you tell us about the recent strikes and their causes?

Tracking strikes in China is difficult because of censorship, but there does appear to be an upsurge in strikes in recent months based on reports collected by labour groups.

Australia: Socialist Alliance May Day statement -- 'More pain for workers, pensioners, poor'

Protesters outside Tony Abbott's $396/head dinner with the Sydney Institute on April 28.

Abbott's 'stronger', 'happier' Australia equals more pain for workers, pensioners and the poor

By Susan Price and Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance co-convenors

May 1, 2014 -- Socialist Alliance -- A casino was a fitting venue to host Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott's keynote address to the 25th birthday dinner of conservative think tank, the Sydney Institute, on April 28. Abbott's speech, coming two weeks ahead of the annual budget, was full of promises of "happiness", "security" and "a better life", but in reality, Australian workers, pensioners and the poor will be lucky if they're left with much more than the shirt on their backs once the government is done fleecing them.

Britain: Bob Crow's death 'a huge blow to militant class-struggle unionism'

By Liam Mac Uaid

March 11, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance -- We are deeply shocked at the news that Bob Crow has died suddenly early this morning of a heart attack at the age of 52.

We send our heartfelt condolences and solidarity to his family and friends and to the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and its members. His death is a huge blow to the RMT and to the wider trade union movement and to the cause of militant class-struggle trade unionism. During his 12 years as general secretary, the RMT has grown in both size and stature. He has been prepared to support strike action to defend the wages jobs and conditions of his members, and has done so very successfully.

As a result of this he has been vilified by the employers, government ministers and the likes of London mayor Boris Johnson, but has enjoyed strong support among the rank and file of the union. To say that he will be sorely missed is a gross understatement.

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Exclusive excerpt from John Tully's 'Silvertown: The Lost Story of a Strike that ... Helped Launch the Modern Labor Movement'

February 9, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following is an excerpt from John Tully's new book, Silvertown: The Lost Story of a Strike that Shook London and Helped Launch the Modern Labor Movement, published by Monthly Review Press. It is posted with the kind permission of Monthly Review Press. Readers of Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal are urged to order a copy HERE. You can download the excerpt HERE (PDF), or read it on screen below.

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“This is a revolt against oppression: a protest against the brute force which keeps a huge population down in the depths of the most dire degradation, for the benefit of a knot of profit-hunters … this is a strike of the poor against the rich.”—William Morris, 1889

Cambodia: Truthout's outrageous attack on garment workers' struggle for a living wage

Striking garment workers marching to the Ministry for of Labor Vocational Training with placard demanding US$160 a month minimum wage, December 30. Photo by Workers Information Centre, Cambodia.

By Chrek Sophea, Phnom Penh

January 20, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- I was deeply saddened to read the article by Anne Elizabeth Moore titled “What’s the Price of Workers’ Lives in Cambodia?”, published on January 17 in the US-based Truth-out.org website.

This story contained an outrageous attack on the Cambodian garment workers' demonstration over the minimum wage by a well-known Cambodian blogger, academic and human rights activist Sopheap Chak.

I am used to hearing such arguments from employers as a way to escape from their responsibility to pay workers a decent wage, but I did not expect this from an experienced human rights activist.

Chak, program director for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), claimed she has been watching the recent events closely, but disparaged the garment workers' campaign for a US$160 a month minimum wage.

China: Behind workers' declining share of the economy

[Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal urges its readers to consider taking out a subscription to Monthly Review, where this article first appeared.]

By Hao Qi

January 2014 -- Monthly Review -- In the past two decades, China’s economic growth has been increasingly dependent on investment.1 To maintain the growth of investment, China must sustain a fairly high rate of profit, and the fall in labour’s share has been seen as a crucial factor to sustain profitability.2 Using a raw measure of labour’s share—the compensation of employees as a percent of GDP—as shown by the bottom solid line in Chart 1, labour’s share has experienced a major decline from 51.4 percent in 1995 to 42.4 percent in 2007.

Cambodia: Striking garment workers killed in brutal repression: interview, photos

 Striking garment worker shows spent cartridges from police and military shootings the Veng Sreng Street in Phnom Penh on January 3. Photo by Malay Tim, President Cambodian Youth Network.

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Chrek Sophea, former garment worker and interim coordinator of the Worker’s Information Centre (WIC), a women garment workers' base association in Phnom Penh, interviewed by Peter Boyle

South Korea: Rail workers strike against privatisation, general strike called

Railway workers' three-week strike against privatisation garnered wide support—and government repression. Photo by DDanzi Ilbo.

By Li San

January 8, 2014 -- Labor Notes -- South Korea’s railway workers have ended a 22-day strike, the longest such stoppage in the country’s history. Though they didn’t win a clear victory, they succeeded in placing the issue of privatisation in public focus.

The government’s and management’s attack on the strike was ruthless to the point of recklessness, while the public’s solidarity and sympathy with the striking workers continued to rise.

And the full impact of the action has yet to ripple out. Amid rising political tensions, the country’s biggest union umbrella, the 700,000-strong Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), has called for a one-day general strike February 25.

Privatisation Plans Sparked Strike

About 15,000 unionists, or about 45 per cent of the workforce, of Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) walked off the job December 9 to protest what they saw as a preliminary step to privatising rail service—a plan by management to spin off the most lucrative slice of its business.

Britain: Looking back in anger -- the miners’ strike 30 years on

January 5, 2014 -- Anticapitalist Initiative -- With new papers released by the National Archives about the British miners’ strike the Anticapitalist Initiative’s Chris Strafford caught up with Harry Paterson, author of the upcoming book Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 years on, to discuss what we have learnt.

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Chris Strafford: With the release of documents from the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office from 1984 detailing discussions and actions of the Thatcher government in the 1984-85 miners’ strike we have got some insight into how the attack on the miners was carried out. What were your initial thoughts once you had finished reading the documents?

United States: In 2013, workers tried new angles and alliances

North Carolinians mobilised against an anti-worker (and anti-woman, anti-civil rights) legislative assault by bringing thousands of protesters to the state capitol every week for “Moral Mondays”, with close to a thousand arrests. Photo by Ajamu Dillahunt.

By Jenny Brown

December 30, 2013 -- Labor Notes -- Lean meanness stalked workplaces. The political and economic outlook continued dismal. But the year was marked by workers trying new things and setting higher standards, for their employers, their unions, and—in the case of low-wage workers—their pay.

Unemployment ticked down slightly, but the jobs created paid worse than ever. Mainstream media reported with amazement that jobs that once paid the bills, from bank teller to university instructor, now require food stamps and Medicaid to supplement the wages of those who work every day.

California Walmart worker Anthony Goytia spoke for many when he said it’s no longer pay cheque to pay cheque for him and his co-workers, but payday loan to payday loan.

Wildcat strikes push China to write new anti-labour laws

Striking Honda workers, 2010.

By Ellen David Friedman

November 27, 2013 -- Labor Notes -- More than 30 years since China opened up to foreign investment, wildcat strikes surge month after month. They are driven by workers with no meaningful access to union representation, to a worker centre, to the media, to legal mechanisms, or to government intervention on their behalf. And yet workers in industries from electronics to health care continue to strike, impelled by low wages as low as US$2 an hour.

This raw resistance has generally gotten employers to give in to strikers’ economic demands. The typical wage is minimum wage, but overtime and the mandatory social insurances are often not properly paid, so workers’ demands are frequently just to get their legal due, which employers can easily meet.

Bolivia: Workers to take over closed or abandoned firms; The working class and the political process

By Richard Fidler, La Paz, Bolivia

October 10, 2013 -- Life of the Left, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission − On October 7, Bolivia's President Evo Morales issued a government decree that allows workers to establish “social enterprises” in businesses that are bankrupt, winding up, unjustifiably closed or abandoned. These enterprises, while private, will be operated by the workers and qualify for government assistance.

Morales issued Supreme Decree 1754 at a ceremony in the presidential palace marking the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia (CGTFB – the General Confederation of Industrial Workers of Bolivia). Minister of Labour Daniel Santalla said the decree was issued pursuant to article 54 of Bolivia’s new constitution, which states that workers

in defense of their workplaces and protection of the social interest may, in accordance with the law, reactivate and reorganize firms that are undergoing bankrupty, creditor proceedings or liquidation, or closed or abandoned without justification, and may form communitarian or social enterprises. The state will contribute to the action of the workers.

Balearic Islands (Spain): Attack on language rights provokes indefinite teachers’ strike, citizens' revolt

By Dick Nichols

October 1, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The school year should have already begun on the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula), but it hasn’t. Since September 16, high school and primary teachers have been on an indefinite strike.

On September 30, after an earlier mass meeting of the cross-union Teachers’ Assembly voted to stay out, the strike entered its third week.

The day before, the Balearic Islands saw their biggest ever demonstrations, when at least 100,000 came out to support the teachers and to protest against the education and language policy of the regional People’s Party (PP) government of Jose Ramon Bauzá and his education minister Joana Maria Camps.

Mexico: Largest teachers' union actions in history win moral victory, struggle continues

Click HERE for more on Mexico. For more by or about Dan La Botz, click HERE.

By Dan La Botz

September 25, 2013 -- New Politics, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Since school began again on August 19, tens of thousands of teachers have been engaged in strikes and demonstrations throughout Mexico—including seizing public buildings, highway toll booths and border crossing stations, occupying public buildings and city plazas, and blocking foreign embassies—actions taken against the Education Reform Law and the new Professional Teaching Law and over local demands linked to wages and working conditions. While these are traditional tactics, these are the largest and most militant teachers’ union demonstrations in Mexican history.

Who really benefits from sweatshops?

Billionaire sweatshop sponger Bruce Rockowitz's CEO in October 2011 Rockowitz married Hong Kong pop star Coco Lee in a ceremony that reportedly cost $20 million. The company he manages had a combined net worth of $6.2 billion in 2012.

By David L. Wilson

September 19, 2013 -- Climate & Capitalism -- Consumers are ultimately the ones responsible for dangerous conditions in garment assembly plants in the global South, Hong Kong-based business executive Bruce Rockowitz told the New York Times recently. The problem is that improved safety would raise the price of clothing, according to Rockowitz, who heads Li & Fung Limited, a sourcing company that hooks up retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s with suppliers in low-wage countries like Bangladesh. ”So far”, he said, “consumers have just not been willing to accept higher costs”.

South Africa: World’s longest running current industrial dispute sets example for us all

By Mike Marqusee

“Ex-Midrand Council Workers in Dispute Since 1994! Dismissed for fighting corruption in 1994 and still fighting today! 20 years of Sacrifice! 20 Years of Poverty! 20 Years of Solidarity!” -- ex-Midrand Council workers' banner

September 13, 2013 -- Mikemarqusee.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- South Africa’s ex-Midrand Council workers are engaged in what is surely the world’s longest running industrial dispute, a Burston for our times. It started back in 1994, in the midst of the birth pains of South African democracy, when more than 500 workers employed by Midrand Council took industrial action against corrupt employment practices.

At that time, local government structures had not yet been subject to democratic "transformation"; they were still the creations of the apartheid era. Midrand was run by remnants of the old regime with no interest in reaching a settlement. Under pressure, some strikers returned to work, but the great majority remained in dispute.

Green Party USA: Economic/ecological crises of the 21st century -- A deep green alternative

Document of the Greens/Green Party USA, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Don Fitz, national committee member of the Greens/Green Party USA. It is posted in the interests of discussion.

July 22, 2013 -- Why should we work longer hours in order to …

  • put our neighbours out of work,
  • produce fall-apart products that poison our children and grandchildren, and
  • have less time to enjoy life?

People are losing their jobs and homes. Many throughout the world are without food, medical care and transportation. Instead of addressing real needs, governments and international financial institutions are designing “austerity programs” that cut back on basic services and privatise everything from education and mail delivery to pension plans and public health.

Simultaneously, climate change intensifies before our eyes as summers warm, droughts expand, polar ice caps melt, and those who live in coastal areas are threatened by rising waters. This occurs amid heightened use of radioactive and other toxic chemicals, the destruction of biodiversity and a drive to pull the last resources out of the Earth so that nothing will be left to future generations.

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