Tuesday, December 29, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Flu vaccine workers strike

libcom.org Dec. 29, 2009


Workers have launched all-out strikes at two sites owned by Sanofi Pasteur
in support of a demand for higher wages.

Workers at the sites in Val de Reuil and Marcy began action on December
15th, they are demanding an improved contract from management. The pay
offer of 1.2% has been dismissed and workers are demanding a 3% rise with
a minimum increase of 150 euros a month.

Workers are angry that after the company cited low profits last year as a
reason for only giving a pay rie of 1.8% they are now offering even less
when profits have nearly doubled. The average mangement pay rise of 6% and
23% increase in the dividend have angered workers who are being asked to
settle for a pay rise linked to inflation.

In response to strike action management initially offered to add a minimum
increase of 46.12 euros a month and has since threatened to withdraw this
if the strikes do not end immediately. Management are claiming that the
entire package on offer to workers is worth nearer 3.2% and thaat the
average wage at the company is higher than the industry average.

There has been strike action at five other sites owned by the company. At
Marcy 600 workers voted for strike action at a General Assembly and
reports suggest 1000 workers out of the 3000 are actively striking
although the company has claimed that this figure is closer to 400.
Workers have occupied and blockaded parts of the sites with pickets manned
24 hours a day. At the Val de Reuil site the unions are reporting 4-500
out of 1800 workers striking while management claim fewer than 200.

Rebellyon has also published a diary of the strike at Marcy which gives an
idea of the day to day conduct of the strike.

Monday: General Assembly called by the unions (CFDT CFTC FO CGT CFE-CGC)
600 workers vote in favour of a strike. Workers march through the
buildings on site paying particular attention to managment areas.
16h A meeting at 8am is agreed for the following day.

Tuesday: the Strike continues.
Negotiations in PAris with union delegates. The company refuses to raise
the offer but offers a minimum increase of 46.12 euros a month.
Negotiations break down and workers hold a demonstration.
15h: Suppliers are prevented from entering the site. Pallets are used to
block entry points to the site and more strikers arrive to reinforce them.
16h: All entry points are blocked.
A General assembly votes to continue the strike until the Wednesday.

Wednesday: Site blockaded from 7am. All vehicle entry stopped, only those
on foot can get into the site.
11h: workers set up braziers and light them.
14h: negotiations resume: management block all attempts to negotiate. The
pallets start to burn.
16h: 800 vote at the General Assembly to continue the strike until
Thursday. As management used the lifting of the blockade overnight to move
materials in workers vote to maintain the blockade overnight.
Night: total blockade. Workers keep guard in shifts and patrol the site.
Management also tries to 'restore dialogue' by sending pairs of managers
out to try to talk to workers on the barricades. Management spent the rest
of their time giving names of strikers to huissiers de justice.*

Thursday: Blockades continue.
14h: Negotiations still deadlocked. 17 out of Sanofi's 28 sites are on
stike but only Marcy is completely blockaded.
16h: General Assembly. Vote to continue the strike in the 'Pasteur"
sections of the company. Reports says mobilisation at other sites isn't
strong enough. Only the "Pasteur" sites of Marcy and Val de Reuil will
continue their mobilisation to try to bring the Pasteur negotiations to a
good conclusion. The Assembly also votes to continue the stike from the
4th of January if negotiations tomorrow are unsuccesful.
Night: Another night of blockades. In spite of the snow and temperatures
of -5 there is a very festive atmosphere.

Friday: Blockades continue.
12h: negotiations between the union group and the director of Pasteur are
then referred to the director of Sanofi-Aventis who announces that either
workers accept 1.2% and the 46 euro minimum or he will withdraw the
minimum and they will 'only' get the 1.2%. Workers march through the
buildings. All the fire alarms go off and trucks that try to leave while
workers are marching find that their tyres are flat.
15h: Assembly confimrs the continuation of the strike from the 4th of
January (few workers are scheduled to work before then) and submits
official notice of strike until Sunday 20th in support of the weekend

Images and original story from rebellyon, translation and additional
material from libcom

*Here the account says 'this problem was quickly solved' but it is unclear
which problem they are talking about.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

[olympiaworkers] The Wobbly Organizer

 The Wobbly Organizer

(one Wobbly's point of view)

Working people of the world live under the domination of the employing class who exploit the labor of working people for their profit. The employing class pays working people wages which is only a small percentage of the wealth that working people produce. This arrangement exists because of the organized power of the employing class and the lack of organization of working people.

As unorganized individuals, working people have very little power to influence their wages and working conditions, and no power to end the exploitation.

For working people to improve their conditions and gain a larger share of the wealth they create they must organize together in a union organization. In order to do that they must learn that their interests as workers are directly connected to the interests of all workers and stand together as a powerful force.

The gains made by working people depends upon their organized power. Though the employing class seems to     be very powerful and is aided by governments that act in   the employers interest, if organized working people can be far more powerful. Throughout the world on every job that exists working people have in their hands the tools of production and services. The employing class does no useful work and is completely dependent upon working people's labor. No society anywhere can exist without labor fulfilling the needs of that society, but no society is dependent upon an employing class to exploit that labor.

As working people organize their power of production and services they will be able to improve their conditions and wages, through a process of winning concessions. Though many business unions believe that is the extent of their goals, the IWW seeks to also end the exploitation and the historical conflict between the employers and working people that has gone on since the exploitation began.

As working people organize their unions for day-to-day struggle, the IWW believes that they are also organizing the power of working people to end the exploitation. At which time the organized power of the working class is greater than the organized power of the employing class, workers will be able to seize the tools of production and services, withhold all of its labor and produced goods from the employing class and then carry on their labor for the   benefit of all. If the employers then want to share in the benefits of production and services they must join working people in producing those benefits.

Industrial union organizations do not often organize themselves. They have a need of union organizers. The IWW union organizers, Wobbly organizers, are different than the type of organizers found in many other unions.

The Wobbly organizer is not a leader. The Wobbly organizer does not seek to organize followers. The Wobbly organizer seeks to help other working people create functioning industrial union organizations in their workplaces and in their industries. The goal of a Wobbly organizer is to organize themselves out of a job. In other words when the shop organization and the industrial organization is organized to function on its own, the job of the Wobbly organizer is done.

The Wobbly organizer is not an organizer by profession.  The Wobbly organizer is a worker doing a job that needs    to be done As a worker the Wobbly organizer knows that   all workers who labor for a living are just as much workers as any other workers, there are no second class workers. And every worker who joins the IWW is just as much of a Wobbly as any other Wobbly, there are no second class Wobblies.

Not every Wobbly is an organizer, but every Wobbly can help with organizing. The job of a Wobbly organizer is just one of many needed jobs that goes into creating industrial union organizations. These needed jobs can include: writers, artists, researchers, computer work, fund-raising, accounting, reporting, and so on. Each job is important to the process of creating industrial unions and each is just as important as any other job. For it is the complete effort that goes into industrial union organizing that creates what the organization becomes. It is like firefighters at a fire. The firefighters can set out all their hoses and be ready to do their job, but if no one turns on the water their effort has no purpose. And if someone turns on the water and no one has set out the hoses, that effort has no purpose. So who is the most important part of firefighting? They all are. So the Wobbly organizer and those doing other jobs must work together as a team with a common purpose.

The Wobbly organizer does not know all things. The job of being a Wobbly organizer is both using organizing skills and knowledge and being open to a continuous learning process. We all go through a learning process that starts when we are born and continues until we die. If we try to stop that process by thinking we know every thing then we limit our true knowledge. The Wobbly organizer knows that she/he can learn from any one. They can learn from older, more experienced folks who can share what they have learned. They can learn from younger folks who have new ideas. A Wobbly organizer is both a knowledge giver and a knowledge seeker.

The Wobbly organizer does more with their ears than they do with their mouths. The Wobbly organizer must be a good listener. By using their ears a Wobbly organizer learns about the concerns, hopes and opinions of those that they are trying to organize. They learn about the job and its conditions. They can learn what skills workers have and what they like or do not like to do. And when people feel they have input in the organizing process then they are more likely to be a part of it.

The Wobbly organizer understands that workers are not machines and a union needs to be more than just a bargaining unit. Workers are people, individuals with concerns and problems that effect them on the job and in industrial union organizing. One such off the job thing that can have an effect on organizing and industrial union action is the family and friends of the workers. Often the family and friends of workers can create stress on workers, even conflict, in time of organizing and action. A Wobbly organizer can think that a worker is a strong union member, only to see that worker drop out of the effort due to family problems. The problem faced by the Wobbly organizer is that many workers are in the situation where industrial union organizing or action takes time away from their family and friends and that can make the family and friends feel left out, neglected and so on. Often when that happens they blame the union. The solution to this problem is to keep the families and friends informed with meetings for them where they can ask questions. Also, when possible get the families and friends involved. There are many support activities they can work on. If nothing else union social events. And the union should get more involved with the children than just daycare. The union should have organized activities for the kids. Just think how much that can benefit future organizing if kids grow up liking unions. Whereas stress from families and friends can undermine a strong union, but on the other hand if family and friends are involved and supportive of the union that can create a union bond that is very hard to break.

The Wobbly organizer must set a good example for the workers being organized. If the Wobbly organizer is going out and partying and getting drunk all the time or is neglectful of their families or are abusive to people then they are setting a bad example.

With worker self-management comes not only worker freedom but also worker responsibility. That means we are responsible for the effects of our production and services. This is also true of the Wobbly organizer who is responsible to the workers that the Wobbly organizer seeks to organize. The Wobbly organizer should keep the workers informed and let them make informed decisions on things that could put them at risk like strikes.

Each job and organizing situation is different. Thus there is no organizing blueprint that fits every situation. If there was such a blueprint then in time we would have to get rid of it because the employers would know our plans and thus be able to counter them. The Wobbly organizer needs a good imagination to keep the employers guessing as to what is going on.

The Wobbly organizer understands that the working class is not all the same. Though all workers labor to survive and have common interests, there is also a great diversity of culture, race, religion and so on. The employing class tries to use this diversity to keep workers apart and blaming each other for things that is fact the employing class is responsible for. But the Wobbly organizer knows that diversity is our strength and not our weakness.

When speaking or writing the Wobbly organizer understands that we must reach an agreement on ideas within the minds of working people, but it is reaching emotions, lighting a fire in the hearts of working people that makes them act upon those things that the mind agrees upon.

The Wobbly organizer knows that education is an important part of the organizing process. The wobbly organizer does not seek to just organize bargaining units but also seeks to create Wobblies.

The IWW is a constitutional organization. The IWW's Constitution, including its Preamble, is the common agreement between all members. The Wobbly organizer helps the workers on the job understand the Constitution and how to use it.

The Wobbly organizer teaches workers about union democracy, how it works and what union democracy protections the IWW has in its constitution.

The Wobbly organizers both teaches workers about solidarity and organizes it within the union structure. Solidarity is not just a nice sounding slogan but rather is an important part of all union activities. Solidarity needs to become a way of life for working people.  And solidarity is something that needs to be organized so that when there is a need for it the organizational means for it is in place.

The Wobbly organizer seeks to give workers the tools they need to act for themselves upon their interests and concerns without delegating to others that which they should do for themselves.

The Wobbly organizer seeks to create an industrial union structure on the job that includes all workers and excludes no one. The Wobbly organizer teaches the skills and knowledge the workers need and then places the responsibilities in their hands. Though every worker should share in the responsibilities, the Wobbly organizer is there to help them in every step of the way. The Wobbly organizer may suggest that workers team up for responsibilities to make it easy on them.

The IWW seeks in the long term to create a society where working people control their labor. And in the organizing process and the workplace actions the IWW advocates working people to act themselves in their own interests. In order to do that working people need to learn to speak for themselves. Worker self-expression comes in many forms such as, writing, artwork, music, story telling, and so on. The Wobbly organizer seeks to encourage worker self-expression by helping teaching skills for it and helping to create forums for worker self-expression. This helps workers to feel that they are being heard and are a part of what is going on. One simple way of doing this during an organizing drive is to publish a newsletter where the workers on the job write about their work experiences. Those with writing skills can help those with out writing skills.

The Wobbly organizer knows that what needs to get done must get done and that sometimes people don't get done what they say they will do. So the Wobbly organizer does not let anything fail because work that needs to be done is not done. At that point the Wobbly organizer, without complaining, just steps in and get that needed work done. There are two types of people in our struggle. There are those that do what ever is needed in any given situation. That could be taking some grand stand of self-sacrifice like going to jail or even being in harms way if needed, or something as simple as stuffing envelopes. It is doing what ever is needed. Such people are all off equal importance and the Wobbly organizer is such a person.. Then there are the people who will help at times but there are limitations to what they will do.

The job of a Wobbly organizer can be a lonely experience. The Wobbly organizer is not a leader or a celebrity. Often if they do a good job few people will really know about all the work that the Wobbly organizer has done. And this is what the Wobbly organizer wants because the Wobbly organizer wants the focus to be on the workers on the job and their struggle and not be focused on the Wobbly organizer. The Wobbly organizer's gratification comes from knowing that they helped create something that is needed.             

Arthur J. Miller; Ship Builders IU 320--IWW

Thursday, December 17, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Wave of strikes sweeps Greece

Libcom.org Dec 17 2009 10:37

A wave of strikes culminating on Thursdays pan-worker mobilisation has
been the response to the scaremongering of the government amidst the
worsening economic crisis that threatens Greece with bankruptcy.

After the week of riots came the week of strikes: the multifold strikes
that are taking place since Tuesday 15 December and peaked on Thursday 17
with the pan-workers strike called by PAME, the Communist Party Union
Front, as wells a dozens of extra-parliamentary parties of the left and
first-grade unions forming demos in 58 cities and towns around Greece.

The strikes come at a critical time for the greek economy which saw a
second degrading in ten days in terms of its credit, this time by the
Standard & Poor's group. The second degrading came as international
finance centres claimed the austerity measures announced by the
belleagured government are not likely to produce adequate results.

Due to the media strike news about Thursdays developments remain scarce;

Whereas the garbage collecting strike has been judged for a second time
illegal forcing refuse collectors to the streets, large parts of Athens
remain plunged in enormous piles of gargabe as refuse workers at the main
open refuse dump of the capital have responded to the ban of the previous
strike by blockading the gates of the depot, halting 80% of collecting
activities. The workers are demanding a reversal of 200 layoffs.

The Centres of Citizen Assistance (KEP), the jewel of efficiency in the
greek state's crown, remain closed for a second day as workers are
striking. This in effect freezes all private-public transaction as the KEP
are the offices that issues official papers needed for any paperwork. The
workers are demanding more working positions and a recognition of their
previous job experience.
Kidengarden and Primary school teachers have been on strike since the
16/12. The teachers formed a demo outside the Ministry of Education
demanding 1400E minimum wage, no hour-work schedules, and 2 years free and
obligadory kidengarden education for all children. The union has refused
to engage on "tabula rasa" dialogue with the ministry. The general union
of teachers of all grades joined the strike on Thursday.

Taxi drivers have gone on strike in Athens after one of their coleagues
was arrested for carrying two sans-papier immigrants. The taxi drivers are
demanding the abolition of the law that demands taxi drivers to ask for
papers from immigrants that ride on their vehicles, and the immediate
release of their colleague.
All hospital doctors across the country have gone on strike on Thursday
and all intensive care units remain closed.

In Peiraeus, talks were concluded on Tuesday regarding the leasing of the
Second Pier of Peiraeus to COSCO which was agreed on a bases of 69 million
euros collective compensation to the workers, an ammount that has created
a storm of political accusations by the opposition. Nevertheless the
Mechanics Union of the Merchant Fleet has gone on a "warning strike" on
Thursday demanding a minimum 1400E salary.

Geologists, designers and mechanics have also joined the strike demanding
that "we do not pay their crisis"

All media have gone on a 24h strike unil Friday morning demanding the end
of the "hostage status" of contract workers, free information sharing
emancipated from commodification, and the abolition of all laws infirnging
social security. As a result there are no news broadcasts on radio TV or
the internet. Moreover workers of ERT3 the Salonica based state channel
are accusing their directors of going against union decisions and sharing
riot footage with the police.

Apart from the wave of strikes other fronts of the social/ class struggle
remain tense:

A protest march took to the streets of Ioannina on the 16 of December
protesting against the invasion of police forces in the social centre of
the city during the days commemorating Alexandros Grigoropoulos

In Chania the immigrants social centre and a house of a comrade came under
arson attack by neonazis who painted swastigas on the walls of the social
centre. There were no human injuries and minimal damage on both buildings.
The attack comes as an escalation of parastate violence in the Cretan
city, after warnings (or threats) by the minister of public order that
left and anarchist violence will result in extreme-right terror attacks. A
protest march has been called by greens, immigrant groups, anarchists,
left wing parties, animal rights groups and the local teacher's union for
Thursday night against parastate-fascist terror.

In Athens, an effort by the extreme-right parliamentary party LAOS to set
up a racist local committee with the purpose to purge African immigrants
from Amerikis Square was countered when triple the number of antiracists
and antifascists responded to the call. The MP of LASO has to take refuge
amidst heckling and the attempts to revamp the vigilante plans that have
been degenerating in the nearby Agios PAnteleimonas square since the end
of the summer were temporarily at least contained.

In Salonica, an initiative of lawyers has sued the government for police
arbitrariness on the 6th and 7th of December: illegal preventive arrests,
illegal fingerprinting and breaching of the university asylum. A member of
the directorate of the lawyers association of Salonica has declared that
all sueing lawyers have been eyewitnesses to the police illegal actions
which are in breach of the constitution that forbids the outlawing or
inhibition of protest marches and demos. No permit is needed in greece to
form a demo or a protest march. Fingerprinting of detainees is allowed
according to a law of the junta and is more and more resisted by
The border tolls of Euzone in Kilkis remain close due to blokades by
farmers demanding the immediate apyment of a compensation for the 2007

On the morning of Thursday the greek police was once again shamed by the
suicide attempt of the legal council to the monister of public order who
jumpted from the 7th floor of the ministry. Mr Diotis is the son of the
notorious district attorney who was responsible for chamically torturing
Savas Xiros, the first arrested member of the guerrilla group 17 November,
in the intensive care of Evangelismos hospital in 2002. The man is
struggling for his life in hospital, his fall being impeded by a row of
trees. Moreover the credibility of the greek police has been once again
shaken by a poll that revealed than almost 60% of officers consider
quiting their jobs if they have to wear insignia with their number or name
while on duty, as recently announced by the ministry. Obviously the cops
are not willing not to be able brutilise citizens unpunishable.

Update: Strikers have occipied the broadcasting headquarters of ERT3, the
Salonica state channel. The media strikers interrupted the news broadcast
of the scabs reading an announcement condemning breaking the strike. ERT3
is the only national channel that has broken the strike broadcasting news
bulletins. Other strikers simultaneously occupied the Salonica editors
association officers of the city for not participating in the strike.

Yesterday members of PAME the Communist union umbrella had symbolically
occupied the ministry of economics blocking the minister's office,
dropping a huge banner on the front of the building.

Also last night radicals attacked a series of banks in the centre of
Kavala in Thrace, smashing their fronts and torching them with molotov
cocktails. 18 suspects were later detained but released.

It must be noted that the strikes are against the will of the PASOK
controlled greek CGT.

2nd update: The workers march in Iraklio, Crete was concluded with a
blockade of the medical centre of the city due to nine people being sacked
in the past month.

In Athens contract workers for the county of Attiki occupied the municipal
headquarters in Sygrou avenue protesting against the sacking of 300
co-workers at the end of November.

Also thugs attacked strikers at a construction site of the National
Electricity Company today inflicting serious injuries to 3 workers who
have been hospitalised. The construction sector unionism is predominantly
and historically Communist Party controlled.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

[olympiaworkers] South Korean Railway union leader detained over illegal strike

SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- Police took the head of a railway workers'
union into custody on Sunday, accusing him of disturbing the service of
the state-run Korea Railroad (KORAIL) by leading an illegal walkout.

An arrest warrant was issued for the Korean Railway Workers' Union
leader, Kim Ki-tae, during the Nov. 26- Dec. 3 strike. Kim turned
himself in to police Dec. 9 after seeking refuge at an umbrella labor
union's office.

Some 15,000 union members, excluding 10,000 workers essential for
railway maintenance, had taken part in the eight-day strike, protesting
the management's decision to shed jobs and cut wages as part of
restructuring steps.

KORAIL claims the walkout, the longest ever by the nation's railway
workers, caused an estimated 20 billion won (US$17 million) in losses.

It said it will proceed with disciplinary procedures against 12 union
leaders and seek compensation for damages from the union.


Monday, December 14, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Striking workers in South Africa need our help today

To unsubscribe send an email to labourstart-en-unsubscribe@unionlists.org.uk
with the subject 'unsubscribe'.

Send a message to Sun International - "negotiate and don't try to break
the union"
Urgent Action 14-12-2009

More than 3,500 SACCAWU members at the Sun International South Africa have
been on strike since 4 December 2009 for wage increases and improved
working conditions. The country has become one of the premier tourist
destinations in the world and saw the company more than doubling over the
last few years. Throughout the period of negotiations which stretched over
months now, management has demonstrated extremely bad faith, continuously
derailing the negotiations, this is despite all efforts by the union to
settle the strike.

Since the beginning of the strike more than thirty union members have been
arrested while other workers are continuously being provoked, harassed and
subjected to all sorts of racial insults from the police and private
security firms as the attempts to break the strike continue.

Most recently just when it appeared that a agreement was reached, short of
both parties agreeing on the text of the resolution and signing it the
company once again returned to a pre-strike position as the final

SACCAWU is convinced that this is a deliberate strategy by the company to
break the strike and break their union at Sun International.

Click here to support SACCAWU


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Wildcat strikes of Czech workers in Hyundai and Dymos get massive attention

Libcom.org Dec 9 2009

Around 20 workers left the welding shop in Hyundai Motor Manufacturing
Czech in Nošovice near Frýdek-Místek (Czech Republic) during their shift
on Tuesday 1st of December 2009. One day later there was an hourly wildcat
strike in assembly hall at the same company. On 3rd December workers in
Huyndai subcontactor Dymos organised an hourly work stoppage too. On 7th
December the union called a "strike emergency" (a symbolic pre-strike
measure to warn the management that unless they start negotiations a real
strike action will be called) in Hyundai.

We informed about these strikes on our website on 3rd of December. In this
article we try to sum up what actually happened, what positive and
negative results we can see so far and how other workers can help.

„The other day my wife came home, locked herself in a room and cried. When
I came to her and asked what had happened, she told me little by little
how things work there and what they have to endure. She's been bottling it
up inside her heroically for almost 7 months. I can't understand how
something like this is possible in our country. When I read statements of
Petr Vaňek (HMMC spokesman) I feel like I'm about to vomit.
Chicanery, humiliation, threats = this is where Mr Rakovský and Mr
Vaněk are heading to." Reader's comment on newspaper website

Wildcat strike in Hyundai on 2nd December

Around 400 workers stood up against obligatory overtimes, selective annual
company bonuses, and workplace harassment. Workers were planning to stop
production since the morning. When the overtime was supposed to begin,
workers on one of the lines in the hall stopped production, and in a few
minutes all the other lines joined in. The workers then assembled in the
canteen. The management told them to choose a representative who would
negotiate on their behalf, and they rejected this idea. They demanded the
management to come to them and talk in front of everyone. A person from
Korean management along with the shift supervisor came to listen to their
demands. After an hour of negotiations the workers agreed to complete the
shift and continue negotiating within next days. They were promised that
the overtimes on Thursday would be cancelled and the hour they spent
striking would be paid.

Wildcat strike in Dymos on 3rd December and management reaction

On Wednesday, December 3rd, one shift (approximately 100 workers) also
went on an hourly wildcat strike in Dymos (also in Nošovice, see the
picture http://www.hyundai.phorum.cz/areal.php), which is a subcontracting
company for Hyundai also with Korean management. Reasons included
overtimes, overexertion of workers and bad working conditions. Management
of Hyundai is behaving defensively so far and trying to quieten the whole
issue in mass media. On the other hand, management of Dymos reacted very
quickly. According to information published on the Internet, on 4th
December the management told the morning shift which had been on strike a
day ago that the workers will loose all the bonuses and there will be a
wage freeze.

"Strike emergency" since 7th December - Unions trying to gain control over
further development

The strike in Hyundai was organized without official involvement of the
union (and work council) so that the union could not be accused of illegal
action. There were some posts on the workers' discussion forum encouraging
them to quickly join the union in order to gain strength. The union has
called a "strike emergency" on Monday, December 7th.

A possible solution was drafted by a union representative on the union's
discussion forum. He writes that the employees who took part in the strike
will not be punished and urges that now "the employees have to distance
themselves from all activities similar to what happened on Wednesday!!!
You can strike only afterwards if there is no deal and no compromise with
the management!!! Not sooner!!! It would be illegal and the negotiations
would fail!!! Plus one technical info: 500 Czech crowns* in cash instead
of a Christmas box of chocolate for every union member, who paid his union
fee in November!! :-)"
* cca. 19 Euro

Positive results so far

1) Self-organisation of the action. Workers' mobilization and their own
action could encourage other workers, not only in Czech.
2) Information channel. The workers had established a public online forum
long before they went on strike. This forum along with comments on media
websites has become a space where they share information and explain their
situation and current events. By doing so the workers have made a huge
step forward and have been able to clarify their situation to everyone who
has access to the Internet and follows the articles online.
3) Support from other companies. Many online posts from workers from other
companies have been supportive. They shared their experiences with bad
working conditions, unpaid overtimes, overtimes deleted from electronic
databases, etc.
4) Support from abroad and examples of other actions. Examples of strikes
from other countries were also mentioned (France, Korea...). We have also
seen solidarity messages from foreign workers, e.g. from Slovakia, Poland,
France... on the workers' discussion forum.
5) Media coverage. Mass media informed about the problem more or less
neutrally, in any case there were no articles directly against workers.
Hundreds of readers used the possibility to discuss on media websites.
The list could continue but it is too soon to evaluate the whole conflict.

Some thoughts on future developments

Hyundai. "Strike emergency" means that the union will take control over
the actions. No one can say what this step will bring. The negotiations of
new collective agreement will start in January 2010 and the unions will
want to take advantage of the workers' fighting spirit. The experience of
Czech Skoda workers from 2007 in a similar case is, however, not very
positive. If the union succeeds in the attempt to convince the workers not
to take independent actions, it will increase its power to decide about
the agreement.

The union in Hyundai represents cca 350 of total 2000 employees and
according to their treasurer Štefan Janík sees a big rise in the number of
people interested in joining it. Union demands are related mainly to
overtimes and management pressure on workers. The reason is probably that
they count on the fact that other problems will be dealt with from January
2010 as part of the new collective agreement. We can only guess if the
formulation of demands is in accordance with workers' opinions. Now it is
important to hold the power to make demands and accept agreements in
workers' hands, not unions'. That is, it should arise from discussions at
mass assemblies of workers in the halls during working time (without
presence of management representatives). The pressure on management would
thus double – they would not only face a couple of unionists but the whole
production sections that would assert their power and make decisions. It
is possible that now after the "strike emergency" was called, this power
will be lost. Next weeks will show how the workers balance their power and
the power of the union.

Regarding accepting of agreements, our opinion is that the procedure
should be similar: every decision should be discussed and accepted at the
mass assembly. Workers' delegates would be elected by the workers and they
would report the demands to the management. Under no circumstances could
they accept an agreement which would not be ratified by the mass assembly.

We also think that workers could start forming a strike committee. Usually
it is composed only of union representatives but we think it should be
autonomous – in the spirit of original autonomous actions. Every worker
should have the possibility to be a member of the strike committee. Union
membership does not matter.

Dymos. Dymos workers face a bigger problem. We do not have almost any
information from them. We do not know how they reacted to the announcement
about bonuses and wage freeze. We do not even know if there is any contact
between Hyundai and Dymos workers. Union demands do not mention Dymos
workers. If Hyundai workers stand up for them it will certainly be a great
display of solidarity and strength for the future.


What more can all those who are not working in Hyundai or Dymos do, other
than wish a lot of strength and a successful outcome? Here are some modest
• Express symbolic support on the workers' discussion forum or elsewhere
in the media.
• Ask workers from subcontracting companies to express their solidarity
individually or collectively. Some Czech companies are listed here:
• Inform friends and acquaintances at home and abroad about this struggle,
particularly if they work in car industry.
• If your workplace has been through a strike or any pre-strike situation,
you could share the experience, its pros and cons and what would you do
differently if the situation occurred again.

Priama akcia
Slovak section of International Workers' Association

Slovak version: Priama akcia-IWA website
German version: FAU-IWA website

Online discussion forum of Hyundai workers:


Dec 9 2009 14:31 (new)

There is a leaflet with the German version of the text that has amongst
others been distributed at Volkswagen in Germany. Feel free to download
the PDF file.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Tension in Greece before critical weekend

libcom.org Dec 2 2009

Strikes, marches, blockades, occupations and nights of fire are setting
the climate before the critical weekend of the first anniversary of
Alexandros Grigoropoulos murder.

Political and social tension is rising across greece before the critical
weekend (Saturday 5- Monday 7) that marks the first year anniversary of
the assassination of Alexandros Grigoropoulos and the subsequent December

On the labour front, a series of sectors are restless. On Monday 30/11
Athens saw a demo of hospital doctors who went on a 24h strike in front of
the Evangelismos hospital. At the same time nurses of the Agia Eleni
hospital have occupied the management offices of the hospital demanding
that employed nurses are removed from office work and placed only in
medical care. On the telecom front, the workers of Wind have called
another 24h strike for Thursday 3/12 in response to the forced "voluntary
exit" of 200 workers. At the same time archaeologists employed by the
Ministry of Culture have called a 48h strike for Wednesday and Thursday
demanding immediate payment of all salaries. The archaeologists gathered
in front of the Archaeological Museum of Athens and marched to the
Ministry. On the heavy industry side, steel workers have called a 24h
strike in protest to the layoff of 16 workers at the National Steelworks.
The workers have gathered in front of the main factory of the industry and
are closing on and off the national highway south of Athens. On the public
sector on Wednesday 2/12 stage workers of the municipality of Salonica
have blockaded the municipal headquarters disallowing all citizens and
employers to enter the premises. The workers are demanding the revision of
the new government's plans regarding the integration of stage workers to
permanent employment. On the farming side of things, peach producers have
been blockading the Egnatia national highway, halting all traffic from
Salonica west, demanding that the Ministry of Agriculture fix a universal
price for their products.

Finally a striking event much discussed even in the mainstream media is an
acid attack against the car of a cleaner, Venetia Monalopoulou, contracted
to the Airport of Salonica. The cleaner is a leading syndicalist playing
an important role in the efforts to built a united autonomous union front
of cleaners on the model put forward by K. Kouneva, the Athens cleaner who
is still in hospital a year after an assassination attempt against her
with sulphuric acid. The latest attack came during an assembly of the
cleaners and has been condemned by the cleaners as "boss terrorism".

On the student front, a protest march took to the streets of Athens
amongst piles of ungathered garbage due to a blockade of the Fylis refuse
dump by locals. The students protested the closure of their schools by a
collaboration if rectorial and police authorities during the 36th
anniversary of the November 17 Uprising last month. A similar protest
march took to the streets of the city of Volos on Tuesday 1/12. At the
same time workers of the University of the Peloponese who have been
occupying the rectorial headquarters of their university moved on
Wednesday 2/12 to blockade the main Corinthian highway, thus putting all
southbound circulation in the peninsula to a halt.

On the anti-repression front, as the trial of the imprisoned anarchist
Ilias Nikolaoy started on Wednesday morning under draconian police
presence, a big motorised protest march took to the prisons of Diavata the
previous night. At the same time a big protest march took to the streets
of Salonica on Monday 30/12 protesting against the para-state bomb attack
against the Bueno Ventura antiauthoritarian social centre last week. A day
earlier another anti-repression protest march took to the streets of
Petralona in Athens against the petrol bomb attack against the house of a
member of the Revolutionary Workers Party who is actively involved in the
anti-gentrification movement in the area. At the same time two new squats
have appeared in the archipelagos of social antagonism: on in Exarcheia
and on in Corfu. The latter has been receiving pressure of eviction by
local cops.

Finally the already tense social and political climate has been punctuated
by a series of attacks against state and capitalist targets throughout the
country. The latest of these was Tuesday night's blitz molotov attack
against the commercial centre of Kaisariani, an eastern suburb of Athens,
targetting mainly banks. In Salonica, a series of attacks against houses
of policemen, judges and newspaper managers with small range explosive
devices has been claimed by a the urban guerrilla group Convention of
Anomics/ Ministers of Erebus.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Seattle Developer Lorig Sues to Gag Anti-Discrimination Protests

South Puget Sound IMC Nov. 19, 2009

On Monday, November 16th, Seattle-based property developer Lorig
Associates served a lawsuit against the members of a local community
organization known as the Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol). According
to its website, www.seasol.net, SeaSol is an all-volunteer workers' and
tenants' group which organizes activities such as picketing, leafleting,
and office delegations to pressure employers and landlords whom they
believe are responsible for mistreating someone in the Network.

In its lawsuit, the developer seeks a court injunction "prohibiting
Defendants from making any statements or acting in any manner that
adversely affects Lorig's goodwill or reputation, including but not
limited to...leafleting, picketing, or otherwise negatively painting Lorig
in a false light." It also seeks an order for Solidarity Network members
to pay unspecified damages to Lorig.

According to its website, SeaSol's conflict with Lorig began over its
belief that CEO Bruce Lorig had unjustly fired a longstanding African
American employee, Patricia Milton, in a conflict over alleged workplace
discrimination and harassment. Lorig's Chief Operations Officer, Tom
Fitzsimmons, has recently released statements denying that Mr Lorig is
racially prejudiced, citing the company's employment of multiple black
workers both currently and at various times in the past. Despite these
statements, SeaSol has continued to describe Milton's treatment as
"discrimination" and has urged individuals and institutions to avoid doing
business with Lorig.

On Tuesday, Milton and several other SeaSol supporters addressed the City
Council of Olympia, calling Lorig's lawsuit "despicable" and an attempt to
"crush a community organization and gag public speech." Olympia had been
considering hiring Lorig to develop a downtown parking structure, but
voted later in the meeting to cancel the project, citing the poor economy.

The first court hearing in the dispute will be on Tuesday, November 24th,
at 8:30 am at the King County Superior Court, 516 3rd Ave, Seattle. Judge
Laura Inveen will hear Lorig's request for a Temporary Restraining Order
to immediately block the defendants from leafleting, picketing, or
speaking against Lorig.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

[olympiaworkers] WTO 10th Anniversary Commemoration

From: "Kardas, Peter" <KardasP@evergreen.edu>

A message from SPEEA's Stan Sorscher, who is helping to organize a 10th
anniversary commemoration of the WTO meeting and protests in Seattle:

This month is the 10th anniversary of the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle.

To mark the event, a two-day gathering is planned for Saturday, Nov. 28
and Sunday, Nov. 29. Please join the labor community to see how we can
move forward with a new trade policy for workers, families and

Saturday, Nov. 28 at Seattle University
Opening keynotes by Bob Hasegawa and David Korten
Many workshops during the day, including:

James Ploeser, Public Citizen 2:30-4 p.m.
Thea Lee, AFL-CIO at 4:15-5:45 p.m.

Sunday Nov. 29 at Town Hall - doors open at 6 p.m.
Featured speakers will include:

Leo Gerard, President of the United Steel Workers (by video)
Thea Lee, AFL-CIO Policy Director
Jim Sinclair, British Columbia Labour Federation

For more information, and handy flyers in pdf format, go to

Co-sponsored by Washington State Labor Council, M.L. King County Labor
Council and many community organizations.

[olympiaworkers] LABOR CENTER NEWS


November, 2009
Greetings from Washington State's Labor Education and Research Center
(currently located at the Evergreen State College)! In order to keep you
better informed about what we're doing we will be sending monthly email
SEND A MESSAGE TO trifflen@evergreen.edu
<mailto:trifflen@evergreen.edu> .


1) Changing the date for Organizing Class! Our next UNION POWER class is on
ORGANIZING! Originally scheduled for Jan 14 & 15, it is being pushed back
a week to Jan 21 & 22, 2010. See below for details.

2) The Martin Luther King County Central Labor Council Education Committee
is launching a book group! The first book is Solidarity Divided: The
Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice by Bill
Fletcher and Fernando Gapasin. The group's first meeting is TODAY
Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in Room 208 at the Seattle Labor
Temple. Feel free to join us and/or, if you want to know about future
meetings, email Sarah Laslett - lasletts@evergreen.edu
<mailto:lasletts@evergreen.edu> .

3) Our Labor Center is co-sponsoring the 2010 West Coast Summer Institute
for Union Women with the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research
Center. The Institute will be held from July 6 -10, 2010 on the campus of
Reed College in Portland. Save those dates; we'll be sending more details
as the planning evolves! If you would like to help organize the school,
email Sarah Laslett, lasletts@evergreen.edu
<mailto:lasletts@evergreen.edu> .


P rograms
O n
W orker
E ducation and
R ights

UNION POWER offers regularly-scheduled classes open to participants from
multiple unions and community organizations. There will be a per person
charge for each class, depending on the length of the class and what
resources are required. A minimum of five participants will be needed in
order to run a class. Our monthly bulletins announce what trainings are
scheduled. Please let us know what topics you would like to see offered!

Union Power Schedule of Classes

1) ORGANIZING - INTERNAL and EXTERNAL: Originally scheduled for Jan 14 &
15, this class is being re-scheduled to Jan 21 (Thurs 1:00 pm - 5:30 pm) &
22 (Fri 8:30 am - 5:00 pm), 2010. This training will introduce unionists
and labor activists to the organizing model and a variety of methods for
implementing it, provide exercises to develop organizing skills, and offer
opportunities to understand organizing strategy. Cost is $125 per person;
the class will be held at the Georgetown campus of South Seattle
Community College. To sign up or for more information email
lasletts@evergreen.edu <mailto:lasletts@evergreen.edu> .

2) SOLIDARITY! March 2010 - This class will look at the history of
organized labor in the United States and the meaning of Solidarity. When
have workers supported each other in the struggle for workplace justice
and when have we succeeded? When has our solidarity failed and we have
lost? What does solidarity between workers, both inside unions and
outside unions, mean today for our political and economic empowerment?
Interested? For more information email lasletts@evergreen.edu
<mailto:lasletts@evergreen.edu> .

3) LABOR HISTORY & UNIONISM 101 IN SPANISH! March 2010 - These classes
will be offered in both Western & Eastern Washington. Basic information
will be provided about how unions work, how the U.S. labor movement has
developed, the role of Latinos & other immigrant communities in labor, and
how current immigration rights struggles tie in to labor struggles.
Interested? Email bocanegj@evergreen.edu
<mailto:bocanegj@evergreen.edu> .

include great stories from the history of labor organizing, a Power Point
slide show, and music! We will bring this educational, entertaining, and
dynamic presentation to your meetings or events. To schedule a
presentation, email lasletts@evergreen.edu
<mailto:lasletts@evergreen.edu> .

be offering ongoing leadership development classes for native/Latino
immigrants in the Auburn area. For more information email him at
bocanegj@evergreen.edu. <mailto:bocanegj@evergreen.edu>

NEED A TRAINING TAILORED FOR YOUR UNION? If what we're already offering
does not meet the needs of your union or organization, we can design and
implement trainings on a wide variety of topics for one or more unions or
organizations. Some of the topics we can train on include:

* Rank & File Leadership

* Staff Development

* Recruiting the Next Generation of Leaders

* Basic Workers' Rights

* Immigration and Labor

* Strategic Planning & Campaign Design

* Salting

* Meeting Facilitation

* Organizing: Internal and External

* Shop Stewarding

* Collective Bargaining

OUR FEES: We have a standard fee schedule of $65 per hour or $500 per day
for preparation and training, but will work on a sliding scale. As
mentioned above, there will be a per person charge for each of the UNION
POWER classes.

WORKERS' RIGHTS MANUAL: This invaluable resource can be downloaded for
free at our website in both English & Spanish:
<http://laborcenter.evergreen.edu/> /.

Staff & Contact Information:

Peter Kardas, Director
kardasp@evergreen.edu <mailto:kardasp@evergreen.edu>

Nina Triffleman, Assistant Director
trifflen@evergreen.edu <mailto:trifflen@evergreen.edu>

Juan José Bocanegra, Labor Educator for Union and Immigrant Workers
bocanegj@evergreen.edu <mailto:%20bocanegj@evergreen.edu>

Sarah Laslett, Labor Educator for Union and Community Women
lasletts@evergreen.edu <mailto:lasletts@evergreen.edu>

The Labor Center has a Facebook page! Check out great photographs from our
July 2009 Summer School for Union Women and Community Activists, and more!
Go to www.facebook.com <http://www.facebook.com/>
<http://www.facebook.com/> and log in or join, then search for "solidarity
works" and you will find the link to our page.

Want to know more? For more information about our programs, see our Labor
Center newsletters. Check out our website at
http://laborcenter.evergreen.edu <http://laborcenter.evergreen.edu/> .
Feel free to call or email us at any time with questions or ideas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

[olympiaworkers] China: Strike by 3,000 women workers

Hainan garment workers take on European lingerie giant 'Triumph'

Sunday, 15 November 2009. chinaworker.info, Hong Kong

Women workers at a garment factory in Hainan, southern China, began a
strike on Wednesday 11 November to press their demands on pay and
vacations after management announced drastic cuts in bonuses. Around 3,000
workers at the Hainan Youmei Underwear Co., Ltd in Haikou City, the
provincial capital, gathered outside the plant. The factory is wholly
owned by German-Swiss lingerie giant Triumph International, one of the
world's leading manufacturers of women's underwear.

"The strike started after the management said a worker could not get
year-end bonus if her production efficiency failed to reach 50 percent of
the average level last year," Mo Xiaohui, a worker at the plant told
Xinhua. "That was impossible for most of us as the production dropped
sharply in the financial crisis."

"The boss wants to cut our bonus worth about 700 yuan (102 U.S. dollars),
even if our monthly salary is as low as between 500 yuan and 600 yuan (73
to 88 U.S. dollars)," said a worker named Li Guihua. "It's going too far."

By Friday the company agreed to pay all workers their bonus, but workers
decided to continue their strike over their other demands, Han Lirong,
head of the firm's official (state-controlled) union, was quoted as
saying. Workers across China's manufacturing sector, many of them migrants
without job protection or rights to medical insurance and pensions, have
suffered pay cuts this year as the global capitalist crisis has battered
China. The government's stimulus measures have helped save the rich, big
companies and corrupt officialdom, but have not benefited factory workers
and the poor.

"Now we have to go on strike as we have long been asking the company to
accept our demands," Mo said.

In addition to protesting over the threatened cut in bonuses, the Triumph
workers are demanding the company raise wages to the minimum national
standard and provide employees with normal levels of leave. Huang Xueyan,
the company's personnel manager, said the negotiation was hard as workers
would not select representatives to talk with the management. This is not
surprising! It just shows the difficulties facing workers during labour
disputes in China, where genuine independent trade unions are outlawed.
The Haikou workers have undoubtedly decided not to put forward individual
representatives for fear of victimisation by the company or by the state –
on grounds that their strike "undermines stability".

Triumph International's record

Triumph International, which has its global headquarters in Switzerland,
had an annual turnover of 1.6 billion euros in 2003, with 38,691 employees
in 120 countries. The company is no newcomer to accusations of labour
abuses and union-busting. In June this year it closed down two factories
in the Philippines and halved its Thai workforce as part of a global
'restructuring' plan. The moves were widely seen as a ploy to smash the
unions at its operations in these countries. Earlier this year, the
company's wholly-owned subsidiary Body Fashion Thailand, dismissed union
president Jitra Kotshadej for taking part in a national television debate
wearing a t-shirt with the text 'Thinking differently is not a crime'.

Workers from the Philippines and Thailand units of Triumph International,
supported by Hong Kong trade unions and migrant groups, staged a protest
in August 2009 outside the company's offices in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong.
They were protesting about Triumph's closure plan with the retrenchment of
1,663 workers in the Philippines, and the loss of almost 2,000 jobs in

"When it comes to profit, Triumph International is so fast to extract
wealth from us but when it comes to obligation and responsibility, they
are now running away." Isabelita dela Cruz, a spokeswoman and union
representative from the Philippines. "We cannot wait for any longer
because our families and children in the Philippines and in Thailand are
suffering and live in miserable condition. Many of our children stop
schooling and soon we will be ejected from our homes."

[Triumph workers protest against sackings]

Solidarity needed!

chinaworker.info is appealing for international support and solidarity for
the women strikers in Haikou. They are pitted against a notoriously
exploitative company and fighting courageously under a political regime
that bans strikes and often resorts to severe repression. Solidarity
action could include sending letters, faxes and emails of protest to the
company (address below) or staging protests outside company offices or
stores selling Triumph underwear.

chinaworker.info gives its permission for this article to be reproduced
and used as an information leaflet in connection with solidarity action.
Triumph International global headquarters:
Promenadenstrasse 24
Bad Zurzach 5330
Phone: 49 89 51 11 80

Triumph International Asia headquarters:
32/F One Kowloon
1 Wang Yuen St Kowloon Bay
Kln Hong Kong
Business Tel (852) 2341 2211
Business Fax (852) 2793 5181

Sunday, November 15, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Zimbabwe: Union Leaders Released

News24.com Nov. 14, 2009

Harare - Five trade union leaders arrested under Zimbabwe's repressive
security laws have been released after spending four nights in jail, an
official said on Friday.

The five, including the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) Lovemore Matombo, were arrested on Sunday on charges of holding a
meeting without police authorisation.

They were released late on Thursday from their cells in the resort town of
Victoria Falls, after a court tossed out the charges, the group said in a

"It is heartbreaking that innocent people had to spend four nights in
filthy police cells and only freed after the intervention of the courts,"
ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe said in a statement.

"The ZCTU, however welcomes the court's ruling that the police had no
business disrupting the ZCTU meeting and arresting innocent trade

Chibebe said the Public Order and Security Act, used to detain the five,
"does not cover trade unions but the police continue to disrupt trade
union activities."

"The police should be undoubtedly ashamed of their actions," he added.

The arrests drew condemnation from union movements around the continent,
and the European Union on Thursday issued a statement calling for their

[olympiaworkers] Solidarity Picket at Olympia City Hall Nov. 17



Thanks to everyone who made it out to this Olympia action last week.
We've just found out that the mayor of Olympia is trying to rush the City
of Olympia's decision about choosing a developer for the downtown
municipal parking garage. The mayor wants to skip the Request For
Proposals and have the city use a developer chosen by his staff only.

Our favorite discriminating property developers, Lorig Associates (
www.seasol.net for more info), are hoping the Olympia City Council will
choose to award them this contract. It looks like the City Council will be
voting *next Tuesday* on whether to short-circuit the decision-making
process, and we want to be there to urge the city council to make the right
choice: anyone but Lorig!

WHEN/WHERE: This Tuesday, November 17th. Those coming from Seattle are
meeting up at LELO (3700 S Hudson St) at 4pm and then carpooling down to
Olympia. We're starting so early because travel time on I-5 can be
unpredictable, and we can't risk missing this action opportunity due to
traffic jams. If we get to Olympia early, we'll start picketing early.
Those who are already in or near Olympia should meet us at 6:15pm in front
of the City of Olympia building at 900 Plum Street SE, Olympia, WA.

WHAT: We'll be picketing outside, and flyering inside, the Olympia City
Council meeting, letting everyone know the truth about Lorig. As usual,
this council meeting will be televised live. Let's see if we can reduce
Lorig's chances of scoring a contract from the city of Olympia!

Friday, November 13, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Strike by over 1000 Haft Tapeh cane cutters ends in victory!


More than 1000 cane cutters at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company have
ended their three day strike after the management agreed to meet the
workers' demands.

The cane cutters went on strike at 11am on November 9 and continued their
strike the next by gathering at the cane cutting camp of the company. The
workers demanded the immediate payment of the annual productivity bonus.
Most of the cane cutters are seasonal workers from the nearby Lorestan
province, working for the company for five or six months a year.

The workers ended the strike on November 12 once their bonuses were paid.
The success of this strike is even more remarkable when we consider the
fact that many of the leaders of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company
Workers' Trade Union are in prison.

Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network

12 November 2009.

For further news on Haft Tapeh and how you can help see the special
section. http://www.iwsn.org/campaigns/sugar.htm

IWSN home


Thursday, November 12, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Strike at World's Largest Nickel Mine

International solidarity organizes against Vale Inco, 2nd largest
transnational mining giant in the world

By Marc Bonhomme; November 12, 2009 - Znet

Source: The Bullet

In France's south Pacific colony of New Caledonia, a small delegation of
Vale Inco strikers from Sudbury, in Northeastern Ontario, most of them
Franco-Ontarians, met in October with the union at the island's Vale Inco
nickel mine, due to open in 2010 although it threatens a UNESCO nature
reserve. The newspaper Nouvelles calédoniennes reported the encounter, in
its October 31 edition:

"In the face of the global economy, the labour movement is looking to
internationalize. In Canada, 3,500 workers at Vale Inco are currently on
strike. Their union, the United Steelworkers, has launched a crusade to
visit every Vale Inco site on the planet, for the purpose of forging
alliances. In New Caledonia, union representatives met with the unions
that represent the workers at the plant located in the south. ...

For the past three and a half months, ...workers at Vale Inco in Canada
have been engaged in a test of strength with the Brazilian multinational
that absorbed Inco, the Canadian nickel giant which initiated the Goro
Nickel project in Caledonia. ...

They are accusing the Vale group of taking advantage of the global crisis
and lower profits to make underhanded cuts in employees' wages, pension
plans and social assistance programs. They are also organizing visits to
all of Vale Inco's sites in Brazil, Indonesia, Australia and New
Caledonia, to create a sort of worldwide alliance between the various
unions that represent the multinational corporation's employees."[1]

The strike at Vale Inco began in mid-July at Sudbury, a city of 150,000
inhabitants, one third of them Francophone. In early August the strike was
joined by workers at the Vale Inco refinery in Port Colborne, on Lake
Erie, and the mine at Voisey's Bay in Labrador. Vale is engaged in a
frenzied competition with BHP-Billiton, an Australian-British company and
the world's largest, Rio Tinto, the third largest, and other mining giants
in a process of concentration and centralization of the international
mining industry. They are seeking to profit from the exponential rise in
metal prices in recent years as a result of the explosive growth in demand
in the emerging economies, and to strengthen their position with the major
purchasers, above all the Chinese government and the big new producers in
those countries.

Vale, too big to be defeated in a single country

In a push for diversification, Vale, a leading iron ore producer,
purchased the Canadian nickel transnational Inco two years ago. The
current economic crisis suddenly forced down raw materials prices,
particularly for nickel. Vale, which had earlier settled for contract
improvements with its employees in Thompson, Manitoba, is now demanding
that its other workers agree to a three-year wage freeze, a defined
contributions pension plan for new hires (the current plan is defined
benefits), a major reduction in the annual production bonus (which has
averaged 25% of the base wage), now to be pegged to the firm's
profitability, and a weaker wage indexation clause.

But unlike its major rivals, who have experienced liquidity problems
resulting in major layoffs - Rio Tinto-Alcan in Quebec, for example - Vale
has remained quite profitable despite the collapse in prices and has not
carried out massive layoffs, although it did dismiss a few hundred Inco
employees after buying this company. In Brazil itself, it plans to
increase its workforce by 12% in 2010 following major investments demanded
by the Brazilian government; the state-owned banks are significant
financiers of Vale. In Brazil, as in New Caledonia, wages are lower, and
perhaps the environmental constraints as well.

In 2008 Vale made a profit of US$13.2-billion. Its subsidiary Vale Inco
made more profits in two years (2006-2008) than Inco did in ten
(1996-2006): US$4.1-billion. In the third quarter of 2009, together with
the new rise in nickel and iron ore prices, its profit doubled from the
previous quarter although it was only a third of what it was in the same
period in 2008. The company was so proud of this result that its directors
had planned to go to the New York and London stock exchanges for media
events in late October. Unfortunately for them, they had to cancel when
small delegations of strikers came to disrupt the events with the help of
local union members linked with the International Trade Union
Confederation (ITUC) - about twenty strikers in New York supported by U.S.
steelworkers but also some teachers.

Vale was so optimistic at that point that it announced it would be
distributing $2.75-billion in dividends in 2009 - more than the cost of
the wages and benefits of its 100,000 plus employees in 35 countries
worldwide. But the strike has been relatively effective. Nickel production
in the third quarter of 2009 is down by 45% from the second quarter and by
55% from the equivalent quarter in 2008, not to mention the direct cost of
$200-million for the strike. However, the new rise in nickel prices has
somewhat offset the lower volume, and the production of nickel (and
copper, which Vale Inco extracts concurrently) is a marginal component of
the transnational's overall operations, while it was central for the old

Vale profits from the severity of the crisis in Ontario

Since its privatization in 1997 - it was a state-owned corporation in
Brazil, founded during the Second World War - Vale has been systematically
fighting its workers. In Brazil, its employees have no job security; the
company dismisses them without cause and fires most once they have three
to five years seniority in order to hire at a lower wage, which explains
why the majority are on fixed-term contracts. In the current strike in
Canada, Vale has hired strikebreakers and required its other workers to do
the work of the strikers. The New Democratic Party (NDP) sought
unsuccessfully in the Ontario legislature, with the applause of strikers
in the visitors' gallery, who were expelled, to present anti-scab
legislation like that in Quebec. The NDP, a social-liberal party linked to
the trade-union movement, is the most left-wing party in the Ontario
legislature. It divides the northern and northeastern seats, which are
very blue-collar, especially outside the few major urban areas, with the
governing Liberals, although it has only 10 out of the province's 107

The relative isolation of the strikers from the major metropolitan centers
in the south of the province has not facilitated efforts to build
solidarity. However, it is worth noting the solidarity of other
Steelworkers locals and the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public
Employees (CUPE), known for its vanguard role in the boycott, divestment
and sanctions campaign in support of Palestine, and for its municipal
worker locals in Toronto and Windsor, which waged hard-fought strikes this
summer to fend off concessions demanded by the municipal authorities
including the so-called progressive city council in Toronto. These
politicians sought to benefit from the crisis in the automobile, steel and
financial industries that has hit hard at the Ontario economy, which
accounts for 40% of the Canadian GNP. It is no accident that the conflict
at Vale Inco began this summer while these major strikes were taking

Nevertheless, this solidarity consists at best in visits by a few leaders,
sometimes with cheques in support, and the mobilization of limited pockets
of militants when strikers visit Toronto, for example to agitate at
Queen's Park, the site of the Ontario legislature, or to respond to the
invitation of the iconoclastic film director Michael Moore when he was in
Toronto for the premiere of Capitalism: A Love Story. Until quite recently
the international mobilization has remained quite modest: letters of
support from unions in less than a dozen countries and tours in Germany
and Sweden accompanied by international leaders to convince certain
companies not to import nickel ore from Vale. Even the big rally in late
September with international guests, including the president of the CUT,
the major Brazilian trade-union central, drew only 3,000 persons, slightly
less than the total number of strikers in Sudbury.

A possible turning-point in October

It appears, however, that things took a turn for the better in October.
The women's strike support committee, which played such an important role
in the very militant nine-month strike in 1978-79, was re-established with
the help of former activists. Working with the recently constituted
support committee, it will be organizing a series of family activities in
November. The Ukrainian community in the region has also become involved.
The spirit of 1978-79 could be regained. There appear to be some changes
as well in terms of international solidarity. In addition to the trip to
New York, a small delegation has returned from Australia, where Vale
purchased several coal mines in 2007, and New Caledonia, where Vale Inco
will soon open a new nickel mine. Dozens of Australian miners expressed
their sympathy with the delegation, as did their leaders. But their
contract terminates only in 2011.

In New Caledonia, there was remarkable media coverage and a warm reception
from the Kanak elected representatives. The Kanaks are the first nation in
this French colony, although they now make up only 45% of the total
population. Did the Kanaks sense they had a lot in common with the
Franco-Ontarians in the delegation - two nationalities suffering
oppression of their language, their economic conditions and their lack of
territorial autonomy? Oddly enough, the Steelworkers web site devoted to
this conflict, from which most of the information in this article is
derived, is bilingual - in English and Brazilian Portuguese. And the
publication materials are English-only. But the Sudbury region itself is
strongly Francophone, and is not far from the Quebec border. Will this
uniform and formal unity strengthen the capacity for mass mobilization? Is
this the best way to build a pan-Canadian movement? Internationalism, to
be effective, must begin at home.

It is in Brazil, Vale's economic base by far, where the situation is most
promising. The miners in the company's largest Brazilian mine, and two
other mines, staged a two-day strike, October 26-27, around their own
demands. A few days later, at two other mines affiliated with the smallest
union central, Conlutas, which is known for its militancy, the bargaining
committee symbolically invited the woman representing the Canadian
steelworkers to be part of their bargaining team, to the anger of the
employer's negotiators who threatened to break off the talks. And 700
workers in these two mines signed a letter to the company calling on it to
settle the strike in Canada, where negotiations have not resumed since the
strike began. In a release issued November 4, the union's leaders said:

"Vale fears more than just the possibility of victory in the strike by
Canadian brothers and sisters, a possibility strengthened by this gesture
of solidarity. It also fears the growing international unity which is
being built among Vale workers and also people in communities around the
world where Vale's profits have resulted in environmental disasters,
degradation of the natural environment and community disintegration."

Internationalist optimism and bureaucratic contradiction

This optimism is justified. But so far the development of international
links has been primarily at the initiative of the union bureaucracies.
Their willingness to develop an internationalist response should not be
under-estimated. They have been caught off guard by this strike and the
membership's willingness to take on a powerful transnational corporation
capable of holding out through even a militant strike as long as the
workers are isolated. They realize that the usual bureaucratic methods of
bargaining supported by a national strike limited to picketing and
controlled from above will inevitably result in some setbacks. When the
union ranks hesitate to fight back in the face of a difficult objective
situation, as in the automobile industry, the leaderships can force
through some concessions. But there may be a high price to pay in terms of
credibility once the threshold of an unlimited strike has been crossed. To
defeat Vale, there must be a certain degree of international coordination
in strikes, except perhaps in Brazil, where a national inter-union
coordination might suffice.

The need for the union bureaucracy to mobilize the ranks to some degree,
or to let them mobilize themselves without too many impediments, opens the
door to self-organization. Has the women's committee given the cue? The
need to develop international links and an openness toward working-class
internationalism, particularly with the Brazilian unions, forces the
bureaucrats to restrain any temptation to engage in the kind of chauvinist
language characteristic of a small imperialist power that we hear so often
in Canada - "defending our middle-class, anti-ecology status" while
allowing Vale to chip away at the wage scales and working conditions of
its employees elsewhere.

The Steelworkers are styled an "international" union, although they have
locals only in the USA and Canada. So when the "international" president
of the union called for nationalization of Vale at the big strike support
rally in late September, to the standing ovation of the strikers, there
was a note of ambiguity. If nationalization means a takeover by the
capitalist state in order to escape Brazilian living conditions, that is a
setback for internationalism - and an economic illusion, for the nickel
market is worldwide. A state corporation would do as Vale does. However,
nationalization can signify the first step in the takeover by the workers
collectively, as the Zanon workers took over their plant in Argentina.[2]
The self-managed collective would confront the state with the need to
provide financing, technical assistance and guarantees of international
markets, if not conversion of the company and retraining of the workers.
It would make the undertaking an integral part of the community, and in
the case of a firm that is intrinsically an exporter, would also link with
the workers in client and competitor firms abroad in support of their
demands and their struggles, within a perspective of collaboration for
joint marketing in the context of a levelling upward of living conditions.
It would be a first step toward internationalist self-management.

Irrespective of whether it goes forward or is worn down, this strike
against Vale gives some idea of what the strike movement will be like in
the 21st century. Global strikes against transnational corporations will
be an essential pillar of internationalism. They are just beginning.

Marc Bonhomme is an economist and member of Québec solidaire. Translated
from the original French by Richard Fidler.


1. www.fairdealnow.ca/?cat=17. Retranslated from the French.

2. A strike made famous by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis in their film The
Take. For recent coverage of the Zanon struggle, see "Zanon workers win
major legal battle"


The web site of the Vale Inco families and community members may be
accessed at www.fairdealnow.ca

Bullet #253: Down in the Vale, by Petra Veltri

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Bus strikes in East London

Nov 9 2009 Libcom.org

Bus drivers and engineers in East London walked out today in a 24-hour
action which stopped around 750 buses and either froze or disrupted 58

The East London Bus Company employs 2,600 workers, of which all but 200
are members of the Unite Union. The union balloted its members after the
company imposed a pay freeze on its staff, claiming the recession had
forced their hand. The vote was in favour of strike action by 84%. Drivers
and engineers working out of Barking, Bow, Leyton, Romford, Upton Park and
West Ham bus garages took part in the walkout.

Though company bosses are claiming that the recession is forcing them to
impose pay freezes on staff, the East London Bus Company is owned by the
Macquarie investment bank, which openly expects to make significant
profits this year, 10% above those of the previous year. The bank has
remained profitable throughout the financial crisis.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Capital Medical Center Workers to picket hospital today

Nov. 7, 2009 Olympian


OLYMPIA – Unionized workers at Capital Medical Center will stage an
informational picket today to call attention to their negotiations to
improve wages and benefits for about 150 employees at the hospital.

The office, housekeeping, maintenance, radiology lab and other workers are
represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 21, spokesman
Tom Geiger said.

Unlike a strike, in which workers walk off the job – as they did at
Providence St. Peter Hospital last month – the workers at Capital will
picket before or after a shift or during a break or lunch hour, he said.

The picket is set for noon to 2 p.m. outside Capital Medical Center, at
3900 Capital Mall Blvd. S.W. About 100 workers are expected to
participate, Geiger said.

At issue is improving wages and benefits as part of a new, three-year
contract for the workers. The most recent contract expired in September,
and more than seven bargaining sessions have been held since August, said
Chuck Ardingo, lead negotiator for the union.

Some wages for positions at Capital Medical Center are below industry
standards, and the health care plan is expensive for employees if it's for
a service that the hospital doesn't offer and they have to go elsewhere,
Ardingo said.

He acknowledged the slower economy and said the union is open to
incremental wage increases over the life of the contract, wages he hopes
can be based on Western Washington data rather than the data the hospital

"They want to retain control of the wage analysis," Ardingo said about the

Hospital officials said in a statement Friday that they're committed to

"Our negotiations with Local 21 continue next week, and we are confident
that we will ultimately reach agreement on a contract that serves the
interest of all parties," the statement reads.

Radiology technician Gina Arland, a member of the bargaining team, said
the workers pay at a higher rate with a much higher deductible if they go
elsewhere for health care needs.

"Our biggest complaint is that it penalizes us if we don't get it done at
Capital Medical Center," Arland said.

Ardingo added that privacy also is an issue. Some workers would rather see
a doctor they don't work with, he said.

Arland said she has worked at the hospital for six years and makes about
$26 an hour – "pretty much at market rate," she said. Other workers are
well below market rate, such as the endoscopy technicians who work with
gastrointestinal disorders, she said. Arland thinks their wages are $5 to
$7 an hour lower than where they should be.

"We want them to take their profits and reinvest it in the community, and
adequate market wages would be a great way to do this," she said about the
hospital and its parent company, Capella Healthcare of Tennessee.

Friday, November 06, 2009

[olympiaworkers] France: The paperlesses workers at ISS fight for their papers.

by CNT-F Cleaning union 06 Nov 2009


More than 2000 paperless workers for the cleaning firm have gone on
strike; occupying 30 sites in the Ile-de-France region. they are doing so
with the support of unions and other groups who have joined with them to
denounce the exploitation of undocumented workers and the arbitrary way in
which their cases are heard by local prefectures.

After having occupied the Cité des sciences in Paris on Sunday 18th
October the workers then took over the headquarters of the company in
Paris' 12th district (3 rue des meuniers) ISS is a cleaning sub-contractor
and one of the leading 'multiservice' companies and has already seen it's
offices occupied earlier this month. The company has never respected
agreements and has fired undocumented workers after having exploited them
for years.

undocumented workers are found in great numbers and are indispensable in
many sectors such as construction, public works, cleaning, security,
catering, care work, agriculture, baking, etc. The majority pay their
taxes and welfare contributions to health, retirement and unemployment
funds. they don't take jobs away from anyone else and they are often
forced to work in terrible conditions due to their legal status.

Papers for all paperless workers, it's good for everybody!

CNT Cleaning union.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

[olympiaworkers] Three dead in garment workers' clashes - unions promised new role

Libcom.org Nov 4 2009

The latest clashes in the highly charged arena of the Bangladeshi garment

Tongi, an industrial city located 15 miles (24 km) north of Dhaka; early
last Saturday morning (31st Oct) several hundred workers turned up at the
gates of the Nippon Garment Factory at Ershad Nagar - expecting to work
and to receive wage arrears owed them. Instead they found police blocking
the entrance - and posted on the gates a note informing them that the
factory was shut from October 31 to November 29 because of "global
recession and some unwanted incidents". The notice also asked workers to
collect their overdue wages from the factory office on November 10 -
though the arrears were 3 months late and workers had been promised
payment would be made that day.

Infuriated, the mainly female workers then tried to force their way into
the factory - leading to scuffles and, eventually, baton charges by
police. (Expecting trouble, the factory bosses had requested police be
stationed inside the premises on Friday night.)

As more workers and locals from the surrounding slum areas joined the
protest the crowd grew to several thousand and moved to block the main
Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway. The road remained blocked for the next 5 hours
as the area became a battleground. A bus was set alight, several other
vehicles burned and as the fighting intensified hundreds of police and
para-military law enforcement personnel poured into the area. Police began
firing gunshots and teargas shells while workers responded with bricks and

""The law-enforcers had to fire rubber bullets from shotguns to disperse
the workers who hurled stones and bricks at our officers," Inspector
Shafiqul Alam said". Three people were shot dead by cops, with 100 others
injured, several with bullet wounds. Included in the casualties were 16
policemen (one in a critical condition). News footage shows police
shooting indiscriminately into buildings. Workers and locals reported that
police ransacked homes and small shops in the area. By 11.30am an
increased security presence reduced the disturbances - but periodic
clashes continued into the afternoon as news of the deaths spread
alongside claims by workers of seeing police hiding and removing other

Nine of the injured were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital,
clinic official Abdul Baten told AFP.

"All of the injured have wounds caused by live ammunition and some are
in serious condition," he said.

Police insisted, however, they used only rubber bullets to quell the
unrest. (World News Australia - 1 Nov 09)

Despite the deaths at police hands it has been reported that "...the
police had lodged cases not only against thousands of people, including
workers and some residents of the adjacent areas, but also against those
who have died in police firing..." (New Age - Nov 3 09) So perhaps the
dead will be prosecuted along with the living.

A police chief said on the day; "The situation was totally unexpected. If
the owner of the garment factory had a discussion with the workers before
closing it, this incident might have been avoided." But the next day he
oddly claimed that many protesters wore lungi (a skirt-like garment more
suitable than trousers in warmer climates) so they must be outside
agitators, even though the lungi is a commonly worn garment for
Bangladeshi men (but news footage anyway contradicts his claim). He added
"I've never heard of garment workers using [Molotov] cocktails and
firearms in clashes. It seems to me that outsiders instigated it." (ATN
News, Bangladesh). If Molotovs and firearms really were used by workers it
might indeed be a sign of a sharp escalation/upping the stakes of their
struggles. But the police chief is the only source to claim this and no
cops were shot, so this dubious claim is probably an attempt to justify
the police shootings. The claim that "The situation was totally
unexpected" is also false - cops were already deployed in and around the
factory on the previous evening.

Similarly, the claims of unrest being organised by "outsiders" are routine
statements always wheeled out on such occasions - both to try and downplay
the self-organising abilities of workers and to justify greater resources
and repressive powers for the cops to hunt down the supposed conspirators.
Despite being referenced and blamed for decades, none of these outside
agitators have ever been caught or proved to exist. Such claims are also
often thinly veiled nationalistic references playing on fears of big
brother neighbour India, or refer to native Islamic fundamentalists
desiring to destabilise a state too secular for their liking, or to the
main opposition BNP party. Some political rivals of the ruling party may
indeed be happy to see the disturbances embarass their opponents, but they
certainly don't control them.

That the police knew well enough that trouble was brewing is further
illustrated by a leaked intelligence report; an intelligence agency
alerted the government a week previously;

The Special Branch of police in its report submitted to the home
ministry put forward a four-point recommendation to avert the unrest.
The recommendations were facilitating reopening of the factories and
reinstating the sacked workers. Moreover, ensuring payment of salaries
and wages of the workers from BGMEA funds and deploying adequate
police force as well as increasing intelligence vigilance were also
The report stated that fear of unrest was looming at the entire RMG
sector due to "tyranny" and "non-cooperation" by some factory owners.
It added owners of three factories did not become sympathetic to their
workers even after the latter staged demonstrations and formed human
chains to press home their demands.
As their salary and wages were not paid, these workers were passing a
miserable life without paying their house rents and dues at grocery
shops, said the report. It added already different labour unions were
keeping close contacts with those workers.
The intelligence agency also mentioned that more than 2,000 workers of
three factories who were sacked by the authorities have been demanding
their salary, wages and arrears for the last few weeks.
These three RMG factories have shut their offices without paying
wages, salaries and arrears of the workers, said the report.
It was suspected that the sacked and unemployed workers along with
their colleagues at different factories at the instigation of some
labour leaders might launch a massive demonstration any time, the
report gave the alert. (Daily Star - 1 Nov 09)


Fazlul Haque, head of the 1,300-member Bangladesh Knitwear
Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the global slowdown had
forced many factories in the country to lay off workers or shut down.
"Western retailers who are our top buyers have cut orders and squeezed
prices. The big factories have somehow coped, but most of the small-
and medium-sized factories are facing very tough times," he said.
In the first two months of the financial year to August 2010, overseas
shipments fell by three percent.
Unions said factories have cut wages to compete for orders with other
apparel-producers, such as Vietnam, China and India. (World News
Australia - 1 Nov 09)

This is only the latest in a series of violent clashes in the garment
sector. It was a decline in orders that prompted the Nippon Garment bosses
in this case to refuse payment to workers; as the recession and
intensified market competition has hit employers they have been even more
reluctant than usual to pay workers on time. This leaves workers and their
dependents in dire straits, unable to pay rent or pay off debts at local
grocery shops who advance credit to workers. For garment workers - many of
whom are permanently malnourished - a missed wage packet is often a short
step away from real hunger.

Garment industries thrive in poorer countries due largely to low labour
costs and low start-up costs. But now those larger firms who are
weathering the financial crisis better and with sufficient capital
reserves have begun switching to more automated production systems, using
computer technology to increase efficiency in cutting, knitting, dyeing
and finishing;

Viyellatex Group is the country's first garments factory that has
implemented the expensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution
from SAP Germany, said Group Chairman KM Rezaul Hasanat.
Some multinationals and other local business houses now adopt the ERP
solution, but in the garments sector Viyellatex Group is using it,
Hasanat pointed out.
"Viyellatex Group is one of the leading factories worldwide which is
using ERP from SAP. The group implemented the ERP in its Gazipur based
factory in December last year at a cost of $2million," Hasanat added.
"I save time and wastage in my factory in almost all the sections. I
can know the on-time production by one click alone," the Viyellatex
boss said.
Talking to The Daily Star, Shahadat Hossain Kiron, managing director
of Dekko Group, one of the leading apparel makers, said he plans to
install the SAP software to bring efficiency at all levels.
He said currently almost all modern factories are setting aside their
traditional methods and adopting automated systems. "Efficiency in
cutting, knitting, dyeing and finishing has been attained because of
the application of these technologies," Kiron said. (Daily Star - May
7 2009)

These innovations are necessary to maintain competition with Asian RMG
competitors such as Vietnam, Cambodia, China and India. But in the present
climate this trend may be another factor increasing unemployment levels.
(A recent report optimistically sees the growth of a domestic Asian
consumer market as a way out of recession for Asian garment producers,
based largely on the increasing consumption of the new middle classes that
have emerged as a result of industrial development in Asia. But this
market is, for the foreseeable future, not even close to being able to
compensate for or replace the global export markets.[1])

Enter the unions?
"The government will not tolerate anarchism in garment sector as this is
the main source of foreign currency." - Prime Minister Hasina. (Daily Star
- Nov 3 09)

The Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector employs around 3 million workers
directly - at least 80% female - and 2 million in its subsidiary
industries (transport, supplies etc.). Some 7 million people are dependent
on the earnings of these workers. Over 75 per cent of the country's
foreign currency comes from RMG exports. This narrow economic dependency
on one industry (the other main foreign currency earner is remittance -
money sent home by migrant workers) makes Bangladesh particularly
vulnerable to disruption of supply - especially as many contracts are
dependent on tight turnaround/delivery times. So labour conflict in the
RMG sector has far-reaching socio-economic consequences, particularly at a
time when regional competition for a share of shrinking international
markets is fierce.

Drawing attention of the apparel industries' owners to a stark
disparity, the prime minister said in many cases, the money spent on a
day's shopping by an owner was more than the monthly salary of a
garment worker.
'We do not expect such a reality. One thing you (owners) have to keep
in mind that by oppressing the workers and depriving them, no industry
can sustain,' Hasina said. (New Age - Nov 3 09)

There has long been a conflict of interest within the Bangladeshi ruling
class on RMG labour relations. A substantial number of MPs in both main
parties, the ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladeshi National
Party, have business interests in the RMG sector - as investors or factory
owners. Since the emergence of the industry in the early 1980s they have,
despite recurring labour unrest, seen the profits roll in as markets
expanded and have seen little need to concede any major concessions in the
form of wage rises, working conditions or union representation. But the
more far-sighted of the ruling class, aware of the potential vulnerability
of the industry (and often with less immediate business interests to
protect), have long called for wide-spread trade union representation to
be introduced as a stabilising institutional influence. If workers are
paid less than the cost of their own self-reproduction something
eventually has to give. The explosive anger of RMG workers is clearly
expressed in recent news footage as they describe the hardships they
endure and how they are cheated out of what are already some of the lowest
wages in the world.

The unions have themselves admitted that their influence among RMG workers
is marginal and that they have little or no influence over the regular
disturbances; they have often functioned more like NGO's, providing
charitable and legal services, international lobbying etc rather than
actual negotiation/mediation of workplace conflicts between workers and
bosses. (In fact some union-type organisations were set up by western
NGO's - and NGO's have sometimes themselves taken on certain union-type
functions.) But all this may be about to change. In the aftermath of the
Tongi clashes and similar recent unrest, the government has announced it
will introduce trade unions in the garment sector.

The class struggle and the forms it takes has developed largely
autonomously in the industry, with little institutional mediation. This
has contributed to the intensity and explosive character of garment
workers' struggles; and as the economic recession forces further attacks
on working class living conditions and workers with little left to lose
express greater fury, it is this that the ruling class seek to contain
with the introduction of trade unions. If the union reform is implemented,
will it work? Certainly the institutionalising of certain health and
safety measures (deaths in factory fires are common, as are many
occupational illnesses) as well as legal powers to enforce a living wage
that is actually regularly paid would be popular among workers. But this
depends on the garment bosses and the state showing a willingness to both
grant reforms and then actually enforce them - which has never been the
case so far. Promises have repeatedly been broken on these issues - and if
there are no concessions on offer to win through union negotiation on
behalf of workers, then unions will remain as largely irrelevant as they
are today. (Another factor is that unions have often been as corrupt as
most other political institutions in Bangladesh and have often been merely
instruments of the political goals of one of the main political parties.)
The unions have to try to establish credibility and take representative
control of a workforce that has, over the past 25 years, shown itself
consistently capable of a high level of self-organisation and solidarity.
It is possible that the well-established current forms of mass struggle -
regular wildcat strikes that then picket out neighbouring factories,
roadblocks, riots and attacks on bosses' property - will prove hard to


[1] Asian textiles surge back
ASIAN textiles, once considered a fading industry, are now showing strong
growth prospects mainly due to demand from expanding middle classes,
according to a recent AFP news agency report from Singapore. Development
of 'latest technology' in this regard is also attributed for the growing
success of the Asian textiles sector. Known in the past as back-alley
shops churning out cheap material, many Asian firms are shedding their
sweatshop image as they move to compete in the global market. Stricter
environmental standards required by Western countries are also prompting
consolidation and innovation in the industry, according to one of the
world's top suppliers of textile dyes and chemicals.

One year after the global financial crisis exploded, Asian economies are
rebounding faster than the West, boosting the textile industry's hopes.
The Asian Development Bank recently upgraded its forecast for the region's
2009 economic growth to 3.9 per cent. China is forecast to grow 8.2 per
cent this year and 8.9 per cent in 2010. The market is changing, customer
taste and demand are also changing-as spectacularly visible from increased
spending power in the Chinese provinces. In business, the future is in
Asia and it is going to be driven from Asia, not from Europe and America,
the media report said.

Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and China are the world's top textile
producers as well as major consumers. Apart from apparel, a major driver
for the industry is the demand for what is called 'technical textiles' or
fabrics used in cars, mattress covers, bags, tents and parachutes, among
others. As Asia's spending power grows, people want to buy different
products and that is going to lead to the development of a whole new
market for technical textiles which, in fact, did not exist before. (The
New Nation - Nov 3 09)