Friday, June 25, 2010

[olympiaworkers] Sleepless nights for bosses in the Bangladeshi garment sector Jun 24 2010

A survey of recent unrest in the garment industry, as agitation for a
greatly increased minimum wage - as part of an improved wage structure -

In the past two weeks garment workers' agitations for a large increase in
the present monthly minimum wage of Tk 1,662 (£16/€19/$24) have spread and
intensified. A minimum wage of Tk 5,000 (£48/€58/$71) has long been
demanded - and more recent reports quote a figure of Tk 6,200
(£59/€72/$89). The Ready Made Garment (RMG) bosses have offered only Tk
1,887 (£18/€22/$27).

... the minimum wage for RMG workers of Tk 1,662 per month ... was
fixed in line with a tripartite agreement between the government, and
the representatives of workers and factory owners in November 2006 ...
it's been almost four years since the RMG workers' minimum wage was
revised, that too after a break 12 years and in the wake of persistent
labour unrest in factories in the capital. ... given the raging
inflation, induced by price spiral of food and other essential
commodities, it is virtually impossible for an individual, let alone
his or her family, to sustain on Tk 1,662 per month. ... the monthly
wage demanded by the RMG workers, while in itself not much if
inflation is factored, happens to be the lowest compared to the salary
demanded by workers in other sectors. (Editorial - New Age, 22 June

The wages of the 4 million RMG workers working in 4,500 factories - 85%
are women - were recently confirmed as remaining the lowest salaries in
the world. The factories employ about 40 per cent of the country's
industrial workforce.

The recent agitation began on Sunday 13th June in Ashulia, an industrial
suburb near Dhaka with a history of workers' rebellion. Wildcat strikes
began at factories of the Envoy Group, which is owned by the president of
the main employers' federation, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and
Exporters Association. (In the prolonged tripartite negotiations between
workers' representatives, government and employers, the BGMEA has
consistently refused to budge on the wage demands, offering only minor
increases.) Eight and a half thousand workers struck to demonstrate for
wage increases and other benefits; RMG bosses responded by lockouts -
closing the factories. Workers barricaded main roads, fighting began when
cops arrived, workers lobbing bricks at them; workers then broke up into
several groups and began attacking various factory buildings. Other
factories then began to shut in an effort to avoid further trouble - but
their closure brought more workers onto the streets. Police eventually
cleared the area with teargas. Forty people were injured, including ten

BGMEA President Abdus Salam Murshedy, also managing director of the Envoy
Group, complained that, despite being laid off, for three days

"workers had been going to work ... and leaving after swiping their
punch cards".
'We held a meeting on Friday with the workers to restore work
environment but they have not been coming to work since the meeting,'
Murshedy said. 'They did not even submit any memorandum and held
protests.' (, 14 June 2010)

That the Envoy workers took strike action but didn't bother to send any
demands to the bosses of their own workplace suggests that the demand for
an RMG minimum wage is now seen as a industry-wide (or even class-wide)
movement. Some of the arrested rioters have not been garment workers, but
probably other workers from local neighbourhoods who are often drawn into
riots as they spill over into residential areas and police enter slum

In the following days the unrest continued in similar fashion;
on Tuesday 15th June at Tejgaon in central Dhaka, 25 were injured in
clashes. Police used teargas, baton charges and rubber bullets to disperse
protesting workers. 1,300 workers gathered outside their Shomahar Sweaters
Ltd factory, expecting it to reopen after its closure since June 10 due to
workers' unrest over pay demands. But instead they found a notice
informing them the factory was shutting for an indefinite period and that
47 workers have been suspended for "creating anarchy" in previous
protests. The workers began an angry demonstration and were joined by
fellow workers from nearby workplaces. Clashes with police followed.

Saturday June 19th, Savar, Dhaka; 7,000 Nasa Group workers began a
demonstration inside their factory demanding the new minimum wage of Tk
5,000. Then, leaving the factory, workers from 16 factories blocked a main
highway; eventually tens of thousands of workers poured onto the streets
and many clashes continued through the morning. Police used baton charges,
teargas, water cannon, rubber bullets and shotgun rounds against workers,
who replied with volleys of bricks and barricades; 100 were injured,
including 20 cops. Workers also damaged over 35 factories, and looted
goods worth Tk 12 lakh (£11,500/€14,000/$17,000).

Dhaka district additional police super Mozammel Haque told reporters
from the spot that it had become tough for the police to bring the
situation under control because the demonstrators outnumbered the law
enforcers. (The New Nation, 20 June 2010)

Over 75 factories were forced to close for the day. The BGMEA President

"There is no way we can operate in this violent environment. The
labour unrest is also creating panic among global buyers" (Financial
Express, 20th June 2010)

The unrest was by now seriously hitting profits; the global purchasers of
RMG stock - including leading US and European brands - demand fast
turnaround times with contractual financial penalties for late deliveries
of orders. The boat workers' strike last month(1) meant RMG companies were
forced to shift from cargo shipping to using far more costly air freight
services - now, the garment workers' unrest was having the same effect.
The BGMEA President claimed;

"Foreign buyers have lost confidence on our industry following the
vandalism. If such unrest continues they may find alternative
sources," he said.
The negative impact of the present situation will be visible in
November, he added.

But so far, through years of recurring unrest in the garment sector, the
foreign buyers have always quickly recovered their "confidence" in the
industry, encouraged by cheaper prices underpinned by the lowest labour
costs in the world. The RMG sector made up 80% of Bangladesh's 15.56
billion dollars export last year.

Monday 21st June, Ashulia; the unrest reached a new peak - after growing
clashes in the previous two days, over 50,000 striking garment workers
again fought with police and paramilitary security forces, forcing closure
of at least 100 factories. Around 85 factories were vandalised.

The trouble began at the Ananta Group factories, where 10,000 workers
staged demonstrations for the basic minimum monthly wage increase. The
unrest then spread to the Ha-Meem Group factory, where 26,000 workers held
protests and then walked off the job. Soon tens of thousands of other
workers joined the protesters after owners of 300 factories suspended
production and declared a holiday for the day, fearing large-scale

The workers then spilled onto the narrow highway linking the capital,
Dhaka, with the northern districts. This massive demonstration of more
than 50,000 was described as "turning the area into a "human sea"
stretching for miles". Fighting and road blocks continued throughout the
day, as intense battles with security forces spread across a wide area.
Factory property was also attacked, with windows and sewing machines
smashed. The protesters were finally dispersed in the afternoon.

Trouble was also reported in garment factory zones far from Ashulia. In
the face of the sheer scale and combativity of the movement, on Monday
night the BGMEA declared an indefinite closure of all RMG factories in
Ashulia. The area was swamped with a massive police presence.

The next day, Tuesday, the government Labour Minister announced that
workers would get a pay rise that took into account price inflation of
basic goods;

Labour minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain says readymade garment
workers will get their remuneration under new salary structure within
three months and asked them to calm down.
He said a new wage board will be formed with necessary reforms to the
salary structure. ...
The minister also admitted that the existing wage structure is not
compatible with the current situation. ...
Mosharraf was presiding over a meeting on 'Crisis Management Cell' -
formed to resolve complications and unrest in the RMG sector - at his
office on Wednesday. ...
"The minimum wage is in no way well-suited with the current
situation," the minister told reporters.
"It must be consistent with the price of daily essentials and
inflation rate."
... "The new wage board will finalise the salary structure by three
months. ... (, Dhaka, 23 June 2010)

The next day, Wednesday, with pressure from foreign clients (with their
stocks running low and expecting order deliveries) the BGMEA reopened the
Ahulia factories and workers returned under a heavy police presence;

Nearly a thousand riot police, armed with several water cannons, were
in the area where as many as 800,000 people are employed by
subcontractors working on behalf of global retailers such as Wal-Mart,
Tesco and H & M.
Factories reopened despite smashed windows and damaged sewing
machines, desperate to stop the protests affecting orders from Western
buyers, said garment manufacturer Envoy Group's director Sultan
"We are worried about late delivery - if you are late by one day,
international buyers cut five percent off the order price," he said,
adding that his factory was now late on an order of shorts for
"We will be forced to use air cargo to deliver things, which is
expensive. For the last week, we've had problems with this strike. We
plan to raise wages as soon as the government makes a decision, but
workers are impatient." (The Bangladesh Today, 24 June 2010)

RMG bosses claim that due to the recent unrest "exporters were forced to
spend 13.11 billion taka on air shipment between December and April to
meet buyers' deadline".

Negotiations continue on the wage issue. But the 'workers'
representatives' bodies in the garment industry function function more
like NGOs than Western-style unions. Factory owners have refused to allow
conventional union structures to mediate workplace disputes and
conditions. Consequently, the class struggle in and around the factories
is only loosely related to both negotiations and negotiators and acts
largely independently of them.

So far, there have been less than a dozen arrests of workers reported, and
a handful of sackings. Warrants have been issued against 180 named people;
while a blanket criminal charge has been brought by the police against
60,000 - sixty thousand - unnamed participants in the protests!

... But experts warn more violence is not far off.
"Unless the wages are increased, protests, riots and stoppages will
persist," said Ifty Islam, an investment banker at Dhaka-based Asian
Tiger Capital, advising factory owners and Western buyers to give
ground in the escalating dispute.
"It would be worth it for them in the long term," he said. "Bangladesh
has a huge opportunity to capitalise on rising costs in China but it
is difficult to get more foreign firms to come if we can't prevent
labour unrest."
The violent protests threaten to undo the benefits the global economic
recovery has brought Bangladesh -a 15 percent year-on-year increase in
exports for April and May 2010, said Dhaka-based economist Mustafizur
"The violence is a bad omen and we need to sort it out quickly - we've
just started to see signs of global recovery through new orders but
unrest threatens this," said Rahman, who heads the Center for Policy
Dialogue think-tank. (The Bangladesh Today, 25 June 2010)

With full shelves for Western retailers dependent on reliable fast
turnaround times for factory orders, strikes remain a potent tactic for
garment workers. With full order books for RMG bosses dependent on timely
delivery for the cheapest prices, low wages continue to be seen as a
necessity by many factory owners. An announcement on the new wage
structure has been promised for July 28th. The struggle continues.

1) See articles;

Thursday, June 24, 2010

[olympiaworkers] CNT: Make Spain’s general strike indefinite Jun 23 2010

EU Threat: How the CNT newspaper illustrated the EU austerity measures threat

As a general strike is mooted to coincide with Europe-wide action, the
anarcho-syndicalist CNT union is warning that one day outings will not be
enough to deter deep public sector cuts

Spain's fifth general strike hasbeen set for September 29th amidst massive
public sector cuts and attacks on job security passed by the ruling
Socialist Party - and the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo is calling
for it to be made indefinite.

Following a one day public-sector strike earlier this month the union is
warning that "gesture strikes" will not be enough to force the government
to change course.

In a statement after the June 8th event they said: "The government's plans
to stabilise the economy through reducing the public deficit by 11% have
placed the cost of the economic crisis on the shoulders of the

"It is evident that the proposals are designed to satisfy banks and
employers by compromising with the neoliberal designs that prevail in the

"If there had been earlier mobilisations the government would not have
dared to present the measures announced and would have had to cut
elsewhere. It would have had to seek income where the money really is – on
the bench, through corporate taxes, inheritance, hedge funds etc.

"We believe it is a mistake to continue 'negotiating' labour reform, which
is simply a concession to employers. The only possiblility for correcting
this situation is to fight this economic aggression through social
confrontation, to continue and expand protests to all sectors."

"These great evils can only be treated with great remedies, and such
remedies do not include, of course, a 24-hour general strike which,
assuming that UGT and CCOO (the two major reformist unions in Spain) dared
to actually convene one, would act only as a giant safety valve for
employee discontent.

"An indefinite general strike paralysing the country until the government
withdraws anti-worker and anti-social actions would by contrast act as a
binder for workers to recover their class consciousness and act together,
with an eye to the destruction of the capitalist system through social
revolution which is the only truly effective medicine against congenital
diseases of the system.

Larger TUC-style unions called the public-sector strike on June 8th, which
the left claimed got 75% of public sector workers out (state sources put
it 16%) and saw tens of thousands of people on the streets in protest. The
public sector accounts for around 2.5 million jobs in Spain. However the
measure has made little impact on narrowly-passed plans to slash 5% from
public sector pay, part of a 15 billion euro package of austerity measures
being implemented in the next few years.

Other measures include the uncoupling of pension payments from inflation,
an end to tax breaks for new parents and cuts in public investment and
development aid of up to 6 billion euros. The Party is also taking the
opportunity to "free up the labour market" by making it easier to hire and
fire workers, a measure which would be likely to help drive a general
strike outside the public sector.

Its actions, taken as Spain is threatened by international markets over
its debt ratio, are widely seen as a betrayal of the electoral promises
which put the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Jose Zapatero into power in 2004
on the back of widespread discontent with the right, though anarchist
groups in the country have pointed to the situation as emblematic of party
politicians' inability to represent working people.

In an editorial for the periodical CNT, the union noted: "Economic crises
are inherent in the capitalist system and will, unfortunately for
humanity, regularly occur as long as the system exists.

"At the end of the day, the problem lies in the balance of power between
two social classes with conflicting interests - the bourgeois class, which
holds exclusive ownership of the means of production and distribution, and
the proletarian class, which has no more than their manual and
intellectual labour to sell as dearly as possible. The salary of the
employee, and therefore the worker himself, is just another cost of
production like machinery, electrical power or fuel.

"And when the worker is considered this way, not as a human being but as a
cost to be cut without a second thought, you can do with them what you
will, without remorse. That is neither more nor less than what capitalists
do with us now.

"We can not remain silent before these measures announced by the
government, which will result in yet more desecration of labour right to
add to a long list of infamies imposed since this pompously-named
"democracy" came into existence. Lowering the salaries of officials and
freezing or eliminating pensions, among other measures, are not
appropriate ways to solve the so-called crisis, and will have the
determined opposition of the CNT."

- Discussion thread on

- An edited version of this article first appeared in Freedom anarchist

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

[olympiaworkers] New wave of strikes in Greece Jun 23 2010

A new wave of strikes is hitting Greece while the government is hesitating
to bring its anti-labour law for a vote in Parliament.

The new wave of strikes that began with the abstention of markers from the
final exams and the rolling strikes at the Athens metro are climaxing in
Greece a week before a new general strike called by GSEE and ADEDY.

Lawyers have declared a strike from today till the 7th of July, while
hospital doctors have gone on a 24h strike across the country. At the same
time railway workers are performing rolling two-hour stoppages throughout
the week that are expected to interrupt all major train journeys in the

At the same time PAME, the Communist Party union umbrella is leading the
labour reactions to the government's new austerity measures which the PM
is too afraid to being for vote in Parliament in fear of its government
collapsing. Today PAME performed a massive protest march in the streets of
Athens, while PAME allied dockworkers blockaded the harbour of Peiraeus
causing all tourist boats to cancel their trips to the islands. Asked by
the tourist cartel why the dockworkers were not treated "as the law
requires" the Ministry of Public Order claimed that "such problems are not
solved by means of repression".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

[olympiaworkers] Metro strike in Athens in response to mass lay offs threat Jun 17 2010

Metro workers in Athens have decided to strike for a third continuing day
in response to the lay-off threat to 286 colleagues last week. Meanwhile
the Greek government is unveiling labour relations sweeping changes.

The Metro workers' stance in response to a threat to fire 286 colleagues
in Athens has been portrayed by the media as a torment to the general
public amidst the current heat wave that has plunged Athens to
temperatures of 40C and beyond. Yet the third day of strike announced
today by Metro workers comes as the Greek government is announcing a new
packet of austerity measures that are sure to torment the public more than
any mass transport stoppage. The plan which was revealed by the Socialist
Party today includes a reduction of 20% for the basic salary of workers in
their 20s (from 740 to 595 Euros per month in total, a real approximate of
400 Euros at hand), a 50% reduction to compensation payment for lay-offs,
the raise of pension age to 65, and granting freedom to bosses to perform
mass lay-offs.

Yet apart from sector-specific strikes like the Metro one or the refusal
of high school teachers to mark final exams that has paralysed the
educational system, little is moving on the labor struggle front, with
rallies called by the private and public umbrella unions attended by less
and less people. Rather than this being read as a move of workers away
from the Party controlled unions and towards autonomous syndicalism, it
reflects a general wind-down of reactions to measures since the tragic
events of the 5th of May that has still to be properly analysed rather
than attributed simply to the summer heat and the vacations spirit of the

[olympiaworkers] Morning Star on strike! Interview with a worker June 16, 2010

As staff at socialist daily newspaper, the Morning Star, prepare to go on
strike this Sunday over pay and conditions, Ed Goddard from
caught up with one worker and found out about low pay and union busting in
the name of "peace and socialism."

1. Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the dispute?
Back in October last year we got an offer of £1,000 for 2010, which was
probably the best in the industry in terms of percentage. The problem was
that this had been hitched to a three year deal, with increases for
following years capped at 4%. That's effectively a pay cut when RPI
inflation is already at 5.3%, and there's very few trade unionists who'd
be happy to sign away annual bargaining rights under those circumstances.

The headline £1,000 figure is also pretty misleading if you don't know
what it represents, which is catchup pay because we remain some of the
lowest-paid people around for the kind of work we do - £19,000 as opposed
to £24,500 which is the industry average (and it's higher in London where
we're based, around £26,000). We certainly aren't demanding that!

But the Star is actually a fairly complicated job even by normal
standards. Our industrial reporter for example has to know about the
situation nationwide covering millions of working people on top of normal
daily news writing, while our subs need a huge range of technical
knowledge because they don't have things like a picture desk, so they have
to find their own pics, photoshop things themselves, deal with a really
variable quality of work etc. Some staffers at the paper who also do the
occasional shift elsewhere reckon it's usually an easy day compared to
working here, even at the Guardian, because you're not trying to do the
job of three people!

So there does need to be some sort of encouragement to keep or hire
high-quality staff even if they're lefties, and we've been asking for ages
now about getting something extra for anti-social hours as a gesture
towards alternative forms of compensation.

This should help put in context our initial suggestion, which was £1,500
over one year, plus discussions over compensation for anti-social working
hours. We were of course expecting to come down from that bargaining
position and have repeatedly dropped it already (I think it's £1,000 plus
some time in lieu for Sundays and bank hols atm).

However management only recently agreed to change their offer, just days
before we were due to strike. After initially telling us it would be £750
for one year instead, they said they simply wouldn't talk about
anti-social hours, even though it wouldn't cost them anything financially.
Eight months down the line they've finally shifted a bit on lieu time and
suggested £900 plus a percentage rise next year as a two-year deal. This
incidentally is despite them having already paid our sister branch Unite
(covering admin, sales, that sort of thing) the £1,000, so we know they've
had the money for that as a one year deal all along.

2. Do you have any idea of the pay that the Morning Star management are on?
It's about a £5,000 difference as far as I know, but I'm not sure of the
exact figures. It was originally flat across the board I think but they
wanted to "provide a career structure" to encourage people to stay longer.
Like treating their workforce with respect might, for example.

3. What has been the level of participation from the workers in this
dispute? What are the feelings of workers on the shopfloor about these
Depends on who you speak to, there's a fairly hefty split into two camps
with one being pro a three year deal and the other being anti. All but two
of the pro-deal group are publicly acknowledged Communist Party of Britain
backers or members (and one of those two is the daughter of a member),
while the other side is made up mainly of left wingers from all kinds of
different groups and theoretical backgrounds. At the moment though there's
a slim but solid majority in favour of fighting our corner.

4. So where can you see these feelings going? Do you think there is a
chance that this could result in staff taking strike action?
We've already been on strike, technically! Having finally confirmed with
the NUJ we had this really odd 10 minute mandatory chapel meeting in the
meeting room, surrounded by memorabilia from the CPB's hey-day, to
initiate the strike period. We're due out for our first full day on June
20th. To their credit, most people have already pledged not to cross the
picket line regardless of their personal views.

5. How have management responded to the organising activities of its
staff? In 'regular' capitalist enterprises we often hear of management
bullying in response to workers organising; has it been any different at a
newspaper dedicated to "peace and socialism"?
Not really to be honest, most of the hallmarks are there, just in a
different form. They're careful not to actively victimise people
individually but as a group we've come under constant pressure through a
variety of different tactics and the atmosphere in the office has been
horrendous – even worse than it was last year.

One of the more noticeable things has been the rising number of CPB
members and sympathisers in staff roles as people have come and gone over
the last while, and some of those have been brought in regardless of their
skills base or the views of their immediate line managers. With one, his
name was included in an analysis we found of who'd vote which way in a
strike ballot - before the job had even been advertised! Such behaviour
amounts to packing the branch with people who are prepared to take any
offer going as long as the boss tells them its a good idea - union
busting, in effect, even if the shell of the branch is left intact.

Related to this, we've had huge problems because various CPB sympathisers
and members in the branch have said they're in favour of passing on our
internal minutes to the chief management negotiator, editor Bill Benfield,
on the grounds he's an NUJ member - an idea so absurd that even Bill
excuses himself from meetings because he knows we wouldn't be able to wear
it. One of our members is currently under an investigation about this, so
I can't talk in full about it, but effectively their attitude means we
can't have meetings in which people feel free to say their piece, because
we don't know what might be given over.

Beyond that there's things like the "Rock and a Hard Place" document
they've been sending out, basically painting us as a bunch of crazed
greedy paper-wreckers who are going to bring down the last left-wing paper
in Britain. It's very similar tactics to those used in charities, where
the workforce are told "how dare you ask for decent conditions when every
penny goes to starving kids/puppies/blind people." It's rubbish there and
it's rubbish here, if you expect people to do a job then you have to pay
them for it properly.

There's also definitely been a concerted effort to spread around this idea
that we're being totally unreasonable to try and undermine us in the trade
union movement, despite them being the ones who have repeatedly made no
effort to compromise or even talk seriously about how to reach an amicable
settlement. At the People's Press Printing Society AGM1 meanwhile Bill
officially branded us "irresponsible adventurists" to a crowd of hundreds
of people – which gives you some indication of the attitudes we've had to
deal with.

This has come on top of a number of informal complaints being made about
our chapel officers which are yet to be substantiated. It's very
unpleasant for them being the subject of nasty rumours like that.

Most damaging though I think has been the constant threats of going into
liquidation if we go on strike - the exact same thing BA has been
threatening its staff with during their recent dispute and which we have
criticised in the paper itself.

6. Isn't there a possibility that the Morning Star could go bankrupt as a
result of the strike?
Over a weekly Sunday strike? Unlikely and we've been careful not to throw
too heavy a body-blow at them. However what we do know is that they've
been setting up for going into administration for months on the off-chance
they can't beat us into submission. If you have a look on the Companies
House website you'll find a company called Lextra Ltd, an "off the shelf"
concern registered at Unity House (the RMT headquarters - yes, we found
that interesting as well) on April 20th. This company has apparently been
incorporated to try and save assets in the event they close it down.

We're not sure of the legalities of all this but it seems weird they'd
need a whole new company to do that - more usually you incorporate a
limited company to, well, start or restart the selling of something. If
they were to restart the Star under a new company like that, it would
amount to them using the absolute worst of the anti-trade union laws to
break an independent trade union, which would be an astonishing fall from
grace even for the CPB.

7. Has there been much contact between the Morning Star and the trade
union movement about this dispute?
Interesting question.

If you define the Morning Star as its management and CPB backers, then
yes, lots. They've been whinging about us for months to anyone who'll
listen, sending out missives, collaring people at the various headquarters
- we've even heard from some sources that CPB members have been turning up
to Trades Council meetings and conferences with a specific agenda of
slagging the anti-deal side off.

However if you define the Morning Star as the shop-floor professionals who
actually do most of the work in putting it out, then no, not really. It's
notable that pretty much nobody from the top of the tree at the TUC has
asked us our side of the story. This interview is part of an attempt to
rectify the problem, because to be honest we were unprepared for the sheer
spite which would be thrown our way and we're only just starting to get
our running shoes on to counter it.

1. 1. The People's Press Printing Society is the readers' co-operative
which nominally owns and controls the Morning Star and its direction.
In practice its activities are signed off by the paper's Management
Committee, which in turn is largely directed by four CPB stalwarts,
Tony Briscoe, Bill Benfield, Liz Elkind and Carolyn Jones.

Morning Star journalists plan to strike in bitter pay dispute June 15, 2010

Morning Star - 6 May 2010 The Morning Star's general election front page

Journalists on the Morning Star, the left-wing pro-trades union daily
tabloid, are planning to go on strike from next Sunday in an increasingly
bitter pay dispute.

Editorial staff represented by the National Union of Journalists want an
extra £1,000 a year to supplement their current £19,000 salaries plus some
form of recompense for working anti-social hours.

In November 2009, the paper's management - representing its co-operative
owners, the People's Press Printing Society - offered £1,000.

But it was part of a three-year deal that staff believe will lead to very
small rises in the second and third years. There was also no recognition
for anti-social working hours. So the offer was rejected

According to one of the staff planning to strike, management initially
refused to negotiate with the NUJ chapel any further. Then, with
industrial action looming, a new offer was tabled earlier this month.

Staff were offered £900 in a two-year-deal and some form of recognition
for anti-social hours. An NUJ member said: "This is a step forward, but
it isn't enough, and we have asked them to continue to negotiate... they
have refused to do so, so we will have no option but to strike."

He also claimed that staff were subjected to "a vicious campaign of
smears" that "would make Murdoch proud", and that certain Communist Party
members loyal to management acted as spies. (You couldn't make this stuff

It is further alleged that management has bought an off-the-shelf company
that could conceivably be used in strike-breaking activities or to enable
the firing of staff.

My call to the Star's editor, Bill Benfield, had not been returned at the
time of posting this item.

There are echoes in this dispute of a similar one more than a year ago
when Star journalists originally secured their £19,000-a-year minimum pay

Sunday, June 13, 2010

[olympiaworkers] China: Unrest spreads as Honda workers keep striking Jun 13 2010

Workers stand by a fence during a strike at a Honda Motor vehicle factory.

Strikes at Honda's transmission and exhaust system plants in the southern
Chinese city of Foshan that won significant pay rises, and ongoing
industrial action by Honda Lock workers in Zhongshan, have been followed
by strike action in other parts of the country. Workers are demanding
higher wages, better conditions, and secure jobs in cities including
Shanghai, Zhuhai and Xian, in both foreign- and state-owned enterprises.

The Honda Lock strike, involving 1,700 workers, appears to be
intensifying, with employees yesterday morning rallying outside the
factory before staging a short protest march, in defiance of black-clad
riot police. Police left without clashing with workers. Honda nevertheless
threatened workers over loud speakers that they would face "serious
consequences" unless they accepted the offered 100 yuan pay rise. Many
Honda Lock workers currently earn the local official minimum wage of 900
yuan a month, $US132, for a 42-hour week. They are demanding an additional
800 yuan a month, 89 percent more.

On Thursday, the South China Morning Post reported, workers chanted at a
factory fence: "Are we settling for 200? No way. 300? No! How about 400?
No way." A 32-year-old female worker from Hunan said: "We want the same
wage level as Nanhai Honda workers. Not a single cent less." A 33-year-old
worker from Guangxi told the newspaper why she had joined the strike: "I
am in the paint spraying unit," she explained. "The air quality is
terrible inside. I've been sniffing toxic fumes for four years and only
earn 1,800 yuan a month. The wage level is too low."

The workers are not provided with dormitories, and must live in nearby
apartments that typically cost $44 a month [300 yuan] for rent and

Honda Lock workers have also been provoked by oppressive workplace
conditions. They are forced to stand for eight hours, with pregnant women
allowed to sit only in their last trimester. Workers are not allowed to
speak to one another, have to obtain passes before going to toilet, and
are strictly monitored by management even when getting a drink of water.
The strike was triggered on Wednesday morning when a company security
guard denied a female worker entry to the plant because her ID card was
supposedly improperly attached to her shirt, and then forced her to the
ground after she protested.

Honda Lock employees have elected a council of shop stewards to negotiate
with management. The workers' organisation was formed in opposition to the
state-controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), and some
have called for a new independent union. "The [ACFTU] trade union is not
representing our views," one unnamed striker told the New York Times, "we
want our own union that will represent us."

These developments represent a direct challenge to the Chinese Communist
Party's ban on any independent organisation of the working class, which
has been in place since Mao's peasant armies came to power in 1949.

The Financial Times yesterday reported: "At plants where the strikes are
continuing, plain-clothes surveillance of workers and reporters is
increasing." The full extent of the strike wave across China remains
unclear, as some have reportedly been settled or suppressed shortly after
emerging, while other struggles have been deliberately ignored by the
state media.

In Zhuhai, Guangdong province, nearly a thousand workers in a Flextronics
plant struck on Thursday, demanding a pay rise to bring them in line with
the 2,000 yuan received by Foxconn workers. US-owned Flextronics is the
world's second largest outsourcing electronics manufacturer, after
Foxconn, and employs 30,000 workers at its Zhuhai plant. Workers
complained that they are subject to a brutal production regime similar to
Foxconn, but receive just 965 yuan a month. This wage is similar to that
at Foxconn before a series of suicides forced the company to offer pay

In Shanghai, 2,000 workers at TPO Displays, partly owned by electronics
giant Foxconn, went on strike on Wednesday, protesting against rumoured
company plans to relocate the plant to Nanjing. The workers produce LCD
screens for mobile phones and GPS devices.

In Xian, Shaanxi province, Japan's Brother Industries' two sewing machine
plants were shut down by a strike of 900 workers that began on June 3 in
demand of higher pay and better conditions. The ACFTU head of the
factories claimed that workers had agreed to return to work last Thursday,
after the Japanese management made concessions.

In Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, 8,000 workers protested at a
Taiwanese-owned sport equipment factory. Last Saturday, a female worker
not wearing her ID card was blocked from entering the plant, leading to an
argument in which security guards assaulted another worker who tried to
mediate. After rumours circulated that he died had from his injuries, the
pent-up anger at the plant erupted on Monday and workers smashed the
security department, factory gate, equipment and vehicles. The strike
ended when 200 police officers arrived and arrested the security guards
who had attacked the worker. The police remained to ensure that production

In Hubei province's Suizhou city, 400 workers staged an anti-privatisation
protest in front of their state-owned textile factory. The plant had been
sold to a private business owner who was unable to revive production, and
instead plundered workers' pensions and other benefits. The local
authority bought back the enterprise, only to sell it to real estate
developers. Workers began protesting the sale last month and the issue
remains unresolved.

The international financial press continues to watch the emerging workers'
movement in China with great unease.

A comment by Tom Mitchell in Wednesday's Financial Times warned that
disruption to global supply chains caused by industrial action would
likely prove just as damaging to investors as wage concessions. "The
complexity of the global supply chain may be something to marvel at—but it
comes at a price," he noted. "The inherent fragility of a farflung system
with millions of interactions can lead quickly to negative widespread
repercussions for the companies whose futures are bound up with it.

BusinessWeek commented on Thursday that the young generation of Chinese
workers "are far more aware of world developments than their parents",
thanks to widespread Internet and mobile phone use. Frank Jaeger, a German
factory owner in Dongguan complained: "Every worker is a labour lawyer by
himself. They know their rights better than my HR officer." Harley
Seyedin, president of American Chamber of Commerce of South China, said:
"There are Internet cafes everywhere, so the workers can get information.
They are starting to ask for more. The days of cheap labour are gone."

Hong Kong's Economic Daily yesterday warned that strikes may "spread
across the country". It stated that while some large corporations could
afford wage concessions, there were limits. Transnational firms could pull
out of China if higher profit margins were on offer elsewhere, while many
small and medium companies could collapse if forced to issue 20-30 percent
wage rises. The Economic Daily also explained that although it was
important for Beijing to encourage domestic consumption, granting higher
wages carried huge risks: "Given the current sharp social tensions in
China, strikes may mix up with other social grievances, evolving into
demonstrations and even unrest against the [existing] society and even the
government, shaking social stability."

The CCP is well aware of the dangers posed by the growing strike wave.
Currently it is treading a fine line, hesitating to unleash repressive
measures against the striking factory workers for fear of triggering a
broader oppositional movement, while at the same time preparing for
violent confrontation to suppress the working class, as it has done in the

[olympiaworkers] Spirit strike cancels all flights through Tuesday

Sun., June 13, 2010

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP)- Spirit Airlines is canceling all of its
flights through Tuesday, stranding thousands more passengers as a pilot's
strike continues into its second day.

The discount carrier said on its website Sunday that all Spirit Airlines
flights have been cancelled through June 15. Spirit pilots walked off the
job Saturday amid an ongoing contract dispute with the airline that has
lasted for more than three years. Spirit pilots have said their pay lags
behind competitors such as AirTran Airways and JetBlue.

"None of the planes are moving and none of our pilots have crossed the
picket line," Paul Hopkins, strike committee chairman of Spirit's unit of
The Air Line Pilots Association, said Sunday.
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The privately held airline, based in Miramar, Fla., carries 16,680
passengers per day — about 1 percent of the U.S. total — mostly between
the eastern U.S. and the Caribbean and Latin America. Spirit's CEO said
this weekend that no talks were scheduled with picketing pilots.

The shutdown continues to cause major problems for Spirit's flyers. The
airline said it is refunding fares for flights Saturday through Tuesday
plus offering a $100 credit toward future flights as it tries to get its
passengers booked onto other airlines.

But people who needed to replace their Spirit tickets found the cost of
same-day fares on other airlines was two- to three times more than their

Tim and Dana Wells spent the past week on a cruise ship and didn't hear
about the strike until a taxi dropped them off at Fort Lauderdale airport
Sunday morning.

Wells, 40, frantically searched his laptop for a flight home to St.
Joseph, Mich. His wife's pink sunhat rested on the seat next to him as a
distant reminder of the peaceful vacation that's turned into a nightmare.

"I think Spirit should be put out of business if they are going to do that
to their customers," he said.

The couple eventually found flights home for nearly $1,300 — almost $1,000
more than their original tickets. The new flight didn't leave until 6 pm,
leaving them stranded all day at the airport.

Fellow travelers Jackie and Gary Brown had surprised their two sons with a
cruise vacation. "They've never been on a plane, never been out of the
Midwest," said the Bartlett, Ill., mother.

Now the family is planning to rent a car and drive home to save money.
Spirit refunded their original tickets which they bought for $900 for the
whole family. A flight home on Sunday cost about $900 for each person,
they said.

"We just don't have a lot of options right now," said Jackie Brown, who
said she and her husband are both worried about missing work on Monday.
She sat on the airport floor, surrounded by luggage, typing furiously on
her cell phone looking for ways home.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is Spirit's main hub,
where it is the only airline to 14 international cities and five U.S.
destinations, airport spokesman Greg Meyer said. Around the country Spirit
runs roughly 150 flights per day.

Dozens more angry passengers waited at Spirit ticket counters Sunday
morning, many vowing never to use the airline again. Children sat on beds
made of luggage, waiting and playing video games. Extra Spirit staff and
local police officers were posted in the ticketing area.

Outside nearly a dozen uniformed pilots held signs, a few marched
peacefully in a circle.

"We do sympathize with (the passengers)," said Spirit pilot Travis Wheat.
He said they tried to warn passengers of a pending strike weeks earlier
with billboards and press releases.

Finding a hotel room while waiting to depart hasn't been easy either.

Lace Alvarado, who books reservations for the Compass Cove Resort hotel in
Myrtle Beach, S.C., one of Spirit's destinations, said the strike so far
hasn't sparked many cancellations. However, a few stranded travelers have
called to try to book rooms, but weren't able to be accommodated because
the hotel is filled with vacationers getting away from beaches near the
gulf that have shown signs of oily refuse from BP's spill, she said.

Spirit said Sunday it offered to raise pilot pay by about 29 percent over
five years — a move that would have cost the company an additional $70
million. Work rule changes would mean pilots would have to fly more to
earn that money, however. Spirit's offer also kept a four-day break
between every pilot trip, something the company said no other ALPA
contract has. The offer also included a $3,000 signing bonus and a larger
retirement plan match.

"It is surprising to me that ALPA would turn down this generous offer that
would have paid senior captains over $200,000 per year," said Spirit
Airlines President and CEO Ben Baldanza in a statement. "I am concerned
that our employees are being used in a broader political game that may not
be in the interest of their careers or their families. This deal should be
about Spirit and Spirit only, not about the pilots whose contracts are
under negotiation at other ALPA carriers."
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But Capt. Sean Creed, chairman of the Air Lines Pilot Association group at
Spirit, said Sunday that the company's offer only matches inflation. He
said that he's looking to have wages for Spirit pilots competitive with
those at rivals like JetBlue Airways Corp.

Creed noted that a captain with 10 years' experience at JetBlue earns
about $158 an hour; that compares with $138 an hour for a Spirit captain
with 15 years' experience.

"We are looking for parity," he said. He noted the proposed increase is
good but "it's spread out too far."

Baldanza said in an interview Saturday that Spirit has made money over the
past year and a half and he knew its pilots would need raises. He had
added that he hoped to get some of Spirit's 31 aircraft flying soon with
management pilots or others who cross the picket line. No such flights
have yet taken place.

The carrier has about 440 active pilots.

The strike is being closely watched in the industry because pilots at much
larger carriers, including AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, are also locked
in tough negotiations.

The last strike at a major carrier was in 2005, when Northwest Airlines
mechanics walked off the job rather than accept deep pay cuts. The strike
failed after Northwest replaced them.

Monday, June 07, 2010

[olympiaworkers] Red Cross Workers Strike In Six States Over Alleged Mismanagement Of Blood Supply

by Doug Cunningham on June 2, 2010

Union workers have had it with what they say is mismanagement at the Red
Cross. Jesse Russell has the story.

The American Red Cross is in the midst of a three-day strike at locations
in six states. The action comes as workers attempt to bring attention to
unfair labor practices. Joe Marutiak is with OPEIU Local 459 in Flint,
Michigan. He said the main issue is mismanagement.

[Marutiak1]: They've mismanaged the blood supply. They've been under a
consent decree for 17 years. They've been fined $21 million dollars.
They've mismanaged labor relations. They're being prosecuted by the labor
relations board.

The NLRB trial is on June 21 and it is alleged that Red Cross has been
bargaining in bad faith. Marutiak said one of the plans being implemented
by Red Cross is to move jobs in Michigan to other states.

A number of other unions will be joining the Red Cross strike action in
coming days and weeks in an attempt to put even more pressure on the

[Marutiak3]: We hope this with the prosecution by the NLRB and the fact
that other unions will soon be joining us will force them to change their
management style.

The OPEIU represents the workers that collect blood and distribute it to

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

[olympiaworkers] New Zealand: JB Hi-Fi; always cheapest wages May 30 2010

On the 16th of April retail workers at JB Hi-Fi in Wellington, New
Zealand, part of a nationwide electronics chain, walked out of their
workplace and went on strike to protest their meagre wages. The workers
have struck several times since and are now bracing themselves for a
bitter struggle against bosses who want them to carry on working long
hours for little money. The Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement speaks to
Shanna Olsen-Reeder, a JB Hi-Fi worker and Unite Union delegate, about her
involvement in the industrial action.

Could you briefly explain the present working conditions at JB Hi-Fi?

The present working conditions are very difficult. Like many workers in
New Zealand staff are working long hours. 8.30am – 6pm are the regular
hours for most people and the majority of staff are on their feet for all
that time. The culture at the company can also be quite challenging. The
attitude is quite old-fashioned, the attitude that the Managers are a
different class from the other workers and that they must be obeyed at all
costs. Anyone who is seen to be challenging that idea has an automatic
target on their back. The class difference is also quite apparent when it
comes to money. Some people at the company are well paid but the ones at
the bottom are really finding life difficult. Workers are expected to turn
up to work and be on their feet all day, greeting customers with a
friendly smile within seconds of them entering the store. But it can be
pretty difficult when you are literally wondering how you're going to pay
for the bus home.

How widespread is support for the strike action amongst JB Hi-Fi workers?

I believe support is very strong for the strike action and the reasons
behind it. The union members are committed to seeing this through until we
reach an agreement. I've had many positive comments from non-member
workers who - although they haven't joined the union - still support the
ideas behind it and would like to see us reach an agreement.

Is support for the strike the same now as it was when you started taking
industrial action? More, Less?

The support for the strikes is growing stronger and stronger every time as
people become more comfortable doing it. I don't think support will ever
die down. We're just asking for what the workers deserve. We've had lots
of support from the public, as well as other unions and their members.
Metiria Turei has spoken in support of us as has reggae legend Tigi Ness
and his band Unity Pacific. We expect that support will grow as we get our
message out there.

How successful do you think the strikes have been thus far?

In terms of getting our message out there and gaining public support it's
been great. People are really interested in what's going on and we've had
customers approach staff asking about how it's going and whether or not we
have got our pay rise yet. One guy offered to stop shopping at JB Hi-Fi
until we get an offer. And when we're out on the street we get toots and
waves all round. It's a great feeling to know that people care and will
get behind a good cause.

The reaction from the company has been interesting. After our strike media
outlets both in Australia and New Zealand were hounding them for comments
but they were keeping quiet. Then the share price dropped and the next day
the CEO issued a comment calling the industrial action "absurd." Not
surprising that they weren't impressed but I thought the wording was
interesting. I'm not sure why asking for better conditions and pay is
absurd. It's a basic right. And taking industrial action to make that
happen is entirely lawful so it was an interesting wording choice. It just
shows that there is a lot of emotion behind the action we are taking so I
think we're definitely making a difference.

Has there been much effort on the part of Unite to involve workers in the
organizing of the strike?

Workers are involved in all aspects of organising the strikes. Unite have
been really helpful in advising us in what we can and can't do and giving
us ideas but ultimately it's our members deciding what action they're
comfortable taking. We have strike committees in each store and they play
a big part in the organisation of the campaign and help to ensure that all
the workers' ideas are represented.

So far you have been taking short and infrequent action, what are the
prospects of this being escalated into more prolonged walk outs?

In the Wellington store our members prefer to take short and random acts
of industrial action. This keeps the company on their toes and keeps it
fun and exciting for the workers. Other benefits to keeping the action
short and sharp are that the workers lose less money as they are unpaid
for the time they are on strike. Our view is that strike action should
cause maximum harm to the company and minimum harm to the workers. Union
members are currently brainstorming new and different ways of taking
industrial action. Of course there is always the possibility of more
prolonged walk-outs and strikes in the future if we deem it necessary
depending on any new developments.

What is your relationship with other JB Hi-Fi stores? Do you know if they
are sympathetic to the strike action? If so, have there been efforts to
spread the strike action to other stores?

I've been through the bargaining process with a couple of delegates from
the Auckland stores, and visited and recruited at Auckland stores also. We
have very strong stores in Auckland with very high membership.
Unfortunately they have been suffering a lot of harassment and
intimidation regarding their union membership so it has taken them a
little longer to find their feet. They have gained a lot of confidence
from Unite's weekly picket outside the Queen St store and took their first
strike action on Tuesday 25th May which I think they can be really proud
of. From now on it will just get stronger and stronger. We have around 100
members in Auckland so they're going to make a big difference to the

Where do you think this struggle is heading? Is JB Hi-Fi any closer to

I think we all know that this is going to be a long hard road. But it's
something we are all committed to, most of all because we know that we
aren't asking for anything unreasonable or unattainable. All we ask is for
reasonable conditions including wages that workers and their families can
live on. There are small independent businesses who pay their staff higher
wages than JB Hi-Fi. For them to say they can't afford it is "absurd." We
will continue to take action, for as long as it takes and Unite have made
long-term plans for this campaign. We're in this for the long haul and we
know we will get a good result in the end- not just for ourselves but for
all the future JB Hi-FI workers.

From the June 2010 issue of Solidarity, the free newssheet of the Aotearoa
Workers Solidarity Movement. Visit to read more
articles or download a .pdf of this issue.