Category: Uncategorized

Berlin LabourStart Group speaks out on the Greek elections

Gisela writes:

On the eve of the Greek elections, which brought a huge victory for the decidedly left-wing Syriza and will – hopefully – challenge and change the austerity discussion in Europe a good deal, 285 German individuals and organisations published an open letter to the Greek public in a Greek newspaper, EFSYN. In the letter, they spoke out in defense of the freedom of the Greek people to decide themselves on their government, and against the interference particularly by German politicians and media in the pre-election debate. It condemns the threats and bullying, and expresses solidarity with the social forces that want to change the political and economic course in Greece, pointing out that their victory could change whole political debate in Europe.

The LabourStart Berlin offline group, founded after last May’s LS conference in Berlin, decided unanimously that we’d support the initiative. Our signature appeared, together with the others, on two different days in the week before the election and was seen by tens of thousands of readers. We don’t claim, of course, we’ve won the elections – that was the Greeks choice, in the end! – but we hope to have contributed a little bit to balance out the power play of the European neoliberal camp, and to building transnational worker solidarity against neoliberal austerity policies and the onslaught on social and political rights in Europe.

Written by Comments Off on Berlin LabourStart Group speaks out on the Greek elections Posted in Uncategorized

Tunis, apps, publications, survey, Italy, course, Brazil, and more – another week on LabourStart

I’ve decided to post weekly reports on what’s going on at LabourStart — please feel free to share these with colleagues and friends.  2015 is going to be one our busiest years ever — and here’s the first week …

Retreat – Tunis: We’re moving on this; I’ve sent the necessary letters regarding hotels and meeting space to our friends in the UGTT in Tunisia.  More on this next week.

Apps:

We’re using two different app-building platforms each of which has drawbacks.  Como builds both for Android and iOS, but it handles RSS feeds badly (it takes two clicks, not one, to show a news story.)  I’ve written to them to get help on this.

Meanwhile, Andromo which is better (and has improved at my suggestion how they cache RSS feeds, because at the moment they show our closed campaigns) unfortunately only works in Android.  This is what is holding up the release of our iOS app (approved by the Apple store, but I’m not satisfied with how it works) and our apps in other languages.

Meanwhile, our Android app has been published in the Amazon store, so users of Amazon’s devices (Kindle, Firephone, etc) can use it; also, users of Blackberries can get their version of the app there.

Publications: We’ll probably begin work on the 2016 Global Labour Calendar this coming week.  Anyone who’s willing to help is invited to post comments below.  We’re also working on two books we’re committed to getting out this year — one on migrant workers, and one with papers and speeches from our Berlin conference last May (long delayed, I know).  (Thanks to Derek for helping on this.)

Survey of trade union use the net: I’ve suggested we consider doing this again; so far, three people have volunteered to help, so next week we’ll probably start work on this again.  (Thanks to Derek, David and Gerhard.)

Italian LabourStart: We now have a Twitter feed and and an email address, and a group of committed correspondents and translators.   The Italian mailing list is our fourth-largest with over 4,000 addresses, and we’re keen to grow it and to be more useful to the Italian unions.  (Thanks Silvana and Andrea.)

Guidelines for new correspondents: This has now been translated into Spanish.  (Thanks David).

Survey of LabourStart correspondents: I’ll make the results available in a few days, but one result is clear: most people do want a discussion forum.  I’ve looked into a couple of the better known options, but will be asking for volunteers to help with this project.  (Thanks to Gisela for doing the survey.)

Online campaigns course: I’ve begun planning for a meeting in Brussels later this month with the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) which has agreed to hold a 3-day course in Germany for European trade unionists.

Brazil project: As you may know, we have received a grant to do some work building LabourStart in Brazil.  I’ve started writing to our contacts there.

LabourStart in Numbers: I’ve done the last monthly report; from now on, this will be done every quarter.

 

 

Five campaigns!

One new campaign, one coming up, and three closed — it’s been a busy week!

Yesterday we launched a new campaign in support of the workers trying to form a union at Wizz Air, at the request of the European Transport Workers’ Federation and the European Trade Union Confederation.

Soon, we will be launching a campaign in support of striking Georgian railway workers.

Today we’re closing the Andy Hall campaign which has resulted in a partial victory.  Here’s what the campaign sponsor, Owen Tudor of the British Trades Union Congress, has to say:

The campaign helped keep his case in the public eye and on the diplomatic agenda. Thanks to the support and high profile Andy has got, the EU embassies in Thailand have begun to press the Thai government to take steps to stop their courts being used to harass human rights defenders like Andy. And together with other campaigns run on other websites resulted in the Judge throwing out the first case against him and delaying the second case for several weeks. However, that case hasn’t been stopped, and there are other cases that will start soon, so the campaign will continue in other ways. So we may be back….

Last week we closed two campaigns.

The first, opposing ‘social dumping’ by IKEA in Belgium and the Netherlands, got 10,672 supporters, making it one of our largest campaigns.  But we don’t know yet what the effect was, as the union hasn’t gotten back to us.

The second protested union busting at Poland’s LOT airlines.  It got 8,586 supporters and we have a report from Kemal Ulker at the International Transport Workers Federation on its effect on the ground — the bottom line is that we’ve not yet won this dispute:

On 25 July 2014, the vice-president of the ZZPP, Andrzej Je?ewski was dismissed by LOT Polish Airlines.

LOT has a bad record of similar anti-union practices. Over the last five years, the airline dismissed eight trade union leaders.

The ETF Civil Aviation Secretary tried to talk the CEO of the airline with no avail.

On 4 August 2014, the ITF and ETF section secretaries sent a joint letter to the CEO, demanding the reinstatement of the dismissed union leader.

On 20 August 2014, in partnership with the LabourStart, the ITF and ETF launched the protest letter campaign.

On 21 August 2014, the ITF and ETF general secretaries set a joint letter to the President of Poland.

On 25 August 2014, the ETF sent a letter to the chief executive of the Association of European Airlines (AEA), Athar Husain Khan, to ask him to intervene with the management of LOT to establish good and fair industrial relations with the trade unions.

Similar letters have been sent to 47 European Parliament members, reminding them of the role of trade unions in regaining freedom and sovereignty, as well as the country’s obligations as signatory of ILO conventions, and asking them intervene with the Polish government to resolve the issue: http://www.itfglobal.org/news-online/index.cfm/newsdetail/10835

On 1 September 2014, the ZZPP received a response from Grazyna Wereszczynska, Director of Citizen Letters and Opinions Office, informing us on behalf of Mr Komorowski that our letter had been referred to the Ministry of State Treasury. 

On 26 September 2014, we received a response from the CEO of LOT Polish Airlines, refusing to comment on the dismissal of Brother Je?ewski as there is an ongoing legal proceeding. However, in his response the CEO emphasised that Je?ewski’s dismissal was “strictly on the basis of the Polish Labour Code”.

 On 9 October 2014, the ITF and ETF section secretaries sent a joint letter to the Minister of Treasury of Poland.

 The Minister of Treasury of Poland responded saying they don’t deal with labour disputes and repeating LOT’s arguments regarding why Andrzej was dismissed.

 

New Canadian Edition of Our Guide to Global Labour Coming

A couple of weeks ago I met with the International Development Working Group of the Canadian Labour Congress.  The senior staff doing international work from all the major unions (and a few smaller ones) form the Working Group.

There was unanimous agreement to move forward with producing, early in the new year, a ‘Canadianized’ version of the the book.  I’ll keep you posted as things develop but it seems to me that once a readability edit is done of the existing GUF and other global institutions sections and a couple of missing GUFs are added, all that will be needed to produce a series of national versions of the book are some pieces solicited from unions and central labour bodies.

My hope for the Canadian edition is that each union will commit to buy a certain number of copies for their internal use.

As a (useful) aside, I have been able to locate a unionized printer in Toronto that offers a ‘print-on-demand’ service with products certified as union-made.

Derek Blackadder – Canada

LabourStart at Halifax (Canada) Conference

I was invited to do a workshop a week ago on doing international work at the local union level and how it can help internal organizing and strengthen a local union.  The workshop was part of the annual ‘Troublemakers Conference’ which the Halifax Labour Council (a regional body composed of local unions affiliated with almost all the national unions) holds each year.

The event was aimed at activist workplace level leadership.  There were about 70 activists at the conference; 10 in my workshop.  It was well-received by the organizers of the conference and by the participants.  The conference organizers didn’t have the money for my transportation but I was able to use my frequent flyer points and to stay with friends in the area.  I had also hoped to use the trip as a chance to connect out in meatspace with a few of our volunteers in the Halifax area but had a cold and spent time in bed instead.

The ‘Troublemakers Conference’ concept flows from the American labour magazine Labour Notes and these conferences are being run in a growing number of locations in the USA and a few in Canada.  The Labour Notes folks loosely co-ordinate the conferences and make suggestions for content.  We may see some further invitations as a result.

One small note: a conference like this would have been ideal for selling our calendar. These events, where we can have a display and where the calendar can be properly viewed, have always sold out.  If or when we produce another calendar I’m thinking we might want to maintain a small inventory in Canada.  In the worst case scenario I would look at sending them out sometime in April or May as a thank-you to some of our supporters and volunteers.

If anyone wants to see the workshop outline or to use it in your neck of the woods, just let me know.

Derek Blackadder – Canada

Written by Comments Off on LabourStart at Halifax (Canada) Conference Posted in Uncategorized

Opportunity, challenges for Indonesia’s vibrant labour movement – by Peter Moss

Pete Moss is a LabourStart correspondent based in Australia. He’s just returned from a visit to Indonesia.

indonesiaA week in Jakarta meeting union leaders and activists during August taught me two things.

Firstly, this is a period of great opportunity for the Indonesian labour movement to build strongly on gains made in recent years.

Secondly, any international support will be warmly welcomed, including from LabourStart, which is well known and respected among Indonesian unionists.

Unions have won massive gains over the past few years, including a national social security system that will deliver pensions and healthcare for all. The three major union confederations also came together in 2012 for a mighty campaign that delivered a 44 percent increase in the minimum wage. This year Indonesia successfully concluded elections that position the archipelago as the leading democracy in South East Asia. Continued economic growth in this resource-rich diverse nation of 250 million will position Indonesia as a global powerhouse.

The underlying conditions are very positive but inequality is also increasing. Unions face many battles to ensure that workers and their communities are fairly rewarded.
One challenge springs from the scattered structure of the labour movement, which at last count included six registered confederations, 91 federations and 437 enterprise unions. This vibrant movement has emerged only since 1998, when protests brought down the New Order regime and ILO conventions were ratified.
This year the movement divided over the July presidential election. Unions actively intervene in politics, but there is no united strategy and no social democratic or labour party.

Labour Start has a positive profile and universal recognition among the union leaders and labour activists I met.  Particularly appreciated are Labour Start’s Indonesia campaigns, including two for the IndustriALL-affiliated pulp and paper union so far in 2014.

One construction union general secretary pointed to a poster on his office wall and said: ‘When our leader was jailed, Labour Start supported him.’

Several local unionists are active Labour Start supporters, including Indah Budiarto, Nelson Saragih and Khamid Istakhori.  Indonesian unionists are keen to further enhance links with the international movement. Union training was cited as one area where assistance could make a real difference.

Peter Moss

Written by Comments Off on Opportunity, challenges for Indonesia’s vibrant labour movement – by Peter Moss Posted in Uncategorized

Workshop Invitations Picking Up in Canada

In addition to doing a series of sessions for Unifor, the largest public sector union in Canada, we’ve also recently done a session on LabourStart itself at union conferences in Alberta and New Brunswick and just received an invitation to do a session on international work for the Halifax Labour Council in late October.

I don’t know quite why this surge in interest but I suspect it has something to do with some generational turnover in mid- and senior-level trade union leadership. The people now moving into those positions have kinda grown up with LabourStart.

In any case, so far we’ve been able to say yes to all the requests.

 

Derek Blackadder

Written by Comments Off on Workshop Invitations Picking Up in Canada Posted in Uncategorized

Another way LabourStart can be useful – a request from lawyers in the USA

supreme_court_buildingWe’ve recently received this request from a lawyer (who we knew years ago as a labour movement activist):

“You may or may not have heard that about a year ago, the US Supreme Court gutted an important US law, the Alien Tort Statute, that we had been using for international human rights cases against US companies. Our area of law is now in flux, and US corporations have an incredible amount of impunity for harm they do overseas. We are looking for new cases to test out new legal theories. Since you receive reports from around the world of the sorts of violations that could form the basis of a test case, I thought you might be able to keep an eye out for potential cases for us. The ideal test case would involve a US company and a relatively egregious harm (so for example a factory fire in which people died or were seriously injured, where the factory supplied to a US company). The stronger the connection to the US company the better, as ultimately we need to sue a US-based defendant. … [we] would have the opportunity to be a part of re-establishing mechanisms for international corporate accountability in the US.”

I’ve asked around and everyone I spoke to thought we should help.  So I’m appealing today to all LabourStart correspondents to keep an eye open for this sort of thing and let me know when they find something.  We’ll review this again in two months to see if we’ve come up with anything worthwhile.