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ILO Labor Standards
The International Labor Organization (ILO) labor standards take the form of International Labor Conventions which are ratified by member countries. Of the total number of ILO Conventions, eight are considered core labor standards, fundamental to the rights of workers. The ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Relevant NEWS and ARTICLES
Kazakhstan must respect union rights
15 June, 2021: For the fifth time, union rights violations in Kazakhstan were in focus at the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards during the International Labour Conference.
Responding to past recommendations of the Committee of Experts and bringing legislation in line with ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association, ratified by Kazakhstan in 2000, Kazakhstan adjusted some of its laws in 2020.
A new general agreement for 2021-2023, between the government and national associations of employers and workers, includes a commitment not to interfere in the internal affairs of organizations. Although the Committee noted this as a first step in a right direction, the full conformity of Kazakh legislation is still a long way off. Despite amendments, there has been no concrete practical impact. Prosecution of union leaders and prevention of union registration are still a reality in Kazakhstan.
Since the regressive law on trade unions was adopted in 2014, the registration procedures have been used to prevent the creation of free and independent trade unions. At least 600 unions at various levels have lost their legal status, including the Confederation of independent trade unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK). It was liquidated in March 2017 and has since then made three unsuccessful attempts to re-register. The government has paralyzed the activities of all unions belonging to the independent confederation, leaving many workers unprotected. In February 2021, the last remaining and functioning union affiliated to KNPRK, the Trade union of fuel and energy industry workers, was suspended for six months.
The recent legislative amendments have not changed the situation for independent union leaders Erlan Baltabay and Larisa Kharkova, who were found guilty of bogus charges, imprisoned and placed in house arrest, respectively. Baltabay was later freed thanks to a massive international solidarity campaign. However, both are still considered criminals and banned from any public activity, including union activities, for a few years.
The Committee demands that Kazakhstan revises the union registration procedure to make it a formality, ensures the registration of the KNPRK or its successor, lifts the restrictions on the Trade union of fuel and energy industry workers, stops prosecuting unionists, and drops all charges against union leaders.
In a joint statement on behalf of global unions IUF, BWI and PSI, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Ozkan said: "Kazakhstan continues to avoid fulfilling its obligations under ILO Conventions 87 and 98. Taking into consideration the total absence of improvement and the further deterioration of the workers' rights, and refusal to register new unions, we urge the government to take the necessary action to make sure that Kazakhstan respect its international obligations."
The Committee will decide on further measures on Kazakhstan at the end of the session on 19 June.
IndustriALL Hyundai/Kia trade union network - a platform for global solidarity
8 June, 2021: When the IndustriALL Hyundai/Kia trade union network met on 17-18 May, the question if ILO core labour standards will ultimately lead to transnational social dialogue at the Korean automaker was discussed.
The list of ILO member states that have yet to ratify ILO core labour standards is not too long, but contains a number of prominent countries like China, India, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, USA. The highly industrialized Republic of Korea is no longer on that blacklist as it has recently ratified Conventions 29 (forced labour), 87 (freedom of association) and 98 (right to collective bargaining), which will enter into force in April 2022.
Kim Ho Gyu, president of IndustriALL affiliate the Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU), said: "The ratified conventions are important legal guideposts for a comprehensive labour law reform to end union busting, to bring law and practice in line with freedom of association and to guarantee union rights for industry-level unions."
The global Hyundai/Kia network exists since 2009 and has constantly supported the implementation of these basic rights in all factories of the group around the globe. In addition, IndustriALL affiliates from Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Korea, Slovakia, Turkey and the USA have made several unsuccessful attempts to convince the company to enter into negotiations on a global framework agreement to promote those fundamental rights and to open a channel of regular communication between the unions and the company at global level.
The network is hoping that Korea's ratification of ILO conventions will have a positive impact on relations with the world's fifth largest automotive group. Kim Yunsam and Choi Sun from the KMWU branch unions at Hyundai and Kia concluded that: "Based on the fact that 70 per cent of the company's business activities take place outside Korea, it is not only desirable but also logical to come up with high universal labour standards and a formal structure of social dialogue at global level."
Delegates decided to deepen cooperation by improving the network's internal database, aiming to strengthen their bargaining power and to identify cases of blatant injustice, like the high number of low paid trainees and other precarious workers in the Hyundai plant in Chennai, India.
"It is high time to end the exploitation of more than half of the Indian workforce earning less than 20 per cent of permanent workers," said Gowri Shankar, general secretary of Hyundai motors india employees union.
For more frequent contacts, a platform will be created enabling and promoting regular dialogue. Participants used the meeting for an expert discussion on systems of pre-determined time standards, in particularly MODAPTS. Colleagues familiarized themselves with the overall concept and exchanged on related trade union responses.
"Such systems seem to be applied to transform human beings into robots. By understanding the system, we can significantly improve our bargaining power," said Patrik Fupso, chairman of OS KOVO union at the Hyundai plant, Czech Republic.
Attendees debated the company's strategy to develop into a mobility provider, including aspects like digitalization and electric vehicles. Based on calculations, they analyzed the labour impact of that policy in the Korean operations and concluded that it would be important to exchange on good practices to ensure the transformation is managed in a socially responsible way protecting the employability of the existing work force.
Georg Leutert, IndustriALL automotive director, stated: "The major challenge is to manage the process of re- and upskilling to make sure no worker is left behind."
IndustriALL and affiliates thanked the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation for their important support at this meeting and in the past.
Global Labour/NGO Coalition Calls on Reserve Bank of India to Exclude Amazon from New Digital Payment System
8 June 2021: As India prepares to launch a new multi-trillion online payment mechanism, a coalition of labour unions and NGOs led by UNI Global Union, All India State Bank of India Staff Federation (AISBISF), IT for Change and the Joint Action Committee Against Foreign Retail and E-commerce' (JACAFRE) demanded today that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reject Amazon's application to set up a new "fee rich" for-profit payment system because "Amazon lacks the record of fairness and integrity as mandatorily required" by the RBI.
"...Amazon as an entity goes contrary to the principles of equity and fairness, and it is being investigated for its unfair, abusive, and anti-competitive conducts in several jurisdictions, including in India," the coalition states in a letter submitted today.
The RBI is the country's central bank and regulatory body, and its New Umbrella Entity (NUE) would permit companies to develop and operate alternate payment systems other than what is operated by the non-profit National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI.) The for-profit NUE system proposed by the RBI intends to set a stage for competitors to the current non-profit system by promoting private players to operate alternate for-profit payment systems.
"India shouldn't give away its digital wallet to a company like Amazon with a long history of unethical, anti-worker, and anti-competitive practices," said Rajendra Acharya, UNI Global Union Regional Secretary for the Asia Pacific. "Millions of Indians depend on easy to use, fee-free online payment to conduct everyday business and go about with their lives. The RBI should keep the NUE in the hands of responsible actors that put people before profits."
Currently, Amazon is being investigated by India's Enforcement Directorate, the Foreign Exchange Management, and the Competition Commission of India for violation of Foreign Direct Investment Rules and for anti-competitive behaviour. Also, several petitions have been filed against Amazon by small traders and trader associations.
"Amazon's insatiable appetite for growth and market dominance and profit is not good for Indian workers, consumers or merchants, " CH Krishna, from the Joint Action Committee Against Foreign Retail and E-commerce' (JACAFRE). "The RBI needs to side with the people of India and keep the online payment systems fair and free."
Reuters has also reported that Amazon gives preference to certain "special" sellers on its e-commerce platform in India. The majority of sales on the platform of Amazon came from very few large vendors, where Amazon also held equity shares or in some way related to Amazon.
"The government of India shouldn't be in the business of promoting parallel, for-profit, digital payment exchanges run by corporations, when we have one running perfectly well serving all people for free," said Parminder Jeet Singh, Executive Director of IT for Change. "Inviting giant e-commerce companies like Amazon, Walmart-Flipkart or Reliance-Jio to suck up even more money and data from us will only benefit their corporate overlords, not Indians."
Additionally, Amazon globally has also been under the scrutiny of enforcement agencies. In the United States it has been noted that Amazon has been engaged in 'extensive anticompetitive' conduct in its treatment of third-party sellers on its platform. An anti-trust investigation is also being carried by the US Federal Trade Commission. Amazon has previously paid millions of dollars to FTC to settle the charges against it for violating the contract with its delivery drivers.
Similarly, Amazon is being investigated for allegedly violating the competition law of the European Union--for its dual role as a seller and the owner of its online marketplace, which Amazon allegedly uses to the disadvantage of other vendors
"We will like the Reserve Bank of India not to give up essential and infrastructural tasks related to currency, finance and banking to corporate entities, for them to run such essential infrastructure for profit, and entrenching their corporate power. NPCI and UPI are doing good work under RBI's close regulation and monitoring and we are fully opposed to opening up parallel for-profits systems which would not be in the public interest," said Sanjeev Kumar Bandlish, General Secretary of All India State Bank of India Staff Federation (AISBISF.)
Following global worker unrest in Amazon warehouses and increased scrutiny over the U.S. tech giant's treatment of workers, the European Parliament is calling on Amazon's chief executive Jeff Bezos to testify before its Employment and Social Affairs Committee. Last October, 37 members of the European Parliament (MEPsAll India State Bank of India Staff Federation submitted a letter to the company's CEO Jeff Bezos calling for urgent action in response to labour unions' demands for a euro-wide investigate into what they consider a "breach of European labour, data and privacy laws," by Amazon.
ITF calls for regional cooperation to save jobs, tackle rising poverty and to lead economic recovery in the Caribbean
02 Jun 2021: The economic impact of COVID-19 is having a devastating effect on the global tourism industry, especially in the Caribbean which could see an escalation of poverty for workers. Unions affiliated to the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) from across the Caribbean held a virtual summit today to raise awareness of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on jobs and communities in the region.
The ITF and its 18 affiliated unions are calling on governments and employers to cooperate with trade unions to develop and implement a regional recovery plan that:
Globally the tourism industry accounts for over 300 million jobs. Travel restrictions have had a devastating effect on economies reliant on tourists. Many countries in the Caribbean rely heavily on tourism as an essential pillar of their economies and major contributor to GDP, in turn generating much needed employment in the region.
Tourism generates over $59 billion per year for the region. An estimated $26.4 billion has been lost due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic. Estimates also suggest that over 1.2 million jobs have been lost. Not only have the job losses hit hard, but also the spending power of workers has been significantly reduced leading to the risk of widespread poverty and a stagnation of economic growth. Long-term development and recovery plans in the region are critical.
ITF General Secretary, Stephen Cotton said that: "The Caribbean is too important to ignore, and we have a duty to protect the infrastructure and livelihoods of those workers who make visiting so appealing to millions of tourists each year. We need a tripartite plan from governments, employers and unions for recovery. Listening to the concerns of our leaders today, it's clear that we need action now. Investment in developing regional transport infrastructure is a good place to start".
ITF Tourism Chair, David Messiah added: "My concern is that women and young workers are bearing a disproportionate number of job losses. These are the very groups of workers so critical to eradicating poverty in the Caribbean and needed in the industry's recovery. Our regional partners must work with us to re-establish safe travel corridors and assist in access to vaccines. We need a coordinated approach across the Caribbean and should not rely on individual nation states as this only adds to the confusion. We must develop a unified approach that pools our resources together."
ITF Regional Secretary, Edgar Diaz said "It is vitally important that workers do not feel forced to have the vaccination, education and engagement is key if we are to encourage participation. That's why establishing a tripartite approach is fundamental to success and not fear and intimidation of individual workers."
Trade union Leaders from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Suriname, St Lucia, Trinidad took part in the summit.
Post and Logistics unions unite to build power at World Conference
28 May 2021: Unions representing over two million post and logistics workers around the world united to build worker power and commit to strengthening postal services at the UNI Post & Logistics World Conference this week.
More than 300 participants, including representatives from 85 unions in 60 countries, joined the "Connecting People to Deliver the Future" virtual meeting from 25 to 27 May. The conference adopted an ambitious four-year strategic plan to fight postal liberalization and defend a strong public postal service; support incentives to diversify and strengthen postal services; promote a green and sustainable industry; protect jobs in the face of new technologies and digitalization; and stand up for decent wages and working conditions as e-commerce transforms the post and logistics sector.
Coming after a year in which postal services and workers have proven essential during the pandemic, post has also witnessed a dramatic drop in mail and a considerable growth in parcel volumes, combined with increasing technological transformation.
"New technologies and digitalization have and will impact postal work in the future. Postal unions must adapt their collective bargaining strategies to address these new technologies, to tackle these critical issues which will define our future," said UNI General Secretary, Christy Hoffman.
The conference endorsed a motion pledging to help secure trade union rights at Amazon globally and calling on trade union affiliates to support efforts to organize workers. Participants also backed motions defending peace, democracy and human and trade union rights in Colombia, Myanmar and Palestine.
The conference also endorsed actions to ensure decent and good working conditions for workers across P&L through extended collective bargaining coverage, social dialogue, organizing, GFAs and Due Diligence processes in multinational companies. Greater cooperation on holding multinationals accountable was a key subject of an address by Noel Coard from the International Transport Workers' Federation.
The conference, which had been due to take place in Dakar, featured a message from Yankhoba Diatara, Minister of Digital Economy and Telecommunications in Senegal. He emphasized the importance of social dialogue as a means to developing joint strategies to improve services and expand activities in the postal sector. Siva Somasundram, from the Universal Postal Union - the United Nations agency for post - also acknowledged that the success of post depends on valuing and supporting postal workers, which drives the UPU's close engagement with UNI Global Union.
Guest speakers Botond Szebeny from PostEurop and Walter Trezek from UPU's Consultative Committee also joined the conference for a discussion on the critical topic of e-commerce, while participants also heard from Jacqueline Kalbermatter from the University of Basel who presented on a UNI-commissioned study on the impact of digitalization on employment.
In the P&L sector in other areas, the conference elected a fifth Vice President, Victoria Felisberto from SINTAC postal union in Mozambique, and agreed to nominate a youth representative to the UNI P&L World Committee.
Finally, Dave Ward, General Secretary of the CWU in the UK, was re-elected World President. He highlighted the urgent need for unions to step up to the pressing challenges in the postal sector to defend jobs, rights and services in the coming years. "International solidarity has never been more important. The trade union movement has a key role in uniting working people across the world to get a new deal for workers."
Kyrgyzstan: controversial trade union law vetoed
28 May, 2021: The law on trade unions that would seriously undermine freedom of association in Kyrgyzstan and deprive unions of their independence was vetoed by the President on 27 May.
For two years, unions in Kyrgyzstan have been fighting back against the now vetoed law, deemed to be in contravention of the national constitution and ILO Conventions 87 and 98, ratified by Kyrgyzstan. The law was returned to the parliament with President's objections on 27 May. The parliament will now rework it prepare an agreed version. Representatives of the government, trade unions and employers' associations should be part of the conciliation commission.
"We favour reforms in trade unions and the adoption of an agreed draft law aimed at improving working conditions and strengthening workers' right to freedom of association," says Eldar Tadjibaev, chair of the Mining and metallurgy trade union of Kyrgyzstan. There have been numerous objections by international organizations, including IndustriALL, ITUC, ILO and the UN, as well as trade unions from around the world. IndustriALL urged the President to veto the new law, calling on the European Commission to intervene.
Previously, the government of Kyrgyzstan objected to the draft law and 70.000 Kyrgyz workers signed a petition against it. However, the draft law on trade unions was adopted by the parliament on 31 March without consultation with unions and without taking any objections into account.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Ozkan says: "We welcome the fair decision of Kyrgyzstan's President to veto the law on trade unions which is violation of ILO Conventions and a step back in developing a democratic society. We urge Kyrgyzstan to conduct any trade union law reform in full consultations with trade unions and in line with core international labour standards."
US labour movement to Biden Administration: Protect human rights in Colombia
26 May 2021: The Biden Administration must take immediate action to address the Colombian government's use of "extreme violence" to quash peaceful protests, the leadership of some of the United States' most powerful labour organizations said today.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Mary Kay Henry of the SEIU, and James P. Hoffa of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters called on the American government to "to use all existing policy mechanisms available" to "bring Colombia into compliance with its international labour and human rights obligations" including trade policy and accession into the OECD.
The latest round of protests in Colombia began on 28 April, soon after the government of President Ivan Duque proposed a COVID-19 relief bill that would have transferred even more of the pandemic's burden onto the shoulders of working people. While the legislation was quickly rescinded, it ignited action against long$5;standing inequalities and injustices across the country.
The labour leaders write that Duque government responded to these widespread, popular demonstrations with a militarized crackdown utilizing the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD), a unit with a decades-long track record of human rights violations. To date, they write, Colombian forces have killed at least 42 people, and credible organizations have reported hundreds wounded, arbitrary detentions, and several cases of sexual assault against women.
The letter states:
We echo the call of 55 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who wrote to the State Department on May 14th calling on the Biden Administration to clearly denounce the excessive use of force against protesters and take specific measures, including the implementation of concrete adjustments in bilateral security cooperation, renewed emphasis on the full implementation the peace process and increased efforts toward authentic dialogue.
Given the close partnership between the United States and Colombia over the last twenty years, including regarding security issues, the United States should issue a clear public statement denouncing the excessive use of force by security forces and demanding accountability for those who have perpetrated violent crimes against protestors. In addition, the Administration should immediately suspend all forms of security assistance not related to human rights training to the national police and set clear time-bound benchmarks for improvements before assistance can resume.
For decades, the U.S. unions have been steadfast allies of the Colombian labour movement, and they note that this recent violence is part of a tragic pattern there. Labour leaders and social activists still routinely face credible death threats-even assassinations-with impunity, and the Duque administration has further weakened labour law.
"We join the U.S. labour movement's call to action, and believe it is incredibly important for the Biden Administration to stand up for democracy and human rights in Colombia and in the region broadly," said Marcio Monzane, Regional Secretary of UNI Americas. "The violence against peaceful demonstrators is a reflection of deep-seated issues in Colombia, and we agree with our U.S. brothers and sisters that President Biden should seek to address the root of the problems rather than the symptoms. One of the first steps to do that is for Colombia to accept the fact-finding mission proposed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)."
Norse Atlantic Airways and International Transport Workers' Federation enter into recognition agreement
19 May 2021: The new low-cost longhaul airline Norse Atlantic Airways and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have signed a recognition agreement with the goal of securing collective bargaining agreements with the airline's future cabin crew and pilots in Europe and the US. Both parties commit to seeing an airline that is built on good labour relations and a culture of dialogue. Both signatories to the agreement understand that today's aviation industry is born from its past, but that a new deal is needed for aviation if it is to be sustainable in the future.
"Following negotiations with labour unions in the United States and the UK with Norse Atlantic that have led to national agreements, it became clear that an overarching mechanism at global level was strongly desired by all parties," said ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton. "The ITF is determined to ensure that commitments made by all parties at the outset are delivered, with this in mind our agreement will set out a compliance mechanism and set a new standard in the aviation industry," said Cotton.
Bjørn Tore Larsen, CEO of Norse Atlantic Airways. said: "I welcome this agreement as my more than thirty years working together with the unions in the maritime industry has proven that dialogue is always beneficial for all parties. At the end of the day, we have a common goal to create a successful and profitable airline to the benefit of all our employees and customers."
The main commitments in the agreement are an annual consultative council with unions included as equal partners. Recognition of global labour standards as well as commitment to the principles of the Global Compact combined with a unique training program, will ensure effective implementation of the agreement across global operations.
Global unions to challenge legitimacy of Myanmar junta at ILC
18 May, 2021: In solidarity with Myanmar's trade union movement, the Council of Global Unions has vowed to challenge the legitimacy of the Myanmar junta throughout the UN system, including in the upcoming 109th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC).
Since the coup d'état in early February, the military's bloody repression has killed more than 750 people participating in the civil disobedience movement. Around 3,000 elected representatives, activists, workers and students have been arbitrarily detained and tortured.
Speaking at a webinar on trade unions' fight for democracy in Myanmar on 12 May, International Trade Union Confederation general secretary Sharan Burrow said that global unions will put forward a resolution at the ILC in June to challenge the legitimacy of the junta in representing Myanmar.
In 1999, the ILC banned the military regime from participating in any ILO meeting due to the widespread use of forced labour by the regime. The sanction was lifted in 2012 after Myanmar's democratization process had started.
"We must take concrete action at the upcoming ILC. The military doesn't care about resolutions, but they fear sanctions. 20 years ago, after the ILO imposed sanctions on Myanmar, the military started to change its tune," said Maung Maung, president of Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM).
The crimes against humanity have triggered solidarity actions from international actors, including targeted government sanctions against businesses linked to the military, withdrawal of investment of multinational companies, solidarity campaigns and donations, and the mediation of ASEAN countries by releasing a five-point consensus. The Council of Global Unions (CGU) urges unions around the world to pressure individual governments to recognize Myanmar's National Unity Government, lend support to the struggle by donating to the CGU strike fund and demand multinationals to join the coordinated economic sanctions.
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary, said: "We will stand with our brothers and sisters in Myanmar until we win. IndustriALL is putting pressure on multinational companies to put an end to business links to the junta, particularly those in the oil and gas, garment and textile sectors. This illegitimate government must be held accountable for these serious crimes against humanity and foreign companies should not entail any form of cooperation with it."
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews called on the international community and trade unions to step up actions, saying it is crucial to organize a movement outside Myanmar and take bold action to demand comprehensive sanctions against the regime.