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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.

The Union Edge

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Global Union Sets new Rules for the Next Frontier of Work—Ethical AI and Employee Data Protection

11 December 2017:   NYON, Switzerland--UNI Global Union is releasing ground-breaking principles today that establish new rules for governing the future world of work. The principles, to be applied to union contracts and international labour rights standards, are the first comprehensive benchmarks to give workers and their unions a voice in data collection and artificial intelligence on the job.

"Data collection and artificial intelligence are the next frontier for the labour movement. Just as unions established wage, hour, and safety standards during the Industrial Revolution, it is urgent that we set new benchmarks for the Digital Revolution," said UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings. UNI represents 20 million service and skills workers in 150 countries.

Data is rapidly becoming the global economy's most valuable resource, and currently, workers have no control over the mountains of data their employers collect on them. At the same time, some technologists warn of a jobs apocalypse spurred by technological advancements. These developments, if left unchecked, will spur greater global inequality.

UNI's "Top 10 principles for workers' data privacy and protection" provides a framework to address companies' growing use of data to inform decisions such as hiring and firing with few rules protecting workers' data protection and privacy. One key principle is that workers must have the right to data collected on them, including the right to have data corrected, blocked, or erased. This data should also be portable-a demand especially important for platform workers, who have hundreds-of-hours of equity in their ratings.

Another critical principle is the 'right of explanation', meaning that workers must be able to see what data employers are collecting and how it is used to inform management decisions to hire, fire, discipline or promote workers. Without this right, UNI says, there will be inadequate checks and balances on management decisions, and no possibility to check whether they are using data in ethical, non-discriminatory ways. The document also gives guidelines for biometric data, data transparency, on the use of location tracking through so-called wearables, and the set-up of company-wide data governance committees.

Addressing AI's power to displace workers and disrupt jobs, UNI Global Union's "Top 10 principles for Ethical Artificial Intelligence" provides concrete demands regarding its transparency and application. It is estimated that over 50 percent of the work currently done by humans can be faster and more efficiently done by automated systems, and workers are already seeing both displacement and benefits of this technology.

UNI principles will help ensure that AI serves both humanity and the planet by adopting a "human-in-command" approach; being unbiased, including race, gender, and sexual orientation; supporting fundamental freedoms and right; and not being used for weaponry or war.

One example of UNI's principles in progress is Dutch union FNV's current negotiations with employers in the janitorial sector about the role of AI and robotics in cleaning. The union is proactively bargaining to ensure that new technologies in the sector improves the quality of life and the quality of work for cleaners - and not simply displacement. FNV are advocating a strategy of co-creation, complementarity, and co-ownership in the process of robotization in the sector. UNI Global Union is also calling for a global convention on ethical AI that will help address, and work to prevent, the unintended negative consequences of AI while accentuating its benefits to workers and society.

Jennings added, "All stakeholders must be at the table so that innovation benefits the many-not only the few-and our current situation shows that we cannot trust tech companies and employers to make the best decisions for our society. Without meaningful participation of the global labour movement, data will be used to widen already massive chasm between the haves and the have-nots, undermine the self-determination, and weaken our democracies."

Source:  UNI Global Union--UNI represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions worldwide

Argentina's WTO Civil Society Ban is Outrageous

8 December 2017:   Argentina's decision to ban civil society advocates from participating in meetings at the WTO Ministerial Conference which starts on 10 December is bizarre and anti-democratic.

Many civil society representatives cancelled their travel plans after being informed that the government would not allow them into the country, despite the fact that the WTO had already accredited them. Others have managed to get into Argentina but the government is blocking their accreditation.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said "this decision reeks of paranoia and has more to do with Argentina's dictatorial past then a modern democracy. Digital rights advocates, trade and development ngos and a host of other legitimate groups had their WTO registrations for the event cancelled by the government of Mauricio Macri without any sound reason at all. This poses serious questions as to Argentina's fitness to host the G20 Summit in 2019 and is a serious setback for basic freedoms in the country. With people around the world looking for trade arrangements that support decent jobs, fundamental rights, development and a sustainable environment, suppressing civil society participation in this way is both foolish and damaging".

The ITUC is coordinating a global union delegation to the WTO Conference with participants who escaped the government ban. The Conference will consider resolutions on agricultural subsidies and public stockholding systems, fisheries, domestic regulation of services, investment facilitation and a series of long-pending questions relating to the implementation of the Doha Development Agenda.

A group of mostly developed countries have proposed to turn a 1998 mandate of WTO to discuss issues of e-commerce into a full negotiating mandate. This decision has been deemed one of the most contentious items at this years Ministerial Conference and has been rejected by a large number of developing countries. Global Unions have adopted a statement that calls for the resolution of long-standing development issues before any new issues are introduced for negotiation, and makes proposals on the incorporation of labour issues on the WTO agenda.

Source:  International Trade Union Confederation--ITUC represents 181 million workers in 163 countries and territories and has 340 national affiliates

Miguel Ángel Mejía: "Since 2009, workers' rights have been decimated in Honduras"

08 December 2017:   In an interview for PSI, the president of the Union of Medical, Hospital and Similar Workers (Sitramedhys) talks about the situation in the Central American country after suspicions of electoral fraud. "Our perspectives for the future, once the will of the government is imposed, are not very encouraging".

Honduras is experiencing a period of great tension since the general election of 26 November. During the vote count, the computerized counting system broke down for almost ten hours, just as the first results were showing a 5 percent advantage to Salvador Nasralla, the candidate of the Opposition Alliance. When the system started to function again, the ruling candidate and current president Juan Orlando Hernández was in a better position and, according to the figures, obtained the majority of votes with a total of 51,260.

The opposition has accused the government of election fraud, and is demanding that 5,173 ballot boxes be recounted. Meanwhile, there have been sporadic protests in the country. Since 1 December, the government has suspended constitutional guarantees and decreed a ten-day curfew.

The PSI Communications team interviewed Miguel Ángel Mejía, president of the Union of Medical, Hospital and Similar Workers (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Medicina, Hospitales y Similares/Sitramedhys), affiliated to PSI, on the situation in Honduras and on the perspectives for the future.

What can you tell us about the current situation in Honduras?

We were called to the general elections on November 26 of this year. The public went to the polls in a very calm and peaceful manner, feeling very determined, very forceful and very civic. Surprisingly, while the votes were being counted and the opposition party candidate was winning, the system suddenly broke down and was out of order for ten hours, then when the system returned, the official candidate was winning.

This has angered the people here in Honduras, and people went to the streets to demonstrate peacefully. Undoubtedly there were cases of vandalism. The opposition parties have accused the ruling party of infiltrating the demonstrations and committing these acts of vandalism to justify the curfew. But the Honduran population are applying civil disobedience and have not complied with the curfew, instead holding demonstrations against it.

How does SITRAMEDHYS observe the situation and how does it intend to react to the latest events?

We are extremely concerned. In the administration of this "president", we have suffered violations of our rights and setbacks regarding our conquests. The entire Honduran trade union movement is concerned, and we hope that by the deadline to declare the winner of the presidential elections, the government will have complied with the provisions that have been issued by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union, namely to review again the 5,173 ballot boxes that are in dispute. And we hope that the will of the Honduran people, as expressed through the ballot boxes, will be imposed.

How is the situation of union and labor rights in Honduras since the deposition of Manuel Zelaya in 2009?

They have been tremendously stripped down. The labour rights and the conquests of the workers have been reduced to a minimum, but our union has at least kept the right to collective bargaining as far as possible. After a five-year wage freeze, in 2016 we obtained a wage adjustment divided over two years, at least we achieved that. But in general terms, the conquests and the rights of the workers have been decimated. The government has introduced laws that affect them. And we believe that this situation will get even worse.

So, the perspectives are not good.

No. Our perspectives for the future, once the will of the government is imposed, are not very encouraging. It is a very bleak picture, which we hope will not materialize, for the well-being of the Honduran working class and the Honduran people in general.

Source:  Public Services International--PSI uniting more than 20 million workers in 154 countries

Ukrainian miners face searches and strong pressure

07.12.2017:   IndustriALL affiliate the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine (NGPU) reports that union members are placed under pressure and have their labour rights violated at mines owned by Evraz Sukha Balka in the Dnepropetrovsk region of Ukraine. Private security employed by the company regularly conducts searches of workers.

In November, humiliating searches were conducted in the mines of Evraz Sukha Balka. Miners were forced to undress and remove their shoes. This was allegedly to prevent theft and was applied mainly towards members of the NPGU. Some workers were questioned by officers of the economic security service in a separate room about the activities of the head of the primary trade union organization at the enterprise, Serhyi Barabashuk, including his movements during working and non-working hours.

According to the union, there is discrimination in wages against members of the NPGU. The miners appealed to the general director of Evraz Sukha Balka to take measures to eliminate violations. It resulted in questioning and searches of workers with violations of legal norms, for instance, searches of women were performed by male security guards. In addition, NPGU members might be unreasonably suspended from work and transferred to a different department. Serhiy Barabashuk and other union activists experience psychological discomfort because they are under constant surveillance, including video surveillance, by the security services of the enterprise and managers at all levels.

Mychailo Volynets, president of the NPGU, stated: "Serhyi Barabashuk is one of the best young leaders of the Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine. He is an honest person with a strong sense of justice. He appealed to me about the pressure on him, as well as the threats. Sergei also believes that there is a threat to his life. But as brave trade union leader, he continues to struggle".

Discrimination is caused by the active struggle of the union for justice and demands for safe working conditions, fair wages and the fulfilment of the employer's obligations under the rehabilitation of miners. In particular, the union demands the cancellation of a provision of the collective agreement that deprives financial assistance to workers who have had disciplinary sanctions for a violation of work rules. There is the negative impact on health in any case, so workers should recover.

In May, workers of Evraz Sukha Balka achieved a salary increase of 20 per cent, with a gradual increase until the end of the year towards a 100 per cent increase. Then the company changed ownership, and the new management refuses to follow the agreement and puts pressure on employees. Moreover, members of NPGU are resisting corrupt schemes operating in the enterprise, when some workers receive a higher salary and share it with the foremen.

Volynets said: "The Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine is doing everything possible to protect its leaders and members. Also, we call on all trade unionists for solidarity with Serhiy and his trade union brothers and sisters".

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union--IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

Development cooperation is a matter of equality and solidarity

06.12.2017:   Education International's affiliates have been encouraged to reflect on the sustainability and efficiency of their work during the Development Cooperation Network meeting.

Solidarity is a value that is based on a sense of equality and mutual support. That was the message conveyed by Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary of Education International (EI) to participants at the second day of the Development Cooperation Network meeting in Brussels, Belgium. Holst stressed the importance - and challenges - implicit in this approach, notably in terms of developing a cultural sensitivity for other partners. Cultural empathy leads to more efficiency in development cooperation, she said, and reinforces the collective weight and impact of trade union work. Teachers and educators' experience has much to contribute to the work in development cooperation, said Holst, particularly in relation to dealing with controversial issues and working in a collaborative fashion.

South-South cooperation

Nicolás Richards, senior coordinator with EI, launched the debate on South-South cooperation. Fatima Silva, from the Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores em Educação (CNTE), Brazil, and David Mawela, from the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU), emphasised the importance of a South-South approach, compared to a North-South cooperation. Both underlined its beneficial effects on trade unions, which become more empowered, strong and independent. Mawela cited his own union as an example, where membership increased from 3,000 to 260,000. SADTU is now able to help other trade unions in the region strengthen their membership and become a more relevant player in education policy, he said.

Funding and autonomy

Manfred Brinkman, from the Education and Science Workers' Union (GEW) Germany, highlighted the importance of giving organisations from the Global South independence and leeway in the development of their own programmes through the investment of 0.7 per cent of Global North organisations' funds into development cooperation, as stated in EI's policy document.

Combertty Rodríguez, director of the EI regional office in Latin America, noted the challenges faced by unions in the region, especially in two areas: the duplication of projects with aid from organisations from the Global North, and the inappropriate use of development funds by government authorities in the Global South. These challenges are an additional motivation for trade unions to develop a joint development cooperation strategy, he said. Rodríguez also stressed the problem posed by the growing commercialisation of education in the region, which is encouraging some governments to cut funding and rely heavily on private providers, to the detriment of their societies.

A wide range of topics

At the network meeting, parallel workshops covered topics ranging from child labour to the professional development of teachers in Africa, projects for the inclusion of refugees in schools, and the work carried out by unions to enhance unity of action in Africa. In addition, the new website section for EI's development cooperation work and a recently crafted newsletter were also presented and discussed by the participants.

Source:  Education International--EI uniting 32.5 million education workers in 400 organizations in 170 countries and territories

Workers tell ICTSI it is 'not welcome in Africa'

Global port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) has faced further resistance to its Africa expansion plans, this time in Durban, South Africa.

06/12/2017:   Tim Vancampen, CEO of the embattled Philippines-owned company's operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was given a fierce reception when he presented to a maritime industry conference in Durban on 5 December. There was widespread media coverage as protestors from worker and community organisations - led by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) - demonstrated over their concerns about labour abuses, poor safety standards and sloppy management practices in ICTSI's global network.

Edgar Mbina, SATAWU regional secretary, said: "We are here to send a message to ICTSI that their business model of poor safety and undercutting conditions is not welcome in Africa. We stand with workers in Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and around the world who are fighting for jobs and decent conditions. Wherever ICTSI chooses to expand, we'll be there, standing with those workers, fighting for justice and decent treatment."

In October 2017, an ITF report on ICTSI's global expansion detailed the emerging pattern of labour violations across ICTSI's terminals, including paying poverty wages, poor safety standards endangering workers lives. The same month, ITF unions protested in 14 locations relating to ICTSI's operations spanning Africa, Europe and Asia.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented that ICTSI's rapid expansion had not been accompanied by sufficient managerial oversight to ensure productive industrial relations and compliance with local laws. He added that the company needed to sit down with the ITF and work out how to resolve these issues throughout their network.

Source:  International Transport Workers Federation--ITF representing over 16 million transport workers in 700 unions from 150 countries

General Electric unions develop cross-border cooperation and solidarity

04.12.2017:   Trade unions from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, UK and USA representing workers at General Electric met in Geneva, Switzerland on 29-30 November 2017 to discuss the development of the General Electric trade union network.

The union representatives shared their experience on the common labour issues they face at General Electric, a giant US multinational. The company operates through various industrial sectors such as energy, oil, gas, aviation, healthcare, transportation, energy connections and lighting in 170 countries with more than 330,000 direct employees.

The company officially announces that "GE promotes respect for fundamental human rights (including the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work) and views them as a key component of responsible corporate citizenship", and it is consistently ranked as one of the world's leading corporations. However, the union representatives reported at the meeting that management has intensified its attacks on the workers' rights in various countries and disrespected the long-term commitments made with employees and communities where it operated. The company has also engaged with investors known as specifically focused on short-term profits.

For example, in Europe, the company management short-sighted strategy entails serious risks for workers and society, resulting in disrespect of the commitments made at the time of Alstom Power's acquisition. In North America, management decisions to close and curtail productive facilities have broken social agreements with communities. The unions in Europe (See industriAll European Trade Union press-release "General Electric: Shareholders first, workers last") and US are taking actions against management with the view to protect the interest of workers and communities.

The delegates agreed that the company should fully implement the fundamental workers' rights, especially freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, covering all company operations throughout the world without exception. The unions believe that GE management must work together with trade unions representing GE workers with the view to achieve a fair and just social business model.

The unions attending the meeting adopted a joint statement to unite GE trade unions around the world to increase workers' collective power and call on the company to recognize and engage in dialogue with global union network.

The GE trade union network will:

  1. Develop cross-border union cooperation and solidarity to implement and monitor fundamental workers' rights at all workplaces and to achieve fair and just working conditions for all workers.
  2. Create a mechanism of social dialogue at global and/or regional levels with management, to make workers' voices heard in General Electric.
  3. Protect and promote sustainable jobs, social and economic justice, and democratic global governance of the company, which enables constructive industrial relations leading to global level negotiations, including the limitation of precarious work and encompassing the principles of Just Transition.

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union--IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

NUW success converting casual to permanent jobs at Asahi Australia

2 December 2017:   The IUF-affiliated National Union of Workers has signed an agreement at the Asahi-owned bottled water factory in Albury-Wodonga following a long campaign to bring the company to negotiate the creation of permanent jobs for the many workers stuck in casual employment.

The agreement, which runs through May 2020, creates fourteen new positions in the warehouse and six in production; provides a 7.5% wage increase over the life of the contract; establishes a mechanism for monitoring casual employment at the plant; and provides paid training leave for union delegates, with up to 14 days annually for new delegates.

The union has expressed its warm appreciation for the many supporters who sent messages to the company in response to the IUF's international call for solidarity in June.

Source:  International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Associations--IUF uniting 10 million workers in 429 affiliated organizations in 130 countries

PNG dockworkers still out in the cold at the Port of Lae

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is still seeking assurances for local jobs at the Port of Lae in Papua New Guinea (PNG) despite a new agreement between International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) and local landowners.

01/12/2017:   ICTSI announced in recent days that it would "establish a collaborative framework" with local landowners but failed to mention any agreement with local PNG workers, many of whom have been working at the port for several years.

Paddy Crumlin, ITF president and chair of the ITF dockers section, said: "The ITF still has serious concerns regarding the future of the current workforce, as there have been no assurances made about their ongoing employment. "This is a step in the right direction, no doubt in part due to pressure from local unions and the ITF, but until local workers have been guaranteed jobs in the port we remain sceptical at best given ICTSI's recent history.

"ITCSI needs to put the fears to rest of local workers and their families who are justifiably worried about their future."

More than 1,000 jobs are in jeopardy after the PNG government awarded 25-year contracts for the country's two main international ports to ICTSI. The Philippine-owned company has attracted international condemnation over emerging patterns of labour violations in their network, poor safety standards, and sloppy management practices.

Reg McAlister, general secretary of the PNG Maritime and Transport Workers Union said: "ICTSI have indicated they will source their workforce from local communities - but the union has seen no firm guarantee to secure all existing jobs and conditions. "If the government and ICTSI are prepared to sit down with the union and the ITF, and provide guarantees of jobs and award conditions of employment for the existing workforce, a return to good industrial relations in the stevedoring industry is possible."

The ITF, and our unions, are committed to supporting port operators who provide good jobs and industrial relations practices in their ports.

Source:  International Transport Workers Federation--ITF representing over 16.5 million transport workers in 654 unions from 148 countries

New Zealand Employment Court rules LSG Sky Chefs is the real employer of agency workers

30 November 2017:   The New Zealand Employment Court has issued a major decision in a case brought by the IUF-affiliated E Tū on behalf of two agency workers who were employed at airline catering giant LSG Sky Chefs. Under New Zealand law, workers have the right to seek a declaration that they are employees, and therefore entitled to the legal protections this status provides. The union requested the Court declare that they were employees, not fictitious 'independent contractors', and that the real employer was LSG Sky Chefs. The Court agreed. The workers are now eligible for back pay claims.

E Tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall called it "A huge victory for the labour hire workers at LSG," where labour hire workers are now entitled to the superior pay and conditions included in the LSG Collective Agreement for directly employed workers, and "A victory for the growing number of workers who aren't directly employed by the firms they work for and are deprived of their rights under New Zealand employment law."

The decision documents a classic case of legal obfuscation in the service of exploitation. It exposes the fictions underlying the frequent claim that labour hire workers are 'independent contractors' and insists that in a triangular employment relation it is the company which exercises effective control over the workers, not the formalities of contract law, which determine who is the real employer. Both of the workers had been employed continuously at LSG Sky Chefs for extended periods, working full time. They were paid the minimum legal wage or only slightly above, with no holiday, sick leave or pension entitlements and had to themselves pay for insurance against injury.

In the court proceedings, LSG Sky Chefs explained the presence of large numbers of contract workers as a response to "seasonal fluctuations" in workload. This claim, noted the Court, "was not supported by the evidence. Rather, over time the figures reflect a consistent pattern of hours worked, at consistently high levels." According to the Court, "The labour hire arrangement evidently suited LSG. It meant that the company was not troubled by the usual responsibilities and liabilities associated with an employment relationship. As the contemporaneous documentation reflects, another identified spin-off benefit was that Solutions workers would be able to work through any strike action by LSG employees."

When LSG eventually became concerned about potential legal risks arising from the employment scam, it sought to negotiate an arrangement with the labour hire firm that would offload any potential legal liabilities - and costs - onto the agency, Solutions Personnel Limited. Any such issue, according to the Court documents, would be "sorted and settled immediately by Solutions" and at its cost, and would "never reach to a level that may affect LSG reputation in business or public."

LSG was clearly worried about issues potentially arising from workers' long periods of continuous service in what was ostensibly a temporary employment solution to 'seasonal fluctuations.' "Can you start moving some of your long servers out and replace them", LSG wrote Solutions. "At your own pace is fine as long as it is at least 1 a week." Six days later, LSG wrote Solutions that a number of long serving workers "had to go." One of those 'let go' was Liutofaga Tulai, one of the two workers in the case, who worked for LSG for 4 years up to more than 62 hours per week before she was 'let go'.

The Court dismissed as 'fanciful' claims that the workers were 'independent contractors': "The plaintiffs were integrated into LSG's business. They worked alongside LSG employees doing precisely the same work, in precisely the same way, and wearing precisely the same uniforms. The only distinction, which was not a visible one, was that they were paid less." There is however another distinction, which the excellent Court decision, operating within a confined legal framework, fails to note; the scheme violated agency workers' fundamental human rights.

Source:  International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Associations--IUF uniting 10 million workers in 429 affiliated organizations in 130 countries

Iraq approves ratification of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association

27.11.2017:   Trade unions in Iraq are celebrating after the country's parliament approved ratification of core ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.

A parliamentary source said the House of Representatives voted on 20 November in favour of a draft law that allows the Republic of Iraq to join the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention No. 87 of 1948. IndustriALL Global Union was one of the first to demand that Iraq ratifies ILO Convention 87, which upholds trade union freedoms, during a mission in 2013 to the Iraqi Council of Representatives.

"The ratification of this Convention is a historic achievement for the trade union movement in Iraq, which it has long fought for. It will pave the way towards the legislation of the law on trade union rights and freedoms, which will require a serious effort by Iraqi unions for its enactment," said Hashmeya Alsaadawe, President of the General Union of Electricity Workers and Technicians, and a member of IndustriALL's Executive Committee. "Despite the unstable situation in Iraq, the struggle of the trade union movement, the efforts of the good people of Iraq, and the support and solidarity of international organizations and federations, including IndustriALL Global Union, have brought about this success," she added.

Trade unions hope that in approving ratification of the Convention, the House of Representatives will reject a draft trade union law, which has been strongly criticized by trade unions, and falls short of ILO standards. IndustriALL and its Iraqi affiliates are calling on the parliament to consider a draft proposal called Trade Union Freedoms instead, which has been submitted by Iraqi unions to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

IndustriALL's assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, said: "We congratulate Iraqi trade unions in their significant victory which will go a long way to protecting workers' rights to organize in Iraq. The Iraqi government must now do its upmost to ensure that the freedoms enshrined in Convention 87 are respected, particularly with regards for the new law for trade unions."

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union--IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

UNI President & UNI GS take clear message to the Pope - workers' rights are human rights

23 November 2017:   UNI Global Union's President Ann Selin and UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings are part of a high-level delegation taking part in a two day seminar at the Vatican with his Holiness, Pope Francis.

Ann Selin, who is president of PAM, Finland's Service Union United said, "In his work, the Pope has repeatedly spoken out on the importance of action to reduce poverty. Therefore, it is an honour to be able to discuss with him practical ways to improve the conditions of work and workers' rights around the world."

In his address Jennings will respond to the question, 'what is the new paradigm?' Jennings said it was time to move away from the culture of 'greed is good' to 'greed is dead': "The tools are there, from active labour market policies, equality of opportunity and pay to labour laws that embrace work in all its forms, lifelong learning and more. We must wield them. The labour movement has been a bulwark against the debasement of the person caused by the old paradigm. And we must protect the advances that we have made, but we must also do more than call for more than a better distribution of wealth in our current system. We have to forge a new model. A new paradigm puts the people at the centre of economic development."

Also attending the two day seminar among more than a hundred union leaders are the Director General of the ILO Guy Ryder and the General Secretary of the ITUC, Sharan Burrow.

Source:  UNI Global Union--UNI represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions worldwide

ITUC Joins Call for Action to End Migrant Slave Trade in Libya

22 November 2017:   The ITUC condemns in the strongest terms the abhorrent practice of the sale of migrant workers in Libya. Recent journalistic investigations have revealed that in the absence of the rule of law, migrant workers are increasingly being sold as slaves in Libya and elsewhere.

The ITUC calls on the international community to prioritize support for a process towards political stability and security in Libya and joins the African Union call on the Libyan government to ensure all incidents are thoroughly investigated and that the perpetrators are effectively prosecuted and sanctioned and the victims and their families compensated and rehabilitated.

The resurgence of slavery in our time needs to be a wake-up call for all. The United Nations Global Compact on Migration is a timely opportunity. Only a multilateral initiative based on international solidarity and human rights law providing adequate channels for regular migration - while addressing poverty and conflict in origin countries and discrimination, racism and xenophobia in transit and upon destination - can effectively put a stop to the inhumane treatment and widespread human rights abuses against migrants and refugees in Libya and elsewhere.

Source:  International Trade Union Confederation--ITUC represents 181 million workers in 163 countries and territories and has 340 national affiliates

Asia-Pacific unions condemn attacks on democracy in Cambodia

22 November 2017:   The Asia-Pacific Regional Organisations of three Global Union Federations - BWI, IUF and PSI, representing 378 affiliated trade union organisations with around 15 million combined members across the Asia-Pacific region, including affiliates in Cambodia - condemn in the highest possible terms the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Cambodia to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). This is the most recent political stunt of the Hun Sen Government to crackdown on dissidents.

As guardians of free and democratic institutions and basic human and trade union rights, we deplore the decision of the Supreme Court to dissolve the major opposition party, the CNRP, and the banning of 118 CNRP senior officials from politics for five years. We believe this decision is a serious backwards step for democracy and transparency in Cambodia, severely restricting democratic space and the ability of Cambodian citizens to exercise their fundamental human rights.

These actions are part of an alarming trend towards increasing autocracy in Cambodia. Other recent events include the passage of amendments to the Law on Political Parties that made the Supreme Court's decisions possible, the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha and the closure of three civil society organisations. The assault on the media has resulted in the closure of 17 news media outlets, notably include the Cambodia Daily, one of Cambodia's last independent newspapers.

The ongoing repression of Government critics in Cambodia is nothing new. In 2016 the Government's most ardent critic, Kem Lay, was shot dead in broad daylight in central Phnom Penh. The Cambodian trade union movement vividly remembers the crackdown on the General Strike in 2014 that left six workers dead in Vang Sreng, and the killing of union leader Chea Vichea in 2004. The targeting and jailing of human rights defenders that have called to attention the greed of its ruling class - for labour exploitation, corruption, environmental destruction or the grabbing of natural resources - remains a travesty.

The restriction of space for legitimate trade union organising has severely curtailed economic development for Cambodia's working class. The Trade Union Law 2016 aimed to hand greater control over the growing movement to the Government and Cambodia's ruling elite. We are deeply concerned that the crackdown on civil society organisations will also affect the ability of the Cambodia trade union movement to defend workers' rights. It is clear that these actions were taken because the Cambodia Peoples Party's grip on power is slipping, as Cambodian civil society speaks out in demand of greater freedoms. These freedoms do not lie within the one-party state model that Cambodia is edging towards.

We call on the international trade union movement to similarly condemn the attacks on democracy that have taken place in Cambodia, to denounce the Hun Sen Government, and demand the restoration of democratic institutions in Cambodia.

Signed: Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) - Asia Pacific, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) - Asia Pacific, Public Services International (PSI) - Asia Pacific

Source:  Building and Wood Workers International--BWI uniting 12 million members in 328 trade unions in 130 countries

US meeting identifies common challenges for airline catering workers

A joint ITF-IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association) two-day meeting hosted by the Teamsters and UNITE HERE unions in Baltimore, USA last week examined the common challenges facing airline catering unions around the world.

21/11/2017:   Vince Shaw, Teamsters bargaining committee chair, Gate Gourmet, explained: "We were pleased to see the commitment to coordination between the ITF and IUF in support of airline catering unions, with a particular focus on the two dominant multinationals in the industry: Gate Gourmet and LSG Sky Chefs.

"National sectoral bargaining in the Netherlands and Nordic countries has led to improved conditions, but challenges remain in Latin America and Asia. All of us shared concerns about living wages, irregular hours, the use of agency/temporary workers, and safety and security. All unions were also concerned about the potential impact of increased automation." He concluded: "Many airline catering workers in the USA are working extremely long hours or taking on second jobs to provide for their families. Hourly pay is often at or only slightly above the minimum wage; well below a living wage. Health care benefits often leave members with very high additional bills to pay. There are serious issues with workplace safety, unsafe equipment and security concerns."

A report by ITF civil aviation section secretary Gabriel Mocho showed just how profitable the airline industry is - yet in many countries, airline catering workers have not benefitted from the industry's growth and profitability. A report by IUF international officer, dairy, meat, food processing and catering, examined the ownership structures of the two multinationals and their links to the large airlines in the context of the broader catering industry.

Ashwini Sukthankar, UNITE HERE director of global campaigns, applauded the amount of common ground and learning identified during the meeting and reported that the unions present had agreed to approach both the direct employers and the economic employers in the industry to raise standards for workers.

Luis Velazquez, youth secretary of Argentina's Camioneros (Federación Nacional de Trabajadores Camioneros de Argentina) union described as fantastic the spirit of common purpose shown during the event, which was, he said, another example of the support his union had received in its ongoing struggle to secure proper recognition, and the right to join a union of their choice, for drivers working for Gate Gourmet in Argentina.

Source:  International Transport Workers Federation--ITF representing over 16.5 million transport workers in 654 unions from 148 countries

Journalists' unions worldwide back an IFJ ground-breaking UN Convention on journalists' protection

18/11/2017:   Journalists leaders from around the world today backed a call by the IFJ for a ground-breaking new United Nations Convention aimed at giving greater protection for journalists and journalism in the face of a tide of violence and threats.

The call comes as figures show the numbers of journalists being violently attacked, threatened, jailed and prevented from working free from fear and harassment continues to grow, while impunity for such crimes is running at over 90%.

Journalists union leaders representing 600,000 media workers across the world endorsed the IFJ's proposed International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals at a meeting in Tunisia. The ground-breaking convention would for the first time establish binding standards creating safeguards specifically for journalists and media workers.

While under international humanitarian and human rights law journalists enjoy the same protections as all other civilians, such laws fail to acknowledge that journalists face greater risks compared to other civilians. There is a strategic advantage to be gained from targeting the media - those who wish to prevent the dissemination of information and international scrutiny increasingly deliberately target journalists.

Journalists' deliberate proximity to any conflict also makes them especially vulnerable; unlike other civilians, journalists do not avoid conflict areas. Whilst every individual is entitled to the protection of their right to life, personal liberty, security, freedom of expression and an effective remedy when their rights have been infringed, existing general human rights instruments fail to reflect the systemic effect of attacks against journalists on societies.

Unlike most violations, attacks on journalists' life or physical integrity have an impact on the public's right to information, contribute to a decline of democratic control and have a chilling effect on everyone's freedom of expression. Despite this, there is no independent course of action for members of the public or other media workers in cases of violations of the rights of a journalist to lodge an application for the case to be heard in an international procedure.

The current human rights regime also fails to take into account the risks associated with the journalistic profession. Whilst everyone's right to free speech is protected, the exercise of freedom of expression by media professionals is distinct: they are involved in the circulation of information and ideas on a regular basis, with a much wider impact on mass audiences, hence providing a greater incentive to target them by those who wish to censor unfavourable speech. This public dimension of journalistic speech is under-recognised.

Journalists are targeted on account of their profession, and a dedicated international instrument would enhance their protection and attach particular stigma to violations, increasing pressure on States to both prevent and punish violations, which is at the core of compliance with international law. The IFJ is clear that a new binding international instrument dedicated to the safety of journalists, including a specific enforcement mechanism, would improve the effectiveness of the international response.

The move follows a recent trend towards recognising that media workers face a different situation and may require a category-specific solution. According to UN Security Council Resolution 2222, the work of media professionals "puts them at specific risk of intimidation, harassment and violence in situations of armed conflict". The Council of Europe guidelines for the protection of journalism acknowledge an increase in attacks against journalists "because of their investigative work, opinions and reporting".

The new instrument would provide a helpful codification of all applicable rules in one instrument, bringing together both human rights and humanitarian law provisions. It would include: the obligation to protect journalists against attacks on their life, arbitrary arrest, violence and intimidation campaigns, the obligation to protect against forced disappearances and kidnapping (by state agents or private actors), the obligation to carry out effective investigations into alleged interferences and bring the perpetrators to justice; in the context of armed conflict, the obligation to treat media workers and facilities as civilians (and hence illegitimate targets) and to conduct military operations with due diligence.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "A new international instrument dedicated to the safety of journalists would make an important statement. It would acknowledge their distinctiveness, stemming from the risks to which they are routinely exposed and the value of journalistic work to society. It would intensify international scrutiny over attacks against journalists as well as assisting national authorities in understanding their international obligations, currently fragmented in several treaty provisions and case law.

Such a momentous initiative would make the safety of journalists and everyone's right to information a clear priority for the international community. From today, the IFJ and its affiliates - on behalf of all the victims of those who seek to silence the messenger - commit ourselves to this cause and we look forward to your support in this crucial struggle."

"58 journalists have already been killed this year. Governments will be accountable before the UN General Assembly. Consequently, they will be forced to fulfil their obligations by developing effective judicial mechanisms to bring journalists' attackers to justice. This convention is an important step towards achieving that, added IFJ President, Philippe Leruth.

Source:  International Federation of Journalists--IFJ represents around 600,000 members of unions and associations in 140 countries

UNI GS brings message of sustainable and democratic globalisation to the Web Summit in Lisbon

17 November 2017:   UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings brought the union message of sustainable, responsible and democratic globalisation to the world's largest tech conference, the Web Summit in Lisbon. Over 60,000 people from more than 150 countries packed the Conference to discuss the issues facing an increasingly interconnected world. On a panel featuring the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Guardian journalist Owen Jones, Jennings debated whether globalisation was doomed to benefit only the richest of the rich, or whether it was possible to rethink traditional globalisation.

Owen Jones, who moderated the discussion, opened the session saying, "This is one of the great topics of our times. Can globalization work for the many not the few? The 8 richest men on the earth own the same as the bottom half combined. In Europe, since the financial crash, we have seen devastating cuts to public services and a reversal of labour rights, all whilst slashing taxes for the top earners."

Representing UNI's 20 million workers around the world, Jennings emphatically responded to the question saying, "The answer is a massive yes - there are alternatives to the savage globalisation we have experienced. We just need the guts to present our alternative vision and the political will to mobilise people."

"Financialisation has failed. Neo-liberalism has failed. Working people have suffered from the closing of democratic spaces and workers have been subjected to economic and political violence." "We have to create 600 million jobs in the next 12 years just to keep global unemployment at the same level. We need to find a new way, we need to change the narrative - this model of globalisation has not worked. Globalisation, in its current form, has created a global elite with unprecedented power."

"After sustained pressure from the labour movement and others, we are starting to see that even the G20 said in their summit this year that they would "leave no-one behind" and declared that competition in this global economy should not be based on a race to the bottom and the abuse of workers' rights."

"The UN has adopted sustainable development goals in an attempt to put the global economy on a new path. These goals call for the elimination of child labour by 2025 and to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. Lofty goals, but we need to see action on the ground ina time when we must change the distribution of power. The share of wages in the wealth produced has collapsed and in-work poverty rages." "However, there are solutions, there are alternatives. It's time to change course for a sustainable, democratic and humane globalisation - together we can make it happen."

Prime Minister Antonio Costa of Portugal said, "Globalisation has two faces. On the one hand it has contributed to real reduction in poverty in many countries. We have emerging countries, for example in China millions of people have come out of poverty. On the other, it has increased inequality and middle classes in many developed countries have suffered. Globalisation has not worked for everybody." "It is necessary to find global responses to global issues. We face issues such as climate change which need to be tackled through cooperation. Competition cannot be a race to the bottom - we need strong labour rights, strong environmental regulations and a fairer distribution of wealth to redress the situation."

Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said, "Capital has left the nation state and its obligations to our societies. This creates a rat-race where companies exploit places with cheaper labour, low environmental regulations and no collective labour regulations or human rights." "We have lost the social contract. Our great challenge is to regain that democratic social contract. We need to see a different type of globalization based on humanity, democracy, equity and the protection of human rights.

Source:  UNI Global Union--UNI represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions worldwide

Gold Dust: the human cost of the Grasberg mine crisis

16.11.2017:   IndustriALL has released a documentary film on the effect of the strike at the Grasberg mine on workers and their communities.

Thousands of workers at Freeport's Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, have been without work since being fired for taking strike action in May 2017. Workers are paying the price in a dispute between the company and the Indonesian government over control of the world's largest gold mine.

IndustriALL has made a documentary film, launched at the Executuve Committee meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 9 November, about the effect of the strike on the workers and their families. Workers have lost income, access to health care and education, and in some cases housing. Recently one worker committed suicide after being denied healthcare.

The National Commission on Human Rights in Indonesia found that the sacking of thousands of workers was a violation of human rights. It is calling for their reinstatement.

Source:  IndustriALL Global Union--IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries

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