International unions

Myanmar's workers appeal for solidarity

On 3 April Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said that the Burmese security forces have killed 550 people, including 46 children, since the 1 February military coup. In parts of the country inhabited mainly by the minority Karen people, the coup regime has begun carrying out airstrikes, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands. Still, many thousands, including striking workers, continue to protest in the streets across Myanmar. Corporations with suppliers producing garments in Myanmar have refused to accede to workers’ demands for protection if they continue to...

Hong Kong activists face sentences on 16 April

HKCTU general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan (centre) On Thursday 1 April nine leaders of Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front, were convicted of organising and participating in an unauthorised assembly. Those convicted include most of the long term leading activists of the movement for democracy in Hong Kong, including 82 year old Martin Lee, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) leader Lee Cheuk-yan and socialist activist Leung Kwok Hung (“Long Hair”). Sentencing was delayed for two weeks to 16 April. Prison sentences of up to five years for each offence may be handed down. Whilst waiting...

Vale Peter Simpson, 1963-2020

A tribute to Peter Simpson, lifelong activist with the Electrical Trades Union and Queensland state secretary 2009-2016

Bit by bit workers’ rights are being eroded

The Morrison government withdrew most of the remaining provisions of its industrial relations “Omnibus Bill” when cross-bench Senators’ amendments gutted the bill of its main intentions – to increase employer flexibility in offering hours of work, and to allow employer designed Enterprise Agreements to be imposed without union and worker approval, in certain contexts. The sop to get this through was to be a law against wage theft (i.e. employer failure to pay the full award or agreement rates), and a “pathway” for casual workers to become permanent, if their boss doesn’t circumvent. The bill...

Stand with Myanmar's workers

“One cannot overstate the heroism of the Myanmar union movement right now in the fight against the military dictatorship, nor the horror of the military’s ongoing crimes against humanity.” So wrote Andrew Saks, a US union organiser working in Myanmar, on 19 March. (See Saks' Twitter for regular English-language updates.) There is now a steady flow of killings by the regime. Current estimates in the international media, which Burmese activists say are too low, are around 250. 14 March saw almost a hundred killings, two thirds in the Yangon factory suburb of Hlaing Tharyar. The military is...

Myanmar: "We need international solidarity"

Khaing Zar Aung, President of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar and a member of the executive of the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar, spoke to us about the situation there.

Workers' control and the Chicago model

On 6 February, the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) issued a “framework... relating to resumption of in-person instruction” to its membership, and their vote to ratify was reported on 10 February. That framework included familiar features. Every CPS (Chicago Public Schools) facility must have sufficient hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes, “sneeze guards”, medical grade face coverings, and PPE. But some is unfamiliar — and can be a model for us in schools, and other workplaces too. The framework agreement says: “The Union and the Board [management] will create two levels of Covid-19 safety...

New repression in Hong Kong

On Sunday 28 February 47 participants in Hong Kong’s democratic primaries last June were charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion”, a charge that brings a possible life sentence. The hearing of bail requests from the 47 slowed down court proceedings. Only six were heard before the normal end of court business. The court continued until 2:30am, when Clarisse Yeung, one of the defendants, collapsed and had to be taken to hospital. Another three were also taken to hospital, including Leung Kwok Hung. It looks as though all bail will be refused and all will be remanded in prison for the next...

Black workers take on Amazon

A union organising drive at Amazon’s new fulfillment centre (BMH1) in Bessemer, Alabama, a majority Black and working-class city adjacent to Birmingham, began in the late summer of 2020, when a handful of workers, fed up with stressful working conditions, intrusive monitoring and lack of safety during the pandemic, contacted the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union has a high profile in the region, where it has organised poultry workers, many of whom are African American, as are around 85% of the BMH1 workers. From the beginning, Amazon mounted a massive anti-union propaganda...

Burmese junta declares labour movement illegal

Since this article was written on 1 March the military has escalated its crackdown, killing and injuring dozens of protesters. More soon. See here for regular updates. In the last days of February Myanmar’s military regime killed at least 18 people and injured dozens more, using live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas against striking workers and protesters. On 26 February the regime’s spokesman read out a list of sixteen trade unions and working-class organisations, declaring them illegal and promising persecution if they and their members continue to mobilise against the coup. The...

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