Workers' News Round-Up

Submitted by AWL on 22 July, 2005 - 5:30

News from working-class struggles across the world.

India

Half a million Indian tea workers are on indefinite strike demanding better wages and conditions. The strike has stopped work in the West Bengal’s 350 tea plantations, including in the famous hill district of Darjeeling for more than a week.

Tea workers’ unions say they will not accept the productivity-linked wages that the Indian Tea Association has demanded. Unions want the daily wage rate in Bengal to be doubled and other bonuses paid.

Workers are also planning road blockades on the highway that connects India's north-eastern states with the rest of the country. If the strike spreads to neighbouring Assam, most of the Indian tea industry will be crippled as the two states account for nearly 85% of the country’s total tea output.

South Africa

More than 200,000 municipal workers in South Africa came out on strike on 12 July after rejecting a derisory pay offer from their employers, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) backed the nationwide strike.

Municipal workers want a 9% wage increase and a minimum wage. The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) said 25,000 workers demonstrated outside SALGA’s offices in
Johannesburg on the day of the strike.

Several other South African trade unions have already embarked on strike action, while others have threatened strikes to win to wage rises.

Glass industry unions Solidarity, the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (CEPPAWU), General Industry Workers Union (GIWU) and the South African Chemical Workers Union (SACWU), representing 6,000 workers, went on strike on 15 July for an 8% pay rise.

And strike action on 12 July by over 190,000 workers in the steel and engineering industry was only averted after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) accepted an 6.8% pay rise for lowest paid grades and 5.2% for highest paid grades.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh was gripped by a nationwide strike on 16 July called by workers in the jute, cotton and textile sectors against government’s decision to close down some of their mills and factories.

Picketing in the capital Dhaka also shut private offices, banks and schools and hardly any public transport ran.

The Jute, Cotton and Textile Mill Workers called another a 24-hour strike at all mills and factories on Saturday, demanded reopening of all closed mills and factories and a minimum wage and no price rises for consumer goods.

Zambia

Strikes over pay at three mines and a smelter have brought copper production in Zambia to a virtual halt in the last week.

Workers at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) Nkana smelter
and Konkola and Nchanga mines have come out. Nkana is Zambia's biggest copper smelter, and the two other Konkola mines account for most of the country's total finished copper output. KCM is 79% owned by UK-listed Vedanta Resources Ltd. Workers at a third site - the Chinese-owned Chambishi mine - have also joined the strike.

Workers at the KCM-owned mines and smelter are demanding a 100% pay rise, but management refused to offer more than 30%. Chambishi workers are demanding a 50% pay rise while management is offering 10%. Most are members of the Mine Workers’ Union of Zambia.

According to some reports, some miners have looted company property and stoned a Konkola executive.

Canada

Canadian health care unions representing workers who clean hospitals and feed patients are fighting multinational Sodexho after privatisation has decimated pay and conditions in the sector.

Since privatisation in 2002, wages have been cut almost in half. Nearly 90% earn $10.15 (£5) an hour – meaning that full-time Sodexho workers fall well below the poverty line.

Nearly half the workers have other jobs to make ends meet, and most go to work sick because of poor health and safety, no job security and minimal sick time.

Sodexho’s chief operating officer Michel Landel pocketed more than $1.4 million (£630,000) in salary and fringe benefits last year. Sodexho also has contracts in the UK.

The Hospital Employees’ Union is campaigning for a collective agreement covering over one thousand workers in the province of British Columbia. Last year it organised a strike to improve conditions.

Solidarity messages via LabourStart, www.labourstart.org

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