Welcome to the Working Week: 2

January 21, 2010

Ex-Visteon workers are fighting for the pensions in Wales, as Ford – the firm for which they used to work before it hived off its British operations to Visteon in 2000 – refuse to take responsibility. The workers say that Ford gave them “copper bottomed” pledges to protect their pensions, yet the multinational car maker refutes this, saying that all pension responsibilities devolved upon Visteon when they bought the car parts manufacturing business.

Workers have a different spin on events. As Frank Conner told the BBC, “When we spun over from Ford in 2001 to Visteon, the European Works Council made agreements, and the agreements that were signed by the barristers and the unions were that our terms and conditions and pensions would be honoured for life. That’s what we’re holding them on.”

Workers at the Capwest owned Mater Private Hospital in Ireland are striking over planned pay cuts despite, unions say, Capwest making some ten million euros profit in 2009.

Nokia staff at the firm’s Sriperumbudur near Chennai in India are on strike after the suspension of 62 colleagues on “disciplinary” grounds. As M Shanmugam of the local union puts it, the roots of the conflict lie in changes to shift work, which workers are refusing to make. The company has sought to discipline those who refuse, and the workers are refusing to accept this. Hence, the move towards a strike.

Union leaders say that 800 Dutch workers protested outside the country’s parliament as a committee within held talks on raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 by 2025. At the same time, the FNV – Holland’s largest union – has been holding “no fare” protests on the capital’s buses and trams over a four hour period, hitting the government where it hurts.

Around 2000 workers at the Niksicka Zeljezara steelworks in Montenegro have been protesting over “unpaid salaries and the termination of production at the company” according to Balkan Insight. Workers say that they are prepared to launch a program of road blockages and hold further strikes if their concerns are not heard. Apparently, they have not been paid since October 2009, as the plant lies idled by its owners.

Workers at Bramco, a Bahraini mining firm, have threatened strike action if one of their colleagues, union leader Adel Isa, is not reinstated immediately. As Isa says, “I have been targeted because I did not allow the management to browbeat the employees. I have always fought for the rights of the workers and have made sure they are not victimised. The management did not like this and terminated my services.”

Thousands of Indonesian workers protested in the streets of Semarang, on Java, this week against the recently signed ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement. As Tempo Interaktif reports, “Workers convoyed from state broadcaster Radio Republik Indonesia’s office on Jalan Ahmad Yani to the regional parliament office on Jalan Pahlawan to tell the government that the public is not ready to face the free market.” A protest was also held in Surabaya, also on Java.

14 people were arrested at the Berkeley, California yesterday after “they linked hands and surrounded a shuttle bus at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way.” They were protesting against the handing of a contract to run shuttle bus services at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’ to a non-union firm, costing the jobs of 13 bus drivers who have been told that they can be reassigned to “janitor work.”

Sex workers in Greece have been protesting in Athens, demanding the brothel owners be granted licenses, as they themselves are required to do. Apparently, “sex workers have personal permits to exercise their profession, but not to operate brothels” and as a result, “many end up working illegally and facing arrest because they operate out of brothels” making their own licenses somewhat pointless.

5,000 “blue collar” workers plan to walk out in Montreal on Monday. As CBC reports, “The workers, who have been without a contract for more than two years, are set to begin 40 days of job action.” All they want is a pay increase of 10 percent staggered over four years, yet the mayor of the city maintains that the cost of this, some $100 million, is too much to pay. So no garbage collection for Montreal for a while then.

Farmers and fishermen in the Philippine province of Negros Oriental have been protesting in the provincial capital against “the mounting harassments experienced by Negrense farmers and farm workers” as news site Bulatlat puts it. Nine workers are on hunger strike, demanding an end to extrajudicial executions, an end to criminal prosecutions of farmers and comprehensive land reform to provide a living for the landless.

A protest movement is also gearing up in the Indian state of Orissa, where Korean firm POSCO has been given the final go ahead to construct a massive iron and steel plant, with its own captive port, an agreement to secure cut priced iron ore, 150,000 million litres of water and 6,000 acres of land. As IPS News reports, this has caused enormous resistance from local peoples, with “most of the approximately 3,000 acres of land belonging to the forest department hav[ing] been under cultivation for generations, or used by communities for fodder and non-timbre forest produce.” Additionally, some 30,000 fishermen working out of coastal mangroves will be threated as will the Garhirmatha turtle sanctuary, a nesting place for the endangered Olive Ridley turtle.

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