World of Wages

July 14, 2010

In Hong Kong, people are demanding a minimum wage law – people that is, who earn $2-3 per hour and, as AFP reports, “[say] Hong Kong’s policymakers and business sector have sacrificed them in the name of competitiveness and preserving the city’s free economy.” Business has reacted hysterically, as is to be expected, with one mogul pre-emptively claiming that his firm will issue a profits warning should such a law pass. What a slimeball.

In Greece, the strikes continue to come with a four hour air traffic stoppage due on Thursday one consequence of a planned public sector strike the same day. Civil servants will be taking to the streets while politicians debate when they will be allowed to retire, with a likely increase from 60 to 65 years old, and drastic cut backs to early retirement. Public opinion is dead against such an increase, by the way.

Local people in Sandwell, West Bromwich, England, are protesting over plans to convert their health trust into what’s called a “social enterprise.” They’d rather see services maintained fully within the National Health Service, than have their healthcare needs met by a for-profit body (albeit with profits returned to the system instead of shareholders).  As Trade Unions suggest, this is really “stealth privatization” – and the people of Sandwell will be pivotal in determining how such moves develop across England. Only a few other areas are considering the social enterprise option.

Taiwanese workers have been protesting against the rise of agency (or ‘dispatch’) work on the island, and a planned regulation to normalise the practice, which unions say allows employers to use workers on short term contracts, with few labour rights. Some workers are also making the familiar complaint that agencies are creaming off large fees from their promised wages. Hence, unions are caaling for dispatch work to be outlawed altogether.

Unions in Nigeria, meanwhile, are gearing up to strike over the kidnapping of  journalists on their way home from the National Executive Council meeting of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in the town of Uyo on Sunday. Doctors have promised strike action as has the Radio, Television and Theatre Workers Union if the journalists are not returned – with all parties placing blame on the government, which has allowed Nigeria to lapse into “failed state” territory.

And finally, some dippings into the global oil tank to gauge the health of our capitalismobile… Fewer Britons taking overseas breaks as recession bites as Spain’s premier vows to press on with austerity while the French are taking refuge in costume drama and Italy prepares to pass austerity package and banks in Britain continue to hold back on that lending stuff... while in China, apparently the banks are also wobbling.

Much to ponder.

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