The agreement won by the Trade Union of Telecom of Montenegro (STCG) immediately increases workers’ wages by 15 percent and provides an additional 5 percent total wage increase through 2025. Workers also negotiated improved benefits, job cut limits and, for the first time, severance pay.
“The company could not claim any more that the wage increase was inadmissible, given that every year it distributed dividends to shareholders and paid bonuses to already highly paid managers,” says Burić. “Since 2008, their profit has exceeded half a billion euros,” he says.
CT last gave workers a pay raise in 2008, even though consumer prices in Montenegro increased more than 45 percent from 2006 through 2021, and workers have been carrying an increased workload. The company slashed jobs by almost two-thirds since Deutsche Telecom took majority ownership, says STCG.
During its ongoing wage battle with the union, CT violated the country’s labor law by threatening to abolish the union’s collective agreement and refusing to negotiate with workers’ democratically elected leaders, say unions.
The agreement was won in spite of CT’s effort to violate numerous fundamental labor rights in the most egregious way,” says STCG President Željko Burić.
A survey of tannery workers living in Hemayetpur, Bangladesh, is illustrating how the impact of industrial pollution, harsh working conditions and low wages is leaving workers, their families and their communities increasingly vulnerable to ever-increasing climate-related shocks in the country.
“When combined with the health consequences of environmental degradation and the climate crisis, the compounding impacts on workers, their families and their communities are devastating,” says Sonia Mistry, Solidarity Center climate and labor justice global lead.
More than 200 tannery workers were surveyed for a study conducted with Solidarity Center support by Jagannath University Associate Professor Mostafiz Ahmed. Early findings include:
More than half of those surveyed say their employment prospects have been negatively affected by environmental impacts. Of this number, nearly 70 percent report consequences from environmentally related illnesses, including wage cuts.
More than 80 percent say their wages are too low to meet their family’s needs and more than 90 percent are working without a contract. Precarious employment exacerbates vulnerabilities to ongoing climate shocks, reducing resilience for entire communities.
The majority (75 percent) of participants have suffered work-related broken bones, and a similar number experience respiratory problems—including asthma.
Leather production is one of Bangladesh’s oldest industries, and the country’s leather exports satisfy one-tenth of world demand. For decades, tanneries in the main industrial site in Dhaka dumped 22,000 cubic meters of toxic waste daily into the Buriganga River, wiping out aquatic life and polluting ground water needed for drinking.
Amid increasing international pressure about toxic tannery-related environmental and working conditions, the government in 2017 ordered approximately 25,000 tannery workers and their families to move from Hazaribagh, a Dhaka neighborhood and one of the most polluted places on Earth, to the newly built Tannery Industrial Estate in Hemayetpur. Although the new site provides a central effluent treatment plant, all factory sludge and effluents are still not being treated and environmental threats remain.
The full report will be published next month.
“Engaging with workers and their unions through collective bargaining and policy development is essential to improving working conditions and developing climate and environmental solutions, both of which are necessary to build resilience for workers and their communities,” says Mistry.
For the second time this year a leader of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) was arrested, this time for suspicion of insulting a public official at a protest outside the country’s Ministry of Culture building. The arrest of the UGTT’s secretary for culture, Abdel Nasser Ben Amara last month—who has since been acquitted in court—is having a chilling effect on union work in the country and their efforts to represent workers’ interests, say unions.
The UGTT with civil society organizations last year convened a national initiative for the restoration of democracy after more than 90 percent of the country’s voters stayed away from Tunisia’s widely criticized December 2022 parliamentary elections. Workers last month took part in a series of rallies across the country to protest the government’s increased aggression against the union and its members, including arrest of general secretary of the highway workers’ union, Anis Kaabi. On Saturday more than 3,000 people joined a UGTT-organized rally calling for the government to accept “dialogue.”
Union members who legally exercise their rights in Tunisia, such as the freedom to strike, have been increasingly targeted, according to data from the UGTT, which found that the percentage of cases filed against union members rose in 2022, with a quarter of them directed against women. The government through February had filed more than 60 cases against union members for exercising their internationally recognized labor rights, according to UGTT, which says the numbers indicate a stepped-up effort to diminish the union’s power and turn public opinion against it.
The UGTT, which represents more than 1 million members, in 2015 shared a Nobel Peace Prize with three other civil society groups for promoting national dialogue in Tunisia.
A survey of more than 600 workers with disabilities in Nigeria’s formal and informal sectors, conducted by the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Women Commission and the Solidarity Center in collaboration with Nigerian unions and disability rights organizations, finds that most workers with disabilities cannot access decent work as defined by the UN International Labor Organization (ILO).
“It provides evidence for what we have been saying for so long [and is] a powerful tool for advocacy,” says Nigeria disability advocate and FAECARE Foundation Executive Director Ndifreke (Freky) Andrew-Essien.”
“Securing Equal Access to Decent Work in Nigeria: A Report by Workers with Disabilities,” reports quantitative data collected from 322 men and 338 women workers with disabilities across seven geopolitical zones and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria, supported by qualitative data collected from union members. The study—for its sample size and breadth, as well as for the collaboration between trade unions and disability rights organizations—is the first of its kind. An estimated 1 billion people experience disability worldwide, the majority in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Report on Disability, between 25 million and 27 million people experience a disability in Nigeria, the majority of whom live below the poverty line. Indeed, disability, gender and low socioeconomic status interact to keep people in poverty.
The survey found that, regardless of legislation aimed at addressing diversity in the Nigerian workplace, disabled workers do not experience the same access to employment opportunities as their counterparts without disabilities and often face physical, social, economic and/or environmental barriers to participation.
Findings and Recommendations
Most of the 660 workers surveyed are self-employed and in the informal sector. Almost half of respondents earn less than Nigeria’s minimum wage and say their work environment is not accommodating to their disability. Most (62 percent) cite transportation as the most significant obstacle to accessing work, followed by a lack of disability-friendly facilities (33 percent) and poor communication with or unsupportive co-workers (19 percent). Nearly a quarter of disabled workers say they work more than eight hours without overtime pay. A similar number had experienced gender-based violence or harassment (GBVH) during the previous two years.
Researchers conclude that a variety of actions—by the Nigerian government, employers and unions—could build an inclusive working environment that respects, includes and accommodates disabled workers. This includes the revision of laws to outline reasonable accommodations in employment and the creation of a disability tax fund to provide adequate social security benefits. In addition, unions, along with disabled workers, should work together to demand reasonable accommodations at work and greater accessibility.
The ILO defines decent work as work that is available to all equally, is productive and delivers a fair income and security in the workplace, provides equal access to social protections—such as pensions, and adequate and affordable healthcare—and affords workers freedom to participate equally in decisions affecting their work lives.
To address obstacles preventing elimination of gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in the world of work, union women and their allies marked International Women’s Day with a public event advocating for ratification of UN International Labor Organization Convention 190 (C190).
Women in Kyrgyzstan are routinely subjected to various forms of discrimination—including unequal pay and lack of opportunities for career advancement—and harassment that includes sexual harassment, verbal abuse and even mockery, said Textile and Light Industry Trade Union Chairman Almash Zharkynbaeva.
“[GBVH] harms women’s mental health and well-being, leading to long-term emotional and psychological trauma,” says Zharkynbaeva.
The event was convened to recognize publication of a March 2 ratification motion that moved the draft law to parliament and, on March 8 International Women’s Day, opened the draft law to public comment on Kyrgyzstan’s draft law public discussion portal.
Publication of the draft law represents a three-year Solidarity Center campaign to educate government officials, labor inspectors, unions and the public on the use of C190 to end violence and harassment in the world of work. The Solidarity Center secured commitments from trade unions and parliamentarians to support the ratification process, advised on language now included in three union bargaining agreements to protect workers from violence and harassment, and coordinated a sectoral union campaign appealing to the Ministry of Labor for ratification of C190.
The convention is a powerful tool to combat discrimination and harassment in the world of work, says Eldiyar Karachalov, chair of the Republican Committee of the Trade Union of Construction and Building Materials Workers, but significant progress will require unwavering commitment from employers, workers and the government.
C190 was adopted during the ILO’s annual meeting in Geneva in 2019 following a decade-long campaign by women trade unionists and feminist activists, led by the International Trade Union Confederation, the Solidarity Center and other labor allies. Since 2019, 25 countries have ratified the convention, of which ten have begun enforcement.
Hear more about the global campaign to end GBVH in the world of work.
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