“Hello my name is Jésus Maria Lora , I am Dominican. I belong to the Dominican Pepsi Company/Frito Lay union (SINTRALAYDO). Here is a bit of my history and what we have achieved by being organised as a trade union.
“I have worked for the company for 10 years, I am education secretary.
“What can I say, having succeeded in getting our collective contract has been a tough, but at the same time, good experience. We have been fighting for about nine years for this. Nine years ago we had a situation which was one of precariousness for the workers, then we got involved in this daily struggle—well, day after day—our achievement was this collective contract; that’s why I am telling you my story.
“Don’t give up, keep your head high, and always fight for what you want, because if you do that, you will always achieve what you want as we did in the Dominican Republic. It’s been a success, a great achievement, this collective agreement. We have gained the confidence of the workers (women and men) through social media and the community.
“This has allowed us to be accepted, trusted by the workers and their families as well, to achieve this great level of support on social media that we invite you to copy from us, this struggle we have won, this experience we have acquired, which has been very good, I hope you achieve it too and above all, unity! Wherever there is unity, you will always achieve what you want to achieve.
At a funeral service in Lima, Peru, dozens of street cleaners yesterday mourned the death of their colleague, Rosa Mamani Apaza, a street cleaner who was killed on the job August 29 by stray gunfire as bullets flew nearby during an apparent late morning robbery. Several other bystanders were injured.
Mamani, 44, worked for more than 30 years at a company that had been contracted by the city of Lima, cleaning sidewalks and streets in the city’s historic Jirón de la Union, where she was killed, one block from presidential palace.
She supported her two children, ages 12 and 17, and had migrated to Lima from Puno, a town in southeastern Peru, for better job opportunities.
Mamani “was a woman who always fought for her rights,” says Raúl Oviedo, secretary general of SITOBUR, the union that represents service workers at Innova Ambiental, the company where Mamani worked. “She always looked to improve working conditions.”
Oviedo discussed the importance of her work, which helped “maintain public health for the inhabitants of Lima.” Yet union leaders say the company, which employs 1,200 workers, the vast majority of whom are women, has not taken steps to secure the safety of its employees, who are on temporary contracts even though the country’s labor laws stipulate they should be permanent.
Even as mourners gathered at Mamani’s funeral, Innova fired six cleaners. Innova is owned by Brazilian Grupo Solvi, which owns 30 cleaning companies in Brazil.
Further, the city of Lima does not have a contract with Innova, a situation that further increases the workers’ precarity.
Street Workers Want Company to Address Harsh Working Conditions
Apaza Ordóñez, president of Peru’s congressional Labor Commission, decried the poor working conditions of the public-sector street cleaners and demanded the company detail the security measures it provides workers.
Public-sector cleaners like Mamani are exposed to daily hazards on the job, including sexual harassment and long exposure to harsh weather, and must handle dangerous equipment, such as trash compactors. SITOBUR, which tweets about the conditions workers face, was recently blocked by the city from its Twitter feed.
In July, workers waged a brief strike, demanding the company provide safe and functional tools and protective equipment, as well as access to bathrooms for women cleaners and access to lunchrooms. Workers also say they have difficulty taking sick leave.
The Solidarity Center is conducting a research project with SITOBUR to document the most common forms of gender-based violence street cleaners face on the job. This data, along with strategies for women workers facing gender-based violence in the export-oriented agriculture and health sectors, will inform recommendations for improving national-level policies to strengthen prevention and penalties and integrate best practices in workplaces.
For years, Kyin San, like many rice farmers in Myanmar, worried that her land would be confiscated for large-scale development, as had so many other farms over the years.
But now, Kyin Sun says, farmers are no longer hesitant to negotiate with the government to settle disputes. Along with 10,000 other farmers in the Hlae Ku Township, Kyin Sun has joined the Agriculture and Farmer Federation of Myanmar (AFFM), part of the Confederation of Trade Unions–Myanmar (CTUM).
“Through CTUM, we have made much progress,” she says.
As a young woman working in her company’s IT department, Jayne Muthoni Njoki was frustrated by what she says were employer attempts to push her around because of her youth and sex. But rather than quit her job, which she contemplated, she ran for a leadership position in her union, determined to work with others to make change on the job—and in society.
“I needed to fight for people whose voice can’t be heard,” she says.
Now 31, Njoki is the only young person in elected leadership in the Central Organization of Trade Unions–Kenya (COTU-Kenya), a Solidarity Center partner, and also president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)-Africa Young Workers Committee.
Njoki discussed how she is working through unions in Kenya and around Africa to educate and train young workers, especially young women, this week on the Working Life podcast, hosted by Jonathan Tasini (Njoki’s interview starts at 30:02).
Many Young Workers Work in Jobs that Don’t Pay Enough to Get by
With 71 million young people around the world unable to secure employment and 156 million more working poor because they have unstable income in the informal economy, the lack of jobs that pay living wages “is a global issue,” she says.
“We need to now think of the informal sector. When I talk of informal economy, that’s where you see the majority of young people are based.
“But unfortunately, we don’t think the informal sector is part of the economy.” Enabling informal-economy workers to have a voice through unions and associations is key to advancing their rights as workers—and once the informal economy is organized, “then everything will fall into place,” she says.
Through COTU-Kenya, which she says has encouraged young workers and women to become union leaders, Njoki also is working to create awareness among domestic workers about their rights and advance their efforts to become union leaders. Many are sexually harassed and assaulted, and fearful of speaking out about their treatment, she says.
Women workers and even women leaders “can’t come out because they are afraid, they are threatened. It’s not easy to come out and say ‘this is my right [to not experience gender-based violence on the job]’ as a young person, as a young lady.”
As she takes on the challenges facing young workers, Njoki is optimistic about the future. “So many ladies, even young people and young men, they are ready to listen and they are ready to work together so we can drive the agenda together.”
Iraqi union leader Sultan Mutlag Ahmed won unpaid compensation for construction workers after participating in a Solidarity Center labor law training in which he learned about worker rights under the country’s new labor law.
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