Update: Striking mine workers are standing strong despite the Peru Ministry of Labor declaring their strike illegal during a second appeal process yesterday and company threats to fire all the workers if they do not return to work by Wednesday. Construction workers, members of the Peruvian General Workers Confederation (CGTP), announced that they will join the strike in solidarity.
On Sunday, police fired tear gas at strikers as they walked a picket line near an industrial railroad bridge above the Osmore River. The striking workers now control both sides of the bridge, preventing rail passage of the minerals from the mines to the nearby town of Ilo, where there is the refinery and the port. On Tuesday, the SUT-SPCC union is conducting worker assemblies in Ilo to make decisions for next steps.
Some 2,000 miners on strike at Southern Copper Corp. in Peru (SPCC) are meeting with government negotiators again today over issues that prompted their walkout: improved profit-sharing, better medical care, an end to company surveillance of workers and the reinstatement of dismissed workers. (Workers and their families rally in this video.)
Miners’ families rallied in support of the striking workers. Credit: Colectivo Resistencia Sur Tacna
The miners, members of the Sindicato Unificado de la Southern y Anexos (SUT SPCC), went on strike last week after negotiations broke down, halting operations at the Toquepala and Cuajone mines. The union’s general secretary, Jorge Campos, was arbitrarily dismissed in 2016, according to the miners, and his reinstatement is among their demands.
From the United States, the United Steelworkers condemned the company’s attempts to fire striking workers and the decision of the Peruvian Labor Ministry to declare the strike illegal. The ministry argued the issues are not subject to collective bargaining and the union has appealed the ruling.
IndustriALL Director Fernando Lopes also condemned the actions of the company, noting it is part of Grupo Mexico, “known for its violations of freedom of association in Mexico and the USA. Peruvian workers will not let the company do the same thing to them. We extend all our support to the union and the federation.”
Also, IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanches wrote to SPCC company president, Oscar González Rocha, to urge him to negotiate in good faith with the SUT SPCC.
The SUT SPCC is affiliated to the National Federation of Miners and Metalworkers of Peru (FNTMMSP), which is in turn affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.
Workers who migrate to other countries for jobs often do not know their rights when they arrive, and many, like domestic workers, toil in isolation, where they are easily exploited by employers.
Rosalie Ewengue, a domestic worker in Morocco from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was among them. But after taking part in an awareness-raising campaign with Afrique Culture Maroc, she learned about her rights in the country and on the job, including how to apply for legal status—and now helps other domestic workers do the same.
Working with the Collectif des Travailleurs Migrants au Maroc (Morocco Migrant Workers Organization), in partnership with the Solidarity Center, Rosalie is reaching out to migrant domestic workers across Morocco.
Rosalie’s story is the latest personal narrative on the Solidarity Center Workers Equality Forum. The online, interactive Equality Forum connects working people and amplifies their voices by enabling them to share their stories, joys, struggles and strategies to better their lives and livelihoods.
Tamar Barisashvili, Georgian language teacher and ESFTUG member, in the classroom. Credit: Lela Mepharishvili
In a precedent-setting move, the union representing teachers in Georgia signed a pact with the education ministry last month, signaling the new government’s willingness to partner with teachers—although unions in other sectors, including the railways and postal sector remain under attack. Unions in Georgia have struggled for their right to organize for more than a decade now, including under former president Mikheil Saakashvili.
“The decision of the Minister of Education and Science to sign the sectoral agreement shows clearly how democratic processes are developing and the democratic management in the education sector is being established,” said the president of the ESFTUG education union, Maia Kobakhidze, representing teachers.
Committing the ministry to work in partnership with the ESFTUG, the agreement sets a path for cooperation on laws and regulations affecting teachers, collective agreements with the union regarding teachers’ compensation, work conditions and benefits, as well as any new education initiatives.
In recognition of the significance of the agreement, the signing ceremony in Tblisi on March 16, 2017, by ESFTUG’s Kobakhidze and Education Minister Aleksandre Jejelava was widely covered by media, and gathered together 300 guests. Attendees included representatives of the teachers, ministry officials, members of the diplomatic corps, including the U.S. Embassy, the International Labor Organization (ILO), the global union federation Education International (EI) and several nongovernmental organizations.
Jejelava thanked ESFTUG during his speech for giving his ministry the opportunity to work with the union to create better conditions for teachers and defend their rights, so they may better serve Georgia’s children.
The Solidarity Center has partnered with Georgian trade unions for almost two decades, providing programs that support legislative research and training in defense of worker and union rights, promote activities designed to increase union integration and coordination, help unions represent their members and reach out to unorganized workers, and educate workers about principles of democratic trade unionism.
A Solidarity Center video that shows how unions are key to reversing the dynamic that fuels low wages and unsafe workplaces in the global supply chain won the top award in the Social Responsibility category of the 2017 Telly Awards. The Telly Awards honor the best in TV and cable, digital and streaming, and non-broadcast productions.
Produced by Next Day Animations, the short “white board” video explains that by using collective power to counter the interconnected effects of global supply chains, government inaction, poverty and economic inequality, workers “improve their workplaces, their wages, their families’ living conditions—and they use that power to improve their communities and build democracy.”
In a statement, Next Day Animations says “we are thrilled by this honor and grateful for our awesome partner organizations who helped make it happen.”
Even as an uneasy but relative peace takes hold in northeastern Nigeria, the death toll and violence of the past several years is having long-term effects on returning teachers, healthcare workers and civil servants in Borno state, according to a joint survey completed by public-sector unions last month.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Borno State Wing, estimates that it has lost more than 500 members, some to homemade bombs hurled at concrete classrooms. The Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Borno state, counted losses in the hundreds. The Borno state branch of the Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) estimates more than 70 members were killed by gunshot or bomb blast.
Although many public-sector workers are now returning to their jobs, Mamman Bukar, Borno state NCSU Chairman, said almost 75 percent of civil servants represented by the union who are back on the job are struggling.
“People have started moving around, doing their normal jobs” he said, but, “some lost their senses because of the trauma of the situation.”
A male healthcare worker, for example, described a bloody armed assault on the hospital in which he was working on February, 11, 2014, when insurgents raided the pharmacy and murdered his supervising physician. Although the worker spoke on camera to record the eyewitness account, he asked for safety reasons that his interview and name not be publicly released.
Others described similar violent scenes at their workplace: “Then I saw half of a body on the ground,” said a civil servant with the Ministry of Agriculture, describing the aftermath of a bomb attack in May last year on the State Secretariat in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri. He also asked to remain anonymous.
Nurse-midwife Liyatu Haruma, who surveyed members of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, said she learned that the long-term impact on her colleagues is, “deep and close.” Many of them were injured, had their houses burned or witnessed people being killed, she said.
Borno state teacher Muhammad Kirala, who collected eyewitness accounts from his colleagues, said teachers he interviewed described watching colleagues “slaughtered like animals,“ with knives, run down by vehicles, or killed in bomb blasts as they attempted to escape gunmen.
Workers also reported serious economic consequences of the violence on them and their families, including the loss of income during long periods when their workplaces were too dangerous or damaged to access. Many who were injured said they did not receive compensation for medical expenses. Some said they could not pay for the health care they need to return to work successfully, and that the state is not providing support.
“[They] don’t have money to remove bullets from them,” said Yusuf Inuwa, head of the Borno state Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN).
Several workers showed interviewers remaining physical damage, including shrapnel still embedded under their skin.
A civil servant who spent almost four months in the hospital recovering from severe bomb-blast injuries to his leg and foot—and reporting anonymously for safety reasons—said he had received emergency funds from his union, but no salary for the time he was in the hospital nor government compensation for his injuries.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the proper response of ILO member states in post-conflict situations within their borders is promotion of full employment and special action to assist all persons whose usual employment has been interrupted, per Recommendation No. 71– Employment (Transition from War to Peace), 1944. A revision of the Recommendation, which began last year, will include new post-conflict state responsibilities, including promoting employment, reinforcing state institutions, and fostering social protection, social dialogue and respect for fundamental rights.
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