Bosnia-Herzegovina: Proposed Amendment Will Hurt Workers

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Proposed Amendment Will Hurt Workers

The parliament of the Bosnian Federation entity has proposed a labor law amendment that, if enacted, would give employers the authority in any future state of emergency to enact mass layoffs, slash hours and cut many workers’ pay to the minimum wage.

The labor federation in the entity, SSSBiH, adamantly opposes the proposed amendments because they clearly favor employers at the expense of workers during any future state of emergency.

If the text of the draft law is sent to parliamentary procedure, the labor federation said it would “take all necessary actions” to prevent its adoption.

The labor federation’s statement included the following summarized points:

  • The proposed amendments were written behind closed doors without worker consultation.
  • The claim that workers’ rights are protected by the obligation for employers to consult with unions is frivolous.
  • The text of the proposed amendments envisages reduction of worker’s wages by the employer’s unilateral decision during a state of emergency.
  • The amendments include provisions on paid leave without defined compensation, forced unpaid leave and at-will firings by employers, but do not provide increased compensation for essential workers who are exposed to infection during a pandemic.

“In the recent emergency, essential workers, including those in health care, were required to work without sufficient protection for their health. Many became sick on the job, and some died.  Parliament should concentrate on setting standards all employers must meet in any future emergency to protect front-line workers, rather than enabling employers to lay off staff, cut pay and slash hours.” says Solidarity Center Europe/Central Asia Director Rudy Porter.

The federation’s full response to the proposed labor law amendments can be found here.

Brazil Passes Extreme Anti-Worker Labor Law

Brazil Passes Extreme Anti-Worker Labor Law

Brazil workers and their unions are outraged and vowing further protests over a draconian labor law reform the Senate passed yesterday that will weaken labor regulations as well as restrict financing for unions.

The law, which President Michel Temer supports and is expected to sign, will remove all restrictions on outsourcing, dismantle labor rights, including provisions on vacations, overtime and working hours, give more freedom to employers to negotiate individually with workers rather than collectively through unions, and eliminate the “union tax” paid by all formal-sector workers, which is the principal form of financing for union activities in Brazil.

Workers across Brazil rallied over the past weeks to urge lawmakers to vote against the so-called labor law reform bill, which will mean “lay-offs, end of formal employment and legalization of freelancers,” says Central Union of Workers (CUT) President Vagner Freitas.

“The problem already begins with the name, the lie that there is around [it],” Sérgio Nobre, secretary-general of CUT told thousands of metalworkers gathered in São Paulo on Tuesday. “‘Reform’ gives the impression that it is a good thing.” Nobre said the law would serve the interests of large multinational companies, not workers.

Workers across Brazil launched a 24-hour general strike in April, after the lower house approved the bill. Brazil’s Congress debated the law without the participation of CUT or any trade union opposed to its provisions, says Nobre.

Young people, specifically young black workers, will be especially harmed, because young workers are primarily employed in precarious jobs and are the majority of the unemployed, Julia Reis Nogueira, CUT national secretary of racial equality said in May.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) said the law’s provisions violate international conventions signed by Brazil.

Senators opposed to the bill tried to block the vote with a sit-in at the Senate president’s rostrum, but the session resumed after a six-hour delay and lawmakers passed the law by 50-26.

Temer was indicted in the Supreme Court in June by the independent public prosecutors’ office, and on Monday, a congressman leading a lower house committee on the president’s alleged corruption called on lawmakers to allow Brazil’s top court to try the case.

Honduran Unions Win Improved Labor Law

Honduran Unions Win Improved Labor Law

A four-year campaign by Honduran labor unions to improve workplaces and strengthen the rights of workers culminated with the Honduran National Congress approving a new labor inspection law last week.

Honduran unions, working in concert, successfully built a consensus with business and government to ease passage of their proposed new law. In 2015, a tripartite process (government, employers and labor unions) was initiated by the government at the urging of unions to replace the antiquated labor inspection legislation. The participating organizations were COHEP (Honduran Council of Private Enterprise), AHM (Honduran Maquila Association), Honduran Labor Ministry and the three Honduran labor centrals—General Workers Central (CGT), Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH) and the Unified Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH).

The new law promotes, monitors and is designed to ensure that workplace standards, safety and health provisions and social security requirements are upheld. It includes financial penalties for violations of worker rights, including the right to form unions. Employers who threaten workers to derail the process of forming a union can be fined more than $13,000. Those who attempt to thwart a labor inspection face fines of $10,500.

Regulations regarding labor inspections and the amounts of fines for labor law violations had not been changed since passage of the Honduran Labor Code, in 1959. For decades, fines had ranged from $22 to $218. And labor inspectors had been disadvantaged by laws that protected employers over workers’ safety and rights. For example, government inspectors could not close a workplace for health and safety violations, and employers could refuse inspectors’ entry to a work site.

The Solidarity Center supported Honduran unions throughout the process, providing legal advice, analysis and other technical assistance.

Wesam Chaseb: In Iraq, ‘Change Will Start from Unions’

Wesam Chaseb: In Iraq, ‘Change Will Start from Unions’

In 2003 as the Iraq War began, Wesam Chaseb, a young man with a college degree in physics, chose a job with the Iraq Federation of Trade Union (IFTU) Department of Training. His father had been involved in the labor movement until 1981, two years after Saddam Hussein took power. Under his 24-year reign, the rights of workers to form unions were rolled back, including a 1987 ban on collective bargaining, and union leaders were targeted and often killed. His deposition left uncertainty and potential for the future of worker rights in Iraq.

Despite the social divisions that the Iraq war has brought into focus, the Iraqi labor movement has built unity and solidarity among working people throughout the conflict. Merging with two other labor federations, the IFTU became the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), and in 2015—after 12 years of movement-building and three years of collaboration with Parliament—the labor movement pushed a new labor code that defines the right to strike and includes the country’s first legal protections for victims of workplace sexual harassment. The law went into effect in February 2016.

Chaseb, who has managed the Solidarity Center’s work with Iraqi unions and workers since 2011, is particularly proud of the law’s prohibition on sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace; its protection against arbitrary dismissals and the freedom to bargain collectively and strike.

“The first time, some said, ‘No,’ we don’t have sexual harassment in Iraq, we are not like other countries,” explains Chaseb. But after hearing back from women’s committees in several unions that had been established to review the labor code, union leaders became convinced legal protection of women union members against sexual harassment on the job was necessary.

“The leaders listened to the women,” he said.

The outcomes of Chaseb’s labor organizing may depend on lots of external factors, but he feels certain that his work is supporting one of Iraq’s best hopes for peace and social cohesion.

“I keep working with Iraqi unions,” he said, “because I’ve seen that they are the real face of Iraq. There is no discrimination among workers. They ask for an Iraq without violations of human rights.”

As a result, Chaseb says, “the change will start from unions.”

Passage of a new labor code was a significant step forward, but Chaseb is working with Iraqi unions on several other initiatives, including application of the new labor code to public-sector workers, as well as a Freedom of Association law that will bring the country in compliance with International Labor Organization (ILO) standards.


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