Lesotho Garment Workers Strike, Win Back Pay

Lesotho Garment Workers Strike, Win Back Pay

Tens of thousands of garment workers in Lesotho waged a successful one-day strike for unpaid wages, returning to work after the government agreed over the weekend to honor the agreement it made in April to pay workers during the novel coronavirus lockdown.

Some 50,000 workers will now receive the $47 pay they were promised in April when their unions negotiated three months’ salary with the government. After paying one installment, the government refused to provide the rest of the negotiated wages. The workers are represented by the United Textile Employees (UNITE), National Clothing, Textile and Allied Workers’ Union (NACTWU) and the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL).

“The strike was very successful because workers have now realized that without them coming together as one, there is nothing that they will get,” says IDUL Deputy General Secretary May Rathakane.

“They have realized that without unity, there is nothing and unions working together made them realize the importance of unity.”

Unions say the government deployed special forces in the capital, Maseru, and surrounding areas, with police shooting one worker three times with rubber bullets, and beating and arresting others.

Cambodia Casino Workers Win Big Wage Gains

Cambodia Casino Workers Win Big Wage Gains

Thousands of casino workers at NagaWorld hotel and casino complex in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, won a wage increase that boosts pay between 18 percent and 30 percent and secured the reinstatement of union president Sithar Chhim, who was suspended from her job in September for defending the right of a union member to wear a shirt with a message that called for higher wages. The agreement also provides a $200 incentive for workers without health insurance and a bonus equal to roughly two months’ salary, says Chhim.

Cambodia, NagaWorld, casino strike, wages, Solidarity Center

Credit: Solidarity Center

Some 5,000 of the 8,000 workers—including dealers, slot machine workers, housekeepers and technicians—struck the casino January 9, and more than 4,000 rallied outside the complex for two days with signs saying “Demanding living wages is a right, not a crime!” and holding placards with photos of Chhim seeking her reinstatement. Chhim, a game floor supervisor, is branch president for the Khmer Employees’ Labor Rights Support Union of NagaWorld.

NagaCorp, a five-hotel resort and casino, has an exclusive, multidecade license to operate in Phnom Penh and reported an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue last year, up from $1.5 billion in 2018. Yet housekeepers are paid $191 per month.

Cambodia, NagaWorld casino strike, police, Solidarity Center

Police at NagaWorld hotel and casino as workers rallied outside. Credit: Solidarity Center

In May, nearly all 4,000 union members signed a petition demanding a wage increase, and the union began negotiations with the employer in June. When the company did not return to the bargaining table after three months as it indicated it would, more than 1,500 union members met September 19 and agreed to wear T-shirts with a message highlighting the company’s profits and expressing workers’ need for a wage that pays their rent, food, transportation and other basic monthly expenses.

The next day, Chhim was detained for hours at the facility and suspended. Union members immediately walked out in support of her. Sithar told Equal Times she then urged her colleagues to continue to work as usual, while organizing subtle protest actions, which included union members wearing pink face masks, black armbands and other markers of solidarity as they enter and exit the tightly guarded checkpoints of the complex.

After the union provided legal notice of the strike, the company continued hiring new workers, providing them accommodation and food in the company’s building and prohibiting them from leaving the facilities or contacting their families, according to the union.

Challenging Environment for Workers

The casino workers’ victory is all the more notable because of the many recent challenges to worker wrights in Cambodia.

Union leaders say amendments to 10 articles in Cambodia’s Law on Trade Unions restrict fundamental union activities. For instance, one amendment deprives unions of their right to hold legal strikes. “[Holding] a legal strike is always difficult, and I think the barriers in the Trade Union Law have actually made it more difficult,” says William Conklin, Solidarity Center Cambodia country director.

Cambodia’s labor rights are currently under intense scrutiny, as the European Union decides whether to rescind the nation’s  preferential trade status that grants Cambodian exports duty-free access into EU markets.

Cambodia Casino Workers Win Big Wage Gains

Cambodia Casino Workers Win Big Wage Gains

Thousands of casino workers at NagaWorld hotel and casino complex in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, won a wage increase that boosts pay between 18 percent and 30 percent and secured the reinstatement of union president Sithar Chhim, who was suspended from her job in September for defending the right of a union member to wear a shirt with a message that called for higher wages. The agreement also provides a $200 incentive for workers without health insurance and a bonus equal to roughly two months’ salary, says Chhim.

Cambodia, NagaWorld, casino strike, wages, Solidarity Center
Credit: Solidarity Center

Some 5,000 of the 8,000 workers—including dealers, slot machine workers, housekeepers and technicians—struck the casino January 9, and more than 4,000 rallied outside the complex for two days with signs saying “Demanding living wages is a right, not a crime!” and holding placards with photos of Chhim seeking her reinstatement. Chhim, a game floor supervisor, is branch president for the Khmer Employees’ Labor Rights Support Union of NagaWorld.

NagaCorp, a five-hotel resort and casino, has an exclusive, multidecade license to operate in Phnom Penh and reported an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue last year, up from $1.5 billion in 2018. Yet housekeepers are paid $191 per month.

Cambodia, NagaWorld casino strike, police, Solidarity Center
Police at NagaWorld hotel and casino as workers rallied outside. Credit: Solidarity Center

In May, nearly all 4,000 union members signed a petition demanding a wage increase, and the union began negotiations with the employer in June. When the company did not return to the bargaining table after three months as it indicated it would, more than 1,500 union members met September 19 and agreed to wear T-shirts with a message highlighting the company’s profits and expressing workers’ need for a wage that pays their rent, food, transportation and other basic monthly expenses.

The next day, Chhim was detained for hours at the facility and suspended. Union members immediately walked out in support of her. Sithar told Equal Times she then urged her colleagues to continue to work as usual, while organizing subtle protest actions, which included union members wearing pink face masks, black armbands and other markers of solidarity as they enter and exit the tightly guarded checkpoints of the complex.

After the union provided legal notice of the strike, the company continued hiring new workers, providing them accommodation and food in the company’s building and prohibiting them from leaving the facilities or contacting their families, according to the union.

Challenging Environment for Workers

The casino workers’ victory is all the more notable because of the many recent challenges to worker wrights in Cambodia.

Union leaders say amendments to 10 articles in Cambodia’s Law on Trade Unions restrict fundamental union activities. For instance, one amendment deprives unions of their right to hold legal strikes. “[Holding] a legal strike is always difficult, and I think the barriers in the Trade Union Law have actually made it more difficult,” says William Conklin, Solidarity Center Cambodia country director.

Cambodia’s labor rights are currently under intense scrutiny, as the European Union decides whether to rescind the nation’s  preferential trade status that grants Cambodian exports duty-free access into EU markets.

Colombia Marches Against Measures that Hurt Workers, Youth and Pensioners

Colombia Marches Against Measures that Hurt Workers, Youth and Pensioners

Tens of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets across the country today, simmering with anger over the government’s moves to cut wages and pensions, restrict the right to protest, hike energy prices and reward corporations with tax cuts, among other proposed measures. The president responded by closing the borders, raiding the homes of activists and mobilizing riot police.

The nationwide strike, organized and led by unions, students, Afro-Colombians and indigenous Colombians, has tapped into deep discontent with the government of Ivan Duque. “Even the middle class is fed up with domination by the superwealthy and political class,” reported Courthouse News Service. “Colombian human rights defenders, artists, LGBT groups, teachers, health workers, air traffic controllers and others joined the call for a national day of peaceful protest.”

Income inequality in Colombia is high, in both regional and global terms, as are both unemployment and the poverty rate.

Among protester grievances are proposals that would: reduce salaries for young people to 75 percent of the minimum wage; privatize the pension system and base pension payments below the minimum wage; cut taxes for large companies while raising them for the middle class; and increase the cost of electricity by 35 percent, according the Colombian union federation CUT, a longstanding Solidarity Center partner. In addition, they are decrying the government’s inaction on the murders of community leaders and activists and corruption draining the public coffers.

In today’s strike, Colombia joins a host of countries—from Lebanon to Haiti—that have seen mass protests over bread-and-butter issues like wages, jobs and corruption.

Colombia Marches Against Measures that Hurt Workers, Youth and Pensioners

Colombia Marches Against Measures that Hurt Workers, Youth and Pensioners

Tens of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets across the country today, simmering with anger over the government’s moves to cut wages and pensions, restrict the right to protest, hike energy prices and reward corporations with tax cuts, among other proposed measures. The president responded by closing the borders, raiding the homes of activists and mobilizing riot police.

The nationwide strike, organized and led by unions, students, Afro-Colombians and indigenous Colombians, has tapped into deep discontent with the government of Ivan Duque. “Even the middle class is fed up with domination by the superwealthy and political class,” reported Courthouse News Service. “Colombian human rights defenders, artists, LGBT groups, teachers, health workers, air traffic controllers and others joined the call for a national day of peaceful protest.”

Income inequality in Colombia is high, in both regional and global terms, as are both unemployment and the poverty rate.

Among protester grievances are proposals that would: reduce salaries for young people to 75 percent of the minimum wage; privatize the pension system and base pension payments below the minimum wage; cut taxes for large companies while raising them for the middle class; and increase the cost of electricity by 35 percent, according the Colombian union federation CUT, a longstanding Solidarity Center partner. In addition, they are decrying the government’s inaction on the murders of community leaders and activists and corruption draining the public coffers.

In today’s strike, Colombia joins a host of countries—from Lebanon to Haiti—that have seen mass protests over bread-and-butter issues like wages, jobs and corruption.

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest