Category Archives: News

Unite and fight against the neoliberal attacks on labour!

 

A solidarity statement by
the Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network

on the International Labour Day Celebrations
May 1, 2016

 

Under the globally pervasive neoliberal economic development regime, the Asian economies have become completely integrated and subsumed into global capitalism. Big Asian and global transnational corporations (TNCs) have built economic power by consolidating their regional and global production networks. On the other hand, developing countries in Asia opened up their economies to become eager hosts of TNC-driven and export-oriented industrial factories and corporate agricultural plantations. The governments of developing Asian states believe that economic growth can spring from foreign direct investment-friendly economic policies, which are often anti-people policies. ‘Let us wait for the growth to trickle down,’ they would say.

Hence, on the grounds of the “economically surging Asia” are the precarious workers who are assiduously toiling, suffering, and are being sacrificed upon the altar of neoliberalism. We observed that most Asian governments have been adopting labour law and economic reforms that not only bolster the neoliberal agenda but also curtail the rights of the workers and restrict the democratic space for workers’ organising and collective bargaining.

Asia’s race-to-the-bottom wages

In order to attract foreign investments, Asian governments are competing against each other in a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards. They implemented policies that directly cut wages, removed regulations on wage settings, and introduced flexible wage schemes. In the Philippines, a two-tiered wage system was advanced by the government in one region – the first tier is the floor wage based on the poverty threshold (USD 1/day) and the second tier is based on productivity. It resulted in reduced wages as the floor wage was 25 percent lower than the minimum wage while the payment of the productivity-based wage is not mandatory.

On the other hand, the Indonesian government issued a new wage regulation in October 2015 that changed the minimum wage-fixing mechanism. In the past, the minimum wage was set through a process of bargaining between the employers’ group and trade union, somehow taking into account the cost of living. In the new wage regulation, the minimum wage will be unilaterally determined by the government based on a formula that considers the inflation and the GDP growth. Worse, the adjustments will be made only every five years.

Legitimising the attacks on the right to organise

Asian governments also use the laws to suppress trade union activities. In Cambodia, for instance, the National Assembly passed the Trade Union Law on 4 April 2016, restricting the workers’ rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and strike. Championed by the industrial capitalists, the enactment of the new law is defended by the Ministry of Labour, declaring that it will aid in attracting more investments. In China, the Foreign NGO Activities Law was already submitted to the National People’s Congress for enactment. It limits the activities of foreign NGOs in China, including those that support the building of an independent labour movement at the grassroots level.

It is relevant to note, however, that even before these laws are passed, the space for independent labour movements’ activities have been restricted. We have witnessed the violent crackdowns of strikes in Cambodia in the past years and the arrests of numerous labour activists in China in December of last year, two of whom are still in detention. Needless to say, the recent laws are being pushed to legitimise harassment, violent actions, and criminalisation of labour activists.

Violent crackdowns on the working poor’s protests

Even in countries where the policies are supposed to protect working people’s rights, the reality shows a precarious face. In Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, landless farmers protesting for land rights on 29 March 2016 faced violent repression. Sixty-four protesters were arrested while 14 were injured after being shot by the police. Two days later, on 1 April 2016, hungry farmers in Kidapawan, Philippines suffered the same but more brutal fate. Demanding for rice, the protesting farmers got bullets instead. Three died while 76 were arrested, including elderly and pregnant women. While the marginalised people face injustices and harassment, agricultural TNCs in these two countries are enjoying not only incentives for investments but also protection from the military.

Reversing the gains from past struggles

Moreover, the victories from the struggles of labour and other social movements have been reversed. In South Asia, particularly, labour law reforms are going backwards. In the past year, the reforms that are being proposed in India aim to flexibilise labour arrangements by making hiring and firing easier and by excluding the majority of the workers from the purview of the law. Sri Lanka, which has one of the best severance benefits, is considering reducing the benefits at the request of the employers. Meanwhile, in response to the increasing number of trade unions registered since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Bangladesh government issued new Labour Rules in September 2015 to regulate union registration more strictly.

We, at the ATNC Monitoring Network, are alarmed at these trends and developments in Asia that are obviously aimed at further reinforcing the neoliberal agenda, eroding the workers’ rights, and dismantling the labour movement. We believe that genuine economic development should prioritise the interest and welfare of the poor and the marginalised and not of the global TNCs and wealthy elites. Thus, we strongly condemn the naked and violent attacks on labour activists and innocent working people who demand for a life of dignity.

Today, on International Labour Day, we register the following calls:

  • Stop the neoliberal attacks on labour!
  • Respect the workers’ rights to organise, bargain collectively, and strike!
  • Eliminate flexible labour arrangements that make workers more vulnerable!
  • Fight for living wage for Asian workers!
  • Justice for victims of harassment, criminalisation, and human rights violations!
  • Uphold the working people’s dignity!

We stand in solidarity with the working people of Asia who persistently fight for their rights and tirelessly build an independent and democratic labour movement in the region.

The impact of the Umbrella Movement on the labour movement in China and Hong Kong

One might say that the Umbrella Movement failed to achieve any concrete and immediate results, yet it has allowed many Hong Kongers, especially the younger generation, to become politically awakened. Furthermore, even though news has been blocked and distorted, it has still reached some in mainland China and could have far-reaching impact in future.

Source: en.hkctu.org.hk

See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

A Vegetable Oil that Demands Blood: The Reality of Palm Oil Industry

In the last three-and-a-half decades Indonesia and Malaysia lost a combination of 3.5 million hectares of forest to palm oil plantations.

Globally, more people consume palm oil than soybean oil, and Indonesia is the largest producer of the stuff, churning out 31 million tonnes of palm oil in 2014. Malaysia and Indonesia together account for 85 percent of palm oil produced globally each year. Consumption of palm oil has risen steadily at seven percent per annum over the last 20 years.

The palm oil sector has added little real value to the Indonesian economy. The average contribution of estate crops, including oil palm and rubber, to GDP [gross domestic product] was only 2.2 percent per year. On the other hand, food production is the main source of rural employment and income, engaging two-thirds of the rural workforce, or some 61 million people. Oil palm production only occupies the eighth rank in rural employment, engaging some 1.4 million people.

Source: www.ipsnews.net

See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

Migrant worker protest in Taiwan for fairer wages

A group of activists and migrant workers protested in Taipei on March 12 urging the government to meet Indonesian demands for better treatment of its workers in Taiwan. More than 30 protesters from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan, holding placards emblazoned with the word “anti-slavery” and shouting slogans such as “minimum wage for all.” Some of the protesters chained themselves together and wore signs that read “slaves” on their clothes to protest long working hours and unfairly low wages.

Source: www.wantchinatimes.com

See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

Blocked workers in Myanmar stage sit-in protest

Hundreds of police halt garment factory workers from marching to downtown Yangon, as police set deadline for demonstrators to disperse.

About 100 of the 1200 picketing workers set out from a protest camp outside E-Land Myanmar garment factory in Shwe Pyi Thar township for City Hall, where they planned to set up a second camp.

 

But 90 minutes into the march, 300 police blocked the workers beside the busy Danyingone junction in Insein township.

With the heavy police presence stopping them from continuing their march downtown, the workers staged a sit-in instead.

Source: www.mmtimes.com

See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

Working Women of Asia 2015 Photo Contest

As we celebrate International Working Women’s Day on March 8, we are happy to announce the launching of the Working Women of Asia 2015 photo contest. We are inviting everybody to join and help in making women at work visible. The Working Women of Asia 2015 aims to highlight the invaluable contribution of women to society and their diverse kinds of work. In this photo contest we invite photographs that feature marginalised women workers in their work environment, their community, or their own homes. Join us.
All entries must be submitted in digital format via email. Send entry to womenatwork@amrc.org.hk.
For more detail, please visit: http://amrc.org.hk/content/working-women-asia-2015-photo-contest

Source: amrc.org.hk

More than half of female employees in the service industry in Hong Kong have been sexually harassed

The Women Affairs Committee of the HKCTU released a report on 8 March, the International Women’s Day, stating that nearly 60% of female employees in the service sector had been sexually harassed at work. It happened most frequently in three industries, namely property management, airlines and retailing. Nearly 70% of interviewees said that their workplaces have no (32%) or are not aware of (36%) any follow up mechanisms of sexual harassment complaints. As a result, only 15% of the victims reported their cases to the employers.

Source: en.hkctu.org.hk

See on Scoop.itAsian Labour Update

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