The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) has posted an online petition in support of ten Vietnamese migrant workers who have been arrested and charged with “obstruction of business” after protesting violations of their employment contract. You can read more about the case and sign the petition in support of the workers here.
From the BWI:
From March to April, 2011, ten Vietnamese migrant workers who had worked for Taehung Construction a subcontractor for Hyundai Construction in constructing a container wharf in Incheon, South Korea, were arrested. The prosecution has charged them with “obstruction of business, interfering with the regular business operations of the company, inciting group violence, and assault with a deadly weapon for two walk-outs. The walk-outs were the result of long work hours, unjust working conditions and Taehung reneging components of the workers’ employment contract.
The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) has posted a short interview with a contract worker from PT Cussons in Tangerang and the chairperson of SP FARKES, the union which represents permanent workers at the company and is currently trying to organize contract works. Along with describing the two-tiered system of working conditions, pay, and benefits that separates permanent and contract workers, the SP FARKES chairperson discussed the union’s current campaign to organize contract workers:
When did SP FARKES start to organise contract workers?
Sasmita: We started to organise contract workers in January 2011 because they didn’t receive the same benefits and allowances as permanent staff. They always work under the pressure of management.
How did you go about organising the workers?
Sasmita: First we organised a seminar outside the factories to talk about rights. It was on a Sunday, and ran from morning until evening. We invited 214 contract workers and 176 attended. During the seminar, we gave the workers union membership application forms and they all signed the forms to become members.
The union dues are the same for contract workers. According to our constitution union dues are 1% of members’ salaries.
How did management react when the contract workers joined the union?
Sasmita: The company didn’t recognise that the contract workers had joined the union. They refused to include them in the check-off system. The union collects contract workers’ dues manually.
Management knows that the union also represents contract workers but at the top level they won’t recognise us as a representative of the contract workers.
There is a collective agreement but it only covers permanent workers. This year, the agreement will end – we will be negotiating again. We hope that we can include an article on converting contract workers to permanent workers.
Now there is a rumour that the company will not renew all the contracts. Some workers are afraid and asked to meet with me. I will meet them and explain to them that it is better if we fight, if we fight we can win.
Were your members happy that the union organised the contract workers?
Sasmita: The permanent workers were happy – they think someday we all could be CAL workers. One agenda of the union is trying to make the contract workers into permanent workers. The union is giving them information on the rights of contract workers. We are constantly meeting with them and we are trying to make a network between contract and permanent staff. Each department has two union reps: one for permanent workers and one for contract workers.
As a part of the Play Fair Campaign dedicated to improving the conditions of workers in sportswear production, negotiations have been underway between a group of Indonesian labor unions representing textile workers and some of the major sportswear brands, such as Puma, Nike, Adidas, and New Balance. The negotiations recently produced an agreement in which the major brands committed to “delivering improvements in the exercise of freedom of association” for workers in the sportswear industry.
As the Clean Clothes Campaign press release points out, the unions also raised concerns about wages and the use of contract labor, but these were not included in the agreement. The Indonesian labor unions involved in the negotiations included SPN, GSBI, Garteks, KASBI and F.PTSPK. You can read more about the agreement here.
The Jakarta Post reports on a demonstration outside the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration in Jakarta calling for the government to take stronger measures to stop union busting:
Maruli Rajagukguk, an activist from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, said on Monday that despite improved labor laws, many workers were being illegally laid off for their involvement in labor unions.
“They have been unfairly and illegally laid off by their employers after they allied themselves with unions to protest poor working conditions at their workplaces,” Maruli said during a two-day rally in front of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry that ended Tuesday.
The rally involved labor union members from several companies and organizations, including Londre laundry outlet, state-electricity company PT PLN Tbk., Tony Jack’s, Swadeshi Bank and the British International School.
Union busting, which comprises a range of activities undertaken by employers to prevent the formation or expansion of labor unions, is on the increase despite that labor unions are protected by Law No.21/2000. While they should be protected by the state, more and more workers are being threatened by union busting activities, including sowing discord among union members, attacks on strikes, intimidation and physical abuse. Maruli said Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar must do more to prevent union busting.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has created a short documentary, which it has posted in six parts on YouTube, on the condition of domestic workers in Indonesia. The video is in Indonesian, with English subtitles. Below is the first part of the six part video:
The International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) has a new online campaign in which you can send a message in support of three Kentucky Fried Chicken workers in Thailand who were fired for their union activity. You can read more about the case and a send a message in support of the workers here.
From the IUF:
Three union activists have been dismissed from their employment at KFC in Thailand after they established a union and sought to bargain a collective agreement with KFC management… Apantree Charoensak, Krit Suang-aranan and Siwaporn Somjit , who were active as union representatives were terminated without notice or due process. The company then proceeded to harass and intimidate the remaining workers by holding a series of meetings putting pressure on them to withdraw their support for the union. The company, Yum! Thailand, which is a subsidiary of the U.S based Yum! Brands Inc. owns world famous brands such as KFC and Pizza Hut. Management has refused to negotiate with the union and has failed to attend a series of mediation meetings organized by officers the Ministry of Labour.