Archive for the Labor strike Category

South Korea: 150,000 rally on May Day to oppose government’s labor reforms [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

Posted in Labor strike, May 1, south Korea on May 6, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

May.2,2015

On May 1, 125th International Workers’ Day, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) organized the largest ever gathering for the holiday – with around 150,000 people attending – and expressed their opposition to government plans to restructure the labor market.

At 3 pm, about 50,000 members of the KCTU gathered for a demonstration at Seoul Plaza, with the city deploying an estimated 22,000 riot police. The KCTU members urged the government to stop its unilateral restructuring of the labor market that only asks workers to sacrifice without any sacrifices from the business world and called for the minimum wage, which is currently 5,580 won (US$5.17), to be increased to 10,000 won (US$9.26).

“We must move forward more forcefully to ensure basic labor rights for all workers, to prevent the public servants’ pension system from being changed for the worse, to crush fake normalization of public corporations, to get to the bottom of the Sewol tragedy, to repeal the worthless enforcement decree of the special Sewol Law, and to fix the political corruption brought to light by the Sung Wan-jong scandal,” KCTU President Han Sang-gyun said…

Excerpted; full article link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/689507.html

‘South Korean workers strike again’ – Feb. 25, 2014 [Workers World]

Posted in Corporate Media Critique, DPR Korea, Labor strike, Police State, Protest action, Seoul, south Korea on March 17, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Deirdre Griswold on March 6, 2014

Imagine a general strike of 200,000 workers — and not one word about it in any of the world’s so-called free press. What a breathtaking admission that these so-called “news media” are nothing but propaganda organs for big business.

Look it up — the one-day general strike on Feb. 25 in south Korea. The only place you can find pictures and an explanation of what happened is on websites connected to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. There you will see amazing photos of the enormous rallies held in downtown Seoul and other cities. You’ll also see pictures of solidarity rallies held by unionists in other countries.

But you won’t find a word about the strike on the sites maintained by the Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc.

This strike was called for two main reasons: to try to stop the planned privatization of public services and health care by the right-wing government of Park Geun-hye, and to protest the regime’s illegal intervention and fraud in the 2012 general election.

The conditions that led to the general strike included a massive government assault on the railroad workers. On Dec. 9, the Korean Railroad Workers Union went on strike against privatization plans that would threaten their jobs, benefits and services. Immediately, the government fired 4,000 workers and announced a plan to hire 660 strikebreakers.

On Dec. 16, hundreds of police surrounded and invaded the headquarters of the KRWU in an attempt to arrest union leaders. Workers in the union building tried to keep the police from entering their offices, and after hours of pushing and shoving, the police had to leave empty-handed.

However, the government continued to seek the arrest of the leaders and levy steep fines on the union, so on Dec. 27, 100,000 workers marched and rallied in Seoul in support of the KRWU.

The railroad strike was called off on Dec. 30, after the National Assembly agreed to set up a subcommittee on railway development that would take advice from experts, including the union, in order to come up with a plan to prevent privatization in the short term. However, the struggle continues against a government committed to big business’s agenda of austerity and layoffs.

Hardly a day passes that there isn’t some article in the U.S. corporate media attacking the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — socialist north Korea. But when it comes to reporting on the workers’ struggle in U.S.-occupied south Korea, their eyes and ears are closed and their mouths shut.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/03/06/south-korean-workers-strike/

Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Token photo article on general strike from south Korean liberal paper, The Hankyoreh [한겨레]:’Pres. Park, can you hear us shouting?’ – http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/625900.html

Mass revolt grows against government in Turkey [Workers World]

Posted in Egypt, Germany, Iran, Israel, Korean War, Labor strike, NATO, Obama, Palestine, Pentagon, Syria, Turkey, US imperialism, USA on June 7, 2013 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By John Catalinotto on June 3, 2013

June 3 — A small protest to hold onto a green space in downtown Istanbul that began five days ago has grown to a massive movement against the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Islamic-based Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has ruled the country since its first electoral victory in 2003.

When the Istanbul police reacted violently against the first group of hundreds of demonstrators trying to stop the government from cutting down 606 trees and replacing them with a giant shopping mall and the replication of a historical military barracks, tens of thousands of people in Istanbul came out in defiance of the police.

By the third day, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from different sectors of Turkish society came out in the major Turkish cities — Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and others — to protest against the government. The government even had to pull the police out of central Istanbul and allow access to the giant Taksim Square.

Demonstrators included youths gathered by social media, the opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and even members of rival soccer clubs that were uncharacteristically united against the government. But it also included leftist forces like the Turkish Communist Party, which has joined the protest and is calling for spreading and continuing the struggle.

A news release earlier today reported that Turkey’s major trade unions, including the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK), the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK) and the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen), are meeting to discuss a call for a general strike.

Such an intervention by the massive Turkish working class would give enormous weight to the anti-government protests that by now have taken place in all of the 81 provinces ruled by the Turkish state. It would also push them in a clearly progressive direction.

While the struggle has not reached yet the intensity of the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square more than two years ago, it is similar in that it has rallied all sorts of diverse sectors of Turkish society against an authoritarian government. It is apparent that as of now divergent class forces are participating in the anti-government actions and attempting to win the participants to their particular interests.

– Split in Turkish ruling circles –

A sign of the division in Turkey’s ruling political circles — and by extension, in Turkey’s dominant capitalist class — was made apparent by the sharp differences expressed by government leaders.

Erdogan has stood behind the police repression — which has already resulted in 1,500 arrests, hundreds badly wounded, and some reportedly killed in the demonstrations. He called the demonstrators “extremists” and a “a bunch of looters” and belittled the protests as a temporary blip. Erdogan’s party has won three elections since 2003. (AP, June 3)

The same article reported that Turkish President Abdullah Gul has defended the right of the demonstrators to protest, stating, “Democracy does not mean elections alone.”

Some of the opposition forces in Turkey were able to raise $55,000 to place an ad in the New York Times criticizing the Erdogan government and sympathizing with the demonstrators.

Like Egypt and Iran, Turkey is a regional power in Western Asia, even though it has been dependent militarily on U.S. imperialism and economically on German imperialism for much of the period since World War II. Turkey is a member of NATO and during the Cold War had its military lined up against the Soviet Union. Turkish soldiers fought under U.S. command in Korea in 1950-1953 against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Most recently, Erdogan has made Turkey the frontline state in the imperialist effort to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This has drawn Turkey closer to what is an extremely unpopular war among a majority in Turkey. We have seen no reports, however, of slogans opposing this war among the demonstrators.

Erdogan has opened negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the group that with a guerrilla war has defended Kurdish rights since 1984 in the Kurdish regions ruled by Turkey .

– U.S. policy toward Turkey –

Washington showed its orientation toward Erdogan last March when President Barack Obama succeeded in pushing Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to publicly apologize to Erdogan for the Israeli murder of Turkish citizens on a ship, the Mavi Marmara, bringing relief supplies to Palestinian Gaza three years ago. It indicated Washington’s reliance on the Turkish government to carry on the offensive against Syria.

Washington had a cautious public response to the latest events, expressing sympathy with the demonstrators against repression but contining support of the Turkish government. A June 3 AP story reported, “Presidential spokesman Jay Carney called them ordinary citizens exercising their rights to free expression.

“But Carney also said that all democracies have to work through issues, adding that Washington is concerned about Turkey’s response to protesters but expects the U.S. ally to work through the issue while respecting its citizens’ rights.”

U.S. imperialism has no real interests in defending the rights of anti-government demonstrators, either in Taksim Square or in Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan. Thus, this statement indicates the U.S. government is uncertain where the Turkish demonstrations are headed.

There is no doubt the U.S. would intervene however it could to prevent the Turkish working class from gaining the leadership of a mass popular uprising in its NATO ally and client state. Washington’s closest collaborators inside Turkey are with the Turkish armed forces, which seized power in the country with a coup in 1980 and which has continued to wield enormous influence behind the political scene.

There have been demonstrations all around the world in solidarity with the Turkish demonstrations in Taksim Square, mostly by the Turkish immigrant communities. Some of the largest have been in Germany.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/2013/06/03/mass-revolt-grows-against-government-in-turkey/

Articles copyright 1995-2013 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Also see “Declaration on the recent events by the Communist Party of Turkey” [Workers World] – http://www.workers.org/2013/06/06/declaration-on-the-recent-events-by-the-communist-party-of-turkey/

Chinese unions target Fortune 500 firms over wage talks [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Labor, Labor strike, Law enforcement, Liaoning Province, Shanghai, Shenyang on August 22, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Chen Xin  (China Daily)

August 20, 2012

About 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies operating in China will have collective wage bargaining by the end of 2013, a senior union official said.

Approximately 80 percent of the 4,100 enterprises set up by Fortune 500 companies in China had introduced collective bargaining by the end of 2011, Zhang Jianguo, director of the collective contract department at the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, told China Daily.

Zhang said the target that the federation set in 2011— 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies to have trade unions to carry out collective wage talks by the end of 2013 — could be reached.

"We prioritized boosting wage talks in Fortune 500 companies because those companies play an important role in China’s economic and social development and they set an example for other enterprises," he said.

Zhang said in some places the target had already been accomplished.

For example, all 49 enterprises of Fortune 500 companies set up in Shenyang, Liaoning province, conducted collective wage bargaining.

All Wal-Mart outlets in China have also signed collective wage contracts. The retailer signed its first collective contract with employees in its Shenyang store in 2008. Other Fortune 500 companies, such as McDonald’s, Carrefour and Honda’s auto parts manufacturer in Guangdong, have also introduced collective talks, according to Zhang.

Of the nearly 1,000 enterprises set up by Fortune 500 companies in Shanghai with unions, 81 percent held collective talks and the contracts covered about 322,000 workers. The city plans to lift this up to at least 90 percent by the end of this year, according to the Workers’ Daily.

Noting the benefits from collective bargaining, Zhang said the mechanism will not only help increase pay but will also help enterprises maintain employment and resolve labor disputes.

"Workers in enterprises that hold collective talks will see quicker wage rises than workers in other companies," he said.

Workers with Fortune 500 companies in Shenyang, on average, saw an annual wage rise of 8 percent after collective talks were introduced, according to Zhang.

Around 35 percent of labor disputes in China are wage related, Zhang said.

Collective negotiations provide a platform for both sides to present their case, he said.

"We noticed that strikes in Fortune 500 companies were mostly solved by collective bargaining," he said. "Collective talks are the most effective and the least costly way to address labor disputes."

But obstacles still exist, Zhang said.

China’s Trade Union Law stipulates that a corporate unit with 25 employees or more should set up a union. The primary task of a union is to boost collective contract agreements and to mediate labor relations through negotiation between employees and employers…

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New campaign to ensure workers’ wages [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Labor, Labor strike, Law enforcement on January 31, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Zhu Shanshan (Global Times)
08:32, December 30, 2011

A campaign launched by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) has helped 1.292 million migrant workers recover 2.94 billion yuan ($470 million) in unpaid wages this year as a part of efforts by authorities to build up a social security network.

The number of salary-related disputes and protests has been on the rise recently as the end of the year approaches. A strike to demand fair year-end bonuses was held by workers at the LG Display factory in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on Monday.

Eight government departments including the MHRSS issued an order demanding employers nationwide pay migrant workers in full and on time earlier this month.

However, a construction worker surnamed Zhang from Mianyang, Sichuan Province, who is currently working in Beijing, told the Global Times that it is unlikely his defaulted salaries will be paid in full before Spring Festival.

“The contractor I worked with is also in default now and he is asking for his wage to be paid on time. I can’t stay here to fight for my salary during Spring Festival, the only time in the year that I can spend with my family,” he said.

Lin Xinqi, a professor at the School of Labor and Human Resources at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that it is a good sign that authorities are taking note of such disputes, especially by singling it out around the new year, when the problem occurs most frequently. However, he added that the current efforts are still not enough to catch up with such incidents, as workers become more aware of protecting their rights.

“It will be hard to wipe out all these disputes overnight despite the increasing importance attached to the issue, since the country is going through a development stage in which labor disputes break out intensively,” Lin said, adding that more time should be given to government agencies.

Article link: http://english.people.com.cn/90882/7692126.html

Trade unionists hail Britain’s biggest strike in a generation [Xinhua]

Posted in Labor strike, U.K. on December 4, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

LONDON, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) — Trade unionists joined the largest strike seen in Britain for at least 30 years on Wednesday in protest over government plans to reform pensions.

Xinhua visited picket lines across London, which included ambulance stations, hospitals, the Houses of Parliaments, and government offices.

Outside St Thomas’s Hospital, directly across the river Thames from the Houses of Parliament, nurses, cleaners and other hospital staff joined forces to man picket lines at all the hospitals main entrances.

Dino Williams, Unison branch secretary at St Thomas’s Hospital, explained to Xinhua that the unions did not want to harm patients.

“In planning this event. what we have tried to do is make sure that patient safety comes first … We are here with a sense of integrity, which means if we were needed, irrelevant to what argument we have with the government, patients will always come first,” he said.

Samad Billoo, the branch secretary of the Unite union at the London Ambulance Headquarters control services, was on the picket line in the early morning, flanked by two dozen strikers handing out leaflets explaining the unions’ position to passers-by and waving union flags.

Billoo said he was on the picket line because “we are going to be paying more, working longer, and getting less in our pensions.”

He said ordinary union members could back another strike in frustration with the government unless better offers were put forward. He said, “If the government does not change its mind we see a series of strikes coming through.”

Tom Mellish, from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) the umbrella body for unions in Britain, was one of the organizers of a demonstration that marched through the center of London and Trafalgar Square to a rally opposite the heart of government in the Whitehall area.

Mellish, speaking as demonstrators gathered in the morning, said the demonstration, matched by others at regional centers across the country, “was planned to attract eight to ten thousand demonstrators but could attract up to twenty to twenty five thousand” because workers were angry and wanted to protest.

In the event demonstrators were said to have numbered 30,000 and the march brought traffic to a standstill over the lunch and afternoon period over much of central London.

Xinhua spoke to the leader of the largest union in Britain, Len McCluskey. His Unite union is the largest in the two countries of Britain and Ireland.

McCluskey toured picket lines in central London to gauge support for the strike, and to meet strikers.

“Strikers had gone on strike as a last resort,” said McCluskey, ” feeling there was no other way of protesting against the coalition’s pension reform plans.”

“This government has managed to get teachers, and doctors, care workers and nurses and ordinary decent members of the public out on the streets — they should be very proud of themselves,” he said.

The leader of the Unison union Dave Prentis, the largest union in Britain with 1.3 million members, praised the strikers.

He told Xinhua: “I’m really proud about what we have achieved today; hundreds of thousands of our members walking out to show their anger at what is happening to their pension schemes. These are decent women and men — mainly women who provide our public services; they look after us in our hour of need, they are asking the public now to look after them.”

Article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-12/01/c_131280527.htm

Bankers’ coup puts anti-worker ‘technocrats’ in charge of Italy, Greece [Workers World]

Posted in Belgium, Bulgaria, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, EU, France, Germany, Greece, IMF - International Monetary Fund, Italy, Japan, Labor strike, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, US imperialism, USA on November 25, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By John Catalinotto
Published Nov 17, 2011 9:35 PM

Thousands booed rightist billionaire and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi following his resignation as Italy’s prime minister on Nov. 11. A week earlier, Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose popular support plummeted after he agreed to austerity measures, was forced to resign from the leadership of Greece, ending a political dynasty that had lasted for three generations.

These powerful politicians were pushed out of office not by popular upheaval, however, but by order of the imperialist banks that dominate Europe and the United States. They had shown they were incapable of executing austerity measures that the bankers needed in order to make the working class pay all the costs of the financial crisis.

The so-called technocrats named to form new governments in both countries will be even more under the thumb of finance capital than billionaire Berlusconi and the compliant Papandreou. The technocrats’ task is to impose austerity measures that will cut workers’ social benefits and wages as they allow the payment of usurious interest rates to these same banks.

* Power of finance capital *

In the Nov. 3 Workers World, Deirdre Griswold wrote that researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, had done an analysis using a powerful computer database with information on millions of global financial transactions. The analysis showed that “a mere 147 companies controlled nearly 40 percent of the monetary value of all transnational corporations,” thus placing the world capitalist economy in the hands of fewer financiers than ever.

This concentration brings with it political power. Look at who the replacement prime ministers are.

In Greece, it’s Lukos Papademos. Educated in the U.S., he was a governor of the Bank of Greece from 1994 to 2002 and vice president of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010.

In Italy, it’s Mario Monti, an economist and former member of the European Commission. Like most “technocrats” brought in during these kinds of crises, he has a reputation of being “honest.” That means he has not been caught stealing from his banker bosses.

Papademos and Monti are both members of the Trilateral Commission, which U.S. banker David Rockefeller founded in 1973 for discussions among leaders of the imperialist U.S., Western Europe and Japan, and the Bilderberg Group, which organizes an annual conference of about 140 business and political leaders of North America and Western Europe.

Their membership in these elite and exclusive groups shows that both are acceptable to banking circles in both Europe and the U.S. Neither has a popular political following in the countries they will lead — more proof that the imperialist ruling class has little use for even formal democracy when it comes to the really big questions, like paying interest to the banks.

With the crisis so severe, the imperialist bankers put their own employees in government office, rather than a slightly less reliable politician. These unelected governments plan to pass austerity plans that — if not resisted — will inflict pain on the working class for at least the next 10 years.

As November began, Papandreou had raised the possibility that Greece would hold a referendum to consult the Greek people on the austerity agreement he had made with the French and German leaders. This provoked an apoplectic response from the Euro heads. They screamed, “No, no, no!” Papandreou withdrew the referendum and was on his way out.

* Big Lie obscures cause of crisis *

The corporate media, not just in Europe but in the U.S., have promoted a Big Lie to explain the Euro crisis. But the crisis is not the fault of “lazy workers” in the Mediterranean countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece) nor of high spending on social services in those countries. The capitalists and their pundits promote this lie in an attempt to divide the workers of northern from southern Europe while attacking all social benefits, including health care, pensions and even education.

The world capitalist downturn that began with the bursting of the housing bubble in the U.S. in 2007 and the financial near-collapse in the fall of 2008 caused an economic downturn throughout Europe. It hurt the economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy more than those of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The banks started charging higher interest rates for loans to countries with the weaker economies, claiming that the risk of default was greater there. The big banks in France and Germany saw these loans as a source of higher profit, and counted on a bailout if default loomed. The U.S. investment firm Goldman Sachs got in on the deal too, creating investment instruments that hid the extent of Greek debt.

By 2009, Greece had to agree to an austerity plan that the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — now called “the Troika” — imposed on it. The result was layoffs, as cuts in spending led to closed schools and hospitals, a new recession and an unemployment rate now more than 16 percent. By this fall, default loomed again.

Not only the European banks but also Greece’s own banks and capitalists were responsible. Besides avoiding taxes, in the last few years 2,000 businesses that had been located in Greece moved to Bulgaria, where labor costs were one-quarter that in Greece. Another 800 will leave in 2011. That’s how the capitalist market rules.

No one expects the world economy to suddenly have a major upsurge, certainly not one that reverses unemployment.

Should Italy, whose economy is seven times as large as Greece’s, fail to pay the debt, this would have a much larger impact on the big imperialist banks, on the eurozone and on the European Union’s future. Accordingly, news of Italy is starting to dominate the media, which had been focused on Greece.

* Workers’ fightback *

Resistance to this new assault on the working class is the order of the day in both countries. In Greece, where the workers’ resistance has been at a higher level than elsewhere in Europe, there have been dozens of general strikes and demonstrations over the past two years.

These forces — which mainly follow the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the union federation PAME — have already rallied against the new “national unity” bankers’ regime, made up of Papandreou’s PASOK party, the rightist New Democracy and the small, fascist-like Laos Party.

Of the parties in Parliament, only the KKE and the more reformist left grouping, Syriza, have refused to join the government.

In Italy, the severe austerity is just beginning. The new planned belt-tightening will cause more unemployment as well as a loss of social services. Resistance can be expected.

Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/2011/world/euro_1124/