By Pablo Velasco
- Strike wave in South Korea
- Soldiers terrorise workers Haitian workers
- Victory for Colombian banana workers' strike
- General strike in Nigeria stops petrol price rises
Strike wave in South Korea
Korean taxi drivers and metal workers went on strike this month for wage increases and better working conditions, joining hospital workers on their week-long walkout.
About 4,600 drivers of the Korean Federation of Taxi Workers' Unions, an affiliate of the independent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), are demanding the introduction of a minimum wage, a strengthened role for taxis as a mode of public transportation and the nullification of the plan to increase taxi fares.
A unionised cab driver set himself on fire in front of the presidential office on Wednesday evening.
The Korea Metal Workers' Federation, also an affiliate of the KCTU, walked off the job for four hours as a warning for a general strike due on 29 June. The union said that around 83% of its members cast "yes" votes in favour of the strike.
The KCTU held rallies in front of the National Assembly building in Seoul calling for the implementation of a five-day working week, the abolition of discrimination against part-time and day labourers, and a minimum wage of 766,000 won per month.
Soldiers terrorise workers Haitian workers
Since the beginning of June there has been a dramatic deterioration in the situation at the Codevi free trade zone (FTZ) in north-east Haiti. Following an international campaign in support of the 34 union members sacked in early March, negotiations in April led to an agreement between management and workers and by mid-May, all the sacked workers were back at work
But, on 4 June, a breach of the May agreement led to a one-hour warning strike. The following day, the head of the Grupo M company arrived at the Codevi plant to tell workers that the plant would probably be shut down because of the continuing labour unrest. Then, in the afternoon, after another dispute had developed when management forcibly removed the t-shirts and ID badges of a group of women, the Dominican Army was called in to expel workers from the FTZ.
A full one-day strike then took place on Monday, 7 June. Workers agreed to return to work on 8 June despite the continuing presence of the Dominican Army because the management had agreed to negotiate with the union. However, when the workers showed up to work at 5:30am, they found that they were locked-out.
On 9 June, Grupo M announced that it was abandoning production at the free trade zone and laying off all 700 workers because of what it described as "security reasons in the face of threats and violent actions by a group of activists called Batay Ouvriye."
By the end of the week, half of the production units were closed down and 254 workers had been arbitrarily dismissed - including the coordinator and secretary of the SOKOWA independent union. Then the company started advertising new jobs at its assembly plant in Santiago, the Dominican Republic.
Companies producing at the FTZ include Levi Strauss and campaigners are targeting the company, insisting that Levis stick to the terms of their own Code of Conduct.
- Help the campaign by contacting the Haiti Support Group: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Messages of support to the union, Batay Ouvriye: email@example.com
Victory for Colombian banana workers' strike
The 14-day strike of 16,000 Colombian banana workers launched by the SINTRAINAGRO union on 26 May has ended in a victory. A new two-year collective agreement preserves the permanent employment status of the banana workers, marking a defeat for the employers' efforts to casualise the workforce through subcontracting and "seasonal" employment contracts. The new agreement also provides for an 8% wage increase for the first year and indexing to inflation in the second.
SINTRAINAGRO, based in the rural province of Urabá-Antioquia, credit the international and local union support with helping to achieve this important victory.
Workers originally voted by a 99% majority to strike on 3 May. AUGURA, the Association of Banana Producers of Colombia, is demand changes in the workers' conditions of employment, which would substantially weaken the union. Sub-contracted and casualised workers in Colombia have no rights to collective bargaining or union representation.
General strike in Nigeria stops petrol price rises
A general strike by Nigeria workers has forced the government to halt its plans to increase petrol prices.
The three-day strike was called off on 11 June by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and other union confederations after the government of Olusegun Obasanjo backed down.
The unions demanded that prices revert to pre-tax levels - in other words, prices should return to the levels that they were on 31 December 2003, because in January 2004 new prices were introduced.
The government had dragged the NLC through the courts, trying to get the strike declared unlawful. But the judge not only ruled that taking strike action was legal, but also ordered the government to reduce petrol prices to pre-2004 levels. Despite the court ruling, the unions still went ahead with the strike - mindful that the government would not comply unless it was forced to.