Workers of the World: Round-up

Submitted by Anon on 18 August, 2003 - 7:01

by Pablo Velasco

  • Oscar Olivera wins case
  • Urgent appeal for Chinese workers' leaders
  • P Diddy uses sweatshops
  • Brazilian car workers walk out
  • Korean workers' demonstrations
  • Colombian Coca Cola worker visit

Oscar Olivera wins case

Bolivian workers' leader Oscar Olivera has won his fight against victimisation.

Oscar is the secretary of the Federation of Factory Workers of Cochabamba, and works at the Manaco Footwear Company. He is a locally elected union leader who gets his regular salary and benefits from the company while performing full-time union work. He is also a leader of struggles against water and gas privatisation.

The company, which is owned by Canadian firm BATA, tried to take away his wages and medical insurance, but they have now caved in after pressure from his supporters in Bolivia and across the globe.

Oscar sent out a message to supporters, saying: "I want to say thanks for your solidarity because this was possible only because each one of you sent an e-mail to Bata in Canada and also Manaco here."

Urgent appeal for Chinese workers' leaders

The China Labour Bulletin has made an urgent appeal for solidarity after learning that both Xiao Yunliang and Yao Fuxin's health have deteriorated rapidly since their move to Lingyuan prison.

Yao and Xiao were tried in January 2003 on charges of "subverting state power," after they lead peaceful worker demonstrations in Liaoyang in March 2002. In May they were given prison sentences of seven and four years.

Last month the men were moved to the Lingyuan prison near Mongolia, notorious as the prison where leaders of the workers' and students' movement in 1989 were taken after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Xiao Yunliang is now so ill and blind that he has been denied exercise rights. Family members who've visited him say Xiao has a very swollen face and arms and has developed high blood pressure and some form of heart disease.

At his previous prison, Xiao Yunliang suffered from beatings from other prisoners after encouragement from their guard. After confronting the guard about his role in the beating, Xiao was placed in solitary confinement for 15 days and placed in foot and hand shackles.

Yao Fuxin has also deteriorated and has already lost consciousness twice since his move to Lingyuan.

The China Labour Bulletin is asking for urgent appeals to be sent to the prison governor at Lingyuan asking for the two men to be released on medical parole. It also wants letters of support sent direct to the two men at the prison.

For more information, go to: www.china-labour.org.hk

According to Human Rights in China, eight people accused of trying to establish an independent trade union were convicted last week of "incitement to subvert state power". The group, arrested in April, were charged with "counter-revolutionary crimes" and "setting up a subversive union" in 2000. They were sentenced to between two and sixteen years in prison.

P Diddy uses sweatshops

P Diddy's clothing company Sean John Clothing has been exposed for using sweatshops by US campaigners. The company uses the SETISA factory in Honduras, where the anti-sweatshop campaign, the National Labor Committee (NLC) has uncovered dreadful working conditions.

Workers work for $33 to $50 for a 51-hour week. Daily production quotas mean that obligatory overtime is often imposed, without pay, so workers actually work up to 70 hours. Other abuses include:

  • Women workers at the factory face compulsory pregnancy tests, and face the sack if they are found to be pregnant.
  • The factory's drinking water is filthy, and contains faeces.
  • Workers need a stamped toilet pass to take a pee.
  • Speaking is prohibited on the factory floor.
  • Workers are not included in the national healthcare system, which is illegal.
  • Workers are body searched when they enter and leave the factory, and routinely bullied and harassed inside.

In August, 15 workers were sacked for trying to organise a union.

The Sean John label is also made in China and Vietnam, where there are systematic abuses of workers' rights.

For more information, go to: www.nlcnet.org/campaigns/setisa

Brazilian car workers walk out

Nearly 25,000 Brazilian car workers walked off their jobs at the end of October at factories owned by Volkswagen, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes-Benz and Scania after being offered a paltry pay rise. The strikes were organised by the CNM/CUT, the metalworkers union in the ABC area of Sao Paulo once led by Lula.

Carmakers offered 15.7% in the annual wage negotiations, but with inflation running at over 15% the offer was at best a pay freeze. Admin workers at the companies were offered more, but they too walked off the job earlier in the week.

Deals have been reached at Ford and Scania or around 18%, but at the time of writing workers at Volkswagen are still out.

Korean workers' demonstrations

In demonstrations organised by trade unions in South Korea workers have clashed with police in three cities.

Thousands of workers demonstrated in the capital Seoul, the central city of Daegu, and in the southern city of Busan. Riot police attacked the demonstrations, and many were injured.

The demonstrations were called to protest about government plans to introduce new anti-union laws, which will make it easier for employers to sue workers on strike. During the campaign, two union activists have set themselves alight, and Kim Chu-ik, a union leader hanged himself at a shipyard.

The independent trade union, the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has set a deadline of 9 November 9 for the government to call a halt to the legislation - or face industrial action.

One of the great turning points in modern Korean history was sparked by an act of immolation. In August 1970, 22-year-old factory worker Chung Tae-il set himself alight in protest at his working conditions. His example inspired a generation of activists who organised the strike wave in the 1980s and the current independent labour movement.

Colombian Coca Cola worker visit

Luis Eduardo Garcia, Coca Cola worker and member of Sinaltrainal (Colombian Food and Drink Workers Union) is visiting Britain and Ireland for meetings with students, trade unions and solidarity activists.

Garcia is one of the plaintiffs in the Miami court case against Coca Cola and their Colombian bottlers, Coca Cola Femsa. The case alleges the complicity of Coca Cola management in the assassination of nine trade union leaders in Colombia, and the imprisonment, torture and forced displacement of many more workers.

Garcia was imprisoned after Coca Cola management accused him of planting a bomb in their Bucaramanga bottling plant. After six months in a maximum security prison, he was released when the regional prosecutor found "no evidence that he had planted a bomb, and no evidence to suggest a bomb had ever been planted at all."

For further information about the tour, visit the Colombia Solidarity Campaign website

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