Friday, May 11, 2007

Royal Mail Offer Rejected And Postal Strike Ballot To Go Ahead

The Communication Workers Union’s executive has formally rejected what Royal Mail describes as their full and final offer on pay. The talks around pay include the future of the industry and the impact of competition and automation.

In 2006 Royal Mail and CWU agreed a joint approach to deal with the impact of competition and automation. A centre piece of the agreement was Royal Mail’s commitment to negotiate change, whilst focusing on higher basic pay and permanently raising the value and status of jobs by April 2007.

Deputy General Secretary Postal, Dave Ward said “Royal Mail has abandoned our agreed approach in favour of a short sighted Business Plan that amounts to a cost cutting frenzy, reductions in pay and a defeatist attitude towards competition. This Business Plan is designed to fail and demonstrates a real lack of vision by the people running the company”.

Royal Mail’s business plan will result in 40,000 job losses, attacks on pension arrangements, closures of mail centres and delivery offices and a reduction in pay for postal workers to ‘the market rate’. It will also result in a reduction and decrease in quality of service for the public.

Royal Mail claim that postal workers are overpaid by 30%.

The union is continuing with its ballot for industrial action.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Iraqi Oil Workers to Strike Over Privatisation Law

Iraq’s largest oil workers’ trade union will strike this Thursday, inprotest at the controversial oil law currently being considered by the Iraqi parliament. The move threatens to stop all exports from the oil-rich country.The oil law proposes giving multinational companies the primary role indeveloping Iraq’s huge untapped oilfields, under contracts lasting up to30 years.

Oil production in Iraq, like in most of the Middle East, hasbeen in the public sector since the 1970s.The Union, representing 26,000 oil workers, has held three previous strikes since 2003, each time stopping exports, for up to two days at atime.

The announcement of the strike has spurred negotiations with the Ministry of Oil, which are ongoing. Imad Abdul-Hussain, Federation Deputy Chair of the IFOU said: "The central government must be in total ownership and complete control of production and the export of oil". He warned against the controversial Production Sharing Agreements favoured by foreign companies, saying other forms of co-operation with foreign companies would be acceptable but not at the level of control and profiteering indicated in thecurrent Oil Law.

Federation President Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi said: ‘The oil law does not represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people. It will let the foreign oil companies into the oil sector and enact privatisation under so called production sharing agreements. The federation calls for not passing the oil law, because it does not serve the interests of the Iraqi people."

The Union is not alone in its’ condemnation of the current oil law. Opponents of the law also include all of Iraq’s other trade unions, a number of political parties, and a group of over 60 senior Iraqi oil experts. Hassan Jumaa went on to say: "The federation calls on all unions in the world to support our demands and to put pressure on governments and the oil companies not to enter the Iraqi oil fields."

Union members are also demanding an improved salary structure and a distribution of land for building homes. Ewa Jasiewicz of Naftana – the UK Support Committee for the IFOU said:‘The Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, like any union, has the right toengage in collective bargaining over issues important to their members. In this case, the issue of who controls Iraq’s oil and the economic future of the country is an issue which is important to all Iraqis. The Union has repeatedly called for civil society inclusion in the drafting of the oil law and has been ignored. They are now asserting their right to have a voice in the decision making process affecting their industry and Iraq’s economic future – their courage and commitment to democracy should be supported’.

Instead of the union’s participation being welcomed, leaders have been accused of jeopardizing security and threatened with legal action. Farouq Al-Asadi, the Federation's Secretary said: ‘The Oil Minister chooses to forget that the right to strike is guaranteed by the constitution - we have chosen the legal path’. Union leaders have already received a number of death threats which they are taking seriously.

"As soon as the federation called for the strike,many of our members and officials were physically threatened by parties active in the political process, with the aim of thwarting the strike and undermining the message of the strike organisers."

Hassan Jumaa Awad Al Assadi, President of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions
00964 7801 001 196 or 00964 7804 114 619

Sami Ramadani, lecturer and writer and member of Naftana – UK SupportCommittee for the IFOU 0044 7863 138 748

Ewa Jasiewicz, Naftana UK Support Group for the IFOU and Hands Off IraqiOil Campaign 0044 7749 421 576

The IFOU is an independent trade union representing workers across 4 southern provinces in Iraq: Misan, Dhi Qar, Basra and Mauthanna in nine oil and gas related companies.The Union has been organizing since April 2003 and has stopped oil exports and production over wages and workers rights in the past. It has also held protests against oil smuggling, former regime bosses and what the union sees as the deliberate neglect and degradation of the industryin order to justify private investment.

Union members have carried out reconstruction work on drilling rigs,port equipment, pipelines and refineries since the invasion with minimal, mostly local resources.The Union is not linked to any political party in Iraq but has memberswhich belong to various parties.The Union enjoys the support of trade unions and civil society organizations around the world including the International Confederationof Energy, Mining and General Workers Union (ICEM), the AFL-CIO in the US, and the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) in the UK including the NUJ and TGWU. The union is partnered with UK development charity War on Want, the 3 milllion strong US Labor Against War in the USA, and Italian NGOUn Ponte Per.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sign the e-petition against Regional Fire Controls

Below is the link to the e-petition against the government's move to Regional Fire Controls.
Please take the time to sign it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

International Labor Delegation to Israel and Palestine, April 2007
Conclusions and Recommendations

The delegation members have discussed and adopted the following points as a working paper that will guide our common effort to improve the conditions of local and migrant, Palestinian and Israeli, Arab and Jewish workers.

1. In the last of week of April 2007, an international labor delegation of seven members visited Israel and Palestine, meeting the key players in the field of employment in Israel's agricultural sector. The delegation was initiated and organized by the independent workers' association WAC-Maan, operating in Israel mainly with Arab workers. The delegation's aim was to create pressure toward ending the violation of labor rights in this field. It proceeded in the best spirit of working-class solidarity, adopting the slogan: "An injury to one is an injury to all".

2. We met representatives of the Israeli government, including the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor; that of Agriculture; the parliamentary committee on migrant workers; the General Federation of Israeli Trade Unions (Histadrut); Kav La'Oved and the Hotline for Migrant Workers (NGO’s), academic figures; the Thai Embassy to Israel; Israeli farmers; Arab workers organized by WAC and Thai workers working on Israeli farms. In its visit to the West Bank, the delegation met the PA Minister of Labor, the General Secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, the Director of the Democracy and Workers' Rights Center and several union representatives in Ramallah and Abu Dis.

3. The delegation members received a first-hand understanding of the labor market in Israel and Palestine in the farm sector. These wide- ranging meetings led us to conclude that workers' conditions in Israel's agricultural sector are characterized by extreme exploitation; on many occasions they contravene both Israeli and international law, especially ILO conventions C111 and C100 and the UN Convention to Protect All Migrant Workers and their Families (1990). This situation contributes to extreme poverty, a high unemployment level among Palestinian workers, modern types of slavery practiced against Thai migrant workers, a lack of job opportunities for Arab women in Israel and a growing situation of anarchy in the labor market as a whole.

4. These key problems have to be dealt with as follows:

• The closure policy which Israel imposes on the Palestinian workers in the West Bank and Gaza should be lifted at once. The 15,000 Palestinian laborers who worked on Israeli farms until 1993 should be allowed to return to their jobs, in order to alleviate the social catastrophe in these two areas.
• More than 26,000 migrant workers from Thailand pay between $6,000 and $9,000 for a permit to come to Israel and work on farms. They receive salaries equivalent to 60% of Israel's minimum wage. These practices should be stopped by both the government of Israel and its Thai counterpart.
• Arab women in Israel suffer from a low level of participation in the labor force (only 17%). Only if they work, however, can the society emerge from chronic poverty. Arab women are willing to work on Israeli farms, but the presence of indebted, exploited workers from Thailand makes it impossible to compete for jobs.
• To fight the anarchy in the Israeli labor market, the authorities should stop allowing manpower companies and subcontractors to employ workers without giving them full social rights. Labor organizations must give workers—all workers—the support net they need to fight for their rights. Only workers' organizations can bring the needed change.

5. The Israeli and Thai governments have been negotiating an agreement that will end the huge admission fees paid by Thai workers who travel to Israel. We learned that nothing has come of these talks (despite Israeli Government decision No. 4024 from July 31, 2005). It is the responsibility of both governments, through their employment offices, to take control of this process, guaranteeing that this new type of slave trade is stopped and that workers' rights are not violated.

6. Coming from trade unions and labor organizations, we, the undersigned delegates, unite in our commitment to make this visit a starting point for an international campaign supporting this country's workers – Palestinian and Israeli, Arab and Jewish, local and migrant – in their fight for dignity and full social rights.

7. We will work, each in his/her country, to present the findings of the visit and to help create better awareness concerning the situation of workers in Israel and Palestine. We shall seek support for the effort by local trade unions and NGO’s to overcome national borders and help the workers achieve unity in the fight for their rights.

8. We shall involve other farm laborers' unions worldwide, especially in areas where Israeli farm products are sold, to end the violation of workers' rights in Israel's agricultural sector. Israel must be pressured to abide by the international conventions concerning migrant workers, Palestinian workers and local Arab and Jewish workers.

9. International and regional labor institutions and trade union organizations—such as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-CSI-IGB) and the International Federation of Farm workers (IUF) —should be updated on the conclusions of this delegation. We see ourselves as forerunners of a more widely representative delegation of farm workers' unions, which will mobilize the huge moral and political clout of the international labor movement.


Cecilia Sanz Fernandez - General Secretary of the Farm Workers Union in Spain (affiliated to the CCOO)
Antonio Perianes Pedrero, Farm Workers Union in Spain (affiliated to the CCOO) Andalucia Province
Endy Hagen - member of the German Trade Union Ver.di F.B.8
Hartwig Otto - member of the German Trade Union Ver.di F.B.8
Melody Gonzalez – representing the Coalition of Imokelli Workers (CIW), based in Miami, Florida.
Junia Lek Ympersrt - leader of the Thai Labor Campaign (TLC)
Issam Wahba – Head of Education and PR Dep. In the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Nablus PGFTU

The delegation's visit was organized and coordinated by WAC-Ma'an. WAC's National Coordinator Assaf Adiv and Roni Ben Efrat – Head of International Relations Department. WAC will conduct the ongoing network.

Assaf Adiv, National Coordinator – WAC-Ma'an

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Workers to the Top of the Agenda
Arab & Jewish Workers to march together on May Day
WAC-Ma'an organizes march in Tel Aviv

The Workers Advice Center (WAC-Ma'an) has organized a march for workers’ rights under the title “Workers to the top of the Agenda,” in honor of the First of May. Arab and Jewish workers will gather at the corner of Rothschild and Sheinkin at 17:00 on May 1. They will be joined by unions and other organizations that are active in defending workers’ rights. They will then march to Tel Aviv's Cinematheque Plaza, where they will hold an assembly at 18:00. The following speakers will address the group:

For WAC: Assaf Adiv and Asma Agbarieh; for the Hotline for Migrant Workers: Ami Saar; for Kav LaOved: Roy Wagner; for Tel Aviv University Legal Aid Clinic: Attorney Itai Swirsky, Dr. Itzhak Saporta. WAC's Wafa Tyara will speak in a special ceremony to commend those who contributed during the past year to the struggle of organizing the working class. Between speeches the following musicians will perform: Amir Lev, Dan Toren, Yasmin Even, Natan Slor, and Yoel Ben Simhon.

An international delegation of labor unions will also be present. This delegation, invited by WAC, is currently visiting Israel and Palestine. Junya Lek Yimprasert from the Thai union, TLC, will take the stage.

To mark May Day, WAC has cooperated with poets and editors of cultural publications to issue an anthology of class-conscious poems entitled “Red.” Magazines joining WAC in this publication are Etgar, a political and cultural magazine; Ma’ayan, a poetry magazine; and Hakivun Mizrah.

Some of the poets read at a poetry evening in Kufr Qara on April 27. The encounter between Arab and Jewish poets, on the one hand, and 60 farm and construction workers from WAC on the other, was exciting and unique. Among the poets in the anthology are: Aiman Kamel Agbarieh, Samiah el Kasem, Sheli Elkayam, Dvorah Amir, Ro’i Arad, Erez Biton, Galit Wasker, Nidaa Khoury, Oded Karmeli Itzhak Laor, Amir Lev, Gilad Meiri, Itai Meirson, Hussein Mahaneh, Sami Mahaneh, Fairuk Mussi, Marwan Makhol, Mirsol (Mira Hevroni), Efrat Mishori, Salman Matzalkha, Nir Nader, Amit Neufeld, Eitan Glas Nahmias, Tal Nitzan, Amir Naaman, Naval Nafaa, Yehezkiel Nefshi, Roni Sumak, Pete Seeger, Yehoshua Simon, Naif Salim, Debbie Saar, Braha Sari, Turki Amer , Taha Muhammad Ali, Tzvi Atsmon, Oded Peled, Dalia Pelah, Aharon Shabtai, Yaara Shkhori, Bashir Shalesh, Matti Schmauluf, Ester Shkelim, Dan Toren.

At the May Day assembly in the Cinematheque Plaza, there will also be an exhibit of art and poetry, including all works of art published till now in YNet’s weekly column Beit Ha’am (Ynet is the website of the Ydiout Ahronot daily). This weekly column presents a work of art beside a poem addressing current reality. The Ynet column and the May Day gallery are sponsored by WAC and Etgar magazine.

RMT and OILC take steps towards joining forces
Publication Date: May 1 2007

AFTER SEVERAL months of fruitful talks between the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union, details of an historic proposal to unite the two unions are being finalised by officials.

Delegates at the OILC conference, to be held in Aberdeen on October 6, will decide whether to put the proposal to transfer engagements and become RMT's offshore section to a ballot of the OILC's more than 2,000 members.

The move to bring the two unions together has already been endorsed by a special general meeting of RMT, held in Doncaster in March, and has the support of the entire OILC executive.

RMT, Britain's fastest growing union, already organises divers and catering workers in the offshore industry, and recently won its more than 900 North Sea divers and support staff a 45 per cent pay rise after a ten-day, all-out strike.

OILC, which organises offshore engineering, drilling, construction and support workers, was set up following the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster, which claimed 167 lives.

"Democracy, integrity, transparency and acccountability are at the very heart of RMT and it is refreshing to be talking to an organisation built on grass-roots involvement rather than so-called partnership," said OILC general secretary Jake Molloy.

"RMT's track record, not least on the recent divers' dispute, supports our view that it is a union prepared to fight for workers' rights, and the OILC executive is united behind the proposal, which will now be put to our members," Jake Molloy said.

"Our two unions have the same outlook and organise in the same offshore maritime sector, and joining forces makes sound industrial sense," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.

"Bringing OILC and RMT together will benefit the members of both unions, and deliver more industrial clout in an industry that is notoriously difficult to organise in," Bob Crow said.