South Korea: Former Korean Trade Union President Released from Prison after 3 years

Brazil: Oil workers strike against privatisation

30 May 2018: A 72-hour strike by Brazilian oil workers opposing the privatisation of government owned oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA (popularly known as Petrobras) halted work at 25 out of 46 refineries and rigs across the country. The workers have been demanding that resignation of Petrobras’ chief executive, Pedro Parente, who has been leading the privatisation drive of the company. The strike was declared illegal by Brazil’s top labor court late Tuesday, after Petrobras argued it was about poli-tics rather than labor issues.

The strike of the oil workers was preceded by a 10 day nationwide strike of truck drivers in the country who were protesting against the high prices of gasoline. The series of strikes has rattled the government of President Temer in the wake of national elections which are due in October 2018.

ILO to draft Convention on sexual harassment at work

31 May 2018: The ILO plan to draft an international treaty to protect workers from sexual harassment and violence, following the #Metoo campaign across the world.

While final agreement on the new ILO convention is not expected until next June, members agree that the convention should aim to prevent sexual harassment at work.  This will require countries to adopt national legislation that prevents all forms of violence and harassment at work, to establish and strengthen enforcement and monitoring mechanisms, provide sanctions and ensure remedies and support for victims, among other measures.

South Korea: Former Korean Trade Union President Released from Prison after 3 years

30 May 2018: Han Sang-gyun, the former president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, who was arrested three years ago, was released on 30 May.

Han had led a strike at Ssangyong Motor for 76 days during the global crisis in 2009, as well as a movement against mass dismissals and precarious work. During the strike hundreds of workers seized the plant against impending layoffs, casualization and outsourcing.  He also organised a massive rally in November 2015 in which almost 130,000 people gathered and protested against the erstwhile Park Geun-hye government. The mobilisation led to the impeachment and imprisonment of President Park.

In December 2015, on the charges of violations of the Assembly and Demonstration Act, obstruction of public duties and obstruction of traffic, Han was arrested by state police and sentenced to three years by the Supreme Court in May 2017.

EU: EU votes on equal pay and working conditions

29 May 2018: Members of the European Parliament voted in favour of new European Union rules that ensure workers posted temporarily to other EU countries subject to the same pay and working condition rules of the host country. The current rules allow companies to bring in workers from low-wage EU countries and undercut local workers. Travel, board and accommodation costs will have to be paid by the employer and not deducted from workers’ salaries. Employers will also have to ensure that the accommodation conditions for posted workers are decent, and in line with national rules. The duration of the posting has also been set at a maximum of 12 months, with a possible extension of 6 months.

Member states will have two years to transpose the rules into their national laws, and must put them into effect by the end of this period.

Bangladesh: New Amendment to labour law presented at the ILC

28 May 2018: Bangladesh has gone to the International Labour Conference of the ILO in Geneva with the draft copy of the amended labour law which includes a change in the requisite number of workers to form a union and on inspection of factories in the EPZs.

According to the amendment, 20 percent of the workers in a factory will now be sufficient to form a union instead of 30 percent and now officials of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments would be able to visit and inspect the factories in the Export Processing Zones. The amendment still does not provide freedom of association to workers working in the factories in the EPZs. The government however is ambiguous about when the amendment is likely to be passed in parliament.

Egypt: Trade Union Elections held amid allegations of Government interference

24 May 2018: On 23 May, Egypt held its first countrywide trade union election in 12 years. The election will be conducted in two stages according to a new law issued last year recognising independent trade unions that have established a strong foothold in Egypt in recent years. The election will be conducted under judicial supervision.

Independent trade unions mobilised widespread protests against the privatisation programme of President Hosni Mubarak that had resulted in massive layoff, which ultimately forced him to resign in 2011.

The first stage of the election covers sectors of overland transport, trade, agriculture, irrigation, fisheries, insurance, banks, tourism, oil and administrative sectors. The second, scheduled for 31 May, covers sectors of maritime and air transport as well as food industries, textiles, chemical industries, the postal service and telecommunications.

ILO placed Egypt on its blacklist in 2017, citing violations by the government of workers’ rights, including arrest of trade unionists and curbs on independent trade unions. This election before the International Labour Conference is an attempt to remove its name from the blacklist.

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