Migrant workers’ victory in Korea

Opening ImageBy Sam MacDonald in Seoul

Over the past 50 years, few countries have experienced such a dramatic economic rise as South Korea. A country once known for sweatshops and cheap manufactured goods; now produces some of the world’s most advanced ships, cars and electronics. An important part of this process was the state-led export of Korean labour. From 1975-85 over one million young Koreans moved to the Middle-East in search of construction jobs and money to remit home. However, as Korean capitalism has grown and workers have fought for higher wages, this process has reversed as small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have sought to fill labour shortages with over 500,000 foreign migrant workers. Concentrated in so-called 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous and demeaning), these new migrants have become one of the most marginalised groups in this society, facing constant discrimination, abuse and mistreatment.

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Our struggles – in the courtrooms and out

We should all celebrate recent SFWU victories in the courts...

We should all celebrate recent SFWU victories in the courts…

By Julia Smith

In March this year Service and Food Workers Union National Secretary, John Ryall  stated that unions would be taking more and more employment cases to Court following the latest in a string of successful cases for low-paid employees. He went on to say that litigation was now preferable to collective bargaining, which he described as “hopeless” and that the preferred  strategy,  which the SFWU started about five years ago, is going to the courts and arguing for minimum wage rights and human rights, in terms of enforcing the Minimum Wage Act and Equal Pay Act.”

John Ryall’s remarks were endorsed by CTU president Helen Kelly who said the CTU was also concentrating on strategic litigation.”We have to rely on the minimum code – Minimum Wage, Holidays Act, Equal Pay Act – to get any sort of justice”, Kelly stated.

It is  true that workers have recently won several strategic union backed cases. And the private prosecutions the CTU has taken in forestry – when the relevant state bodies have not been prepared to make a stand for workers’ safety – are absolutely commendable. They have helped pursue justice for workers’ families, and have highlighted the dangerous conditions in the industry. However making gains by way of litigation raises a number of concerns for the future  of the union movement as a whole and its effectiveness long term. This article aims to look at some of the cases taken and will briefly explore some of the  questions which arise.

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Celebrating Unite’s struggle against Zero Hour Contracts

Wellington UNITE organiser Heleyni Pratley leading workers in struggle

Wellington UNITE organiser Heleyni Pratley leading workers in struggle

By Shomi Yoon

In a campaign reminiscent of Unite Union’s SuperSizeMyPay.com getting workers on to collective contracts from a decade ago, once again Unite has burst onto the industrial scene to take on the fast food giants and against all odds, win. The campaign brought out courageous stories of workers speaking out against their exploitation and zero-hours contracts, heartwarming acts of solidarity – globally and domestically, and reinforced the old union slogan of “If you don’t fight, you lose”.

It also brought to light just how low companies are willing to go to intimidate and harass its workers. McDonalds, in particular, were unwilling to come to the table to offer an end to zero hours contracts. They resorted to grubby tactics like offering pay rises to their non-unionised staff during negotiations as a way to undermine Unite.

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Living Wage win at Wellington City Council

Living Wage AAABy Andrew Raba

On Wednesday the 24th of June Wellington City Council voted nine to six in favour of paying its contract staff the living wage of 19.25 an hour. The ‘MOP’ march began outside the Wesley Church on Taranaki Street with a hot breakfast and speeches from the CTU president Helen Kelly and Bishop Justin Duckworth. Lots of people had brought mops to represent support for the cleaners who keep Wellington’s community spaces running and yet are paid almost as little as legally possible. At 8:45 am roughly 200 people marched from the church to Civic Square. The march was led by council employed cleaners and the Brass Razoo Solidarity Band. Among the crowd were a wide range of Wellingtonians, faith groups, unions, workers, and the ISO. [Read more…]

Talleys AFFCO – New Zealand’s most Dangerous place to work?

No knight in shining armour: 'Sir' Peter Talley was honoured recently for being mega-wealthy

No knight in shining armour: ‘Sir’ Peter Talley was honoured recently for being mega-wealthy

By Joshua O’Sullivan

Talley’s group is one of the most notorious employers known in the union world. The Talley’s family has made it their personal mission to destroy unionism in New Zealand and they are starting with their own companies. Again the employers are in a dispute with their meat workers, trying to force further cuts in workers benefits and pay.

In Rangiuru, an AFFCO processing plant in Te Puke, Bay of Plenty, the bosses have begun an unofficial lockout trying to force union members onto individual contracts with lower pay and longer hours. Workers have been given just a week to sign – meaning that if they do not sign they cannot return to work the next week. These new contracts contain many of the provisions the company has been trying to force through collective bargaining and the lockouts in 2011.

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NZ Post – Privatisation by Stealth?

A post box facing the chop on Kelburn Parade, Wellington.

A post box facing the chop on Kelburn Parade, Wellington.

Tomorrow New Zealand Post will. continue its removal of road side post boxes. This is privatisation by stealth says the Postal Workers Union. We’re reprinting their statement below:

“At the same time that NZ Post is quietly engaged in the removal of many of its road side post boxes and reducing its delivery service, private mail company DX Mail is steadily building up its own postal delivery network.

Tomorrow New Zealand Post wants to take out more post boxes in New Plymouth adding to the 1300 which have disappeared nationwide since 2008. Hutt City lost 31 post boxes earlier this month and more are targeted for removal in Wellington next month. This is privatisation by stealth says the Postal Workers Union. [Read more…]

A Victory in the Long March for Equal Pay

kristine-smallAnother legal victory has been chalked up for equal pay and it is a big one. On 28 October the Court of Appeal delivered its judgement on the appeal by Terranova Homes against the Employment Court’s decision in favour of Kristine Bartlett’s case for equal pay. Two courts now have ruled that Terranova Homes, and by implication many other employers, are breaching the 1972 Equal Pay Act. The point of contention is whether a predominantly female workforce should be paid the same rates as a comparable predominantly male workforce working with the same levels of skills, effort, and responsibility. Terranova pay their women workers the same as their handful of men workers. This does not help the women as the men are paid a pittance as well. [Read more…]

Transforming our Unions: a report from the PSA Youth National Conference

CorysArticle2Earlier this week the Public Service Association’s Youth Network (PSAY) held its annual conference. 90 members of the PSAY Network met to discuss issues relevant to young workers and build youth participation in the union.  While young workers join the PSA and become delegates at roughly similar rates to their older colleges, they are under-represented in higher bodies such as sector committees and the executive board.

Many of the challenges facing workers today are felt particularly sharply by younger workers.  Low pay and insecure work disproportionately affect the young.  55 % of temporary workers for example, are under 35 years of age, and insecure work without regular hours or with little certainty of ongoing employment is increasingly prevalent amongst those new to the workforce.  [Read more…]