Labor News

Africa: The Secret Man Mugabe Ignored But Is Now In Charge Of 161 Million People News - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Zim Eye
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Iran: Labor activist on hunger strike faces deteriorated physical condition News - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Iran HRM
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China: Hotel workers fight back in low paid service jobs News - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: China Labour Bulletin
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Anti-Fascist Berkeley Protest Stops Trump Supporters From Rallying

Current News - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 15:03

Anti-Fascist Berkeley Protest Stops Trump Supporters From Rallying
Thousands of anti-fascists and opponents of Trump went to Berkeley civic center park on August 27, 2017 to oppose the growing racism, xenophobia, sexism and attacks on Muslims and women and workers. The Trump supporters and right-wingers had called a "No To Marxism" rally and were forced to cancel it after growing mass opposition. The opponents of the right brought thousands of people in protest of their tactics and ideology.
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Fascists Out Of SF: Trade Unionists And Community Rally Against Nazis & Racists
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Fascists Out Of SF: Trade Unionists And Community Rally Against Nazis & Racists
Thousands of people in San Francisco on August 26, 2017 rallied in the Castro District and then marched to SF City Hall to protest the Trump administration, the nazis and racists. Included were trade unionists from labor who also spoke out about the dangers of the growing racism, xenophobia and fascist forces that are organizing in San Francisco and nationally.
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Tags: FascismprotestsracismNazis
Categories: Labor News

Canadian ATU 113 TTC union alleges safety double standard after worker hit by bus

Current News - Mon, 08/28/2017 - 09:42

Canadian ATU 113 TTC union alleges safety double standard after worker hit by bus
Contract employees not held to same safety requirements, says union

NEWS Aug 25, 2017 by Rahul Gupta North York Mirror

TTC vehicle operator Neil Cooper suffered several injuries to his face and body after he was hit by a bus at the Wilson garage August 15. - Neil Cooper/Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113
The TTC’s largest labour union accused the commission of maintaining a double standard for workplace safety after one of its members was struck and injured by a bus driven by a contract worker.

The incident, which took place earlier this month at the Wilson garage in North York and was confirmed by the TTC, was severe enough to knock Neil Cooper, a bus operator with 30 years of experience, unconscious for eight seconds according to the union. Cooper also suffered facial lacerations, an injury to his eye as well as multiple dislocated fingers, said Kevin Morton, president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113. No charges have been laid.

While an official investigation of the collision is underway, Morton blamed the incident directly on the contract worker involved, identified by the TTC as a service line cleaner hired through a third-party. Unlike their unionized counterparts, Morton said less-skilled contract workers are not held to the same standards, accusing the TTC of compromising the safety of its permanent employees to save money on wages.

“They’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to save money,” said Morton over the phone from Milwaukee. “(Contract workers) could kill, injure or maim someone, but they’re not held to the same standard (as a permanent worker).”

According to Morton, his union has obtained GPS data from the bus, which shows the driver was speeding “nine to 12 kilometres” over the speed limit at the time of the collision.

“It’s all proven, these are facts,” he said.

Contract workers are permitted to drive buses on TTC property provided they have a valid Ontario class A, B or C commercial license just like regular vehicle operators, said spokesperson Stuart Green.

While Green couldn’t comment specifically on the incident pending the completion of the investigation, he said cleaners frequently move buses to the front of the line after they’re serviced.

“This is an unfortunate incident that resulted in injuries to the operator, which were treated in hospital,” said Green.

Contract workers are not subject to random-drug testing as the rank and file, Green said, but contract stipulations require a third party company contracted by the TTC ensure its employees are “fit for duty”.

“This is consistent with the requirement of our (permanent) operators,” he said.
Green said police investigating the collision did not opt to administer a breathalyzer test to the driver.

The incident, which took place on the evening of Aug. 15, represents “a troubling pattern” of compromised worker safety, said Morton who referred to past examples of workplace injury involving contracted workers.

One incident he said took place in 2014, also at Wilson, where a contracted worker crashed a bus damaging multiple vehicles and was ultimately found not to possess any type of valid licence. Metroland Media Toronto was unable to independently verify the allegation and the TTC could not provide confirmation.

“These are not isolated incidents,” said Morton.

Green said the review will involve the TTC and the Ministry of Labour, but could not provide a timeline for its completion.

“Safety is the cornerstone of all TTC operations and we take incidents like this seriously,” he said

Tags: ATU 113health and safetytransit workers
Categories: Labor News

Ahead of regional summit, left-leaning policy groups say ‘No’ to a sales tax for DC Metro "Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest union, in opposing the sales tax."

Current News - Sun, 08/27/2017 - 17:54

Ahead of regional summit, left-leaning policy groups say ‘No’ to a sales tax for DC Metro "Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest union, in opposing the sales tax."
A Metro train passes over the Potomac River in Washington on Aug. 9. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
By Faiz Siddiqui August 27 at 8:13 PM
A regionwide one-cent sales tax to fund Metro would have a disproportionate impact on poor families, taking five times the share of income from the bottom 20 percent of earners when compared with those in the top 1 percent, according to a new analysis from a trio of left-leaning think tanks representing the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Calling recent service cuts, fare hikes and a potential sales tax a “triple whammy” on the region’s low-income residents, the groups are pressing local officials to ditch the sales tax proposal in favor of flexible, jurisdictional financial commitments, with each government finding its own way to pay for Metro’s long-term needs.

“It’s not right to ask the families who are least well-off to shoulder the biggest responsibility for fixing Metro, while leaving busi­nesses and high-income families off the hook,” said Ed Lazere, executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, one of three groups that participated in the analysis.

The other two organizations who participated are the Maryland Center on Economic Policy and the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. The think tanks join labor groups, including Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest union, in opposing the sales tax.

The tax burden should be placed on businesses and high-
income earners rather than struggling families, the groups say.

Further, a proposal to limit the growth of annual subsidies that jurisdictions contribute to Metro risks hamstringing the transit agency’s ability to perform critical maintenance and maintain current fares and service, the report argues.

The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, found that while a penny-per-dollar sales tax would cost those making more than $600,000 less than 0.1 percent of their income, those making less than $25,000 would sacrifice 0.5 percent of their earnings. Black and Latino families in the District would be the hardest hit, according to the report, because 38 percent and 35 percent of their households, respectively, have incomes below $50,000, the report says. Meanwhile, families are already grappling with the region’s high cost of living and disproportionate economic growth that has seen overall wages rise but not for the bottom 40 percent of workers.

“When we’re asking a family who maybe tomorrow is skipping a meal, or two or three by the end of the month, ‘Hey, we need another 50 bucks for Metro,’ that is food that’s being taken off their table because they are spending all of their income,” said Benjamin Orr, executive director at the Maryland Center on Economic Policy. “In many cases, their bills and their obligations, and what they need to survive, exceeds what their income is.”

[Metro union calls for flat fares, dedicated taxes to rescue ridership and finances]

The release of the report appears timed to influence Monday’s regional summit of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), where Metro is expected to be a principal topic. The three have been far apart in the past on funding Metro. Bowser strongly supports a uniform, regionwide sales tax, perhaps as much as a penny-per-dollar. McAuliffe would back increased taxes or other new funding mechanisms only after Metro has shown it has made progress on safety, reliability and efficiency. Hogan has ruled out giving Metro any extra money from the Maryland state budget, but he has left open the possibility that Montgomery and Prince George’s counties might tax themselves to pay for Metro.

The three leaders also are due to get an update on work done by former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, who was recruited byMcAuliffe to devise a package of structural changes and funding plans for Metro that could win support throughout the region. LaHood plans to get feedback from the three and make his recommendations in late September or October.

LaHood has not said anything publicly about his intentions, but officials who have been briefed on his plans said they expect him to discuss Metro’s funding needs, labor costs and governance reforms, as well as other topics.

“We’re hoping that this report helps wake our leaders up that they need to think about who they’re actually asking to help to pay to fix Metro,” Lazere said. “I’m hopeful that it will get people to think twice about the sales tax.”

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld has called for $15.5 billion over 10 years to support the system’s capital needs — including $500 million in new, annual dedicated funding — and a slew of concessions from Metro’s unions to keep the system’s finances healthy and infrastructure in a state of good repair.

Metro, which is funded through a combination of jurisdictional subsidies and federal grants, is alone among the nation’s major subway systems in lacking a significant source of dedicated funding

The jurisdictional subsidy cap is another area of concern, the think tanks say. Such limits to spending could only lead to further maintenance problems, service cuts or fare increases down the line, they argue.

Under Wiedefeld’s proposal, growth in annual subsidies to Metro from the jurisdictions would be capped at 3 percent.

[Metro GM proposes ‘new business model’ and $500 million a year in extra funding to save D.C.-area transit agency]

“A 3 percent cap could . . . force Metro, in a short amount of time to shortchange maintenance, raise fares or cut services, or look for employee concessions,” the report says. “A 3 percent goal can be established but should include flexibility to go above that should a clear need be demonstrated.”

The report says jurisdictions could consider an additional property tax for businesses closest to Metro lines and stations — although it leaves the door open for an exemption for small businesses.

“In addition to business contributions, the remaining costs should be borne largely by higher-income households, both because they can best afford to pay and because they have benefited most from D.C’s growing economy,” the report said.

The groups liken their approach to the “millionaire’s tax” proposed by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) to fund that city’s struggling subway.

Metro board Chairman Jack Evans, a longtime supporter of a one-cent regional sales tax, acknowledged that such a measure would be felt more deeply by poorer families. But, he said, the sales tax is the simplest mechanism for raising the $650 million Metro needs, referring to the amount in dedicated funding recommended by a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments technical panel. In addition, the region’s lowest-income residents also rely on Metro to get around, so they have a stake in the system, Evans argued.

“I understand, if I’m only making a dollar, a penny’s a lot to me,” Evans said. “If I make a hundred dollars, then a penny’s a lot less work. In the scheme of the world at the end of the day, it is the fairest way. Because everybody benefits from Metro and everybody benefits from Metro’s success.”

Lazere questioned why the region couldn’t use a system akin to the multifaceted funding mechanism that paid for Nationals Park — including the tax on businesses that paid for stadium debt, for example. Evans said, however, that any tax proposal should be bondable, and it wasn’t clear that the alternatives the groups were proposing would be deemed suitable for significant long-term borrowing.

But Lazere, whose think tank studies D.C. budget and tax issues, said the region doesn’t have to be restricted to one source of revenue for dedicated funding.

“As long as there’s a commitment and every jurisdiction puts the full faith of their government against it, I don’t see why there has to be a single revenue source from one jurisdiction to another,” he said. “The notion that you can’t have a bond backed by more than one revenue source — it just seems sort of too simplistic an answer.”

Robert McCartney contributed to this report.

Tags: DC ATU 689regressive transit sales taxCost Shiftingregressive taxes
Categories: Labor News

Global: International food workers congress opens in Geneva News - Sun, 08/27/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: LabourStart
Categories: Labor News

Chinese Capitalists Uses Investments In Greece To Bust Port Unions And Create Cheap Labor Conditions On The "Silk Road”

Current News - Sun, 08/27/2017 - 07:49

Chinese Capitalists Uses Investments In Greece To Bust Port Unions And Create Cheap Labor Conditions On The "Silk Road”
“There are more workers, but they earn less income,” said Giorgos Gogos, the general secretary of the Piraeus dockworkers union.

Chastised by E.U., a Resentful Greece Embraces China’s Cash and Interests
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The port of Piraeus. China invested nearly half a billion euros in the port, transforming it into the busiest harbor in the Mediterranean. CreditAngelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
ATHENS — After years of struggling under austerity imposed by European partners and a chilly shoulder from the United States, Greecehas embraced the advances of China, its most ardent and geopolitically ambitious suitor.

While Europe was busy squeezing Greece, the Chinese swooped in with bucket-loads of investments that have begun to pay off, not only economically but also by apparently giving China a political foothold in Greece, and by extension, in Europe.

Last summer, Greece helped stop the European Union from issuing a unified statement against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. This June, Athens prevented the bloc from condemning China’s human rights record. Days later it opposed tougher screening of Chinese investments in Europe.

Greece’s diplomatic stance hardly went unnoticed by its European partners or by the United States, all of which had previously worried that the country’s economic vulnerability might make it a ripe target for Russia, always eager to divide the bloc.

Instead, it is the Chinese who have become an increasingly powerful foreign player in Greece after years of assiduous courtship and checkbook diplomacy.

Among those initiatives, China plans to make the Greek port of Piraeus the “dragon head” of its vast “One Belt, One Road” project, a new Silk Road into Europe.

When Germany treated Greece as the eurozone’s delinquent, China designated a recovery-hungry Greece its “most reliable friend” in Europe.

“While the Europeans are acting towards Greece like medieval leeches, the Chinese keep bringing money,” said Costas Douzinas, the head of the Greek Parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee and a member of the governing Syriza party.

Continue reading the main story

Municipal workers protested cuts to government spending in Athens in 2012. China quietly invested in Greece as the European Union imposed austerity measures. CreditAdam Ferguson for The New York Times
China has already used its economic muscle to stamp a major geopolitical footprint in Africa and South America as it scours the globe for natural resources to fuel its economy. If China was initially welcomed as a deep-pocketed investor — and an alternative to America — it has faced growing criticism that it is less an economic partner than a 21st-century incarnation of a colonialist power.

If not looking for natural resources in Europe, China has for years invested heavily across the bloc, its largest trading partner. Yet now concerns are rising that Beijing is using its economic clout for political leverage.

Mr. Douzinas said China had never explicitly asked Greece for support on the human rights vote or on other sensitive issues, though he and other Greek officials acknowledge that explicit requests are not necessary.

“If you’re down and someone slaps you and someone else gives you an alm,” Mr. Douzinas said, “when you can do something in return, who will you help, the one who helped you or the one who slapped you?”

The Trump administration, recognizing it has a geopolitical and economic challenger, recently intervened to help lift an American deal over a Chinese competitor — and the Greeks seemed happy to play one power off the other.

E.U. officials are concerned that China is buying silence on human rights issues and undermining the bloc’s ability to speak with one voice. Analysts say China targets smaller countries in need of cash, among them Spain, Portugal and others that suffered in the financial crisis. Hungary, where China is pledging to spend billions on a railway, also blocked the E.U. statement on the South China Sea.

Many analysts have noted that Greece’s human rights veto came as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras returned from a summit meeting in Beijing in May, where he signed billions of euros’ worth of new investment memorandums with Chinese companies.

Greek officials insisted that, despite all the Chinese investments, the country identified with, and was loyal to, the E.U. and did not do China’s bidding. Some European officials are not so sure.

“The Greek government needs to choose where its alliances lie and realize the E.U. is not only a market, but first and foremost a community of values,” said Marietje Schaake, a prominent member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands.

Over the summer, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany tightened rules to limit takeovers of German strategic assets, a move aimed at Chinese state-backed firms. As Ms. Merkel put it to a German newspaper after Greece’s vote blocking the condemnation of Chinese human rights violations, Europe “has to speak with China in one voice.”

She added that China’s economic might allowed it to pressure weaker European nations. “Seen from Beijing,” she added, “Europe is an Asian peninsula.”

Greek voters elected the radical leftist party Syriza and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, in 2015.CreditAngelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
A Gateway to Europe

In January 2015, Greek voters shook Europe by electing the radical leftist Syriza party and its leader, Mr. Tsipras. He had campaigned to end the austerity measures of the E.U. and halt privatizations like the port of Piraeus. Boisterous protesters spilled into Athens, waving Syriza flags and denouncing the European power centers, Brussels and Berlin.

But it was Beijing that became quietly nervous. China’s years of laborious and expensive spadework in Greece suddenly seemed imperiled, especially its investments in Piraeus.

Immediately after Mr. Tsipras took office, the Chinese ambassador, Zou Xiaoli, became the first foreign official to pay him a visit. Mr. Zou pressed Mr. Tsipras to honor the previous Greek government’s commitments to privatize Piraeus, according to several people with knowledge of the meeting.

Back in Beijing, Chinese officials expressed displeasure, and the state-run news media ran articles questioning Greece’s friendship with China. Less than a week later, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, telephoned Mr. Tsipras to make sure there were no more misunderstandings.

In response, Mr. Tsipras and his deputies announced an “upgrading of relations between Greece and China.” Within weeks, three Chinese frigates arrived in Piraeus port. At a ceremony, Mr. Tsipras affirmed Greece’s intent to “serve as China’s gateway into Europe.”

Continue reading the main story


Mr. Tsipras boarded a Chinese frigate during a ceremony at the port of Piraeus in 2015.CreditAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Even as Berlin and Brussels grow wary of Chinese investment, Greece may not care, after suffering under German-enforced austerity attached to the international bailouts that have kept the country afloat since the 2010 debt crisis.

In 2010, as creditors demanded the gutting of pensions and sharp tax increases, the Chinese offered to buy toxic Greek government bonds. In 2013, as Greece became increasingly subject to creditor budget restrictions, the Chinese spent freely on Greek assets.

In turn, Greece has sometimes been a voice in the room at the E.U. for China on sensitive issues — although government officials insist Greece remains loyal to the bloc and to NATO, and is only seeking to strike a balance in a shifting world.

As for scuttling the E.U. statement on China’s human rights violations — the first time in a decade the bloc was silenced — government officials said Greece viewed the E.U. approach as “unproductive.” After the vote, China’s Foreign Ministry applauded “the relevant E.U. country for sticking to the right position.”


A ship in the repair zone on a floating dock in the port of Piraeus. CreditAngelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
‘A Kind of Neocolonialism’

Along more than 20 miles of coastline outside Athens, a forest of cranes at the Piraeus port load and unload thousands of containers from China and around the world. An ultramodern floating dock is scheduled for arrival in November from China. A planned new Chinese-financed passenger hub is also in the works.

China has transformed Piraeus into the Mediterranean’s busiest port, investing nearly half a billion euros through the state-backed shipping conglomerate Cosco. It hopes to make Piraeus the entry point to Europe under its One Belt, One Road project.

Chinese goods would travel along a new network of railways and roads radiating up through Central European nations, with the prized destination being Germany, where China invested $12 billion last year alone.

In the middle of the port, Chinese, Greek and E.U. flags flutter in front of the headquarters of Cosco, which now controls the entire waterfront through its 67 percent stake in the port.

“It’s a kind of neocolonialism without the gunboats,” said Mr. Douzinas with a chuckle.

Greek officials note that, unlike democratic nations that change politicians every few years, the Chinese have a long and steady strategic view.

“They know what they want,” said Stergios Pitsiorlas, the Greek deputy economics minister and one of the government’s point men dealing with China.

Cosco has brought around 1,000 jobs to the area, but it has outfitted cargo docks with cranes made in China, not in Greece, and expanded the docks with building materials from China. And as Greece struggles through record joblessness, the company has used subcontractors to hire around 1,500 workers mostly on short-term contracts at wages far below what unionized Greek dockworkers are paid.

“There are more workers, but they earn less income,” said Giorgos Gogos, the general secretary of the Piraeus dockworkers union.

Continue reading the main story


Chinese tourists in front of the Greek Parliament last month. CreditAngelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
Yet Greece needs any jobs, and leaders are counting on more Chinese investment. Fosun International Holdings, a Chinese conglomerate run by Guo Guangchang, often referred to as China’s Warren Buffett, is spending billions of euros with a consortium with Greek and Arab investors to convert an abandoned former airport on the seaside outside Athens into a posh playground three times the size of Monaco for moneyed tourists. The project, Hellenikon, is part of a bigger plan to bring over 1.5 million Chinese tourists to Greece during the next five years.

Mr. Tsipras has swept aside regulatory hurdles, clearing two large refugee camps installed in the former airport, and quashing attempts by members of his own party to delay construction because of concerns the project might pave over ancient archaeological sites.

“That also has been unstuck,” said Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, the Greek economy minister.

China vs. America

After World War II, the benefactor showering millions on Greece was the United States, courtesy of the Marshall Plan. America’s role in Greece wasn’t always popular — especially its support for the country’s military dictatorship during the Cold War — but the United States was regarded as the gold standard for economic opportunity. Not so much anymore.

When former President Obama visited Greece last November on his final foreign trip, some Syriza officials, bitter that his administration had not intervened more forcefully during the financial crisis, mocked his speech as a funeral oration for his own legacy, worthy of Pericles.

Privately, Mr. Obama’s advisers said the trip also served to demonstrate, somewhat belatedly, American engagement in Greece in the face of Russian meddling in the region.

Continue reading the main story


Former President Barack Obama with Mr. Tsipras in November 2016.CreditPablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
But it was China that was most deeply entrenched. Eliot Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, described a “free-for-all for rogue countries” in Greece.

“We see it with Russia and we see it with China,” he said as he attended a July 4 party at the United States ambassador’s residence in Athens, part of a congressional delegation that had come to drum up business for American companies. “That’s why it’s so important for America to be engaged in the world.”

Mr. Tsipras is trying to play both sides. Having traveled twice in a year to Beijing to meet the Chinese president and attend One Belt, One Road forums to draw investment, he has recently welcomed American businessmen and promoted Greece’s recovery to American lawmakers.

In May, when Fosun and two other Chinese companies bid to take over a major Greek insurer, the United States commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross, intervened to help push the deal into the hands of Calamos Investments, a Greek-American consortium whose chief executive is a backer of President Trump. The Exin Group, a Dutch partnership with Calamos, eventually won the bid.

“He sent us a letter asking us to look at Calamos,” said Mr. Papadimitriou, the economy minister. Any deal, Mr. Ross implied in the letter, “could be the beginning of more investments in Greece,” Mr. Papadimitriou recalled.

Some Greek government officials cited Fosun’s defeat as evidence that Athens wasn’t under China’s sway.

“We are sensitive to being viewed as someone else’s colony,” said Panagiotis Kouroumblis, Greece’s maritime minister. “Nothing can move forward without the agreement of the Greek state.”


Two refugees smoking a hookah pipe at the Skaramagas camp, west of Athens.CreditEirini Vourloumis for The New York Times
Correction: August 26, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of the Chinese ambassador, Zou Xiaoli. He is Mr. Zou, not Mr. Xiaoli.

Greek Dockworkers Fight Privatization & For Worker Rights: Report By Port Union Leader Giorgos Gogos
Greek Piraeus Port Union leader Giorgis Gogos who is general secretary of the union discusses the privatization of the port of Pireaeus by the Chinese shipping company China Ocean Shipping Company ( Cosco). He also reports on the conditions of workers who now work for Cosco.
He also discusses the growing political crisis and the recent split in the Syrias and the role of the United States and Europe in relationship to the tens of thousands of refugees who are coming from Syria and Iraq. This interview was done on September 2, 2015 in Athens, Greece.
Production of Labor Video Project

The privatization of the Piraeus Port Authority in Greece: What's really happening
Felixstowe Dockers
To keep Felixstowe Dockers informed as to what is going on around us all.
The privatization of the Piraeus Port Authority in Greece: What's really happening

I am posting this on behalf of Dockers Hangarounds

The privatization of the Piraeus Port Authority in Greece: What's really happening

Anastasia Frantzeskaki Αναστασία Φραντζεσκάκη

Greek trade unionist Anastasia Frantzeskaki made this contribution on the situation of the port of Piraeus to the panel discussion organized by the parliamentary group of the German Left Party (die Linke) at the Bundestag on 2.11.2015, on the topic of privatization of electricity, ports and railways in Greece.
Greece has 12 ports with the status of national port, two of which, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, have the status of international port.


The Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) is one of the largest passenger ports in the world and one of the largest ports in Europe. It has 44 km of quays, [PP1] and its port facilities cover four municipalities. It serves annually 40.000 ships, 18.000.000 passengers, 3.000.000 vehicles, 500.000 vehicles as goods (car-terminal) and 5.000.000 containers (PCT and PPA). The port of Piraeus operates in 7 sectors of port activity: (a) Coastal shipping, (b) Cruise, (c) Car-terminal, (d) Ro-Ro, (e) Containers, (f) Ship repair and (g) Environmental and Logistics operations. It is the main port for coastal shipping, connecting mainland Greece and the islands, the main cruise port (50%), the main port for containers (90%), and the main port for cars (95%) of the country. It is the only Greek port that offers all the required port services: water, fuel oil, solid and liquid receptacle tankers, residual oil, electricity, fiber optics and internet, victuals, repairs, environmental services and it is fully connected to all activities with modern computer systems.
The port of Piraeus has been certified by ESPO and Lloyd's as ECOPORT. It employs 15 continuous and revolving programs of environmental protection for land, water and atmosphere, at a cost of 2.224.000 euros. The port of Piraeus, under the management of PPA SA, is one of the few companies in the country which operates 365 days a year, with 24 hours of continuous operation, applying all Community and national rules of transparency. Its cruise terminal is certified with ISO 14001:2004, and the car terminal is in the final phase of this certification process.
The PPA and ThPA are essentially dual legal personalities: There are simultaneously an enterprise and an authority. Through or in conjunction with other public bodies they exercise public authority (free zones, customs, port, health, fire, points of entry and exit of the country, security, environmental, towing, shipwrecks, etc.) and are in fact the dominant Regulatory Authority in their area of responsibility.

Piraeus is the centre of the world for Greek-flagged and Greek-owned shipping, in which 900 shipping companies have their headquarters. 60% of imports - exports of the country move through the port of Piraeus. The extensive set of facilities (infrastructure and equipment) were constructed with public funds, PPA own funds and community resources. If it is fully privatized, then a unique expertise of the country will be lost for 40 years. The port of Piraeus has twice the turnover of all other ports in the country put together.
The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), which for convenience I will refer to as “the Fund”, owns 74% of the shares of Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports and 100% of the share capital of the remaining ports.
Privatisation is used as one of the ways to repay creditors and the Fund had undertaken the appropriate procedures
I will open a parenthesis here and explain a few things about the status of the Fund. Two members of the Troika are participating in its board. In all board meetings express their will. In several aspects the Fund set aside the official government. For instance, it was the Fund and not the ministry of Maritime Affairs that ordered studies about the development of the port industry of the country. The Fund alone decided that will proceed with this model of privatisation instead of another one less strict that was propoted by the studies. The Syriza government did not challenged this status.
The tender process for the sale of 67% of the shares of the Piraeus and Thessaloniki Port Authorities was launched with the announcement of the respective Invitation for the Expression of Interest. This process took place in March 2014. The chosen model of privatisation, which is to sell the whole port to one private bidder, is highly unusual.
Quick recap
The ports in the European Union take various legal forms, but mainly they are corporations. In terms of shareholding structure:
• 90% of public character
• 7% fully state owned
• 3% completely private
In the public character ports, shareholders are the State, Local Government, the Chambers and operators and users in the area of Logistics and Shipping. In public ports operating licenses or public land are allocated through long-term concessions from the government to the port operators.
The usual model of privatization, which is also applied in German ports, is the landlord system where the state retains ownership of the land. The local Port Authority is a public entity and operates a system of concessions whereby more than one operator are allowed to manage the various port activities, such as the container terminal or car terminal.
The idea is that the competition among the different operators will ultimately produce better services at better prices. This system also assures a certain level of labour protection based on the freedom to establish a trade union, and to negotiate and sign a collective agreement. There is a framework of health and safety rules, and a process of training. This model was initially proposed to the Fund through the studies it ordered, and was rejected.
The Greek ports currently belong to the second model, fully state-owned. I’ve reviewed their characteristics already. Labour relations are regulated and trade union activity is protected. Collective agreements are negotiated and signed between the PPAs and the trade unions. They have high standards of Health and Safety, and training procedures exist.
The third model, completely private, is what the Troika wants to impose on the ports of Greece. The majority of their shares are to be sold to one buyer. This buyer takes the master concession. Then he can proceed to make sub-concessions to other operators. Thus the public monopoly is replaced by a private monopoly.


In January 2015 when SYRIZA came to power it declared the end of the privatisation process for both ports and challenged they very existence of the Fund. However, a month later the Fund remained and two months later the issue of the privatisation of the ports re-emerged after the visit of the vice-president of the government in China. Then it was declared that the privatisation process of the port of Piraeus will proceed, but the conditions of the sale will change. Instead of one sale of 67% of the shares, the government will sell 51% of the shares and then another 4% every year until 67% are in private ownership.
Last summer during the negotiation of the3rd Memorandum the sale of the two ports (Piraeus and Thessaloniki) was among the terms. Again the same model of privatisation was imposed. The Troika had strong views about the governance model of the ports and they insisted that both of the Port Authorities should be privatised. At they end of the day the Greek side gained the right to create a public Port Authority. Until now we haven’t seen any initiative towards this direction. On the contrary in all the draft documents circulated by the Fund there is no reference to the public Port Authority. Furthermore, responsibilities that should be linked to a Port Authority either pass to the private owner, like the expansion and the maintenance of the port infrastructure, or they are given to other bodies, as in the case of hoisting shipwrecks.
At this point I want to refer again on the status of the Fund. The Fund alone is playing a leading role in the privatisation procedures of the Greek ports. The Ministry of Maritime affairs gained limited access to the discussion only last month, after a period of public conflict with the Fund. The two Port Authorities, the local communities and the dockworkers have no access at all. For instance, two weeks ago the Fund decided who will have access to the final draft of the HR Concession Agreement to be signed between the PPA and the Greek State. The PPA and the workers are not among those who can see the text. Two other important documents, the Share Purchase Agreement and the Shareholders’ Agreement are handled exclusively by the Fund.
No one outside of the Fund has any information about the character and the content of negotiations that are occurring between the Fund and the Qualified Parties. Only last week the Fund consulted an independent valuer to find out how much the Port of Piraeus is worth as a whole. Until recently they were selling the main port of the country, negotiating, and suggesting prices, without knowing what the port is worth! Furthermore, in the discussion paper before the memorandum they hope to get 610 mil euros for the sale of both ports plus the 10 other that have a national status.
Two points related to the value of the Piraeus Port. The current value of the PPA under two different valuation methods amounts to 1150 million euros excluding capital gains and investments of third parties through part concessions.
The picture is more complete if we add another factor: The Attica Port System. In accordance with the provision of L.4150/2013 voted by the previous Government, the “Attica Port System” must be created, by the merger listed on the Athens Stock Exchange of PPA with all the ports of Attica. Activation of the above law leads to the full control of the port system of Attica by the private monopoly that will control the majority of the shares of the PPA.
Despite the above, when the Fund refers to the money it hopes to receive from the privatisation of the PPA they mention numbers between 300 and under 500 million euros, plus 250 million euros in investments.
Furthermore the Fund says nothing about the rent that Cosco pays to PPA for the part of the Container terminal that is under its management. Officially the new owner will take the rent. The rent for the period 2015-25 will surpass the 500 million euros. Thus Cosco in ten years time will buy back its current concession and the rest 30 years will make profits.

Effects of Privatisation on:
Job pay and conditions
In the case of the Port privatisations until now there is not a single reference to labour. There are hints that the workers will be transferred to other areas of the public sector, or those who are old enough will be encouraged to make use of an early retirement scheme that will be offered to some of them.
The attitude so far in port labour relations is extremely negative. In 2009, when Cosco took control of the major part of the Piraeus container terminal through a concession agreement, again there was not a single reference to the workers. The terminal was given to Cosco with its infrastructure and the major clients but without workers. There was a very general reference in the concession agreement regarding workers’ rights that Cosco will “respect the legal framework of the country”. That reference was not respected already at the time. Cosco used subcontractors. Later, with the excuse of the crisis, Greece experienced a dramatic deregulation of labour rights.

Cosco’s Piraeus facilities are notorious for their sweatshop working conditions with accidents being a common occurrence. Cosco did not hire full-time workers, signed no collective agreement, did not train its personnel. They just started doing business, working as haphazardly as one can imagine. Now out of 1000 employees, around 200-250 work full time with individual contracts, not collectively negotiated. Their employer is a Cosco subsidiary called SEP in Greek or PCT (Piraeus Container Terminal). The remaining 700-800 employees are hired by a complex web of subcontractors, again with privately “negotiated” contracts, and very low paid. The money they receive each month is fixed in advance. It corresponds to 10, 12, sometimes 16 workdays irrespective of when they are called to work – nightshift, Sundays, anything goes. The main subcontractor, Diakinisi, has hired 4-5 other smaller subcontractors providing personnel, so that between each employee and Cosco there are 2 or 3 intermediaries. Out of one man’s wages, 2-3 layers of contractors get their cut. 16 hour shifts it is not an unusual phenomenon. Finally they are denied the status of the dockworker. On July 2014 after a revolt/strike our colleagues formed a trade union, but they still have not managed to sign a collective agreement, or impose a training process, or achieve any major improvement of health and safety conditions.
It must be clear to all that if Cosco take control of the whole PPA these working conditions will be expanded to the whole port, setting a strong precedent for the rest of the country as well as for the rest of the European ports.

Quality of service to consumers
Several services of PPA have a very strong social aspect. For instance, the passenger port serves the numerous islands of the Aegean Sea. None of them has either economic or administrative autonomy. Their connection with the mainland is vital for the quality of life on the islands, as well as for the cohesion of the country. This service cannot be run with market criteria. The public port assures excellent quality and continuity of services, no mater the cost. The private sector we do not think will act the same way. The Cosco experience from the container terminal, where despite the financial crisis they increased by 30% the fees on domestic cargo while decreasing the fees on transit, make us wonder what will happen with the fees of the passenger port.
We have a few more signs of worry. For instance several services in Piraeus Port are ISO certified. In the Invitation for the Expression of Interest, that fact was included in an early draft and later disappeared. The excuse was that the investors did not feel comfortable with this.
As already mentioned, Piraeus is certified as an ecoport and each year PPA invests more than 2 million euros into actions that support this status. We are not sure that under private ownership the same attitude will be continued. Again we have a negative experience from Cosco. The part of the container terminal that is under their management is off limits to the inspection bodies of the PPA.
In this point I would like to discuss another issue: The relation between ports and the cities that are around them. Across Europe and Greece, ports are maritime edges of cities. Most cities have developed thanks to shipping and ports. But the transformation today of cities to urban centres and ports to network hubs has created new facts, which can only be resolved by consensus. City and Port are different legal and economic entities, however they must operate in a coordinated way and with a shared purpose to serve the national economy and the local and regional societies. An economic logic without collective social relations can not be accepted in areas of increased national and social co-responsibility.
National security and the ability to act as a state
Greece is an external border of the EU in a very problematic area. Its ports have a strategic role, in the old fashioned sense of the word. This argument is not so easy to illustrate because thankfully a military crisis is a rare occurrence. However, each time a crisis occurred in the past the port of Piraeus played a crucial role.
With the refugee crisis of the last few months we can see how the Greek state is able to handle such a difficult problem in a more or less smooth way, through public ownership of Piraeus Port. All the refugees from the islands passed through Piraeus Port to enter the mainland. A significant part of the port infrastructure and workers are assigned to this task. The public port stayed open in order to assist the refugees and gave free entrance and facilities to the volunteer networks that try to help all these people in need. At the end of the day, PPA absorbs the bill. If the port was under private ownership things would be run differently and eventually the bill would be sent to the central government.

TO PARON, 17 March 2014:
They are gifting the port of Piraeus to the Chinese!
The tender is rigged with procedures drawn up by Cosco
They are selling off the entire port for 250 million euros when its worth is over 1.63 billion
They changed the terms to rule out any other investor.
The sale is unconstitutional rules the Council of State.
Loss of public finances from selling profitable public companies
Both ports, no matter the problematic management of previous decades, are still profitable entities. A significant part of their annual profits is re-invested for the maintenance and expansion of their infrastructure as well as for the relief of the local community. Under public ownership and better management both ports could flourish for the benefit of the local societies and the regional economy.
In case of privatization the state will lose a tool for growth, through which it can schedule and implement policies regarding domestic freight, connectivity with the islands, tourism, and so on.

16 May 2015: Stavros Theodorakis (M), leader of Potami (River) centrist opposition party visits PCT at Piraeus. He is welcomed by Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli (R) and COSCO PCT CEO captain Fu Chengqiu (L). (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
Your strategic perspective to try to stop the privatizations from being carried out, and how we as the German Left can play a role in that
From the very beginning the trade unions in the ports tried to create an alliance among them and the local communities, as well as with the regional government.
We focus on explaining the impact of the privatisation of the ports on the local communities and regional economies. We have considerable success, although the vast majority of the mass media are against us. It’s worth noting that even now they’re openly bulling anyone who dares to support the necessity of the public port. No matter who is he. The minister of the maritime affairs, the head of the regional government, and the PPA’s CEO were targeted a couple of times over the last few weeks because they dare to speak for the necessity to create a public Port Authority, or because they insist on pointing out that the sale of the port in not a good idea. There are threats that if the projects will not be concluded on time the country will be confronted with non-fulfilment of the terms of the Troika program and thus with bankruptcy. Therefore we’re pressured to accept any terms and allow the deals to be completed as soon as possible and in any price.
The alliance against the privatization of the ports is still there, although after the signing of the 3rd Memorandum by the Syriza government a certain amount of unease among the people is obvious. But social mobilization is rising again. We think that in the coming weeks things will become more vigorous. Besides the privatization of the ports, the issues of increased taxes, new rules for the social insurance system, imminent changes to pensions, and the issue of red loans that are linked with protection of the primary residence from foreclosure, are all issues that will mobilise the people again.
Do not allow to be imposed on the Greek ports a set of policies that do not exist in your port system.

smile emoticon

Greece has accepted a “significantly improved” offer from China’s Cosco Group for the state’s majority stake in the Piraeus Port Authority.
The Hong Kong-based company will pay 22 euros per share, or 368.5 million euros ($402 million), for the 67 percent shareholding in the operator of Greece’s largest port, the state privatization agency said.
This represents a premium of 70 percent on Wednesday’s closing price on the Athens stock exchange of 12.95 euros.
The privatization agency had asked Cosco, the sole bidder for control of the top ten European container hub, to improve on its initial offer, said to be around 300 million euros.
The total value of the agreement amounts to 1.5 billion euros, including mandatory investments of 350 million euros and expected revenues from the operating concession of 410 million euros.
Cosco, which already runs two of the three containers berths in Piraeus under a 35-year concession signed in 2009, will initially acquire a 51 percent stake for 280.5 million euros. It will buy the remaining 16 percent after five years for 88 million euros provided it has made the required investments.
The Chinese terminal operator handled 2.73 million 20-foot equivalent units in Piraeus in the first eleven months of 2015.
Contact Bruce Barnard at

For Global Solidarity among Dockers and Supporters follow Dockers Hangarounds: IDC International Dockworkers Council: A very good article on the situation of the port of Piraeus by Greek trade unionist Anastasia Frantzeskaki and member of IDC. For those of you who would like to have more info!’s-‘significantly-improved’-piraeus-port-offer_20160121.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=article

Cosco Ups Its Offer for Piraeus

Image Courtesy: Port of Piraues
Greece accepted on Wednesday the improved offer tabled by China’s port operator Cosco Group (Hong Kong) Limited for the obtaining of 67% stake in the country’s largest port of Piraeus.
Cosco, which was also the sole bidder in the tender, submitted the offer last week, however the fund requested that the bid be improved.
As a result, Cosco Group submitted an improved binding offer, offering a price of EUR 22 per share, ie EUR 368.5 million (USD 402.3 million) for the 67% stake, the country’s privatization body said.
The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund declared Cosco as the highest bidder and invited it to submit the documents required, in order for it to be designated as a preferred investor, according to the terms and conditions of the tender.
The improved bid brings the Chinese port operator closer to privatization of Piraeus Port, which is one of key conditions of the country’s bailout plan with the EU lenders.
Cosco has been operating the port since 2009 and has earmarked an investment of EUR 230 million to build a second terminal at the port.
The tender process for the sale of 67% of the shares of the Piraeus Port Authority was launched in March 2014, but the stake has since been downsized to 51 percent.
The selected winner has the option to purchase additional 16 percent stake over five years, however the company has to invest around EUR 350 million in port development.
World Maritime News Staff

Greek Dockworkers Fight Privatization & For Worker Rights: Report By Port Union Leader Giorgos Gogos
Greek Piraeus Port Union leader Giorgis Gogos who is general secretary of the union discusses the privatization of the port of Pireaeus by the Chinese shipping company China Ocean Shipping Company ( Cosco). He also reports on the conditions of workers who now work for Cosco.
He also discusses the growing political crisis and the recent split in the Syrias and the role of the United States and Europe in relationship to the tens of thousands of refugees who are coming from Syria and Iraq. This interview was done on September 2, 2015 in Athens, Greece.
Production of Labor Video Project

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Tags: Chinese CapitalistsPrivatization Greek Portsunion busting
Categories: Labor News

Despite steady profits, railroads have laid off thousands — and more cuts are likely on the way

Current News - Sun, 08/27/2017 - 07:33

Despite steady profits, railroads have laid off thousands — and more cuts are likely on the way
By Russell Hubbard / World-Herald staff writer Aug 27, 2017 Updated 9 hrs ago (…)

Union Pacific workers operate a track renewal train near Grand Island, Nebraska, in this 2012 file photo. U.P. announced last week that it would trim 750 positions, mainly at its Omaha headquarters.

A CSX freight train rolls along the Monongahela River in downtown Pittsburgh in March. Florida-based CSX has trimmed about 7,000 jobs since 2014.

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America’s railroads are going through a round of job cuts — 25,000 in recent years, with more likely to come — aimed at efficiency and controlling future costs.

It’s a familiar pattern for an industry that once was highly labor-intensive and has become more automated, with added computer-driven changes in the works that could reduce employment further.

Union Pacific Railroad’s decision last week to trim 750 positions, mainly at its Omaha headquarters, follows similar force reductions by the other major freight rail systems.

Altogether, the six largest of the seven Class I railroads have shed about 25,000 jobs in recent years, or about 13 percent of their workforce.

Payrolls at six of the Class I railroads in 2014 and 2017

Kansas City Southern, the smallest of the Class I railroads, has added about 800 jobs in recent years.

SOURCE: Company filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Railroad 2014 2017
BNSF 48,000 41,000
Union Pacific 47,000 42,000
CSX 32,000 25,000
Norfolk Southern 29,000 27,000
Canadian National 25,000 23,000
Canadian Pacific 14,000 12,000
The job-cutting leaders are BNSF Railway, based in Texas, and Florida-based CSX, each trimming about 7,000 jobs since 2014.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy Casas said the railroad’s payroll is determined “by our customer freight transportation demands,” and the reductions have come mostly through salaried retirees who have not been replaced.

“We do have hiring plans this year in locations where the level of work requires it,” Casas said.

Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway bought BNSF in 2009 for about $26 billion.

Union Pacific, despite the newly announced job cuts under a corporate reorganization, also is hiring some workers, staffing its new computer center at 90th and Fort Streets in Omaha plus train crews and diesel electricians at several locations on its 32,000-mile network.

The job cuts aren’t coming in the face of sagging profits. In fact, annual profits for all but the smallest of the seven also never dipped far below $1.5 billion apiece during that period. The biggest — Union Pacific and BNSF — never failed to earn at least $3.8 billion a year each, and BNSF is now the largest earner among Berkshire’s collection of dozens of businesses.

Shareholders also have prospered.

Six of the seven are publicly traded (BNSF is not), and half outpaced the 74 percent gain in the same period by the overall stock market as reflected in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. Union Pacific came very close, with shares climbing about 70 percent since 2013.

Management decisions to cut jobs may make investors happy, but such decisions put the railroads at odds with the unions that represent workers. At CSX, the man in charge is Chief Executive Hunter Harrison, a veteran railroader who engineered massive turnarounds at north-of-the-border freight haulers Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.

“The industry is reacting to the Hunter Harrison cut-at-all-costs model and doing this to appease the Wall Street money machine, whose demand for profits is insatiable,” said John Risch, legislative director for the Sheet Metal, Air and Rail Transportation union, which represents about 90,000 rail workers.

At the same time, automation is looming.

Ron Kaminkow, general secretary of Railroad Workers United, said one upcoming change could mean reducing crews on freight trains from two people to one: a federal requirement that trains become equipped with an advanced telecommunications array that can stop or slow them remotely in case of danger.

The system, called Positive Train Control, is expected to come at a final cost of more than $10 billion industrywide.

“They have kicked and screamed at every turn,” Kaminkow said of the industry’s opposition to the system. “And they are for sure going to be as opportunistic as possible once they have it, saying they won’t need a second crew member. It is only a question of time before they go full throttle on us over that.”

Another threat to railroad jobs is hiring outside companies to do work once reserved for union members, Kaminkow said, with the companies pushing those boundaries on a regular basis.

One such case is being disputed now in U.S. District Court in Omaha.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees filed a lawsuit in June saying Union Pacific has used outside workers to perform tasks reserved for its members under the labor contract. Union Pacific in court filings described the dispute as minor, and one that should be settled by an industry arbitration panel, not a federal court.

Another issue: a rebound in freight volumes, after almost two years of declines that ended only in March.

So far this year total volumes are up 4 percent from a year ago, leading to a question: How much work can the slimmed-down railroad labor force handle?

CSX recently has suffered enormous network snafus and customer rage.

Last month the federal Surface Transportation Board sent a letter to the company asking for more information on unpredictable schedules and other network problems that “have forced a number of rail shippers and their customers” to curtail production, according to the document.

“They do need to always be aware of the possibility of cutting too much or too fast, and that certainly seems to be the case at CSX,” said Larry Gross, an industry analyst with FTR Transportation Intelligence. “Operations have been disrupted due to the pace of change, and customers are frustrated by their inability to actually reach a human being at CSX in order to work out their problems.”, 402-444-3133

Tags: railroadslayoffsprofits
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