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

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

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/26/world/europe/greece-china-piraeus-ale...
By JASON HOROWITZ and LIZ ALDERMANAUG. 26, 2017
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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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
https://youtu.be/HhKvotD9c5w
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
www.laborvideo.org

The privatization of the Piraeus Port Authority in Greece: What's really happening
http://felixstowedocker.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-privatization-of-piraeu...
Felixstowe Dockers
To keep Felixstowe Dockers informed as to what is going on around us all.
THURSDAY, 21 JANUARY 2016
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.

1958

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.

2009

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.

http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=17002

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 brucebarnard47@hotmail.com.

For Global Solidarity among Dockers and Supporters follow Dockers Hangarounds:http://tinyurl.com/ng3n5sk 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!

http://www.joc.com/port-news/european-ports/port-piraeus/greece-accepts-...’s-‘significantly-improved’-piraeus-port-offer_20160121.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=article

http://www.portstrategy.com/news101/world/europe/greek-port-strikes-as-c...

Cosco Ups Its Offer for Piraeus

zoom
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
https://youtu.be/HhKvotD9c5w
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
www.laborvideo.org

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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

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 07:33

Despite steady profits, railroads have laid off thousands — and more cuts are likely on the way
http://www.omaha.com/money/despite-steady-profits-railroads-have-laid-of...
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.
RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD

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.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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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.”

russell.hubbard@owh.com, 402-444-3133

Tags: railroadslayoffsprofits
Categories: Labor News

Amid geopolitical turmoil, union cuts deal with Bay Area port operators

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 08:40

Amid geopolitical turmoil, union cuts deal with Bay Area port operators
" In effect, the union abandoned a strategy historically designed to give it maximum leverage over the ports and shippers."
http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Amid-geopolitical-turmoil-un...
By Thomas LeeAugust 18, 2017

Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle
IMAGE 1 OF 2A forklift drives around shipping containers at the Port of Oakland, where workers have agreed to a three-year contract extension.

The two sides have engaged in perpetual conflict, traded accusations, and caused collateral damage across the country. But for the good of everyone, they put aside mutual acrimony and reached a compromise.

No, not Republicans and Democrats, but rather dock workers and West Coast port operators and shipping lines.

The longshoremen’s union and the Pacific Maritime Association recently agreed to a three-year extension of a contract that ensures labor peace at 29 ports, including Los Angeles and Oakland, through at least 2022. The first-of-its-kind agreement means the country won’t see a repeat of three years ago, when a work slowdown delayed shipments from Asia and cost U.S. retailers millions of dollars in lost holiday sales.

“We’re very happy,” Chris Lytle, executive director of the Port of Oakland, told me. “We see great benefits of the contract being extended in terms of reliability and stability (of port operations). That’s a very big thing. A lot of shippers were hurt” during the 2014-15 slowdown.

Since the turn of the century, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 port workers, and the maritime association have been locked in a perpetual cycle of brinkmanship in negotiating six-year contracts, often resulting in lockouts, slowdowns and outright strikes.

That’s why the recent deal is so notable: Instead of waiting until a contract ends to negotiate a new one, the union and the maritime association signed an extension a good two years before the current deal expires. In effect, the union abandoned a strategy historically designed to give it maximum leverage over the ports and shippers.

Union officials seemed to acknowledge that this shift would upset some workers.

“During the past year we saw a healthy debate and heard different points of view, with concerns raised by all sides,” union President Robert McEllrath said in a statement. “The democratic process allowed us to make a difficult decision and arrive at the best choice under the circumstances.”

The union, which said 67 percent of workers approved the extension, did not disclose contract details other than to say the deal increases wages and pension benefits.

So what changed?

Perhaps the union overplayed its hand during the last conflict. The Federal Reserve suggests the dispute was a big reason that the gross domestic product declined 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015. The central bank estimates that West Coast exports fell 20.5 percent in the quarter while imports dropped 9 percent.

But the dispute particularly hurt retailers. Companies such as Gap and Williams-Sonoma, both based in San Francisco, heavily depend on Asian factories to make merchandise. Retailers typically order holiday goods in February and March and receive them by early fall. The four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can account for nearly a third of annual sales, so any delay can really hurt a retailer.

“It was a disaster,” said Brian Kilcourse, managing partner at RSR Research in Grass Valley (Nevada County). “You can’t sell products that are still on the water.”

Williams-Sonoma blamed the port slowdown for wiping out $30 million to $40 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2015.

The prolonged conflict embarrassed President Obama, whose efforts to expand the economy depended on boosting U.S. exports to Asia, including through major trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In February 2015, Obama sent Labor Secretary Tom Perez to San Francisco to pressure both sides into reaching an agreement.

But as the conflict wore on, there was growing talk in Washington of using the Taft-Hartley Act to force open the ports. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan invoked the law to order striking air traffic controllers back to work. He eventually fired more than 11,000 workers who refused to do so.

Kilcourse also noted that the labor conflict prompted retailers to bypass West Coast ports altogether by rerouting goods through the recently expanded Panama Canal or to ports in Canada and Mexico.

The union might have also considered the current political situation. President Trump has been a vocal opponent of trade agreements; he pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact that would have greatly benefited West Coast ports, and threatened to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump is also threatening China with trade sanctions, a move that will surely lead to Chinese retaliation. A trade war with China would be devastating for West Coast ports: China is the Port of Oakland’s top trading partner, accounting for 30 percent of total trade from January to June this year.

At a time of such geopolitical uncertainty, peace at home seems worth the price.

Thomas Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: tlee@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ByTomLee

Tags: ilwuPMAdealContractthe union abandoned a strategy historically designed to give it maximum leverage over the ports and shippers.
Categories: Labor News

Barcelona airport crisis worsens as security staff plan 24-hour strike

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 19:04

Barcelona airport crisis worsens as security staff plan 24-hour strike
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/13/barcelona-airport-crisis-w...
After staging go-slows and one-hour strikes since July, private security workers voted to reject company pay deal and go ahead with walkout
Barcelona El Prat
Travellers walking through Barcelona El Prat airport as security guards strike. Photograph: Quique Garcia/EPA

85
Stephen Burgen in Barcelona
Sunday 13 August 2017 20.07 BST
After two weeks of chaos, Barcelona airport faces a worsening situation as security staff begin a continuous 24-hour strike.

The private security workers have been staging go-slows and rolling one-hour strikes since late July and on Sunday voted for a second time to reject the company’s offer, paving the way for 24-hour strike action. The workers voted by 150 to 36 to reject the offer and to go ahead with the planned industrial action.

<4769.jpg>
Barcelona airport strikes cause severe delays
Read more
Spain’s minister for infrastructure, Íñigo de la Serna, said on Sunday that this was the strikers’ “last chance” and that he would send in Guardia Civil officers to ensure that the airport continued to function if they voted to walk out.

De la Serna said he had no option but to send in the police because the strike action “not only affects passengers and the country’s image, as well as being a problem for Catalonia and Barcelona, but also security and public order”.

After the vote to strike, De la Serna said that he had asked the court of arbitration to rule that the security staff have an obligation to work because they provide an essential service.

Leopoldo García Quinteiro, the lawyer representing the strike committee, said the minister’s threats were disproportionate. Puri Infante, a member of the committee, said: “This could have been settled sooner, but now De la Serna wants to break the strike, which is a constitutional right.”

Waits of up to three hours have led to more than 1,000 passengers missing their flights over the past two weeks. Travellers have been arriving several hours early for fear of missing their planes, compounding the problem.

On Thursday, security staff voted to reject the company’s offer and instead voted in favour of one that wasn’t on the table. They complain that in addition to being poorly paid (€800-€1,100 a month/£731-£1014), understaffing means they often have to work 16-hour days.

They are demanding an increase of 15 monthly payments of €250, paid over a 12-month period, while the company is offering 12 payments of €200, which workers have again rejected.

The regional Catalan government, which has been trying broker a deal, has now pulled out. “We tried to bring them together,” said Dolors Bassa, the local employment minister. “Now it’s up to the employers and the workers to negotiate.”

From next Sunday, strike action is expected to spread to airports in A Coruña and Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of the country.

Tags: Barcelona airport workerssecurity workers
Categories: Labor News

Lyft drivers fear censorship after internal email about speaking to press

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 23:04

Lyft drivers fear censorship after internal email about speaking to press

An internal email from Lyft sent in July urges drivers to inform the company whenever they are contacted by a reporter. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on August 10, 2017 1:00 am

From decrying false DUIs to violence in their vehicles — even critiques of a partnership with Taco Bell — Lyft drivers speak to the press in times of crisis, large and small.

Now, however, Lyft wants those drivers to check in with the company first.

In late July, the San Francisco-based company, Lyft, sent an email to its drivers that read: “Email press@lyft.com if you’re ever contacted by a reporter. Speaking of Lyft in the news: We’re here to help if you get approached for an interview. Shoot a note to our communications team and they’ll make sure you’re prepared for any questions.”

The move is drawing rebuke from drivers, who in internet forums and elsewhere expressed fear of crackdowns on freedom of speech and questioned the company’s labor fairness.

The warning comes as negative news surrounding Lyft’s competitor, Uber, led to the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick. Though Lyft is seen as the more friendly alternative to Uber, it isn’t immune to bad press.

And while the language in the email seems polite, some drivers saw the message as a thinly veiled threat.

“Scare tactics, to make some think they should contact Lyft first,” wrote Fort Lauderdale Lyft driver “DidIDoThat” on the ride-hail forum UberPeople.net.

“Lyft doesn’t want news like Uber got from some of it’s drivers,” the driver wrote, “and they know it can happen.”

Another driver from Minneapolis wrote that Lyft cannot restrict drivers’ comments as they would employees because Lyft classifies its drivers as independent contractors.

Christian Perea, a San Francisco driver for Lyft and Uber and a writer for the popular blog TheRideshareGuy.com, told the San Francisco Examiner that the company email likely reflects a desire to “get ahead of stories” written about Lyft and to tip them off to reporters’ scoops.

“However,” Perea added, “I think that a lot of drivers will get the impression that if they don’t reach out to Lyft after being contacted by a reporter, that they can be punished or deactivated.”

Scott Coriell, a Lyft spokesperson, wrote that censorship “wasn’t the intent, and that’s not something we would ever do.”

In a statement Coriell forwarded from Lyft, the company said drivers are free to speak to the press, and “there are no restrictions or requirements.” Lyft’s press team said they wanted to remind drivers “we’re here as a resource.”

That said, Perea was still worried.

“Overall,” he said, “it’s just a creepy message.”

Categories: Labor News

Lyft drivers fear censorship after internal email about speaking to press

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 10:25

Lyft drivers fear censorship after internal email about speaking to press

http://www.sfexaminer.com/lyft-drivers-fear-censorship-internal-email-sp...
An internal email from Lyft sent in July urges drivers to inform the company whenever they are contacted by a reporter. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on August 10, 2017 1:00 am

From decrying false DUIs to violence in their vehicles — even critiques of a partnership with Taco Bell — Lyft drivers speak to the press in times of crisis, large and small.

Now, however, Lyft wants those drivers to check in with the company first.

In late July, the San Francisco-based company, Lyft, sent an email to its drivers that read: “Email press@lyft.com if you’re ever contacted by a reporter. Speaking of Lyft in the news: We’re here to help if you get approached for an interview. Shoot a note to our communications team and they’ll make sure you’re prepared for any questions.”

The move is drawing rebuke from drivers, who in internet forums and elsewhere expressed fear of crackdowns on freedom of speech and questioned the company’s labor fairness.

The warning comes as negative news surrounding Lyft’s competitor, Uber, led to the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick. Though Lyft is seen as the more friendly alternative to Uber, it isn’t immune to bad press.

And while the language in the email seems polite, some drivers saw the message as a thinly veiled threat.

“Scare tactics, to make some think they should contact Lyft first,” wrote Fort Lauderdale Lyft driver “DidIDoThat” on the ride-hail forum UberPeople.net.

“Lyft doesn’t want news like Uber got from some of it’s drivers,” the driver wrote, “and they know it can happen.”

Another driver from Minneapolis wrote that Lyft cannot restrict drivers’ comments as they would employees because Lyft classifies its drivers as independent contractors.

Christian Perea, a San Francisco driver for Lyft and Uber and a writer for the popular blog TheRideshareGuy.com, told the San Francisco Examiner that the company email likely reflects a desire to “get ahead of stories” written about Lyft and to tip them off to reporters’ scoops.

“However,” Perea added, “I think that a lot of drivers will get the impression that if they don’t reach out to Lyft after being contacted by a reporter, that they can be punished or deactivated.”

Scott Coriell, a Lyft spokesperson, wrote that censorship “wasn’t the intent, and that’s not something we would ever do.”

In a statement Coriell forwarded from Lyft, the company said drivers are free to speak to the press, and “there are no restrictions or requirements.” Lyft’s press team said they wanted to remind drivers “we’re here as a resource.”

That said, Perea was still worried.

“Overall,” he said, “it’s just a creepy message.”

Tags: Lyftcensorshipworkers rightscivil rights
Categories: Labor News

ILWU Local 13 Dock workers at Port of Long Beach injured in chemical spill

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 22:23

ILWU Local 13 Dock workers at Port of Long Beach injured in chemical spill
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-port-spill-20170806-story.html

Port of Long Beach
Firefighters responding to a hazmat incident board a ship at the Port of Long Beach on Sunday. (Brian Fisk / Long Beach Fire Department via AP)
Thomas Curwen Thomas CurwenContact Reporter
Twelve dock workers suffered minor injuries Sunday morning when a container of flammable liquid began to leak at the Port of Long Beach, officials said.

One worker exposed to the fumes, along with a firefighter who fell while responding to the spill, were transported to a hospital, according to the Long Beach Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard.. Both sustained minor injuries and were in stable condition Sunday afternoon. Workers who were exposed to the leaking chemical, identified as propyl acetate, experienced shortness of breath, said Davonte Marrow, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Long Beach Fire Department received the 911 call at approximately 9:30 a.m., said Brian Fisk, a spokesman for the agency. An engine company was dispatched to Pier G, a 29-acre container terminal south of the Queen Mary, where it found the hazardous material coming from a roughly 6,000-gallon chemical tank onboard a docked container ship.

A hazardous materials unit, a search-and-rescue unit and paramedics were dispatched to the scene. Two Long Beach fire boats and one of the city’s lifeguard rescue boats deployed a 1,000-foot boom in the water alongside the docked ship as a precautionary measure against environmental damage, Fisk said.

With the help of port workers and crane operators, the leaking container was removed from the ship.

A Coast Guard captain set up a safety zone 150 yards around the ship while crews removed the chemical from the water. It’s unclear how much spilled into the water, though authorities expected to finish cleaning up by Sunday evening, Marrow said.

Officials did not know what caused the leak.

Tags: ILWU Local 13health and safetytoxic spillinjured workers
Categories: Labor News

Dockers in Indonesia on Strike

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 12:08

Dockers in Indonesia on Strike
zoom
Image Courtesy: ITF

Dockers unions in Indonesia are striking and protesting as they want better working conditions, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) informed.

https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/226533/dockers-in-indonesia-on-st...

Namely, Serikat Pekerja Jakarta International Container Terminal (SPJICT) will be striking from August 3 to 10 over “ruthless attacks” to workers’ rights – in particular to pension rights and performance bonuses – which terminal management has been pursuing in the course of negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, according to ITF.

The union has been active at the largest container terminal at the Port of Tanjung Priok, Jakarta since 1999.

Jakarta International Container Terminal (JICT) has been run as a joint enterprise between Indonesian state-owned enterprise Pelindo II and global port operator Hutchison since 1999. JICT has just been granted an extension on its operating contract until 2039.

However, in June, Indonesia’s Audit Board (BPK) announced that the JICT extension was contrary to local laws and is actually depriving the local state of potential revenue.

The extension deal is now being probed by the Indonesian anti-corruption commission, Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK).

According to the union, management is using the port extension as a smoke-screen to extract more profit from the enterprise by crushing workers’ rights.

Nova Hakim, SPJICT Chair, has issued a call for solidarity, saying: “We urge our comrades in the ITF to support our strike in defense of our national asset, and in protecting the rights of our members. This port extension is robbing the Indonesian people, and we cannot stand idly by.”

“ITF dockers’ unions everywhere will be backing our Indonesian colleagues with lawful solidarity action and messages of support. They say that a fish rots from the head down and this wave of industrial action, coupled with other action at Tanjung Priok proves that something is seriously wrong with labour relations in at the port – something that the employers and government must remedy immediately,” Paddy Crumlin, ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair, commented.

At the same time to the JICT action, dockworkers at ICTSI’s terminal at Tanjung Priok will escalate their own fight for justice to coincide with the start of the SJICT strike and take action to resist harsh management practices.

The workers’ union, the Federasi Serikat Buruh Transportasi dan Pelabuhan Indonesia (FBTPI) has announced it will hold a mass demonstration at the port on August 3 to demand that management end illegal outsourcing, pay unpaid overtime and settle a fair collective agreement with the union.

Tags: Indonesian Dockersstrikesworkers rights
Categories: Labor News

Ex-SF City Hall bigwigs sign on with Uber

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 09:09

Ex-SF City Hall bigwigs sign on with Uber
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Ex-SF-City-Hall-bigwigs-sign-...

By Matier & RossAugust 2, 2017
<920x1240.jpg>Photo: Gene J. Puskar, Associated PressA self-driving Uber sits ready to take journalists for a ride during a media preview in Pittsburgh.

In a bid to smooth tensions over the ride-hailing giant’s rapid expansion on its hometown turf, Uber has brought on Tony Winnicker, one-time press secretary for Lee and former Mayor Gavin Newsom, as a communications consultant.Two top insiders in San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s administration have rolled through the revolving political door at City Hall and hopped on with Uber.

Winnicker was a key player in Lee’s administration, and periodically took leaves from his city job to run various ballot campaigns the mayor supported. He’ll be joined at Uber by Alex Randolph, a San Francisco Community College board member, former aide to ex-Supervisor Bevan Dufty and most recently government affairs manager at the Recreation and Park Department. At Uber, he’ll be Northern California public affairs manager.

Plus, expect a bigger role for David Noyola, a lobbyist who has been working for Uber since 2015, and who once served as a top aide to Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

“We are building a strong team with deep ties to the San Francisco community to strengthen partnerships in our hometown,” said Davis White, a spokesman for Uber.

Uber has been in the news frequently in recent months, often for the wrong reasons — most recently with the resignation of hard-charging chief executive Travis Kalanick, whose reign included not just phenomenal growth but also allegations of questionable business practices and rampant discrimination against women.

And it has no shortage of problems in its headquarters city. Supervisor Jane Kim has proposed charging Uber and other rail-hailing services a fee for every passenger pick-up. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has subpoenaed Uber and Lyft for data on whether they are abiding by laws covering accessibility for low-income and disabled riders, among other things.

The new hires aren’t the only sign that Uber is trying to make nicer with City Hall. It’s worth noting that no fewer than three company reps showed up last week at a Municipal Transportation Agency meeting on curb congestion — something the ride company simply might have blown off in the past.

San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email matierandross@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @matierandross

Tags: Uberprivatizationderegulationunion busting
Categories: Labor News

West Coast Longshore Workers Approve Contract Extension to 2022 By 67%

Sat, 07/29/2017 - 13:12

West Coast Longshore Workers Approve Contract Extension to 2022 By 67%
https://www.apparelnews.net/news/2017/jul/28/west-coast-longshore-worker...

By Deborah Belgum | Friday, July 28, 2017

It looks like it will be all quiet on the waterfront for the next couple of years.

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union approved a three-year extension to their five-year contract with the Pacific Maritime Association, which means their contract won’t expire until July 1, 2022.

Early reporting from voting union workers show that 67 percent approve of the change, the ILWU said. Final results will be announced on Aug. 4.

The contract covers some 20,000 full-time and part-time ILWU employees who work at 29 ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash. It is the first contract extension of its kind in ILWU history.

“There was no shortage of differing views during the year-long debate leading up to this vote, and members didn’t take this step lightly,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath in a statement.

Extending the labor contract was a topic that has been bandied about since the beginning of 2016 and came after West Coast ports were crippled with a labor slowdown and a chassis shortage during the 2015/2016 holiday season. The paralysis at the ports led to importers, manufacturers and retailers losing millions of dollars in sales during the crucial holiday season, which accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of retailers’ annual sales.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the port terminal operators and shipping lines that hire the longshore workers, said that it proposed talks on a contract extension to provide stability at West Coast ports.

“With this contract extension, the West Coast waterfront has a tremendous opportunity to attract more market share and demonstrate that our ports and our workforce are truly world-class. We are fully committed to delivering the highest standards of reliability and productivity for years to come, said PMA President James McKenna.

Under the extended contract, workers will see a 3.1 percent-per-year wage increase from 2019 to 2022, taking their base rate of pay from $42.18 an hour to $46.23 by 2022.

Longshore workers would be eligible to retire early during the three-year contract extension. Instead of a minimum retirement age of 62, they could retire at 59.5 without an early-retirement discount. Workers would be eligible to retire after 13 years of employment.

No change would be made to the ILWU’s topnotch health plan, meaning workers don’t pay monthly premiums, only make a $1 co-pay for prescriptions and have limited deductibles. Employers would also make additional contributions to workers’ pension plans.

West Coast ports and longshore workers are following in the footsteps of similar actions taken by East Coast and Gulf Coast ports and the International Longshoremen’s Association to extend their labor contract that was scheduled to expire Sept. 30, 2018

Tags: ilwuContract Extension8 year contract
Categories: Labor News

US Airline Bosses For Greater Profits Push Shrinking Seats Threatening Health and Safety

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 22:46

US Airline Bosses For Greater Profits Push Shrinking Seats Threatening Health and Safety
'Incredible shrinking airline seat': US court says seat size a safety issue
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jul/29/incredible-shrinking-ai...

Passenger group challenged Federal Aviation Administration after agency rejected request for rules on seat size and distance between rows
The Flyers Rights passenger group says small seats bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations.
The Flyers Rights passenger group says small seats bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Associated Press
Saturday 29 July 2017 01.02 EDTLast modified on Saturday 29 July 2017 01.03 EDT
A US appeals court panel has said that federal officials must reconsider their decision not to regulate the size of airline seats as a safety issue.

In a ruling on Friday, one of the judges called it “the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat”.

The Flyers Rights passenger group challenged the Federal Aviation Administration in court after the agency rejected its request to write rules governing seat size and the distance between rows of seats.

New York senator calls for FAA action over 'shrinkage' of airplane seats
Read more
A three-judge panel for the federal appeals court in Washington said the FAA had relied on outdated or irrelevant tests and studies before deciding that seat spacing was a matter of comfort, not safety.

The judges sent the issue back to the FAA and said the agency must come up with a better-reasoned response to the group’s safety concerns.

“We applaud the court’s decision, and the path to larger seats has suddenly become a bit wider,” said Kendall Creighton, a spokeswoman for Flyers Rights.

The passenger group says small seats bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations and raise the danger of travellers developing vein clots.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency was considering the ruling and its next steps. He said the FAA considers the spacing between seat rows when testing to make sure airliners can be evacuated safely.

United Airlines considers shrinking width of seats, report says
Read more
The airline industry has long opposed the regulation of seat size. Its main US trade group, Airlines for America, declined to comment on the ruling.

Airlines have steadily reduced the space between rows to squeeze in extra seats and make more money. On discount carrier Spirit Airlines, the distance between the headrest of one seat and that of the seat in front of it a distance called “pitch” is 28 inches (71cm), which, after accounting for the seat itself, leaves little legroom for the average passenger.

This year, news leaked that American Airlines planned to order new Boeing 737 jets with just 29 inches (74cm) of pitch in the last three rows to make room for an extra row of premium-priced seats toward the front of the plane.

American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker said on Friday that after objections from customers and flight attendants, the airline backed off. Those rows will have 30 inches (76cm) of pitch, which is still a tighter fit than the airline’s current planes.

Flyers Rights said the average seat has become narrower too, shrinking from 18.5 inches (47cm) a decade ago to about 17 inches (43cm). The group got the judges’ attention.

“This is the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote in her ruling. “As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.”

The issue could wind up in Congress. Some lawmakers have proposed legislation to regulate seat size.

Tags: health and safetyairline seatsderegulation
Categories: Labor News

Strike in the port of Koper

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 20:04

Strike in the port of Koper
http://libcom.org/blog/strike-port-koper-24072016

Report on strike in the port of Koper, Slovenia in summer 2016, which affected the supply chain in central Europe - published originally in German in issue no.100 of Wildcat.

The Slovenian government is trying to contain increasing state debt – from 22 percent of the GDP in 2008 to 83 percent in 2015 – with privatisations. On the European level the rulers want to deregulate the ports with new law packages (Port Package). This means that the government and the EU attack the relative protected workers in the semi state-owned enterprises – one of these is the port of Koper, which is 67 percent state-owned. Container handling and profit have continuously increased in the last years, new piers were constructed, new cranes were bought, the basin was dredged; new railways and hinterland terminals are being planned. Since 2011 the port is the most important one for Austrian industry, its volume almost doubling from 2006 to 2014. Koper is the biggest port in the North Adriatic Ports Association (NAPA: Koper, Ravenna, Venetia, Triest, Rijeka). Already in 2011 the workers organized a wildcat strike and were able to win improvements (see Wildcat 94). In July 2016 they struck again to prevent the sellout of the port – and they won. There wasn't a single word about it in the German-language media.

Relative workers control

One peculiarity at the port is that the workers – at the head of which are the crane operators, organized into an »anarchist rank-and-file union« 1 – have achieved representation on the supervisory board (three out of nine heads) and on the management board (one out of four) of the operating company Luka Koper Inc. They have, de facto, a say about who will be CEO and what decisions can be made. There have been three CEOs in the past three years – the current one is a thorn in the government's side, because he rejects privatisation.

Since the summer of 2013 the government has tried every trick in the book to privatize the port and to wrest from the workers their control over cash flows and investments. In the past three years there have been substantial wage increases because the workers know the finances. Today, crane operators working without nightshifts and weekends earn as much money in one month as they did in 2013 with those shifts – about 1,500 Euros net – this is almost twice as much as a Slovenian worker's average wage.

Additionally, privatization would mean that a Port Authority would be installed, which has the total control over managing the concessions of the piers/terminals. The concessions would be sold to different enterprises which then operate the terminal, so that the workers in the same port would be employed by different enterprises, introducing separations and setting up in-house competition. Today that's common practice in every »modern« port.

Till now this has been blocked with the model of the supervisory and management board. »We are one staff,« a crane operator says, who is in the supervisory board. But even without the Port Authority there are separations: there are already 40 active subcontractors, and crane operators earn more than other workers.

Koper Leaks

At the end of June 2016 the Slovenian infrastructure minister sent an e-mail to the national holding, in which he explained that he wants to »improve« the supervisory board and install a new port administration. The contract with Luka Koper Inc. should be »revised« and a second operational company should be established. In our language: »If the current management structure is disempowered, we can finally privatize the port.«

This writing was leaked, and the workers got their hands on it. Though it only contained what the workers had suspected for a year and a half. The e-mail was not decisive for the strike, the crane operator assured us. What was crucial was the annual general assembly of the Luka Koper Inc. shareholders on July 1.

Just before, workers and solidarity groups had organized a demonstration in Koper on June 28, in which minority shareholders participated – citizens, workers, etc. – who own 33 percent of the shares and are affiliated in an association (Vseslovensko Združenje Malih Delničarjev, VZMD, Panslovenian Investors and Shareholders Association; one can find nationalists in it, too!). Port workers, minority shareholders and women from different organisations and from other enterprises spoke. Four thousand people marched through the city (Koper has 25,000 inhabitants). Speeches at the demonstration had to do with the catastrophic effects of privatisation and about the corruption of the Slovenian government.

Stavka! (Slo. »strike«)

In fact, one group of port workers only wanted to block the shareholders meeting, but police prevented that – so they decided to block the port. The crane operator artfully says that this happened totally spontaneously: »Suddenly everybody downed tools, the office workers, too, and met at the gates.« In the end there were about 800 people assembled. The workers blocked the port entrance, so that no scabs were able to enter. The only cargo loaded was perishables. Everything else – iron ore for Austrian steel mills, timber for Styrian paper mills, cars of every brand for import/export, containers with consumer goods for Europe, etc. – went unhandled. By July 2, 40 trains to the hinterland were backed up; six couldn't even leave the port. Railway operators moaned about a loss of 700,000 Euros a day, but the crane operator says it was part of the negative media-campaign. A worker from the Cargo Center Graz reports that the number of incoming containers decreased dramatically in a very short time (with 16 weekly connections, the CCG is the most important hinterland-terminal of the port).

The crane operator says: »The carriers are under extreme pressure – with global decreasing volumes it is very important to be faster than everyone else; the best way in Europe is using the port of Koper, because one saves two to three days in one direction and a lot of money compared to Hamburg.«

Besides the cancellation of the planned changes in the management structure, the port workers demand the resignation of the infrastructure minister and of a secretary of the ministry of finance. They directed their demands to the Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar, with whom they wanted to meet. He appeased them at first. It wasn't acceptable that workers would dictate anything to his government »from the streets«. Bourgeois media ran the usual defamation campaign: »terrorists«, blah, blah, blah… Against this, many friends and family members, even children of the workers, came out, joining the workers at the gates. On Sunday, July 3, there were about 1,500 people protesting in front of the port.

After only the first couple of hours of the strike on July 1, the shareholders decided to cancel the layoff of the three worker-friendly supervisory board members – instead the head of the state holding resigned. Nevertheless the workers continued striking till the early shift on July 4 in order to maintain their demands that the government members resign and that they get a meeting with Cerar. On July 5–6 the workers ran only one shift (out of the normal three) per day.

On July 6 the prime minister decided that he wanted to meet with the workers after all – this time his defense was that nobody wanted to privatize the port and that the workers had obviously been lied to. The workers listened to the prime minister, and came to the conclusion that he had no clue. They explained the situation to him and demanded commitment. Afterward, they went back to normal operations because their main goal – the cancellation of the plans of the national holding – has been reached. On the July 13 the minister of finance and his state secretary resigned. »Now we just need to run off the infrastructure minister too,« the crane operator proclaims confidently.

Self-organised workers are powerful

Unfortunately there were nationalists in the mix in the days of protests and striking – poison for every workers' struggle. Everywhere in Europe one can see what harm this does. Particularly in the southeastern European states, protests have developed strength only if they were explicitly anti-nationalist.

During the strike there was a solidarity slowdown in the neighboring Italian port of Triest, where workers took one-and-a-half days to unload ships instead of a half-day. From the neighboring Croatian port of Rijeka came one of many solidarity letters – that port is already privatized. Workers in Koper said Rijeka workers should also write to the Slovenian government (these three ports are historically linked by experiences of struggle: there was a »parallel choreography of worker unrest« from 1966 to 1971 2).

People from all over the region understand that it's only going to go well for them if it goes well for the workers. That's why a lot of people express their solidarity. The struggle represents their common interests.

The attack of the rulers has failed for now. The workers were able to maintain their status quo advantage. They show how strong a workforce that is self-organized and that sticks together can be.

The rulers will try to learn from their failure. They have to keep an eye out, so that there are no more uprisings like in 2012/13, or in Bosnia in 2014. 3 In any case, the port workers of Koper will walk very self-confidently into future conflicts.

Post scriptum:

In the middle of July, carrier websites report that COSCO was able to successfully bypass a strike of Greek railway workers who carry commodities from the port of Piräus to the hinterland – they redirected their vessels to Koper. SMS from the crane operator: »I will check for COSCO. The problem is that Koper uses our port pretty regularly anyway. I'll see whether anything changes.«

Footnotes:

[1] The Sindikat Žerjavistov Pomorskih Dejavnosti, i. e., the union of crane and seafaring activities, has organized about 220 crane-operators. The union has about 390 members out of 840 directly employed by Luka Koper AG. Including its subsidiary enterprises there are 1,150 people. Another 500 work in all the sub-firms (temp agencies, etc.). One old union, which is, however, almost entirely inactive, remains, and it has fewer than 60 members. Ten women are members of the Anarcho-union, and generally women work only in the offices at the port.

[2] Sabine Rutar, of the Regensburger Institute for East and Southeast European Research, delivers a nice description of these strikes in »Epistemological Limits and European Contemporary History with Examples From the Northeastern Adriatic,« in: Europa Regional 22.2014 (2015), 3-4, p. 192-206 (German).

[3] See:
in English:
Slovenia: The end of transition, autumn 2013
in German:
Wildcat 96: Aufstand in Bosnien, Frühling 2014
Wildcat 94: Slowenien: Das Ende der Transformation, Frühjahr 2013 (mit Update vom 2.11.13 zu den Kämpfen auf dem Balkan).

Tags: Port of KoperSlovenian Portdockers
Categories: Labor News

Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 08:18

Senator Backed by Rail Companies Introduces New Bill That Would De-Regulate Rail Industry
Now, with over 100 years of history showing the rail industry's refusal to implement safety measures until enough people have died, the industry is again pushing to regulate itself in order to avoid proven safety technologies for the sake of “keep[ing] more of their profits.” Congress and the anti-regulatory officials now in the Trump administration are working hard to allow this to happen.

https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/07/25/senator-backed-rail-companies-intr...
By Justin Mikulka • Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 12:06

A new bill by one of the rail industry’s favorite senators looks to change how the industry is regulated to allow “market forces to improve rail safety.” In June, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who happens to chair the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee, introduced the Railroad Advancement of Innovation and Leadership with Safety (RAILS) Act.

In essence, the bill seeks to shift the rail industry toward a self-regulatory — and more difficult to enforce — approach to safety known as “performance-based regulation,” an effort first reported by DeSmog after a Congressional hearing in May.

In that hearing, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) advocated for performance-based regulations for safety, saying that government should “allow the railroad industry to keep more of their profits.” That's what you should expect when moving to a system relying on market forces to improve safety.

Speaking of market forces, it should come as no surprise that the top donor to Senator Fischer’s election campaigns is rail company Union Pacific. Or that four of her top eleven donors are rail companies, which include Berkshire Hathaway (owner of rail company BNSF), Norfolk Southern, and CSX.

That helps explain why she is pushing to allow the industry to self-regulate via performance-based regulations. Even in a pro-industry opinion piece in the publication RailwayAge, written by a former employee of rail lobbying group, the Association of American Railroads, it wasn’t possible to sell the bill without noting that it allows industry to regulate itself:

“…performance-based safety standards mean rather than the [Federal Railroad Administration] prescribing particular actions, such as mileage-based brake tests and specific operations and maintenance procedures, the agency would specify a safety outcome — such as a maximum accident-type rate or component failure rate — and allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving that target.”

What could go wrong if you allow each railroad to devise its own cost-effective means of achieving safety? Let’s take a look at Exhibit A: Lac-Mégantic.

Lac-Mégantic: When 'Market Forces' Regulate Safety

Shortly after the deadly oil-by-rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Canada, a columnist at The Guardian stated, “the explosion in Lac-Mégantic is not merely a tragedy. It is a corporate crime scene.” There is a mountain of evidence to prove how corporate cost-cutting caused the July 2013 accident in the small Quebec town.

The fire on the locomotive that started the whole deadly chain of events was the result of cutting costs for engine repair. A report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada stated that “This temporary repair had been performed using a polymeric material, which did not have the strength and durability required for this use.” That was the first mistake due to cost-cutting shortcuts.

The company operating that oil train had also been allowed to run the trains with a single person crew. Another cost-saving measure that railroad labor unions oppose and one that the rail industry in America is lobbying hard to make standard.

And then there was the corporate policy of not using all of the braking systems in order to save time, which we wrote about on DeSmog last year:

What has been overlooked is the corporate policy of not engaging the “automatic brake” when leaving a train on the tracks. Harding [train engineer] set the independent brake and handbrakes but did not set the automatic brake because that was corporate policy.

The brakes he did apply were sufficient to hold the train. But then the locomotive caught fire that night and the fire department cut power to the locomotive, which led to the loss of pressure in the independent brake and the train “running away” down the hill towards Lac-Mégantic.

It would have taken Harding 10 seconds to engage the automatic brake. If this had been done, the train most likely would have remained in place until it was scheduled to continue the next morning. But company policy was to not engage the automatic brake even when parking a loaded train of explosive Bakken oil on a hill above a town. Why not?

Because while it only takes 10 seconds to engage the braking system, it takes between 15 minutes to an hour to disengage the system when the train is restarted the next day. And in the rail industry, time is money.

This is what happens when market forces drive safety precautions. And that is why it is accurate to describe Lac-Mégantic as a corporate crime scene.

'Sound Science' and ECP Braking

The new bill from Sen. Fischer include the section “Sound Science,” which requires that regulations be based on things like “appropriately validated models and formulas.” It does not mention how one goes about “appropriately” validating models and formulas.

This approach of claiming that safety regulations aren’t based on sound science or that the “science is still out” has already proven to be a very effective approach for delaying further safety measures for the rail and oil industries. It has been the main argument allowing the oil industry to continue to transportvia train a dangerous and volatile oil that could easily be stabilized and made safer to ship.

In the RailwayAge opinion piece supporting Fischer's industry-friendly bill, it notes that the industry is particularly interested in rolling back the requirement to have electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes on oil trains, saying this regulation was “troubling to railroads and the scientific community.”

When DeSmog asked RailwayAge to provide evidence that the scientific community found the regulations requiring ECPbraking “troubling,” the author of the piece — former Association of American Railroads (AAR) employee Frank Wilner — directed DeSmog to the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. According to its website this organization is “a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads.”

So, scientists on the payroll of the rail industry’s main lobbying group find a proven safety technology “troubling.” What should be more troubling to anyone concerned about rail safety is a bill introduced by a senator taking large amounts of money from the rail industry, a bill which is then promoted by not only the industry's lobbying group but also a former lobbying group employee, claiming in an industry trade magazine that industry-paid scientists are the final word on safety.

As repeatedly noted on DeSmog, there is ample evidence that ECP brakes are safer.

But perhaps the strongest argument for ECP brakes is that they are required on trains hauling nuclear waste. Why would this be required if these brakes offer no safety benefits? In 2004, the AAR gave a presentation on why trains should be allowed to move spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and clearly noted that ECP brakes were important for safety. Yet 13 years later, this group is purporting that it is an unproven technology.

And that's not all. There's evidence that ECP brakes would have prevented the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Performance-Based Regulation or Profit-Based Regulation?

“Railroad rules have been written in blood.” This line comes from the annual report of the Commissioner of Railroads for the state of Michigan — in 1901. It implied that safety rules were only implemented when enough blood had been spilled.

One hundred and fifteen years later, in an opinion piece on rail safety for CNN, rail expert Fred Failey essentially said the same thing, opening his piece with the statement, “The rules by which trains operate on American railroads were written in blood.”

Now, with over 100 years of history showing the rail industry's refusal to implement safety measures until enough people have died, the industry is again pushing to regulate itself in order to avoid proven safety technologies for the sake of “keep[ing] more of their profits.” Congress and the anti-regulatory officials now in the Trump administration are working hard to allow this to happen.

The only performance that will improve when implementing performance-based regulations is the performance of railroad stock prices and the fundraising efforts of politicians like Sen. Deb Fischer.

Tags: Rail safetyderegulationrail bossesunion bustingprofits
Categories: Labor News

The defiance of an 'untouchable' New York TWU 100 subway worker

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 22:29

The defiance of an 'untouchable' New York TWU 100 subway worker
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40702242?SThisFB

25 July 2017
From the section India

Gidla was the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on the New York City Subway
The memoir of an Indian woman who was born a so-called untouchable and now works as a conductor on the New York City Subway has been hailed by critics for its unflinching account of caste and family in India. Journalist Sudha G Tilak spoke to Sujatha Gidla about her life story and how it became Ants Among Elephants.
In Sanskrit, the main language used by scholars in ancient India and sometimes referred to as the language of gods, her first name means one of noble birth.
The irony is laid bare by Sujatha Gidla whose recent memoir speaks of her life and her family and the plight of 300 million Dalits ("oppressed" in Sanskrit), formerly known as untouchables in India.
An expressive personal examination of her life, her parents, especially her mother, grandparents and Satyamurthy, a Maoist uncle who hoped revolution would help improve the caste discrimination his people suffered, Ants Among Elephants has quickly become the toast of critics and readers in America.
What is India's caste system?
Why are Dalits in Narendra Modi's India angry?
India's Dalits still fighting untouchability
The New York Times said the "unsentimental, deeply poignant book" gives "readers an unsettling and visceral understanding of how discrimination, segregation and stereotypes have endured throughout the second half of the 20th Century and today".
Reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote that Gidla's family stories reveal how "ancient prejudices persist in contemporary India, and how those prejudices are being challenged by the disenfranchised".
The Minneapolis Star Tribune described the book as the "boisterous life of an Indian family that fought the caste system".
"Gidla is our Virgil into the world of the untouchables and their acts of defiance; not just as an observer, but as a participant," wrote reviewer Peter Lewis.
"She is bitten by the revolutionary bug, and bitten hard: arrested by the Indian authorities, tortured, left to rot, released. She has been party to the heights and the depths of living a revolution."
<_97054386_sujathaandabraham.jpg>
Image caption
Sujatha Gidla with her brother, Abraham
Michael D Langan, a culture critic for NBC-2.com, wrote that Gidla breaks away her "indomitable soul" and tells her family stories, adding: "They are not stories of shame, but of grace."
Gidla's story is one of personal struggle and a certain freedom she has found in America today.
She writes that caste is an accursed state in India, especially for Dalits: "Your life is your caste, your caste is your life."
With her memoir, Gidla joins the ranks of India's many Dalit women who are telling stories to be heard and counted in a system that seeks to keep them down.
Gidla hails from the Dalit community of Kazipet, a small town in southern Telangana state.
Unflinching look
The 53-year-old subway conductor has been luckier than most Dalits back home, women especially, who suffer unspeakable cruelty, are employed in menial jobs including cleaning of human excreta and are segregated by their communities.
Unlike most of her lot, her family was "middle class", thanks to the help of Canadian missionaries in her region who aided in education and offered them religion. Her family was thus Christian and benefited with education. Her parents held jobs as college teachers.
Gidla says that proselytization didn't help her lot. "Christians, untouchables - it came to the same thing. All Christians in India were untouchable. I knew no Christian who did not turn servile in the presence of a Hindu."
The book chronicles unflinchingly the caste slurs and segregation Gidla and Dalits like her have to endure in India.
<_97054384_antsamongelephants.jpg>
Gidla lists how she and other Dalits are humiliated in India by other castes.
They are forced to eat from separate plates and glasses in eateries; barred from the community's main source of drinking water; allowed to ride a bicycle or wear footwear only in segregated areas; rejected in love and denied opportunities. She recalls her hurt when a junior school classmate refused to touch the sweet she offered. Things like this are constant reminders to Dalits of their status as social outcastes.
Since her teens Gidla was spurred to rebel with her uncle, the rebel Telugu language poet Shivasagar, setting an example. His call to join the Communists and later the guerrilla movement of the region demanding social justice held appeal for the young Gidla.
'Culture of protest'
Gidla admits that she has had it better than many Dalit students who are "driven to suicide" despite securing education under affirmative practices She was able to study physics in an engineering college in south India. She also joined India's top and most sought-after engineering school, the Indian Institute of technology (IIT), as a researcher in applied physics.
In Madras (now Chennai) she found most of her classmates clearing the tests to study further abroad.
"For me, what was appealing was the idea of America, especially Bob Dylan's music, the culture of protest, and the draw of joining a society where debates on rights and equality could be articulated," she told the BBC.
She moved to America when she was 26.

There are some 300 million Dalits in India
There, she says, she faced racism. And caste was right here too. She says she found "petty caste discrimination" among the Indian community.
Yet life was much more liberating. As she says: "If you are educated like me, if you don't seem like a typical untouchable, then you have a choice."
Her siblings, too, have left their life behind in India to find livelihoods and build families. Her sister is a physician in America and her brother is an engineer in Canada.
Writing the book has almost been a family affair as well, with her mother who was "involved in this book as it is her story too" and her young niece Anagha who wanted to design the book.
'Hindu conductor'
After she was laid off from her bank job in 2009, Gidla took up the job at the New York subway. She was the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor on one of the busiest mass transit systems in the world.
In her job she is often identified as "that Hindu conductor", she says.
She is "a novelty", she says, to fellow Indian commuters. And if she hears an Indian language she is familiar with, especially the south Indian language Telugu, she calls out a greeting and watches them in glee "as they do a double take" and smile back.
In America, writes Gilda, "people know only my skin colour, not birth status".
"One time in a bar in Atlanta I told a guy I was untouchable, and he said, 'Oh, but you're so touchable'."
Sudha G Tilak is a Delhi-based journalist

Tags: TWU 100discrimination'untouchable'
Categories: Labor News

Technology, Automation, Internationalism, Longshore Workers And The Future Of Work: A Presentation by Professor Raquel Varela

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 11:48

Technology, Automation, Internationalism, Longshore Workers And The Future Of Work: A Presentation by Professor Raquel Varela
https://youtu.be/J2YmVVs9hPM
Technology, Internationalism, Longshore Workers And The Future Of Work was the focus of a presentation by labor professor Raquel Varela who lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal. Her research is centered on dockers and shipyard workers including technology and automation.
The presentation was made at an educational conference at ILWU Local 10 in San Francisco on July 15, 2017 titled Longshore Work , Automation, Technology and the Future of Our Work and Lives.
It was part of LaborFest.net and sponsored by ILWU Local 10, LaborTech.net, laborfest.net and the TWSC.
For more media:
https://youtu.be/SNcU37rL2Ng
https://youtu.be/FNbvWfS1HYs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGTcJXCDjq0
https://youtu.be/FNbvWfS1HYs
https://youtu.be/WHjq-MNnr5s
https://raquelcardeiravarela.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/studyautomation...
Production of Labor Video Project
www.laborvideo.org

Tags: TechnologicalAutomationdockers jobslongshore workshorter workweek
Categories: Labor News

Despite criticisms, new study finds DC Metro Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 workers’ pay and benefits are typical for industry.

Sat, 07/22/2017 - 21:54

Despite criticisms, new study finds DC Metro Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 workers’ pay and benefits are typical for industry.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/despite-criticisms-new-study-finds-...

A new study shows Metro workers’ pay and benefits are in line with those of other major transit systems, blunting long-standing criticism of the agency’s labor costs.A plane lands at Dulles airport as workers build the second phase of Metro's Silver Line to Dulles. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
By Robert McCartney July 20
But Northern Virginia Republican lawmakers said it would still be necessary for Metro to restrain costs and weaken union powers to persuade the GOP-led General Assembly in Richmond to back increased funding for the transit system.

The report by a consulting firm hired by the state of Virginia undermined complaints that Metro’s labor costs are excessive — an allegation aired frequently by critics including GOP political leaders.

The study by the firm WSP USA said total employee compensation at Metro was $56 for every hour worked by a Metro employee, compared with an average of $58 at four other transit systems that, like Metro, do not allow workers to strike.

The average was $61 for four systems that do permit strikes.

[Virginia Gov. McAuliffe taps Ray LaHood to head panel to study Metro.]

The study is the first significant report released publicly to guide the work of a politically important commission that is studying Metro and is chaired by former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood.

LaHood plans to issue a report in September recommending changes in Metro’s funding and governance aimed at winning broad support across the Washington region.

The new study, on which LaHood will rely, weakens the case for seeking a major rollback of labor costs and union power, as some GOP lawmakers in Virginia and Congress have advocated.

“Basically what we’re finding is both wages and benefits [at Metro] are average for the transit industry,” said WSP consultant Roy Kienitz, who conducted the study for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Kienitz presented the results Wednesday evening at a public committee meeting of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission in Arlington.

[Lawmakers suggest Metro unions derailing efforts for internal cost-cutting.]

The WSP study found Metro was more generous than other transit systems in a few respects. Unlike most systems, Metro credits overtime pay in calculating pension benefits. Also, the average Metro union employee contributes just 3.1 percent of salary to their pension, compared with an average of 7.1 percent for U.S. public employees.

But Metro was squarely in the mainstream by numerous other measures:

●The average Metro employee earns 106 percent of the amount needed for one adult and one child to attain “a modest yet adequate standard of living” in the D.C. region — equal to the average for eight other major transit systems.

●Average retirement benefits at Metro are 56 percent of final salary, compared with 60 percent for 20 selected local governments.

●Metro’s pensions are 77 percent funded, which is the average for the nation’s 100 largest public pension funds.

Some previous studies have also found that Metro’s pay levels were generally in line with industry norms. But critics have said it was necessary nonetheless to strengthen management’s hand in bargaining with unions over pay and operating procedures.

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

At the Wednesday meeting, Virginia Del. James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) pressed Kienitz to explain why Federal Transit Administration data show Metro’s rail operating cost is 62 cents per passenger mile, compared with 32 cents in San Francisco and 39 cents in Chicago.

Kienitz said the higher costs were attributable to higher maintenance expenses at Metro, and because Metro keeps trains in service for more hours each week relative to its ridership. He also noted Metro pays more than other systems for riders’ comfort, offering “big wide cars and nice, comfy seats.”
After the meeting, LeMunyon questioned that those factors alone could explain such a large cost difference.

“I have a hard time buying that,” he said.

Metro has said it needs at least $500 million a year in additional funds, starting mid-2018, for new equipment and maintenance to restore it to a state of good repair.He also told the transportation commission meeting the Virginia legislature would need to see a much more detailed plan for a Metro turnaround before it agreed to give the system additional funds.

“If you want them [legislators] to invest in something, they want to know what they’re investing in,” LeMunyon said.

In a related development, Loudoun Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) presented a four-page document urging changes in Metro’s collective bargaining agreement with its largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, to save money and improve efficiency.

The proposal included calls to allow Metro to hire more part-time employees, and allow management to fix work schedules without being subject to outside arbitration.

Tags: ATU 689DC Metro
Categories: Labor News

Statement by the Organizing Committee for the National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network (Oct 6-8, Chicago, at UAW 551 Union Hall)

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:46

Statement by the Organizing Committee for the National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network (Oct 6-8, Chicago, at UAW 551 Union Hall)

The Organizing Committee for the National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network calls for full support of the struggle of Chicago Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 241/308 transit workers who have been working without a contract for over 18 months. They face dangerous working conditions, retaliatory firings and are fighting for living wages and benefits in the face of an attack on all transit workers and public workers in Chicago, Illinois and the country.
The effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner to scapegoat public workers and to destroy public services is a threat not only the workers and services but to all our communities, youth and students. The future of all the people in Chicago and Illinois are at risk.
Our network supports your struggle and also calls for a united front of all transit workers and public workers in Illinois with communities and the public to band together to defend each other. We cannot isolate our struggle and fight alone if we are to be successful.
While these politicians claim that there is no money to provide for decent wages, benefits, pensions and services the number of billionaires and millionaires grows in Illinois and throughout the country. Working people in Chicago, Illinois and the US should not bear the cost of this crisis.
We support the actions of ATU 241 and ATU 308 in their just and righteous fight for not only themselves but all of us. We call on unions and allied organizations to pass a form of the resolution below and join any support rallies with your banners and your organizations. Also join us on October 6,7&8 at United Auto, Aerospace, Agricultural Implement Workers (UAW) 551 in Chicago for a national workers conference.

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All
National Workers Conference to Organize the Fightback & Build a Solidarity Network
https://www.facebook.com/ events/371406356586798/

Whereas,
The 20,000 public transportation working and retiree families of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and PACE suburban buses have been working without a new contract for over eighteen months, and,
Whereas,
On July 6, 2017, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 308 held a pre-strike authorization vote where over 97% and over 900 workers voted in favor. They held a press conference a few days later to let the public know they may need to stop public transit service because the city negotiators are demanding massive take-aways knowing workers can not accept, and,
Whereas,
About 7,000 transit workers safely move 1.5 million people every day in Chicago. Almost every worker is a leader of a family and a leader in our communities. However, transit workers, like other members of the working class, are under constant attack by the city administration and their appointed managers. Workers are disrespected, harassed and forced into extremely dangerous working conditions.
Transit workers face a lack of respect for the complex, dangerous and important work they do. They face massive surveillance of their work alongside punitive and excessive discipline policies. They face dangerous sleeping and work schedules which is very dangerous to the riding public. Work speed-ups are causing repetitive stress injuries and the appointed managers attempt to criminalize workers who try to take time off work to heal or help their families. Misdirected violence from the legitimate anger of passengers is a constant concern, and,

Whereas,

The arrogant city, state and national government of the super wealthy believe that they have transit workers in a legal straight-jacket. They have written unjust laws in an attempt to scare workers away from using their human right to collectively withhold their labor, and,

Whereas,

Workers around the United States and around the world are under attack and are searching for ways to effectively fight back and win. The public transit workers of Chicago urgently need to know that they are not alone. Should they decide to stop the buses and trains, the transit workers need to know that major sections of the international working class would rise to support them.

Therefore, be it resolved

[labor union, organization, undersigned individuals or simply your individual name] hereby publicly state: “We support the transit workers of Chicago in their fight for dignified working conditions. Their fight is our fight!”

Therefore, be it further resolved,

[labor union, organization, undersigned individuals or simply your individual name] hereby resolve to take the following immediate practical steps to support transit workers.

1. Distribute and make this resolution immediately public though all means available (social media, newsletter websites, etc.).
2. Encourage affiliated unions, groups and allies to make similar resolutions. (forwarding this resolution electronically, etc.)
3. Send copies of this resolution to Amalgamated Transit Union international office and also to Chicago locals 241 and 308. [Include names and contact information of contact persons for direct collaboration.]
-ATU international, address, phone, email
-308...address, phone, email
-241...address, phone, email

Therefore, be it finally resolved,

Should transit workers be forced to strike or take other direct collective action, [labor union, organization, undersigned individuals or simply your individual name] shall take at least the following immediate actions:

1. Build and participate in solidarity organizations helping the transit workers to win.

2. If in the Chicago area, join the mass demonstrations, rallies and picket lines led by the transit workers. If in the United States, arrange for bus or other transportation to attend and participate in the actions. If outside of the United States, distribute the literature of the unions and other allied organizations internationally to build international support for the workers.

Tags: ATU 308solidarityChicago Transit
Categories: Labor News

Chicago ATU 308 Kenneth Franklin of the CTA on Chicago Radio About Contract Fight, Union Busting And Health And Safety

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:56

Chicago ATU 308 Kenneth Franklin of the CTA on Chicago Radio About Contract Fight, Union Busting And Health And Safety
https://soundcloud.com/chicagosprogressivetalk/kenneth-franklin-of-the-c...
Chicago ATU 308 Kenneth Franklin talks about the union busting attack and privatization by Mayor Ralm Emanuel. UAW 551 Vice President Scott Houldierson called in to support the transit workers in their fight for a contract.

Tags: ATU 308Ralm EmanuelsolidarityUAW 551privatization
Categories: Labor News

Southwest Airlines Bullies, Abuses and Fires Too Many People, TWU 555 Labor Union Leader Says

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 08:55

Southwest Airlines Bullies, Abuses and Fires Too Many People, TWU 555 Labor Union Leader Says
https://www.thestreet.com/story/14238377/1/transport-workers-union-leade...
Ted Reed Follow Jul 21, 2017 9:55 AM EDT

The president of the Transport Workers Union, the largest labor union at Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) has written a scathing letter that condemns "intolerable and cancerous" working conditions for the carrier's groundworkers and decries mistreatment including 2,700 disciplinary actions and 468 terminations since January 2015.

"Groundworkers are flagrantly mistreated and abused by management," wrote John Samuelsen, president of the New York-based union that represents 12,000 Southwest groundworkers as well as 15,000 flight attendants. The letter refers to the ground workers, members of TWU Local 555.

In 2017, Samuelsen said, "Southwest is writing up nearly three workers per day and firing one worker every other day."

"The outright hostility to the workforce has obliterated morale, which can only have a negative impact on the passenger experience," he wrote. "The TWU finds it hard to believe that Southwest finds this to be an ideal business model."

The letter, sent late Wednesday, was signed by Samuelsen, Local 555 President Greg Puriski and 13 other TWU leaders. They said they are available to meet with airline executives as soon as possible.

In morning trading, Southwest shares were down 0.51%.

Russell McCrady, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, said the carrier is committed to "efforts to maintain strong, constructive relationships with our employees' representational groups including TWU 555.

"Discipline is a necessary part of business but any discipline we administer is far from 'arbitrary,'" McCrady said in a prepared statement. "We do not take for granted that Southwest continues to be named a best place to work and best employer by national publications and we are very proud that our employee culture is the foundation for these designations."

McCrady said Southwest will respond to Samuelsen's letter and welcomes the opportunity to meet.

Southwest employs about 54,000 workers including about 7,200 hired in both 2016 and 2015, said spokeswoman Beth Hardin. She said the number of terminations over three years is not atypical for the number of workers involved.

Local 555 signed a five-year contract in 2016. In an interview, Samuelsen said the letter is not related to contract negotiations but rather represents an effort "to fight Southwest on working conditions that are now entrenched on the property, on an antiquated labor relations model designed to drive production {that} drives morale down across Southwest properties."

TWU has about 200,000 members, including 42,000 in Local 100, which represents New York City bus and subway workers. Samuelsen headed Local 100 until he took over the TWU presidency in May.

"I'm a new president, taking note of a situation at Southwest where people are being fired and unfairly disciplined," he said. "I found that to be intolerable."

Tags: Bullyingworker rightsunion busting
Categories: Labor News

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