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Ireland: Unions warn against threats of AI and Brexit to worker rights

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 07/04/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Irish Times
Categories: Labor News

UK BA flying pickets are determined to bring bloody awful bosses back down to earth

Current News - Mon, 07/03/2017 - 19:47

UK BA flying pickets are determined to bring bloody awful bosses back down to earth
by Dave Sewell

British Airways (BA) cabin crew were back on the picket lines at London Heathrow airport today, Saturday.

Around 3,000 Unite union members in BA’s “mixed fleet” had began a new walkout. It was the launch of their longest strike to date after a three-month gap and a series of talks, set to continue for 16 days.

Workers are angry as ever at their low pay. Jason, who was on picket line at Hatton Cross Tube station, said, “I’ve had to work second jobs to make ends meet.

“It’s really tiring to come back from a trip and instead of recuperating do an eight or ten hour shift at a bar or waiting tables.

“Because our basic pay is so low we have to live off our flight allowances.

“That means your pay is inconsistent too—it depends what you fly in a given month.”

One worker explained that in a bad month they were paid less than half of what they got in a good month. Other workers are in locked in a trap. They have to get advances on their wages one month to pay off the advance on their wages they needed the previous month.

Many still live with their parents, or rely on the income of a partner. Few come close to the total pay BA advertised when they took the job.

Workers rejected BA’s insulting offer to end the dispute. One picket told Socialist Worker, “It just moved around the same pot of money without adding to it—robbing Peter to pay Paul.”


And it came with a sting in the tail—workers who strike have a series of bonuses taken off them, including the staff travel discount. Sarah told Socialist Worker, “I have two little kids to support, and on this wage that’s not possible.

“Now I’m losing the staff travel allowance it means I can’t take them on holiday. And that’s just because I exercised my legal right to strike for what I believe in.”

Despite this, striker Shane said, “It’s liberating to be on strike. I was worrying about it all last night and I’m definitely glad I came down. We can win if we stick together, and more people seem to be taking action this time.

“They’ve seen that the only way to resolve this is by getting behind the strikes. And they’ve seen what striking is—that what you lose is much less than what you stand to win.”

One first time striker, Harry, was driven to join the walkout by the “unfair treatment of my colleagues and myself”. “We’re responsible for evacuating an aeroplane in an emergency,” he said.

“If that’s the case then we should get a fair wage so we can afford to eat and drink and enjoy our lives a bit.”

In response to the strike BA has cancelled some flights, diverted its other fleets to cover some and “wet-leased” other airlines to cover others. Zak pointed out, “In a way this means we’re already winning—they are having to spend millions on wet-leasing, besides the cancellations.”

And for many pickets, the fact that BA would rather spend money on breaking the strike than paying a living wage only made them angrier.

They largely accept the idea that it’s impossible to ask other workers to refuse to fly their routes.

Nevertheless, the potential is there, particularly among BA’s other fleets where many workers support the strike and stand to gain from beating the penny-pinching bosses.

And to overcome BA’s intransigence this question of solidarity will have to be addressed.

Division and low pay is the point of the mixed fleet. It was set up in 2010 to undercut the collective bargaining of BA’s existing workforce.

It relies on a high turnover of workers, bringing lower expectations and a lower level of organisation. Graham said, “The whole model is that after three years they don’t want you any more.”

But there’s something missing from the model. Bosses didn’t reckon with workers’ determination. Jason said, “We’re striking because we love the job—and we want to be able to afford to do it long term.”

Donate to the strike fund at sites.google.com/view/mfunite/how-to-support
Send messages of support to @MFUnite on Twitter

Tags: BA Flight Attendants strikecabin crewslave wages
Categories: Labor News

UK: Bank of England staff to strike for first time in 50 years

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 07/02/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Unite the Union
Categories: Labor News

Australia: ACTU wins first national family and domestic violence leave in the world

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 07/02/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ACTU
Categories: Labor News

Indonesia: Govt warns Freeport about laying off 4,000 employees

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 07/02/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Jakarta Post
Categories: Labor News

China’s Takeover of the Port of Piraeus in Greece: Blowback

Current News - Sun, 07/02/2017 - 10:14

China’s Takeover of the Port of Piraeus in Greece: Blowback
for Europe

John A. Mathews

July 1, 2017
Volume 15 | Issue 13 | Number3
In mid-2016 the Chinese ocean shipping company COSCO succeeded in acquiring a controlling stake in the Greek port of Piraeus. This was the culmination of more than a decade of preparation and prior part ownership, and it represents an important piece in the complex jigsaw of China’s One Belt One Road internationalization strategy linking Europe with Eurasia. Along the way there were major setbacks, and in particular a narrowly avoided ejection of COSCO from Piraeus by the newly elected Syriza government, the far left government elected in Jan 2015 by a Greek people exhausted by the austerity imposed by European creditors. This threatened ejection was narrowly avoided by a more comprehensive set of negotiations, which would have seen China funding the Greek government through purchase of its Treasury bills – thereby enabling the Greeks to get around sanctions being imposed by the European Central Bank.

China’s entry to Europe via Greece, putting in place an essential piece in Beijing’s greater One Belt One Road strategy, must rank as one of the most delicious episodes of blowback in recent history. Institutions like the European Central Bank (ECB) can take sole responsibility for strangling Greece. It was deaf to all pleas for a constructive engagement and restructuring of the debt – as told vividly by Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister of Greece who lived through the entire shameful episode, in his recently published memoirs, Adults in the Room. But as the EU institutions applied the pressure, so they fostered a determined effort on the part of the Greek government to slip the noose. This was done most effectively by allowing China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) to purchase a majority stake in the port of Piraeus. What had started as a demand by the European institutions that Greek public assets be privatized in a ‘fire sale’, became the means to allow China to penetrate Europe’s defences, and build a major transport hub – encompassing rail, road and sea – linking Europe with Eurasia.

While Varoufakis was forced to resign his ministerial position in July 2015, his actions in helping to bring the Chinese and Greek authorities together have borne abundant fruit. While the Chinese had expressed interest in modernizing and expanding Piraeus as far back as 2008, when COSCO acquired a part stake in Pier II at Piraeus, by the time the Syriza government was elected in Jan 2015 there was a real danger that the new ministers would respond to populist pressure and expel the Chinese. Varoufakis describes how he was able to get past these entrenched positions, and create the foundations for a relationship between China and Greece that would give Greece a ‘Get out of Jail’ card from the debtor’s prison imposed by the Europeans.

What happened is a matter of public record. In mid-2016 COSCO was authorized by the Greek government to purchase an initial 51% stake in the Piraeus port, at a cost of $316 million, to be followed by a further 16% stake within five years, at a further cost of $99 million. (For background, see ‘How a Greek port became a “dragon head”’ by Andreea Brinza, The Diplomat, April 25 2016). So much has been on the public record. But Varoufakis’ memoirs flesh out the story, and add further details that reveal what a clear case of blowback this is.

Since being catapulted to global fame in his brief career as the Finance Minister of Greece, from February to July in 2015, Varoufakis has been performing like a man possessed. On top of the two editions of his global analysis of US economic power, using the metaphor of the Global Minotaur, he has also published a lengthy account of the European dilemmas created by the mismanagement of the Eurozone (And the Weak Suffer What They Must?) and most recently his memoirs, Adults in the Room. This latter book provides a vivid and detailed account of his confrontation with the European creditors who were holding Greece to ransom. There is much in this outpouring of personal memoir and robust analysis that is of great value. But one thing in particular struck me as worthy of comment. This is Varoufakis’ first hand commentary on his negotiations with China over the mooted investment by COSCO in the port of Piraeus and wider involvement of China in offering a way out of the Greek debt tragedy.

Piraeus Port Authority

China had been looking for an entry into Europe as part of its One Belt One Road strategy, which involves multiple new maritime and land routes linking the parts of Eurasia. In this endeavor the Greek port of Piraeus plays an important role. China’s COSCO the shipping and ports giant made waves when it was announced in 2008 that it would be allowed to own and operate Pier II of the Piraeus port. It used the intervening years to substantially upgrade and expand this operating base, and to turn Piraeus into a major transport hub, with rail links into Europe such as the Chinese financed high speed rail link between Hungary and Serbia.

What Varoufakis reveals (and I don’t think this is available through any other source) is that as Finance Minister he was setting up a much more comprehensive deal than COSCO merely becoming the owner and operator of the port of Piraeus – subject to all necessary safeguards for employment continuity and labor conditions. What Varoufakis was seeking was to secure a way around the strangulation being imposed by the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt. The ECB was effectively refusing to allow the Greek government to issue Treasury bills, which would have provided one legitimate means to allow it to meet repayments to the ECB and IMF, at least in the short term. The ECB justified this hostile act on grounds that it was protecting Greek banks from purchasing worthless assets. But as Varoufakis explains, this was reversing causality. The T-bills would have been worthless only because the ECB was stopping banks from purchasing them. And so the noose was tightened – in the Eurozone area where the ECB set the rules. But Varoufakis describes how China was seen as a potential player beyond the remit of the ECB – and as one that could potentially break the impasse.

Varoufakis was sufficiently savvy to know that the Chinese had to be offered a substantial incentive to help out – and reviving their bid to enable COSCO to take over the running of Piraeus was a prospect that fitted the bill. And so a grand scheme was set in motion. China would bid for Greek T-bills at the public auctions staged by the Greek government, in sums large enough to break the government’s funding drought. Sums of $1.5 billion were mentioned, for the month of March, with up to $10 billion ultimately being made available. And in return COSCO would be allowed to purchase a controlling stake in the port of Piraeus (subject to all appropriate safeguards). This would provide China entry to Europe, via rail, road and sea, enabling China’s One belt One Road strategy to close the gap between Europe and Eurasia. And it would be done right under the noses of the European institutions that were set on strangling Greece in order to make it an example for other weak indebted countries like Spain, Portugal or Ireland.Had this grand scheme been allowed to come to fruition, the Greek story and the Eurozone crisis might have had a very different outcome. Had China proceeded to bid for $1.5 billion in Greek T-bills, this would have enabled the Greek government to demonstrate to the world that some players in the market valued the T-bills, and so overturn the ECB argument that it could not release liquidity to the Greek economy. And this in turn would have forced the ECB to treat the Greek economy as a ‘normal’ player in the Eurozone, and allow it to begin substantial repayments, allowing for good faith renegotiation of the terms of indebtedness. And this would have ended the arguments that insisted that austerity was the only ‘treatment’ for the disease of imbalance within the Eurozone, with creditor countries like Germany putting unbearable pressure on debtor countries like Greece. And Varoufakis might have been able to stay on as Minister of Finance, and might have been able to proceed with his proposals for sensible restructuring of the Greek debt.

But none of this came to pass – and the reason (as revealed by Varoufakis at page 320/321 of his memoirs) is that the Chinese side never went ahead to make the purchases of the T-bills as agreed. Instead they made bids at two successive auctions of just $100 million each – certainly substantial, but nothing like the agreed bids of $1.5 billion that would have broken the logjam. And the reason they were so cautious, again according to Varoufakis, is that they were covertly warned off – by the German Ministry of Finance. As he tells the story (p. 321), “Someone had apparently called Beijing from Berlin with a blunt message: stay out of any deals with the Greeks until we are finished with them.” This was conveyed to Varoufakis by his Greek Prime Minister, who had sought clarification of what was going on with the Chinese premier in Beijing.

Now this account may or may not be true. Varoufakis is a credible witness -- both because of his own reputation as well as the generally credible nature of his account of the prolonged negotiations between the Greek side and the Europeans over the terms of Greece’s indebtedness. As a claim it deserves some comment or corroboration from the Chinese side – as there is unlikely to be any public comment from the German side or the ECB. Until there is any further comment corroborating or failing to corroborate the story, let us allow that it is likely to be true.

If that is the case, then the Germans shot themselves in the foot by blocking Greece in this way. Effectively their actions in strangling the country forced Greece to find an alternative source of funding, and China was available as a player. While it didn’t deliver on the immediate funding plan negotiated by Varoufakis –it did deliver as a player in the privatization program that the Greek Syriza government was forced to endure. And this is what enabled China to extend its control to include the European port of Piraeus – in spite of objections (no doubt voiced behind the scenes) by the Germans and the European institutions which would see Chinese logistics firms as competitive threats.

The wider story then is that this episode, while failing to provide a circuit-breaker that might have unlocked the Greek crisis and led to a very different outcome, did in fact allow China to enter southern Europe via the purchase by COSCO of a controlling stake in the port of Piraeus. This is blowback for the Europeans, and in particular for the Germans. Had they not been so obstinate in strangling the Greek economy, and insisting so hard on austerity, then the Greek government might not have been so keen to welcome the Chinese as new owners of their port. This episode reveals that in a multipolar world, there are limits to a strategy of imposing ideologically driven austerity on a single country by squeezing its banks and enforcing fire sale privatizations. In the case of Greece this strategy has succeeded in its narrow aims of keeping Greece as a subservient partner in the Eurozone – but at the cost of allowing China to establish its bridgehead in Europe’s transport networks that will be of major long-term strategic significance. And the story provides insight into China’s strategy, where the long-term goals are set and then actions are taken to implement these goals as opportunities present themselves. Greece’s Eurozone crisis was the perfect opportunity for China to sow its ‘dragon head’ investments in Europe, with the port of Piraeus as the focal point of the strategy.

Tags: privatizationPort of Piraeum COSCO
Categories: Labor News

Brazil: Unions protest Temer's reforms amid political crisis

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/30/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Reuters
Categories: Labor News

DC ATU 689 Bus Driver Opposes Privatization As Plan For Failure

Current News - Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:11

DC ATU 689 Bus Driver Opposes Privatization As Plan For Failure
DC ATU 689 Bus Operator on why privatization is wrong for Metro

David Stephen
Published on Jun 22, 2017
Bus Operator Diron Jackson speaks on the failure of privatization and why it would be bad for Metro.

Tags: ATU 689privatizationbus driversunion bustinghealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

Brazil: 2nd General Strike Against Temer Sweeps Country

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: TeleSUR
Categories: Labor News

Korea (South): Labor union rally draws 400,000 to central Seoul

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Korea Joongang Daily
Categories: Labor News

Global: Pope Francis: Unions are essential to society

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Catholic News Service
Categories: Labor News

NYC TWU 100 Transportation workers defend subway clerk accused of ignoring cops inside station

Current News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 16:19

NYC TWU 100 Transportation workers defend subway clerk accused of ignoring cops inside station
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
Darryl Goodwin (r.) stands outside Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday, with other Transport Workers Union members. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Thursday, June 29, 2017, 3:01 PM
The subway booth clerk busted for allegedly interfering with a police pursuit of a shoplifter at the 59th St.-Columbus Circle station had a gaggle of defenders in the courtroom Thursday who said he was just doing his job.

“This is an attack against all the station agents,” said Derick Echevarria, vice president of stations for the Transport Workers Union, said of the arrest of his colleague Darryl Goodwin, whom he has known since high school.

He suggested Goodwin didn’t see the cops who were yelling for him to open the gate because he was swamped with a long line of customers.

“We know the rules. We know we’re supposed to open the gate for the cops but we have to see them. What is he guilty of? Maybe not moving fast enough for them,” the union official added.

Goodwin, 54, was arrested for the May 16 incident during which an NYPD lieutenant said he injured his thumb.

Goodwin’s case was called briefly in Manhattan Criminal Court and adjourned to Aug. 10.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
Goodwin’s case was called briefly in Manhattan Criminal Court and adjourned to Aug. 10. (JEFFERSON SIEGEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Cops, who were chasing a suspect they believed had stolen from a nearby CVS pharmacy, said Goodwin refused to open the gate to let them into the station.

But Goodwin’s lawyer, Paul London, said Thursday that his client was busy with a long line of subway riders in need of help when cops claim he brushed them off.

“He was working, he was helping another customer,” London said. “I believe that this lieutenant felt that my client intentionally disrespected him but it was nothing of the sort.”

He said the demand from the officers was “a little odd because law enforcement is provided with free Metrocards as well as keys to the access points.”

London said Goodwin, who was suspended by the MTA at the time of his arrest, was able to return to work on Thursday.

Goodwin is charged with assault, obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest.

Tags: TWU 100police repressionattack on station agentsMTA
Categories: Labor News

China: Labour Activists who probed Ivanka Trump supplier freed in China

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Associated Press
Categories: Labor News

What we talk about when we talk about Uber and Lyft

Current News - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:11

What we talk about when we talk about Uber and Lyft


(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
By Kelly Dessaint on June 24, 2016 1:00 am

It’s 2:35 a.m. and I’m looking for a cabstand showing signs of life now that everyone’s in motion, either trying to go home or get to an after-hours joint.

In front of 1015 Folsom, a large crowd is milling about in the street among several dozen unmarked sedans blocking the flow of traffic while a few taxis wait patiently outside the club.

As I slow down to suss out the situation, a young guy approaches my window. He wants to know the fare to Berkeley.

“Around $35-$40,” I tell him. “Plus the bridge toll.”

“But Lyft is only $20.” He holds up his phone as proof.

“Then take Lyft,” I say.

I start to roll up my window but he has another question.

“Why are cabs so expensive?” he asks. “Don’t you guys want to be competitive with Uber and Lyft?”

“The City determines taxi rates,” I tell him. “I don’t have any control over them. Neither does my cab company.”

“Really?” he asks, genuinely surprised.

“You think we just charge more because we’re bad at business?”

He’s about to respond when another guy approaches my cab and asks if I’ll take him to the Richmond District for $10.

“You gotta be kidding me?” I laugh. “Sorry, that’s a $20 ride.”

“But an UberPool is only $7.”

“Then take Uber!” I say abruptly.

“I would,” the guy tells me. “But my phone’s dead.”

“You know what, then,” I say with a smirk. “The fare’s now $30. My cab just went into surge pricing.”

The guy scoffs while the first one laughs.

“Come on,” Mr. Richmond pleads. “None of these taxis are going anywhere anytime soon.”

“That may be true, but I still have my dignity. Why don’t you ask another cab driver?”

“I asked them all. You’re the last in line.”

“Then the price to the Richmond is now $40. My surge multiplier just went up!”

“Come on!”

“Tell me something,” I address the two of them. “Do you guys really think it’s acceptable for these companies to charge half the price of a taxi and justify it by calling it a disruptive business model? You know that’s bullshit, right? That’s not disruption. It’s predatory pricing, plain and simple. And who pays for all these cheap rides? Not you. Not Uber. Not Lyft. It’s their drivers who get screwed so you guys can get a good deal.”

“Nobody is forced to do anything,” Mr. Berkeley points out.

“Because jobs grow on job trees?” I ask. “I think most people who decide to use their own cars as taxicabs are doing so out of desperation.”

“Everyone has options,” adds Mr. Richmond.

I decide to change my approach. “Tell me, do you guys support Bernie Sanders?”

“Of course!” Mr. Berkeley declares. “Love him!”

“Bernie’s my man!” says Mr. Richmond.

“Then why are you participating in the exploitation of workers? Isn’t that something Bernie is fighting against?”

They both shrug, not seeing the connection.

“The people who drive for Uber and Lyft don’t make shit and assume all the risk involved with driving a car on the congested streets of San Francisco just to make four or five bucks off a $7 ride. You think that’s cool?”

“I’ve never heard a driver complain.”

“You hold a rating over their heads,” I say. “They’re afraid of losing their jobs.”

“But …”

“Well …”

“Look, you guys are obviously confused about what being progressive means. This new gig economy is regressive. It pushes the most vulnerable members of our society into wage slavery, where they’re paid for piecework rather than given an opportunity to secure a stable income. And what’s worse, instead of seeing their profits increase by working more, due to the constant Uber-Lyft price wars, they actually make less in the process. How can you support a system like that?”

“But if people stopped using these services,” says Mr. Berkeley, “it’ll hurt the drivers more because they won’t have a job left.”

“Yeah, less of something is better than nothing!” Mr. Richmond pipes in.

I’m about to launch into another tirade when I notice the time. It’s 3:15. I’ve already wasted over half an hour arguing with these guys. I might as well be making some money along the way.

“Guess what? My cab just turned into a TaxiPool. I’ll do $10 to the Richmond and $25 to Berkeley. But, goddamn it, you better give me decent tips. Get in and let’s go.”

I don’t even bother hitting the meter as I speed away.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver. Write to him at piltdownlad@gmail.com or visit his blog at www.idrivesf.com.

Tags: UberLyftderegulationworker exploitation
Categories: Labor News

High Cabin Temperatures have Sacramento ATU Division 256 RT Operators Fearing the Worst

Current News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 13:44

High Cabin Temperatures have Sacramento ATU Division 256 RT Operators Fearing the Worst
SACRAMENTO -- Multiple Sacramento Regional Transit District train operators have complained during the extremely hot days that the temperatures in their cabins are so hot it is a safety hazard.

If one of them passes out, the train could potentially be driving itself. Obviously that could, worst case scenario, end in tragedy.

The problem has gotten so bad some operators have called dispatch and said they can't work; they've had to stop and take a break mid-shift or leave the train and ask for a substitution.

"Operators have had to call off...saying, 'Look, I need a break,'" said operator David Allston. "'It's too hot in here. I'm sweating, I'm feeling flush, I need a relief.'"

Each train has a number, either a 100 or 200 designation. The 200 trains are fine, but the 100 trains are problematic. They're older and often the air conditioning stops working, according to Sacramento RT operators who spoke with FOX40.

On 100 trains with functioning air conditioning, FOX40 utilized a temperature gun to monitor the heat. Some areas in the trains reached around 105 degrees, which did not include readings in the cabin, where drivers tell FOX40 it gets even hotter.

Operators say Sacramento RT is aware of the issue, yet year after year the air conditioning still has problems.

"It's as if we don't know who's taking care of the air conditioner...they're adequate when they're maintained correctly," said operator David Allston. "This is a progressive thing that's been happening for the last maybe 3, 4 years."

According to multiple operators if, worst case scenario, an operator passes out mid-ride and their foot slumps off the "deadman," or the pedal, there is a safety mechanism that should automatically stop the train within 5 to 10 seconds. But if one passes out, and their foot does not not slide off the pedal, it's feasible the train could be going full speed without a conscious driver.

Tags: Transit Temperaturestrain operatorshealth and safetyheatSacramento Regional Transit District
Categories: Labor News


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