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Korea (North): Forced labourers from North Korea help build a Danish warship

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Newsweek
Categories: Labor News

Qatar: HRW : Take Urgent Action to Protect Construction Workers

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Human Rights Watch
Categories: Labor News

South Africa: COSATU Strike and Demonstrations Against Corruption

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: COSATU
Categories: Labor News

Uber threatens to leave Quebec in protest at new rules for drivers

Current News - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 16:41

Uber threatens to leave Quebec in protest at new rules for drivers
Uber complains that 35-hour training requirement for drivers is unfair
Montreal mayor dismisses threat: ‘If they threaten to leave, I don’t care’
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/26/uber-threatens-leave-...
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, Uber Quebec’s general manager, said: ‘What we know for sure is that if they impose 35 hours of training on us, we’ll need to leave.’
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, Uber Quebec’s general manager, said: ‘What we know for sure is that if they impose 35 hours of training on us, we’ll need to leave.’ Photograph: Ryan Remiorz/AP
Ashifa Kassam in Toronto
@ashifa_k
Tuesday 26 September 2017 14.15 EDTLast modified on Tuesday 26 September 2017 14.58 EDT
Uber says it will stop operating in the Canadian province of Quebec if authorities push forward with plans to demand additional training of its drivers.

Last week, the Quebec government announced legislation that would require Uber drivers to undergo 35 hours of mandatory training – an amount in line with taxi drivers in the province – rather than the 20 hours currently demanded of them.

The legislation, which would also force Uber drivers to have a criminal background check carried out by police rather than private security companies and have their cars inspected every 12 months, is expected to be tabled next week.

The new rules in Quebec come as the company wages a high-profile battle against the decision to strip it of its license to operate in London.In explaining their decision, Transport for London said that “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility”.

Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, the general manager of Uber Quebec, said the company worried that the training requirements could deter drivers from signing up.

“Can you imagine someone on Airbnb that is renting his apartment once, twice or three times month or three times a year?” Guillemette asked. “That person would not be required to take 35 hours of training. And it’s the same situation for these drivers, working for Uber.”

Unless the province scrapped the proposed legislation, he said the service would stop operating in Quebec as of 14 October. “We’re not here to negotiate in public – we don’t think that’s the right approach,” he said. “The goal here is for us to sit down with the government and find ways that you can continue to operate. But what we know for sure is that if they impose 35 hours of training on us, we’ll need to leave.”

Uber began operating in Quebec last year, as a one-year pilot project that included what Guillemette described as the “most restrictive and severe regulations imposed on us in North America”. Across Canada, the company’s entry into the market has been met with a patchwork of rules and regulations, with a lack of provincial legislation barring it from operating in Vancouver and Winnipeg. But Quebec is the only province that requires Uber drivers to undergo training, said Guillemette.

The service has racked up nearly a million users in Quebec and counts more than 50 full-time employees in the provincial office, said Guillemette. “Every week we have about 5,000 drivers that drive on the platform – it’s the equivalent of 3,000 full-time jobs.”

Uber’s platform – which allows drivers to be assessed after every ride – enables the company to target its driver training, said Guillemette. “What we’ve developed is an ongoing training program, depending on the needs of the driver,” he said. “We fully agree that training is something that is important … but by trying to impose the same thing that is currently done in the old taxi industry, I don’t think it helps us to move forward and serve the population.”

London’s decision to strip Uber of its license has prompted scrutiny of jurisdictions around the world for insight of what happens after Uber. One of the most vibrant examples comes from Austin, Texas, where Uber’s departure last year paved the way for several other ride-share systems to emerge.

In Quebec, Uber’s threat to leave the province was met with derision by some. “I don’t care,” Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, told BNN news channel. “Frankly we need to have some regulation, and if they threaten to leave I don’t care.”

Tags: Uberregulationtraining
Categories: Labor News

Uber threatens to leave Quebec in protest at new rules for drivers

Current News - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 16:41

Uber threatens to leave Quebec in protest at new rules for drivers
Uber complains that 35-hour training requirement for drivers is unfair
Montreal mayor dismisses threat: ‘If they threaten to leave, I don’t care’
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/26/uber-threatens-leave-...
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, Uber Quebec’s general manager, said: ‘What we know for sure is that if they impose 35 hours of training on us, we’ll need to leave.’
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, Uber Quebec’s general manager, said: ‘What we know for sure is that if they impose 35 hours of training on us, we’ll need to leave.’ Photograph: Ryan Remiorz/AP
Ashifa Kassam in Toronto
@ashifa_k
Tuesday 26 September 2017 14.15 EDTLast modified on Tuesday 26 September 2017 14.58 EDT
Uber says it will stop operating in the Canadian province of Quebec if authorities push forward with plans to demand additional training of its drivers.

Last week, the Quebec government announced legislation that would require Uber drivers to undergo 35 hours of mandatory training – an amount in line with taxi drivers in the province – rather than the 20 hours currently demanded of them.

The legislation, which would also force Uber drivers to have a criminal background check carried out by police rather than private security companies and have their cars inspected every 12 months, is expected to be tabled next week.

The new rules in Quebec come as the company wages a high-profile battle against the decision to strip it of its license to operate in London.In explaining their decision, Transport for London said that “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility”.

Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, the general manager of Uber Quebec, said the company worried that the training requirements could deter drivers from signing up.

“Can you imagine someone on Airbnb that is renting his apartment once, twice or three times month or three times a year?” Guillemette asked. “That person would not be required to take 35 hours of training. And it’s the same situation for these drivers, working for Uber.”

Unless the province scrapped the proposed legislation, he said the service would stop operating in Quebec as of 14 October. “We’re not here to negotiate in public – we don’t think that’s the right approach,” he said. “The goal here is for us to sit down with the government and find ways that you can continue to operate. But what we know for sure is that if they impose 35 hours of training on us, we’ll need to leave.”

Uber began operating in Quebec last year, as a one-year pilot project that included what Guillemette described as the “most restrictive and severe regulations imposed on us in North America”. Across Canada, the company’s entry into the market has been met with a patchwork of rules and regulations, with a lack of provincial legislation barring it from operating in Vancouver and Winnipeg. But Quebec is the only province that requires Uber drivers to undergo training, said Guillemette.

The service has racked up nearly a million users in Quebec and counts more than 50 full-time employees in the provincial office, said Guillemette. “Every week we have about 5,000 drivers that drive on the platform – it’s the equivalent of 3,000 full-time jobs.”

Uber’s platform – which allows drivers to be assessed after every ride – enables the company to target its driver training, said Guillemette. “What we’ve developed is an ongoing training program, depending on the needs of the driver,” he said. “We fully agree that training is something that is important … but by trying to impose the same thing that is currently done in the old taxi industry, I don’t think it helps us to move forward and serve the population.”

London’s decision to strip Uber of its license has prompted scrutiny of jurisdictions around the world for insight of what happens after Uber. One of the most vibrant examples comes from Austin, Texas, where Uber’s departure last year paved the way for several other ride-share systems to emerge.

In Quebec, Uber’s threat to leave the province was met with derision by some. “I don’t care,” Denis Coderre, the mayor of Montreal, told BNN news channel. “Frankly we need to have some regulation, and if they threaten to leave I don’t care.”

Tags: Uberregulationtraining
Categories: Labor News

Japan Railway Workers Union Doro-Chiba Statement International Solidarity of Workers Can Stop War on Korean Peninsula! Overthrow warmongers Trump and Abe with angry workers uprising all over the world!

Current News - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 09:07

Japan Railway Workers Union Doro-Chiba Statement

International Solidarity of Workers Can Stop War on Korean Peninsula!

Overthrow warmongers Trump and Abe with angry workers uprising all over the world!

Workers all over the world!

A fresh war—a nuclear war—is imminent. Subsequent to the war in the Middle East, now a war on Korean Peninsula is about to break out. If a war erupts, the whole East Asia would become embroiled in an awfully devastating and bloody battlefield.

 The US Trump administration and the Japanese Abe administration have taken us to the brink of nuclear war. Since the division of Korean Peninsula into North and South after World War II against the will of Korean people, the US and Japan governments have been consistently hostile to North Korea and increasing military pressure on it even after the Korean War (1950~53). The US-Japan military alliance continues to make threats even by holding “beheading operation” and “nuclear first strike” over the Kim Jong-un regime, which, in its turn, is driving it to the last extremity to arm with nuclear weapons.

 To confront this serious situation, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) of South Korea issued a statement: “A nuclear showdown is not only a catastrophe for all people in both North and South but means an existential cataclysm for humankind that would spread into every corner of the world. We can never allow it to happen.” The KCTU strongly urges to rise up immediately with full force to “thoroughly get rid of the dark clouds of war looming over the Korean Peninsula and release North and South Korea from the long-years’ constraint of division.”

 Being scared by the impact of global economic crisis and Japan’s economic ruin, the Abe administration is trying to find the only way of survival in large expansion of armament and militarization of economy (dependence on war industry), revising the Constitution that would again enable Japan to launch an aggressive war in Asia. That is why Abe overtly denies the past war crimes including the comfort women issue, as if nothing had ever happened.

 Whatever the reason the Japanese government would put up, we should never allow it to embark in a war again on the Korean Peninsula and East Asia. This is the mission for us Japanese working class to be carried out resolutely.

 We declare our unity with the KCTU appeal, and are firmly determined in front of the workers all over the world that Japanese working class will overthrow the Abe administration and Japanese imperialism with our own hands.

The assaults of neoliberalism, which cares money than lives, has forcibly led to a rapid increase of massive unemployment, poverty, casualization and “karoshi” (death from overwork), and resulted in the collapse of whole social system such as education and medical care. Now, the violent practice of these onslaughts has gone far beyond the limit. Workers’ revolts for pursuing radical transformation of society have begun to spread all over the world. In the forefront, the struggle of South Korean working people has overthrown Park Geun-hye government.

 Summit talks between Trump and Abe to be held in Tokyo in November will give go-ahead to aggressive war on the Korean Peninsula. On November 5th, we will hold the annual international workers’ solidarity rally and demonstration in Tokyo together with participants from abroad to crush the Japan-U.S. summit talks for war.

 With the workers of Japan, Korea and the United States at the forefront, let’s stop the war before it starts by the strength of international solidarity and unity of workers of the whole world!

September 27th, 2017

Yasuhiro TANAKA, President of National Railway Motive Power Union of Chiba (Doro-Chiba)

Hiroyuki YAMAMOTO, General Secretary of Doro-Chiba International Labor Solidarity Committee

http://doro-chiba.org/english/english.htm

Tags: Doro-ChibaKCTUimperialismWar
Categories: Labor News

Request Governor's Signature for RM3

IBU - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 18:07
SB 595 (Beall), the bill to authorize Regional Measure 3 to invest in major congestion relief and mass transit improvement projects throughout the Bay Area passed the legislature.
Categories: Unions

Global: Nominations open for the 2018 Arthur Svensson Prize

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Industri Energi
Categories: Labor News

USA: Players’ unions are not backing down against Trump’s attack on athletes

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: UNI Global Union
Categories: Labor News

Mexico: $2-per-hour workers make $40,000 SUVs

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: CTV
Categories: Labor News

Fleet Memo for September 23 2017

IBU - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 15:46
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Categories: Unions

Pensioners & young workers show solidarity for Idaho silver miners

ILWU - Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:44

Standing up for striking silver miners: ILWU members from Northwest locals have been supporting a difficult strike by Idaho silver miners that began last March

Idaho’s “Silver Valley” may sound romantic, but hundreds of miners who work deep inside the region’s deep, hot and dangerous hard-rock silver mines were forced out on strike last March and now find themselves on the frontline of America’s working class struggle.

 ILWU support

 ILWU Pensioners and young workers from Northwest locals are stepping up to help roughly 250 miners and their families employed by Hecla to work in the Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho where silver, lead and zinc are extracted from narrow shafts up to 8500 feet underground.

 Early contributions

 In early May, the Seattle Pensioners made a $500 contribution to help the members of United Steelworkers Local 5114. Additional support came the following month when Local 19 donated $5000 on June 8, and Local 21 donated the same amount on June 14.

Personal delivery

 “I read about what was happening to these miners, and thought my fellow pensioners would want to do something,” said Mark Downs who personally delivered an early check and solidarity letter from the ILWU Seattle Pensioner’s Club, after making the five-hour drive across Washington State with two other activists.

May Day decision

 Downs noted that the Seattle Pensioners had held their monthly meeting on May Day, “which was a pretty good day to share some solidarity,” he said, adding that the group’s vote to contribute was unanimous. Downs stayed overnight in Idaho near the small town of Mullan where the Lucky Friday miners are taking their stand against Hecla, and he attended a union picnic the next day with the striking miners.

 Young Workers & pensioners 

Downs returned from his trip excited to share his experiences. Word of the strike reached Tacoma where Local 23’s Young Worker Committee (YWC) has been meeting with Pensioners on Thursdays for the past two years. YWC activist Brian Skiffington did some research about the strike and took his own trip to Mullan where he met with the miners and reported back to a joint meeting of the Tacoma Pensioners and the YWC. Both groups decided to launch a new round of solidarity over the summer.

Larger caravan

Hard rock miners are tough: Before the strike, workers at Hecla’s Lucky Friday mine went to work each day to recover silver, lead and zinc that made their employer profitable. The members of United Steelworkers Local 5114 say the strike has put significant economic pressure on the company, contributing to a $26 million quarterly loss.

A larger solidarity caravan with 14 participants was organized to depart on August 2, in time to mark 130 days on the picket line. Caravaners made their way to the Wolf Lodge campground where they received a warm welcome from miners and family members, including camp “mom” Megan Chavez and cook Cory Chavez, who prepared breakfast early the next morning.

After finishing the hearty meals, the solidarity visitors were soon mixing it up with miners and other supporters in a spirited protest held in front of Hecla’s corporate headquarters in Coeur d’Alene that attracted 200 participants – a new turnout record.Songs were sung, chants and slogans were shouted and solidarity signs drew many honks from supporters driving past the protest.

Strikers stand firm

The action marked more than 4 months on strike without a single miner crossing the picket line, and no ore being mined at the Lucky Friday. While over half the miners have been forced to search elsewhere for work to support their families, over 100 remain nearby to handle picket duty and other tasks.

Grateful for support

Miners were grateful and enthusiastic about receiving the outside support and checks from members at Locals 19, 22, 23 and 24 plus the Pensioners. The Pierce County Labor Council also provided a donation to support the struggle on behalf of all union members working in the greater Tacoma area running east to Mt. Rainier. Also contributing was the South Sound Jobs for Justice chapter.

Sharing experiences

Local 23’s Brian Skiffington expressed the views of many when he delivered a brief but inspiring talk based on ideas raised during many meetings back home with the Young Workers Committee and Pensioners, based on the ILWU’s “Guiding Principles” and slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

Making new friends

“Getting better acquainted and developing friendships with these miners and their families was the best part,” said Tacoma Pensioner President Mike Jagielski. He said the encounters with Rick “Redman” Norman, an experienced miner, longtime union member and historian were especially interesting because “Redman was able to entertain and educate us with his historical facts, quick wit and good humor.”

Century of support

The history of solidarity from waterfront workers in the Puget Sound to the Idaho silver miners goes back more than a century, according to Northwest labor historian Ron Magden, who says he found records dating back at least to 1906, when $400 was sent to help silver miners with a similar struggle at the turn of the century.

Rugged beauty, deadly work

Silver Valley lies in a deep gorge where ancient Native foot trails are now covered by Interstate 90, connecting traffic between Spokane to the west and Coeur d’Alene to the east. The rich mineral veins that run through the mountains have made corporations wealthy for more than a century – while miners have struggled to avoid death and serious injuries – and get a fair share of the staggering mineral wealth that they have produced: 1.3 billion ounces of silver; half a billion ounces of gold, 200 thousand tons of copper, plus much more lead and zinc.

The Lucky Friday alone was expected to produce almost 4 million ounces of silver this year that sells for about $9 an ounce. But things changed quickly because of the strike and picket lines holding firm, contributing to Hecla’s loss of $26 million last quarter. The company is now paying $1.5-$2 million a month just to maintain their non-productive mine during the strike.

Cutbacks force strike 

Young workers in action: From left to right: Tyler Rasmussen (Local 23 casual), Tyler Brady (Local 22 Port Mechanic), and Nyef Mohamed (Local 23 Casual). All three are active participants in Tacoma’s Young Workers Committee.

The contract covering miners at the Lucky Friday expired over a year ago, in May of 2016. Workers felt forced to strike after Hecla imposed a concessionary “last, best and final” contract proposal on March 13, 2017. Only two of the 246 miners opposed a strike vote. Anger was fueled by company demands to raise health insurance costs and impose pay cuts. The company also demanded an end to some health and safety protections – including an important seniority provision that gives miners a say in who works together in the dangerous underground tunnels.

“Lowest cost” producer

 Hecla is the largest silver producer in the United States with mines in Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. In addition to their size, the company operates on a “lowest cost” philosophy – an approach that may warm the hearts of Wall Street investors but can raise the body count for miners.

Deaths on the job

A series of disasters in 2011 at Hecla’s Lucky Friday killed two miners and seriously wounded seven others, triggering a mandatory one-year shutdown by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Families of the dead and injured workers later sued the company for allowing dangerous conditions inside the mine, but workplace injury laws – including the workers compensation system enacted a century ago – make it difficult to hold companies legally accountable. Idaho’s anti-union Supreme Court dismissed the families’ claims in 2016.

Punishing workers

  One of Hecla’s concessionary demands would reduce the 3-year “recall rights” down to just 90 days – a right miners need to keep their jobs due to closures or breaks-in-service. Under this scheme, future safety closures could cost all members to lose their jobs – a policy which some believe would dissuade workers from reporting or acting against dangerous conditions.

 Deadly mining history 

The 2011 disaster was just one of many mining tragedies in Silver Valley throughout the past century that have killed and seriously injured each generation of miners. Just a few miles from the Lucky Friday mine, a plaque memorializes the site where 91 men were killed at the Kellogg Mine in 1972.

Research proves cuts can kill

The legacy of deaths and injuries in the mining industry is well known to every family in the region. Earlier this year, a team of university researchers proved what workers have long known; that “cutting costs” and skimping on safety protections in order to boost profits and please investors, has a direct and negative impact on worker safety. An independent study published in 2017, documented how a wide-range of U.S. companies that strive hardest to please Wall Street investors have employee injury rates that are 12% higher than their peers. 

Community support

The striking miners are trying to win their struggle for safety and fair pay by enlisting community support, including local businesses that depend on miners for customers. Signs saying, “We support the Lucky Friday miners” are proudly displayed in many Silver Valley stores – similar to ones that appeared in store windows at Boron in the 2010 when the mining giant Rio Tinto locked-out 450 ILWU Local 30 members from a borate mine and processing plant for 100 days. ILWU members also enlisted small business support during the 2011 struggle against the Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, WA, and during the lengthy 2013 lockout that followed by grain terminal operators at Portland, Vancouver, Longview and Seattle.

 Friends and families

 Like most ILWU struggles, spouses, family members and friends are playing important roles in the Idaho miners’ strike, including help with media outreach. A letter-to-the-editor published by the Shoshone News Press, titled “Union women unite,” read: “As wives or significant others, it is so important to support EVERYONE as the strike progresses,” wrote Angela Thompson in her letter. “Don’t let HECLA push the new contract on us. Don’t let HECLA think we, as women, are a weak link. Remember that there are parts of the ‘last, best, and final offer’ that could hinder safety, diminish our quality of living, diminish our healthcare options and take away from our quality family time.”

Former Local 21 President’s letter

Former ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman, who led the fight in Longview to protect good jobs and ILWU jurisdiction at EGT in 2011, sent an early personal “open” letter of support which the miners quickly posted on their USW Local 5114 Facebook page.  “When I started looking into this strike, it became obvious to me that this is about ‘power and control,’ which many struggles are,” he said. Coffman explained that he decided to write the letter after seeing paid advertisements that Hecla was running in local Idaho newspapers, claiming that “safety and health of employees was the company’s top concern.”

Corporate campaign pressure

 Besides staffing picket lines, soliciting and disbursing hardship funds, conducting community outreach and media work, union members are also putting pressure on Hecla by analyzing the company’s corporate structure. Now that the company has admitted losing $26 million last quarter and wasting roughly $2 million a month to maintain an empty mine, workers intend to share this and other information with Hecla’s business and banking partners. Demonstrating in Denver On May 17, miners joined forces with fellow Steelworkers and other union activists from the Denver Labor

Federation to converge on the annual shareholder meeting of QEP, a Denver-based gas and oil company that’s got a cozy relationship with Hecla. The big silver mining company CEO Phillips Baker, sits on QEP’s Board of Directors – and QEP’s CEO Charles Stanley sits on Hecla’s Board.

Millions for the boss; cuts for workers

While Hecla executives are demanding cuts from the miners, their own pay has been more than generous. Hecla CEO Phillips Baker received $4.7 million in 2015 and got a huge raise to $6.4 million in 2016. Miners said that one year of Baker’s pay raise would cover their higher health insurance costs that are an important issue in the dispute.

Solidarity from far and wide

Besides help from the ILWU, significant support has come from Steelworker Locals, including Local 675 in Carson that is a longtime ally of Harborarea ILWU members. Long-distance solidarity includes the miner’s union in Mexico and Walmart workers near Tacoma. Leaders of the strike say they’ve been overwhelmed with support, which is a good thing, because they are preparing for a long, difficult battle. After the August 2

caravan and rally at Hecla’s headquarters, the company agreed to sit down with the union – only the third time since the strike began. There was no immediate progress, but workers remain determined to stay out as long as it takes to win.

“These workers are fighting for some measure of control over their jobs, just like we would fight like hell and back to save our hiring halls,” said Mike Jagielski. “These guys are used to working underground every day in conditions that are almost impossible for most of us to imagine – so I’m betting on the miners to win and with support from us and others, I think they will.”

Donations and solidarity messages can be sent to USW 5114, P.O. Box 427, Mullan, ID 83846. Local 23 Pensioner President Mike Jagielski and Local 23’s Brian Skiffington contributed to this article.

Categories: Unions

Iran: Teachers Call Upon Rouhani for Help

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: RFE/RL
Categories: Labor News

Canada: Unifor shows solidarity with Mexican workers

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Unifor
Categories: Labor News

UK Transport chaos looms as rail unions RMT and Aslef widen strikes over driver-only trains

Current News - Sat, 09/23/2017 - 16:39

UK Transport chaos looms as rail unions RMT and Aslef widen strikes over driver-only trains
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/23/rail-strikes-commuters-...

Carefully planned walkouts will cause commuter misery next month, as the government and train operators try to save money
The RMT is set to stage strikes on four rail franchises next month.
The RMT is set to stage strikes on four rail franchises next month. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA
Rajeev Syal
Saturday 23 September 2017 11.00 EDT
Pity British commuters this autumn. In southern England, Merseyside, East Anglia and the east coast main line they will face a wave of disruption after strikes were announced for Tuesday 3 October and Thursday 5 October. London Underground will also face disruption on the later date.

Privately, the rail workers’ union, the RMT, and drivers’ union Aslef believe they can win improved pay and conditions for their members and ensure the safety of the travelling public as rail firms attempt to introduce trains without guards.

This could all be in place by now, they argue, if the government – and in particular, transport secretary Chris Grayling – had given rail firms a free hand to negotiate. But according to the RMT, the rail workers’ union, the “dead hand” of Grayling has halted progress.

RMT and Aslef are used to fighting disputes in the public eye and the walkouts have been meticulously planned for maximum political effect. They will coincide with the Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester and follow proposed action by public sector unions including the PCS and the POA over the government’s refusal to lift the pay cap.

These disputes also underline how difficult it is to modernise industries when technological progress appears to pose a direct threat to jobs. Industrial action is planned at Southern Rail, Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and Greater Anglia in a row over the introduction of driver-only operated trains. The abolition of conductors is deemed unacceptable by rail unions, who are well aware that driverless trains could be the next development.

An RMT spokesman said that after Southern Rail, Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and Greater Anglia failed to engage properly in talks, he suspected the involvement of the transport secretary: “We believe that the dead hand of Chris Grayling has been at work. This is not normal in terms of industrial relations. Our belief is that it is politically driven by the DfT.”

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Economically driven might be more apt. The government is tired of pumping billions into Network Rail, the owner of Britain’s tracks and stations, and wants costs to be held down across the industry. It doesn’t take long for that sort of agenda to clash directly with unions.

The RMT official added that Abellio, the Dutch government-owned company which has the Anglia franchise, last year reached an agreement with the RMT in Scotland in a similar dispute, but is not sitting down with the union now.

“How come Abellio was able to strike a deal over Scotrail, but can’t do it on Anglia? If it was great deal there, why not here? Is it because the government wants train operators to take a stand?”

Nonetheless, there are signs that the most divisive dispute – on Southern, Britain’s busiest commuter franchise – is not intractable. The negotiations with Southern, involving both rail unions, took a new turn last Thursday when Aslef claimed it was close to a deal. Details of the talks were withheld, but a joint statement said “significant progress” had been made in discussions between the union and Govia Thameslink.

But this will probably come at a cost to intra-union relations. Tensions between Aslef and the RMT have increased over the past year. RMT officials are furious that Aslef negotiators have sought a preferential deal for their members behind the backs of fellow trade unionists. Aslef members have already rejected two offers recommended by the union — both of which offered concessions in exchange for drivers taking responsibility for closing train doors.

This leaves RMT in the familiar position of being public enemy number one for the franchise owners. They claim that RMT is on a “national crusade” to gain more money and power for its members. Operators argue that driver-only operation (DOO) was introduced on the Bedford-St Pancras line in 1982 and has spread to about 30% of the UK mainline network, as well as London Underground, and results in a more efficient system.

The RMT insists that operating with a guard is superior to DOO on safety grounds. In a dossier prepared last June, the union asked: “With the [DOO] model being nothing new, it is right to ask why, if it is so safe, has it been adopted by less than a third of the network? The answer is that it is unsafe, and unpopular with the public.”

A spokesman for Southern said: “We are disappointed by this unnecessary action and the RMT’s continued refusal to engage with us in modernising the railway. Last strike, we ran a normal service on most routes but passengers will inevitably be affected in places and we deeply regret any inconvenience these strikes will cause.”

The heyday for UK rail industry investment, which came after the Labour government created Network Rail from the ashes of Railtrack, is a distant era. As franchise owners and the government look for ways to save money, British commuters should be braced for more strikes.

The headline of this story was amended on 23 September to “driver-only trains”.

Tags: RMTStrike London UndergroundWalkout
Categories: Labor News

KAL pilots strike feared to disrupt Chuseok travel

Current News - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 21:58

KAL pilots strike feared to disrupt Chuseok travel Posted
: 2017-09-22 16:39Updated : 2017-09-22 17:55

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2017/09/693_236872.html

By Kang Seung-woo

Travelers fear that a planned strike by Korean Air pilots during the 10-day Chuseok holiday will cause a great deal of inconvenience for travelers flying with Korea's largest flagship carrier.

The carrier said Friday the planned strike will likely begin on Oct. 1 for a seven-day run and 390 pilots out of the 2,300 pilots of the nation's largest air carrier are expected to join the strike. This would inevitably disrupt some flights during the holiday from Sept. 30 to Oct. 9.

The airline must maintain 80 percent of its international flights and 50 percent of its domestic flights along with 70 percent of its flights to Jeju Island.

Korean Air is designated as a public essential service in accordance with the 2010 revision to the aviation law, so up to 20 percent of the union pilots could take part in the strike.

Since October 2015, the pilots' union and the company have engaged in negotiations over wage hikes, but to no avail.

The union demands a retroactive 4-percent pay increase for 2015 and 7-percent hike for 2016 plus performance-related pay, while management has offered a 1.9-percent increase over 2015 and 3.2 percent for 2016 along with new incentives.

Korean Air pilots earn an average of 150 million won ($132,000) in wages.

"The union has continued making incremental concessions to wrap up the stalled talks, but management shows no signs of change in its position," the union said.

It called for a 37 percent hike in 2015, but reduced its demand to 29 percent last year.

Korean Air says the planned strike is "unjustified."

"The union should have put the strike plan to a vote according to relevant laws, but it failed," the company said in a press statement.

Amid growing transport disruptions, Korean Air vowed to prevent any inconvenience from the envisaged strike, fully using available pilots, including foreigners. The company also said it will not close the window for negotiations with union members.

The strike, if held as planned, would be the second of its kind following the previous walkout staged last December in protest against the drawn-out negotiation with management over retroactive wages for 2015. However, some 150 pilots joined it.

In March, the pilots' union planned to go on a week-long strike after their negotiations for a wage hike fell through, but it was called off after the airline's president, Walter Cho, met with the union, creating a conciliatory mood.

If the strike goes ahead, it will be another major blow to the airline that is already struggling with China's travel ban on all group tours to Korea in response to Korea's decision to deploy a U.S. -led missile system.

Due to the ban, Korean Air plans to reduce the number of flights to China later this year.

Tags: KAL pilots strikeKorea Airline Pilots
Categories: Labor News

A Century of Working Class Activism: A Review of Wharfie

Current News - Fri, 09/22/2017 - 12:00

A Century of Working Class Activism: A Review of Wharfie

by Wal Stubbings and Lesley Synge, published by Zing Stories, 2017

Queen’s Land Branch News No. 104 – Friday 22 September 2017

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Queensland Branch Secretary 73 Southgate Avenue, Cannon Hill QLD 4170

IN THE LAST ten years of his life, retired Brisbane wharfie Wal Stubbings started recording the stories of his own life. When Wal died in 2014, aged 101, his memoirs remained unpublished, scattered throughout scores of documents typed and saved as computer files by family and friends. Wal’s son Col understood the importance of this legacy. He

phoned Brisbane writer Lesley Synge to ask her to piece together the stories into a coherent whole. Fortunately, she said yes. Drawing on Wal’s written stories, his letters, recordings of interviews with him and other sources, Synge has compiled Wharfie, a book destined to become a classic of Australian working class memoir.

Synge has done a remarkable job of sewing the patches together. Occasionally she has added small sections in her own words, designed to clarify or explain certain points in the narrative. But her interventions are modest and complementary. With a deft editing hand Synge has allowed Wal to tell his own story. This is not a biography of Wal but a memoir in the first person, presented in Wal’s own words with his own matter-of-fact conversational style, wry humour and honesty. The book follows a chronological arrangement, recounting Wal’s early years in the isolated timber-getting and mining communities of Tasmania’s west coast, then moving through his four decades on the Brisbane waterfront and as an activist in the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), and ending with his political, sporting and family activities during his long retirement. Each section is illustrated with photographs.

There are many reasons to read and enjoy Wharfie. Here are just three.

The book is rich in information about the way things were and how they changed, especially for working people. Capitalist societies like Australia’s have evolved so rapidly and profoundly in 150 years that many aspects of human existence prior to the 1970s seem utterly strange to us. Reading the life story of a man who lived for more than a century is like reading science fiction in reverse. For most of his life Wal functioned in a world without personal computers, mobile phones, the internet, credit and debit cards, ATMs or mass air travel. He was in his 40s when television arrived in Australian homes, in his 60s when it changed to colour. When Wal and his wife Ada became active in community politics in the Brisbane suburb of Moorooka, their home became the venue for meetings because they were among the few locals who could afford a telephone.

On the waterfront men loaded and unloaded cargo by hand. Wal’s first wharf job entailed shovelling and carrying coal in baskets from ship’s holds to train wagons. Thousands of tonnes were moved this way. In Brisbane, humping bags of cargo was normal until containerisation in the 1960s. Wal’s experiences remind us that technology, however sophisticated, is always an extension of human brains and muscles. However distant we become from the pick, the shovel and the grappling hook, labour and the natural world are and always will be the source of all social wealth.

Wal’s life story confirms that humanity advances through collective knowledge and effort. While capitalist ideology encourages us to revere the outstanding individual, the self-motivated high achiever, in reality social progress derives from cooperation. Most of what we learn we learn from others, and what we achieve, we achieve together. Shovelling coal, the young Wal learnt from an old wharfie the best way to go about it. Thanks to him, Wal survived the long shifts with body intact. In the timber industry similar communal wisdom, passed down from experienced timbermen, kept Wal from being crushed to death by falling trees. Confronted by the structures of economic and political power, Wal could easily have been crushed in a different way. Instead, he turned to the collective strength of community organising, trade unionism and the Communist Party, and discovered in them both the power of solidarity and a way of leading a meaningful life. He realised his own advancement was bound up with the advancement of others. Not for him the dog-eat-dog selfishness of neoliberalism.

Wal’s approach to life and politics provides a second reason to read Wharfie. He emerges from its pages as a worker-intellectual with the courage to question his own actions and beliefs. At least up to a point. A staunch socialist, he travelled to the Soviet Union in 1963, only to return with doubts about the nature of the Soviet regime. He aired those doubts publicly. But he didn’t leave the Communist fold. Despite Wal’s unease about Stalinism he remained a member of the CPA and loyal to the communist leadership of the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF). His loyalty skews his judgement at times. Was it really the case, for example, that in the 1960s the WWF ‘tried to create a culture where you could express yourself – right-wing, left-wing or whatever’? (p.138) Perhaps. But probably not. All the same, Wal was no Communist dupe. In 1968 he lost close friends over his criticism of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Later, he came to the view that ‘socialism under Stalin was not what Marx and Engels envisaged.’ (p.161) Always close to the rank and file, Wal adjudged the Soviet Union a failure because central authority had taken control, crushing workers’ democracy.

Wal never stopped questioning and learning. From the Aboriginal activist and wharfie Joe McGinness he learned that communication is more effective if you start with the little things, finding the common ground first. From a proud young man with paraplegia he learned not to assume your personal help is always needed or welcomed. From Ada’s dementia late in her life he discovered he was not the self-sufficient carer he assumed he was. From returning to his childhood home in Tasmania and contemplating the environmental devastation wreaked by copper mining, Wal concluded that the ‘slash and burn’ approach to development dominant in his lifetime had to be rejected. Wal’s ability to reflect honestly on his own habits of thought and behaviour and not to accept ‘common sense’ views on face value, is a lesson for us all.

The third reason to read this book is that it serves as a ledger of the debt we owe earlier generations of worker activists. As a Vigilance Officer for the WWF Wal was at the forefront of making the waterfront a safer place. In one incident the role almost cost him his life. This did not deter him. Through his persistence and the persistence of others like him, safety was established as a workplace priority. As a result, fewer workers were (and are) injured or killed on the job. As Wal well knew, however, this situation can never be taken for granted.

The debt we owe does not stop at the workplace. Many readers of Wharfie will already know about the WWF’s role in supporting the Indonesian struggle for independence. They will probably also know about the union’s support for Aboriginal rights and its prominence in the Queensland Right to March campaign in 1978-79. But how many will know that in 1956 a contingent of Brisbane wharfies travelled to Inglewood on the Darling Downs to help residents recover from a flood? How many know that Spinal Life Australia and the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association originated in fundraising activities by the WWF and its Women’s Committee? How many are aware that the Communist Party organised what was probably Queensland’s first rent strike to prevent a hike in government rents in Moorooka?

Wal or Wal and Ada together were involved in all of these battles. Wal also supported the Timorese against the Indonesian takeover in 1975. Thirty years later, in his 90s, he led a successful campaign to halt Coalition plans to extend the GST to personal and medical services for residents of retirement villages. This while coping with the trauma of Ada’s decline. So many campaigns fought, so many conditions and freedoms won and defended. So many people who benefitted. All his adult life Wal Stubbings believed organized labour to be the hope of the world. The history recounted in this tremendous book shows why he was right. For this reason alone it is a must-read for workers everywhere.

Jeff Rickertt

Tags: MUAdockersAustrialian labour
Categories: Labor News

DC Metro worker shocked while working on new train, prompting safety concerns-ATU 689 demanded an emergecy “safety stand-down,"

Current News - Thu, 09/21/2017 - 22:28

DC Metro worker shocked while working on new train, prompting safety concerns-ATU 689 demanded an emergecy “safety stand-down,"

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/metro-worker-sh...

The stand-down meant fewer trains were available Thursday morning, causing significant crowding. . (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
By Martine Powers September 21 at 7:30 PM
Metro riders endured another horrendous commute Thursday morning after the agency’s union demanded an emergency “safety stand-down,” refusing to conduct mandatory inspections on new 7000-series trains after a mechanic was shocked while working on one of the rail cars.

Because rail cars must be inspected regularly before they go into service, the stand-down meant there were fewer trains available Thursday, causing significant crowding and delays. Riders’ frustrations were compounded because Metro did not alert customers to the problem until the end of the morning rush.

Hours later, Metro officials declared the electric problem on the cars had been investigated and they were deemed safe; service returned to normal for the afternoon commute.

Metro said a review, conducted by the agency’s engineers and engineers from the rail car manufacturer, Kawasaki, determined inspection procedures in place for mechanics working on the trains are “appropriate and consistent with manufacturer guidelines.”

The agency said it would conduct additional safety briefings with mechanics to ensure they weren’t at risk.

“Part of creating a safety culture means taking immediate action to address concerns raised by employees. If a concern cannot be immediately resolved or requires further investigation, sometimes additional steps — such as a safety stand-down — must be taken in an abundance of caution,” Metro Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin said in a statement. “We encourage the reporting of safety concerns, and thank our customers for their understanding as we place safety first.”

But union leaders said the agency has not done enough to protect workers, many of whom fear they are at risk while performing routine maintenance on Metro’s newest fleet of cars.

Problems began late Wednesday when Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 demanded the stand-down after learning of an incident Saturday, in which a mechanic was shocked at a West Falls Church rail yard while he worked on a 7000-series car.

According to an incident report obtained by The Washington Post, the mechanic indicated the shock was “light” and left no visual burns, and he was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital for evaluation.

After Saturday’s incident, all maintenance work ceased on the 7000-series train while the situation was assessed.

According to the incident report, “it appears that car R7022 lost all grounding capabilities,” indicating the car had electrical current running through it.

The problem was traced to the “ground brushes,” which are circuits attached to the rail car axles and help return electric current from the train back to the rail. The components are located underneath the train cars and inaccessible to passengers.

The union alleged Metro knew of the shock risk from the cars and did nothing about it.

“Metro knew of these electrical shocks since at least January, but covered it up and only decided to take action today because there was a victim involved who could have been killed,” the union said in a statement Wednesday night. “These actions are an abject failure to implement an effective safety culture when it should be Metro’s number one priority.”

[Metro and union bicker over who was responsible for Monday’s Orange Line mess]

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said agency officials have no knowledge of previous shock incidents related to the same components on the 7000-series cars.

They also have notified the Federal Transit Administration, which has safety oversight of the rail system. Neither the FTA, nor Kawasaki responded to requests for comment Thursday.

The electricity issue — flagged as a “hazardous condition” in an internal memo — did not pose a threat to passengers, Stessel said, because there are secondary safety systems in place on the trains that ensure stray electric current does not reach other parts of the train.

The stand-down was the latest dispute between union leadership and Metro management as the relationship between the two sides continues to erode. The two are entering arbitration after failing to reach a contract and are at odds on a variety of issues including pay and benefits, assaults on bus operators by customers and the use of contractors.In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the union said the shock incident “could have ended in death or serious injury” and was one of several significant safety mishaps that have occurred to rail maintenance workers this year while servicing 7000-series trains, though it did not provide details on the nature of any of the other incidents.

On Monday, Metro sent a bulletin to mechanics about the problem. Another went out to train operators, warning them the problem “could pose a potential safety hazard,” and if the screen in the cab of the train indicated there was a lack of third rail voltage, they should immediately contact the Rail Operations Control Center and take the train out of service once they reached the end of the line.

Union officials said the response wasn’t adequate and Wednesday evening delivered a demand for a “safety stand-down” — an immediate action in which all work stops until a problem is investigated and deemed safe.

Though Metro agreed to the stand-down shortly before midnight Wednesday, it was not until 8:50 a.m. Thursday that Metro sent an email alert to riders, informing them to expect fewer trains, longer average waits between trains, and more crowded trains — due in part because many more trains than usual were composed of six cars, rather than eight.

Stessel said officials didn’t expect the cutback in rail cars to have as significant an impact on riders as it did.

“From a rail operations perspective, early morning service was relatively normal,” Stessel said. “When it became clear that there could be a customer effect, we issued a release.”Stessel said Metro has a longer-term fix on the way: Kawasaki is building new components for the cars, which will be installed on all the cars that are yet to be manufactured and delivered to Metro.

For the more than 350 7000-series rail cars that have already arrived, they will be retrofitted with a new design for the ground brushes.

[Contract talks collapse between Metro and its biggest union, triggering arbitration]

Faiz Siddiqui contributed to this report.

Martine Powers writes about the Metro transit system and the wonky world of transportation. Follow @martinepowers

Tags: ATU 698DC Metrohealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

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