Workers of the world

Submitted by Matthew on 26 September, 2012 - 11:09

Mass protests in Portugal have forced the right-wing government to back off from one of its plans for meeting debt bail-out conditions.

The government wanted to increase workers’ social security contributions by 7% and cut bosses’ contributions by 5.75%. The effect would be a 7% cut in net pay, mostly to the benefit of the bosses.

On 24 September prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho said he would abandon the plan.

South Africa

The miners’ strike in Marikana has ended with striking workers accepting a 22% pay increase.

The dispute – during which 34 miners were massacred by police – was a product of increasing disillusion with the National Union of Miners bureaucracy’s moderation on wage issues. The breakaway AMCU union was able to capitalise by calling for a walkout demanding significant wage rises across the board and was able to grow by 19% in less than a month.


The Chicago Teachers Union called off its seven-day strike on Tuesday 18 September.

It secured concessions from the city over job security and teacher evaluation, as well as defeating the plan to introduce performance-related “merit pay”.

The CTU has become increasingly influenced by the militant Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE). This was its first strike since 1987.

Wal-Mart warehouse workers strike

Warehouse workers working at Wal-Mart distribution centres in Southern California struck on Thursday 13 September, demanding safe working conditions.

The workers, employed by transport firm NFI, face working temperatures of over 50°c, inadequate access to drinking water, and endemic management bullying.

The workers are not members of a union, but are supported by Warehouse Workers United, a workers’ centre backed by local community organisations.

The strike quickly spread to another Wal-Mart warehouse, run by the RoadLink company in Elwood, Illinois. Workers presented a petition to managers demanding living wages and safe working conditions, and were told they were temporarily suspended. They launched a wildcat strike action in response. Philip Bailey, a worker in the Elwood warehouse who earns $10 an hour, said: “[Bosses] retaliated against us for delivering the petition. People are sick of taking it — the constant speed-ups, never knowing when you'll go home from work ... My major complaint is we don't know when we're going to leave.”

The strikes again highlight the exploitation at every stage of Wal-Mart’s supply chain.

The retail giant has been criticised in the past for union-busting practices on its shop floors, including issuing managers with training and handbooks on how to keep stores union-free.

China: Foxconn riots

A riot involving 2,000 workers broke out at a Foxconn factory in northern China on Monday 24 September after a security guard allegedly struck a worker.

Bosses shut the factory in response, effectively locking out nearly 80,000 workers. Foxconn, which supplies Apple, became notorious after a spate of suicides by workers depressed by the appalling conditions in the factories. Their Taiyuan plant was also the scene of a mass strike in March 2012.

Egypt: dock strikers jailed

Five dock workers from Alexandria have been jailed for three years for their role in organising a strike in March 2012.

The strike demanded the removal of board of directors of the Alexandria Container & Cargo Handling Company, who the workers accused of corruption.

They also demanded the renationalisation of the docks, which had been leased to foreign companies (including Chinese state-owned companies).

Legal proceedings were brought against the workers by the chairman of the board, accusing them of disrupting work and wasting funds.

Their sentencing is further evidence of a growing anti-worker, anti-union, and anti-democratic climate in post-Mubarak Egypt.

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