labor

Bahrain upholds convictions of teachers for organizing strike efforts

A Bahrain appeals court upheld verdicts against two teachers on Oct. 22 for organizing a teachers' strike early last year to support anti-government protests. At their first hearing in front of a military tribunal, the pair were convicted of using their positions as vice-president and president of the Bahrain Teachers' Association (BTA) to attempt to overthrow the Bahraini government through a teachers' strike that halted the educational process and "incited hatred" against the regime. No evidence has been presented that they used or advocated violence of any means, according to an Amnesty International backgrounder. Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to five years in prison while Jalila al-Salman was given a six-month sentence. Abu Dheeb has been detained for 18 months. Al-Salman was in confinement for five months but was released on bail. However, al-Salman has alleged torture while being detained.

Egypt: independent unions under attack

Egypt's new government has launched the most serious set of attacks on workers' rights since the days of Mubarak, according to activists in the independent unions. Hundreds of trade unionists have been sacked from their jobs for organizing since the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi won the presidential elections in June, and pressure from management and the courts has increased in recent weeks. Five dockers in Alexandria were given three-year prison terms in absentia because they blew the whistle on corruption in the state-run Holding Company for Land and Maritime Transport. Workers at the Alexandria Container Company organised a strike demanding the resignation of the Holding Company's board and the return of the wharves to state control, after they were sold off to a Chinese company. The next hearing in the case will be held this week. Meanwhile dockers in Ain Sokhna port, near Suez, were also hauled before the courts on Oct. 18, charged with "incitement to strike."

China: did new Foxconn strike happen?

Adam Minter of the Shanghai Scrap blog has a piece on Bloomberg casting doubt on recent reports of massive labor unrest at a Foxconn plant in China last week—an apparent sequel to the wildcat strikes last year. Minter asserts that the whole thing came down to a single Oct. 5 press release from China Labor Watch, which asserted that some 4,000 workers had walked off the job at a plant in Zhengzhou, Henan province. The grievances: "In addition to demanding that workers work during the holiday, Foxconn raised overly strict demands on product quality without providing worker training for the corresponding skills. This led to workers turning out products that did not meet standards and ultimately put a tremendous amount of pressure on workers. Additionally, quality control inspectors fell into to conflicts with workers and were beat up multiple times by workers. Factory management turned a deaf ear to complaints about these conflicts and took no corrective measures."

Kazakhstan sentences opposition leader to prison

A court in Kazakhstan on Oct. 8 sentenced an outspoken political activist to seven-and-a-half years in jail for allegedly colluding with a fugitive billionaire to overthrow the government. Specifically, Judge Berdybek Myrzabekov found Vladimir Kozlov, head of the unofficial Alga! partyguilty of inciting dissent among striking oil workers in what became a series of violent clashes between police and workers that left 15 people dead last December. The judge declared that Kozlov had turned a labor dispute into a politicized strike on orders from billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov, a rival of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Koslov, however, has consistently denied the charges and proclaimed that his case was an attempt by the President to quell civil protests within the country.

Third-party candidates marginalized ...in Venezuela

Venezuela's populist President Hugo Chávez of the United Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV) was re-elected by 54.42% of the vote, with 90% of the ballots counted as results of the hard-fought race came in the night of Oct. 7. Young opposition candidate Henrique Capriles of the Primero Justicia coalition had 44.97%. Over 80% of Venezuela's 19,119,809 registered voters participated in the election. As the results were announced, Chávez supporters poured into the streets, with a massive and spontaneous party breaking out in front of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. (VenezuelAnalysisReuters, AVN, Aporrea, Oct. 8)

Mexico: center-right bloc pushes 'labor reform'

After a 14-hour session, the Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress voted in the early morning of Sept. 29 to approve major changes to the 1970 Federal Labor Law (LFT). The 346-60 vote in the 500-member Chamber was pushed through by an alliance of the governing center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). There was one abstention, and many deputies from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) walked out of the session in protest before the vote. The measure, which was passed under a special "fast-track" provision, now goes to the Senate, which must act on it within 30 days.

South Africa: Marikana massacre survivors charged with murder

Another one to file under "Orwell would shit." From BBC News, Aug. 30:

Workers arrested at South Africa's Marikana mine have been charged in court with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by police.

Colombia: paramilitaries issue death threats in Barrancabermeja

A reconstituted paramilitary group, "Los Rastrojos Urban Commandos," made a series of death threats the week of Aug. 13 against members of four human rights organizations and one union in Barrancabermeja in the northern Colombian department of Santander. The first threats came in a manila envelope found on Aug. 14 at the home of human rights activist Himad Choser. The envelope contained a 9 mm bullet and a pamphlet by "Los Rastrojos" declaring Choser an enemy because he had been "denouncing and attacking our economic structure, based on drug trafficking in the region." The pamphlet described Choser as "at the service of the FARC," the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The pamphlet also named four organizations and the National Union of Food Industry Workers (SINALTRAINAL) as collaborators with Choser.

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