Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific


Indian container terminal workers strike

Employees at the Chennai port’s privatised container terminal in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu began an indefinite strike on October 18, demanding an increase in the festival bonus. On the eve of the Deepavali and Ramzan festivals the workers are demanding an 18,000 rupees ($US400) annual bonus but management said it will pay only 13,000 rupees. The company has attempted to combat the strike by using managerial and supervisory staff to maintain services.

Karnataka daily wage workers demand permanency

On October 22, daily wage workers in various departments of the Karnataka state government marched on the residences of Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, Higher Education Minister D.H. Shankaramurthy and Water Resources Minister K.S. Eshwarappa, in Shimoga where they held sit-down protests.

The workers are demanding confirmation of employment for all 17,000 daily wage earners recruited on or after July 1, 1984 because their posts are vacant permanent positions. The protests were called by the Karnataka State Government Daily Wage Employees Federation.

Education volunteers protest in India

Volunteers from the District Primary Education Program (DPEP) demonstrated at Koraput in Jeypore in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on October 18 against the termination of 211 of their colleagues.

They submitted a memorandum to the district collector demanding immediate reinstatement. They are also seeking an increase in remuneration in line with “government norms”, the regularisation of employment and the clearance of workers’ pay arrears.

Also in Jeypore, child-care (Anganwadi) workers marched to demand recognition as government employees. They submitted a memorandum to the woman and child welfare minister.

Indian knitwear workers demand bonus

Nearly 500 workers from the knitwear export unit at S. Periyapalayam in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu blocked a busy section of the Erode-Tirupur Highway on October 19. They were demanding a fixed bonus for the Deepavali festival. The workers shouted slogans denouncing the management and the company.

Police arrested hundreds of workers but most were later released. The protest was called by the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

Indian teachers on sit down protest

On October 17, teachers from the Mata Gujri College in Fatehgarh Sahib in the Indian state of Punjab held a three-day sit-down protest (dharna) demanding that 50 percent of the Dearness Allowance (DA) be incorporated as part of basic pay. Teachers told the media they would step up their campaign if management failed to resolve the issue.

Bangladeshi jute mill workers blockade highways

Jute mill workers blockaded the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway in Bangladesh on October 21, demanding pay arrears and bonuses. Barricades set up by angry workers from the Anwara jute mill at Barabkunda held up hundreds of buses, trucks and other vehicles for over three hours. One eye witness said the traffic banked up 30 kilometres.

The protestors removed the barricades around midday and held a rally in front of the mill gate. They are threatening further protests if the authorities fail to act on their demands.

Meanwhile, workers from four jute mills owned by the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) threatened to blockade major highways if the company refuses payment of all dues and bonuses. Affected are the Hafiz Jute Mill, Gul Ahmad Jute Mill, MM Jute Mill and RR Jute Mill. The workers blockaded highways on September 5, September 27 and October 4 over the same issues.

Korean workers locked out in pay dispute

Workers at Hyosung Corp in South Korea were locked after negotiations between unions and management over a new workplace agreement broke down. The lockout began on October 23 with the closure of four of Hyosung’s five plants in Changwoon, 400 kilometres from Seoul. The remaining factory was closed the next day.

The workers are demanding an 8.25 percent wage rise and the revision of a collective agreement. The company is only offering 4.24 percent. The company produces a range of machinery, transformers and electrical motors. Management told the workers they would be allowed back only if they agreed to meet urgent delivery deadlines and work alongside non-unionised staff who have remained at work during the lockout.

Hong Kong tour guides protest

On October 23, around 300 tour guide workers in Hong Kong gathered at the Federation of Trade Unions building in To Kwa Wan protesting over verbal attacks by the Travel Industry Council (TIC). The TIC claimed the guides took tourists on shopping trips rather than sightseeing and this contributed to a downturn in the tourist industry.

The guides complained that they were not paid wages by the tour agencies for conducting “zero-charge” tours and their only source of income were the 2 percent commissions paid by souvenir shop owners. The guides pay all tour expenses and often do not earn enough commission to cover costs.

Wong Ka-hoi, chairman of the Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union, said the guides have no fixed salaries, worked long hours and had no job security. He demanded the TIC apologise within two weeks or risk “further action”.

Australia and the Pacific

Teachers reject latest pay offer

This week, the Australian Education Union (AEU) rejected a new pay offer by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Labor government. The offer is for 12 percent over three years as before but the government claims to have dropped an earlier demand for productivity offsets.

The union has branded the government’s claim as “deceitful” because the pay increase is tied to the axing of 85 teaching jobs beginning next year. The union says the job losses will see an increase in the number of hours teachers spend in classrooms.

A spokesman for the AEU condemned the government’s action as “the most deceitful and incompetent exercise I’ve ever witnessed” and warned of “further industrial action”. For the past few months, ACT teachers have engaged in rolling stoppages and held protests over the pay issue.

New Zealand TV staff walk out

More than 300 union members at TVNZ walked off the job on October 26 after mediation talks between the unions and the company conducted under the Department of Labour reached a dead-lock. The company lifted its original pay offer from 1.75 percent to 2.25 percent but the unions are asking for 5 percent.

The Public Service Association and Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union are also seeking the maintenance of current leave entitlements and a single national agreement for TVNZ employees in Auckland and Wellington.

Meetings of union members were held in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to discuss the company’s latest offer but the outcomes have not yet been reported.

Air NZ workers protest over job cuts

A small group of Air New Zealand workers on October 24 protested outside the company’s annual general meeting in Auckland and handed out leaflets opposing plans to cut staff and outsource jobs. Hundreds of jobs are on the line in the national carrier’s latest round of restructuring.

Meanwhile, Australian airline Qantas announced this week it will cut 11 positions in the company’s New Zealand travel centre by December 1.

PNG Telekom workers strike over contract breaches

More than 700 technical staff employed by the state-owned telecommunications provider Papua New Guinea (PNG) Telekom walked off the job on October 23 in a nationwide seven-day strike. The workers, members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) and the Telekom Engineering Association (TEA), are protesting Telekom’s non-compliance with a collective agreement stipulating workers should be been paid CPI adjustments and a new pay structure that was to be implemented by July 31.

On October 24, a court granted an interim order directing the workers to return to work while it decided the legality of the strike. Telecom has accused the unions of not complying with enterprise agreement provisions requiring they follow a dispute resolution procedure and give prior formal notice before taking industrial action.

Fijian road workers demand jobs back

On October 23, a group of sacked road workers picketed outside the Fiji Public Works Department (PWD) depot in Samabula, Suva. They represent about 400 terminated casual road-upgrading workers who are demanding reinstatement.

The government claims the terminations are the result of a decision to reallocate $17 million ($US9.83 million) of PWD funds into Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) payments for full-time civil servants across the nation. As a result, the PWD has stopped all road maintenance and upgrades around the country.

The Public Employees Union (PEU) has not made any demands on behalf of the terminated workers, limiting its responses to verbal threats. PEU general secretary Pita Delana said the redirection of funds to pay COLA violated an earlier agreement with the union. He declared that the termination of union members “could result in serious industrial action”. While denying workers termination pay-outs, the PWD said $5 million in compensation would be paid to companies whose contracts have been suspended.