Labour bites

Samoan workers win minimum wage boost

Samoa First Union (SFU) was formed in 2015 by First Union New Zealand. First Union wanted to develop a union for private sector workers as the Samoan community within its membership was concerned by the exploitation and lack of representation for workers in Samoa. In 2016, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA began supporting the project, which focuses on capacity building and developing appropriate approaches and tactics that fit within the Samoan culture.

In a country where tourism plays a major part in the economy, much of the money that is profit for the foreign owned resorts goes overseas to parent companies and is not spent within Samoa. Add to this the current COVID-19 crisis and, like other Pacific economies, Samoa is struggling with huge job losses and a debt burden to foreign governments.

As the only private sector union in Samoa, SFU has to deal with every industry in the country. Despite having dealt with two declared ‘state of emergencies’ in the last six months (a measles epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic), the SFU has been tenacious in advocating for Samoan workers.

In January 2020, an increase to the minimum wage was legislated with a $0.70 sene increase from $2.30 to $3.00 an hour. No public sector worker receives less than $4 per hour so this increase was very important to the private sector. This, together with the work of the union to advocate for special consideration during COVID-19 for sustenance has been important to raising the interests of the lowest paid workers.

Source: Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA

Indian workers’ rights under attack

Many states in India are using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to suspend labour laws and attack workers’ rights as the central government of Narendra Modi continues its assault on the trade union movement.

Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have announced extensive changes, increasing working hours from eight to 12 hours, introducing fixed term employment and suspended labour laws, or provided exemptions to them. Many other states have also introduced changes.

These attacks on workers’ rights were made through executive orders when the legislative assemblies or parliament were not in session. The changes were made without consultation with trade unions and undermine fundamental principles and rights at work.

A joint campaign by seven global unions is calling on the Indian Government to withdraw these changes, strengthen the labour inspectorate and provide social security for all.

Source: LabourStart

US employers can opt out of birth control coverage

The United States Supreme Court has upheld the Trump administration’s regulation letting employers with religious or moral objections limit women’s access to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. This regulation was the latest attempt to undermine the “contraception mandate” which was a signature initiative of the Obama administration that required most employers to provide cost-free coverage for contraception. This decision could result in as many as 126,000 women losing contraceptive coverage from their employers.

The court ruled 7 to 2 to uphold the administration’s regulation. In a dissenting opinion to the ruling, Justice Ginsburg said the majority’s ruling left women “to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets.”

“Ready access to contraceptives and other preventative measures for which Congress set the stage,” she wrote, “both safeguards women’s health and enables women to chart their own life’s course.”

Source: The New York Times

Zimbabwean nurses jailed

On 6 July, the Zimbabwean government arrested 13 nurses at the Harare hospital. They were protesting their deteriorating pay and working conditions.

Those nurses have since been released on bail – but have been dismissed from their jobs. With the inflation rate hovering around 1000%, the cost of living has risen so rapidly that public sector salaries are now almost worthless.

The Zimbabwean Nurses Association (ZINA) is calling for an upward salary review and outstanding COVID-19 allowances, as well as adequate provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). But the government announced that it would not be engaging in any form of collective bargaining for the next three months.

Public Services International, a global union federation of more than 700 trade unions representing 30 million workers in 154 countries, and the Zimbabwean Nurses Association, are calling for the release and reinstatement of all nurses and demanding that the Zimbabwe government cease intimidating and harassing health workers and instead listen to their legitimate demands and concerns.

Source: LabourStart