Around the globe

Around the Globe brings you international news about injustices and workers’ rights. If injustice exists anywhere, it exists everywhere.

Cambodian union leader freed

In November, Rong Chhun, a former teacher and current leader of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, was released from indefinite detention after speaking out about land rights.

“For over a year, trade unions in Cambodia and across the world have been campaigning for Rong Chhun’s freedom and calling the Cambodian government to drop the charges against him.” Shoya Yoshida, International Trade Union Confederation Asia-Pacific General Secretary.

Historically, major unions have aligned themselves with the opposition in Cambodia. In November 2017, the Supreme Court dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country’s main opposition party. Rong Chhun served on the national election committee of CNRP.

Union leaders such as Rong Chhun play an important role in politics as they represent the vast number of workers, especially in the textile sector, a major export industry for Cambodia.

Karen women call for end to violence against women

November 25 marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and is the start of the 16 Days of Activism campaign.

Along the Thai-Burma Border, the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) is a leading voice against sexual violence. With a membership of 70,000 women, KWO believes that empowering women will help reduce human rights abuses and encourage an end to discrimination against women.

Actively engaging in the 16 Days campaign every year, KWO has already launched activities in seven refugee camps along the border and in villages in Karen State, Burma. Their 2021 statement calls on “everyone to have courage to speak out about injustice and stop all forms of violence against women”.

The Philippines: Australians speak out against union repression as election looms

On 16 November, Philippines Australia Union Link held a rally at the Philippine Consulate in Sydney to call for an end to trade union repression and to Australia’s $42 million-plus military aid. The Philippine military engages in the ongoing red-tagging, repression and killing of trade unionists and other community leaders.

Australian union leaders Vanessa Seagrove, Assistant Secretary Unions NSW; Rita Mallia, President CFMEU NSW Construction & General; and Jagath Bandara, Lead Regional Organiser, International Transport Workers' Federation, spoke at the rally. “We hope there's real change when the Duterte presidency ends," Seagrove said. "Whatever happens we know we need to continue to support worker’s rights and trade unions in the Philippines."

Concerns over human rights violations and trade union repression continue as the Duterte and Marcos families contest the May 2022 elections. Ferdinand Marcos Jnr is running for President while Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter, is running for Vice President. Watch this space!

Australia’s solar industry linked to Uyghur forced labour

Reports of human rights abuses continue to surface in Xinjiang, China. The Uyghur minority is persecuted through mass surveillance, extra-judicial detention, restriction of religion and forced labour.

Links to Uyghur human rights violations have been exposed in Australia’s solar industry (ABC News, 16 Nov 2021). “Nearly everyone in the world who is buying solar panels is likely to be buying products made with forced labour.”

Last year, 83 well-known consumer brands – including Nike and Apple – were named in a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute for links to Uyghur forced labour.

Afghans fleeing Taliban still waiting on visas

It has been more than three months since the Taliban took over in Afghanistan. Since then, more than 100,000 applications for humanitarian visas have been made.

Australia, who has initially promised 3000 visas, has yet to issue a single visa. On 8 November, a Senate Inquiry investigating Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan urged the Morrison Government to do more for the people of Afghanistan and called for an additional 20,000 humanitarian visas.

Human rights and legal organisations including Amnesty International, the Law Council of Australia, and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, gave evidence to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee’s Inquiry.

“We need urgency from the Australian Government on tackling the immediate humanitarian crisis; leadership on resolving challenges which are restricting the provision of life-saving aid; and urgent planning on how we can protect the development gains Australia has helped to achieve,”said Tim Watkin, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Australian Council for International Development.

Bangladesh called before the ILO

In early November, the Government of Bangladesh was called before the International Labour Organization to report on terrible working conditions in the country.

Up to 35,000 Bangladeshis die at work every year and 8 million are injured. Sexual violence is rife, millions of workplaces are barely monitored by government labour inspectors, and people are trapped in jobs with poverty wages.

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