Labour bites

Teachers’ mental health

Two Hunter research institutions are the first beneficiaries of a new Teachers Health Foundation created by the Teachers Health Fund to promote investigation into conditions experienced by teachers, such as mental illness.

The Hunter Institute of Mental Health and the Hunter Medical Research Institute are each receiving grants of $50,000.

Teachers Health Fund chief executive Brad Joyce said it is hoped the foundation will lead to real changes for education staff in the region.

“It’s to raise greater awareness of the issues but, secondly, it’s to try to identify potential solutions that might improve the condition in relation to mental health issues for teachers, particularly those teachers in the Newcastle and the Hunter Valley area,” he said.

Mr Joyce said it is time that mental health issues in the education industry were put under the spotlight. “There has been a doubling of demand in mental health services over the past five years, among younger members in that 24 to 29 age group,” he said.

“We do know that the education sector ranks number two for mental health stress claims in Australia.” (Source: ABC)

Disabled mail

In the UK, Royal Mail staff have ignored strike laws to protest in support of a fellow disabled worker. Around 80 staff in Bridgewater staged the strike over the treatment of a fellow worker, who they allege has been prevented from working by the company.

Dave Chapple, who is the local representative of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said the company has increasingly made it difficult for his colleague Andrew Mootoo, who has multiple sclerosis, to return to work.

‘When Andrew was first diagnosed 18 months ago, they tried to pay him off but had to back down after the union pointed out it was illegal,” he said. “Since then they’ve come up with every excuse you can think of to stall his return to work.”

Royal Mail have reportedly told the strikers they will sit down with Andrew to find a solution. Chapple commented that his situation highlights the difficulties disabled people face in the workplace. (Source: Metro)

The fight for $15

In mid November, workers in hundreds of US cities again went on strike and rallied, this time with an especially militant overtone, timed to launch a year long campaign to foreground low wage workers’ issues in the presidential elections.

At issue is the minimum wage which is as low as $5.15 per hour in Georgia and in no state higher than $9.50 per hour, although some individual cities have rates over $10.

The Fight for $15 campaign has so far probably done more to shed light on the crisis of economic inequality than it has to actually improve wages. New research shows much more than wage hikes is needed to build sustainable jobs for low wage workers.

According to the think tank National Employment Law Project, more than four in 10 workers nationwide earn less than $15 per hour. Food services have the greatest percentage of ultra low wage earners of any industry, with a whopping 96% of fast-food workers earning sub $15 wages. That wage is roughly the bare minimum needed to live decently anywhere in the country.

More disturbingly, low wages are a symptom of more systemic, structural oppression across the labor force. Ultimately, while policies to raise hourly pay have drawn populist energy, they will not directly improve the lot of workers stuck in the informal economy: undocumented labourers, people who are part time and erratically employed, or those trapped in jobs where wage theft and overtime violations are rife. (Source: The Nation)

Walmart workers dead but no compensation

On 24 November 2012, a preventable fire at Tazreen Fashions, a factory in Ashulia, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, claimed the lives of at least 112 garment workers who were trapped inside. At the time of the fire, the majority of the clothing made at Tazreen was Walmart’s. However, three years later, Walmart still hasn’t paid even a single penny of compensation owed to the injured workers and families of the deceased. The survivors continue to suffer not only from the pain of their injuries and the trauma of the horrific fire, but also from severe economic hardship as a result of medical bills and loss of income, as they continue to await the full and fair compensation due to them.

On the third anniversary of the fire protests were organised at dozens of Walmart stores urging them to pay full and fair compensation to the injured workers and families of the deceased. (Source: ILRF)

John Quessy
General Secretary