8th September 2016 marks Equal Pay Day in Australia—which should probably be renamed Unequal Pay Day. The wages gap between men and women is still a stubbornly high 16.2 per cent. The occasion coincides with John Howard’s much criticised remarks to the Press Club that women will never achieve equal representation in Parliament because ‘they play a significantly greater part of fulfilling the caring role in our communities, which inevitably places some limits on their capacity’. The ACTU has long been campaigning for equal pay and equal rights for women.
The aim of this policy brief is to assist workers’ organizations in understanding and tackling the injustices and decent work deficits associated with employment in the informal economy. It provides information and proposes strategies that can be used to organize, protect and promote the rights and interests of informal economy workers.
The FTUC National Minimum Wage Campaign for $4 FJD from the current $2-32 FJD is gaining momentum as our advertisements promoting awareness has now been aired on various media in Fiji. This initiative has been made possible through support from ILO ACTRAV which allowed much needed awareness materials to be produced and distributed as a result of training held on May 4th & 5th in Fiji, cordinated by Ms Jotika Sharma, ILO Specialist on Workers Activities and consultant Bro Raghwan.
” We need to reach out to the workers in the field, and media – especially television, and radio are the most effective forms. The current minimum wage is grossly inadequate.” says the National Secretary Mr Felix Anthony. In our ongoing field visits, workers have brought to our attention their continued sufferings and inability to put food on the table, coupled by basic violations of their working rights.
” We are conducting national level consultations with workers on the minimum wage and we have planned visits to all major towns and centers in Fiji. So far we are pleased with the level of interaction with the workers on this crucial campaign, they are becoming more aware of their right to freedom of association and to a fair and just wage.”
Here is the audio version of the promotion of the minimum wage.
Click on the visual material below for the promotion of the national minimum wage campaign.
The FTUC continues to receive signatures on a daily basis in support of this national campaign. Forms are available at all union offices and can be obtained from the FTUC office by emailing email@example.com or calling on 3315377.
Labour education has historically played a vital role in the development of the trade union organisations and promoting union actions and still is an important means for securing workers’ rights and empowerment on issues in the world of work and for organizing in particular. FTUC in collaboration with ILO ACTRAV conducted a 2 day workshop from the 1st to the 2nd August 2016 at the Capricorn Hotel in Nadi, Fiji. The workshop also focused on the role of International Labour Organisation Standards in promoting enabling environment for organizing and labour education and to strengthen capacities of the unions in Fiji for organizing and promoting decent work.
The training programme was aimed to:
(1) Develop educators’ capacities to implement effective education programs;
(2) Develop a trade union education policy; and
(3) Promote communication exchange & networking amongst unions for labour education, organizing and actions for decent work in Fiji.
In Fiji, a number of challenges are still faced by the trade unions, starting with inadequate respect for Tripartite, social dialogue, Freedom of Association (FoA) and Collective Bargaining rights. However, Fiji is currently moving forward in implementing Freedom of Association, workers’ rights, Collective Bargaining and Decent Work, with the current review in labour laws.
Thus there is a need to train trade union leaders, especially Youth and Women, to strengthen their capacities for organizing in representing and negotiating workers interests.
The FTUC Biennial Conference held in Nadi on 7th May 2016 launched a campaign to raise the National Minimum Wage to $4 an hour. While the FTUC is mindful that the $4 Minimum wage will still peg workers below the poverty line, we believe that $4 is a decent starting point to work towards a Minimum Wage that is pegged above the poverty line. The FTUC estimates that the poverty line is around $4.50 an hour. We advocate that annual adjustments must be made to work towards that goal.
The Constitution of Fiji at Chapter 2, Section 33 clearly states “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to work and to a just minimum wage.” The current minimum wage of $2.32 is grossly inadequate and condemns workers to extreme poverty. It is not a realistic starting point to progressively ensure a “just Minimum Wage” as the target is too far off and annual inflationary movements will further make it impossible to realize a minimum wage above the poverty line.
The situation is further compounded by the National Employment Center policy on providing employment for young people. The wage guideline set for attaches is $60 per week without any FNPF deductions, overtime payments or any other benefits applicable to these workers all in the name of creating employment. The reality is that in many workplaces, permanent employees are being replaced by these attaches at $60 per week. This has undermined the National Minimum wage and the minimum conditions set out in the Employment Relations Promulgation. What is happening in Fiji is that we are driving the wages downwards, a race to the bottom.
The current minimum wage of $2.32 means a weekly wage of $96.05 after FNPF deductions. Then we need to take 9% off that for VAT. This leaves the worker with $87.41 per week. A conservative 2015 estimate for Basic Needs Poverty Line is around $185.00 per week. This leaves a massive gap of about $97.59 per week. As time goes on, our people get deeper and deeper into poverty and debt, yet we wonder why productivity is still low. It is no secret that happy workers are more productive and it is the right time to address this issue.
The FTUC notes the concerns of employers. We also note that some 15 years ago, the Unions called for minimum wages to be increased to the poverty line through the Wages Councils. We were promptly told by employers that the time was not right. The past Chairperson, Fr. Kevin Barr of the Wages Council also advocated the same and was told the same thing just 6 years ago. We are now again told the time is not right. Well, when will the time be right for workers in Fiji to earn a just Minimum Wage. It appears never.
The FTUC understands the plight of small businesses and is receptive to some concessions for this lot. However it disagrees that bigger businesses hide behind the small businesses to pay poverty wages and claim to be concerned about small businesses. This trick will no longer work. Threats of unemployment rising are mere threats and FTUC is confident that if workers earn more, economic activity will increase, which will in turn create demand and jobs. This will be good for businesses as well. This is good for Government as when people spend more they pay more VAT. Decent work is also about a just wage and conditions of employment and not merely any job.
We recall the promise that the Prime Minister made to the people to create a Just society and that no Fijian will be left behind. So far it’s only the workers who have been left behind and we call on Government to act with some determination to ensure a fair deal for workers. A $4 minimum wage is a good place to start.
Here’s information on workers right situation in the region adapted from the ITUC webpage.
2016 marks the Worst Year on Record in Most Regions for Attacks on Free Speech and Democracy.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, including severe crackdowns in some countries, increased by 22%, with 50 out of 141 countries surveyed recording restrictions. The ITUC Global Rights Index ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice.
“We are witnessing the closing of democratic space and an increase in insecurity, fear and intimidation of working people. The speed at which attacks on rights are being forced through, even in democracies with the Finish government’s proposals and the new trade union law in the United Kingdom, shows an alarming trend for working people and their families,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.
“Repression of workers’ rights goes hand in hand with increased government control over freedom of expression, assembly and other fundamental civil liberties, with too many governments seeking to consolidate their own power and frequently doing the bidding of big business, which often sees fundamental rights as incompatible with its quest for profit at any expense.”
The Middle East and North Africa were again the worst region for working people, with the kafala system in the Gulf still enslaving millions of workers. At the other end of the scale, rights in Europe, traditionally the best-performing region in the Index, continue to deteriorate. Despite the obvious failure of austerity policies, many European governments are continuing to undermine workers’ rights. The failure of most European countries to fulfil their obligations to refugees, including the right to work, is making the problem worse.
The International Trade Union Confederation has been collecting data on violations of workers’ rights to trade union membership and collective bargaining around the world for more than 30 years. This is the third year the ITUC has presented its findings through the Global Rights Index, putting a unique and comprehensive spotlight on how government laws and business practices have deteriorated or improved in the last 12 months.
The ten worst countries for working people are Belarus, China, Colombia, Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Qatar, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.
Cambodia, India, Iran and Turkey joined the ranking of the ten worst countries for working people for the first time in 2016. The Cambodian government approved a new Trade Union Law further limiting workers’ ability to negotiate over their working conditions and pay, while police in India regularly use disproportionate violence against workers holding protests with many detained for simply exercising their rights guaranteed in national laws. Iran uses heavy prison sentences against workers for peaceful activities, and Turkey is targeting public servants engaging in legitimate and peaceful union activities, with at least 1,390 public sector workers under investigation. The Turkish government has also become synonymous with attacks on freedom of speech, with ten foreign journalists banned since last October and Turkish journalists facing severe repression including trial and imprisonment on bogus grounds including “national security”.
“All four new additions to the rogues’ gallery of the ten worst countries are clear examples of the combined assault on workers’ rights and other fundamental freedoms,” said Burrow.
In other countries outside the ten worst, conditions worsened in the past year, including in Indonesia, Montenegro and Paraguay. Protests in Indonesia against changes to the minimum wage fixing system were brutally crushed with police using water cannons, tear gas and mass arrests. The Paraguayan government is consistently denying the registration of trade unions, exposing workers to discrimination by employers while bankruptcy laws in Montenegro suspend basic rights laws during bankruptcy proceedings with workers in some 2,363 enterprises affected in the past five years.
The reports key findings include:
82 countries exclude workers from labour law.
Over two-thirds of countries have workers who have no right to strike.
More than half of all countries deny some or all workers collective bargaining.
Out of 141 countries, the number which deny or constrain free speech and freedom of assembly increased from 41 to 50 with Algeria, Cameroon, the United States and Pakistan joining the list.
Out of 141 countries, the number in which workers are exposed to physical violence and threats increased by 44 per cent (from 36 to 52) and include Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia and the Ukraine.
Unionists were murdered in 11 countries, including Chile, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and Turkey.
“Working collectively for better wages, rights and conditions makes workers targets of both state security forces and thugs hired by companies,” said Burrow. “This is happening in both the public and private sectors, including in global supply chains, which are a notorious source of exploitation and poverty. Governments need to uphold their obligations under international law through the legal standards they themselves adopt at the International Labour Organization, and ensure that multinational companies based in their country are answerable for all the workers in their international operations at home and abroad. The alternative is yet more impoverishment of working families and further flat lining of the global economy as people struggle just to pay their daily bills, unable to invest in their children’s future or to make even the most modest purchases.”
The 2016 ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from one to five according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings.
1. Irregular violations of rights: 13 countries including Germany & Uruguay
2. Repeated violations of rights: 22 countries including Ireland & Japan
3. Regular violations of rights: 41 countries including Australia & Israel
4. Systematic violations of rights: 30 countries including Poland & USA
5. No guarantee of rights: 25 countries including Belarus, China & Nigeria
5+ No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: 10 countries including Burundi, Palestine & Syria,
For more information click on the links below:
Read the report: ITUC Global Rights Index 2016
Download the ITUC Global Rights Index map
Download the ITUC Global Rights Index Infographic – Ten worst countries in the world for working people.
The Fiji Trades Union Congress continues its intensive campaign on organizing workers into unions to promote Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining as the means to achieve decent work and social justice. A Training of Trainers for Union Organizers was conducted on 3rd to 4th of August 2016 at the Capricorn International Hotel, Nadi supported by ILO ACTRAV for FTUC to continue to strengthen its institutions.Selected members who are lead organisers in their respective unions were trained on effective organizing skills, the labour law promoting freedom of association, basic minimum terms and conditions of employment and dispute and grievance procedures as stipulated in the ERP,to name a few.
The ILO Workers Specialist for the Pacific, Ms Jotika Sharma emphasized on the need for organizers to be prepared with adequate and up-to date information on the laws pertaining to and securing the right of workers to join union and to engage in collective bargaining. She further elaborated on the Fiji laws that an organiser must be aware of to encourage workers to join unions and how these could be utlized by workers themselves to deal with issues at the workplace that were in direct contravention with ILO Conventions 87 & 98 and the ERP 2007. Bro Raghwan, a retired Workers Specialist and now practicing as a IR Consultant discussed how the Fiji case unfolded within the ILO supervisory mechanisms and the outcome of the decisions of the Committee on Application of Standards (CAS) and Committee of Experts on Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR).
The participants also built on their skills on effective organizing techniques, and how to efficiently deal with challenges faced in the field. Good practices were shared by representatives from the NUFCW, NUHCTIE, FMWA and NUW. The 2 day program also focused on developing user friendly education materials to promote Freedom of Association and it was concluded that issues based approach was the ideal way forward.
The training concluded with the National Secretary Bro Felix Anthony encouraging the organizers to focus on the vulnerable workers where decent working conditions were far from reach. He further mentioned that unions needed to invest resources to increase membership and resources to protect and maintain the membership. He emphasized that organizing was the only pathway to achieving decent work and social justice for workers.
The participants submitted their draft work plans and education material templates that will be used by the network to promote organizing in the field in the next months. They will be assisted by the FTUC to implement their plans within the sectors identified in the planning meeting on Friday the 5th of August. A video promoting the Right to Organise and The Minimum wage campaign was launched at the workshop.
” Singapore does not have compulsory retirement but has a retirement age, like many other countries. The retirement age in Singapore is 62, though the re-employment age will rise from 65 to 67 next year. Workers turning 62 can opt to retire or continue working until the re-employment age ceiling.”
Singapore’s retirement age has to go “at some point”, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a dialogue at the World Cities Summit yesterday.
It is critical that older workers be seen as assets to be continually invested in, rather than just as add- ons needed because employers cannot find younger workers in a tight labour market, he said.
Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, was speaking at the opening session of the World Cities Summit at Marina Bay Sands.
He outlined key challenges faced by growing cities, such as ageing societies, at the discussion, Towards A Liveable, Sustainable And Resilient Future.
“Older folks are an asset. They have wisdom, experience and they also learn on the job. We have to make this (integrating older workers) part and parcel of the workplace… We have not done it very well in Singapore so far and we have to do much better in this realm,” he said.
His comments were in response to a question by Ambassador-at- large Tommy Koh, who moderated the dialogue between Mr Tharman and the audience of academics, policymakers and industry leaders from across the globe.
Professor Koh asked Mr Tharman if the Singapore Government could abolish compulsory retirement.
“I am 78 years old, I am working full-time and I think many older Singaporeans are like me. They don’t dream of playing golf or lying on a beach. We want to continue to work and contribute to society,” said Prof Koh.
Mr Tharman said Singapore does not have compulsory retirement but has a retirement age, like many other societies. “At some point, this (retirement age) has to go,” he said, adding that older people are assets and they can keep learning even in their 50s or 60s as their brains continue to adapt.
The retirement age in Singapore is 62, though the re-employment age will rise from 65 to 67 next year. Workers turning 62 can opt to retire or continue working until the re-employment age ceiling.
In Parliament this year, Ms Jessica Tan, an MP for East Coast GRC, asked why the Manpower Ministry did not remove the retirement age.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said doing so could actually be worse for workers as it means that companies can terminate their employees’ services earlier.
The other challenge that comes with an ageing population, said Mr Tharman, is healthcare, which has to be humane, affordable and convenient for people.
For instance, studies abroad have shown that less than 20 per cent of the time a person spends visiting a clinic or hospital is spent seeing the doctor, said Mr Tharman. The rest of the time is spent on travelling, queueing and waiting, and this is especially inconvenient for an older person with disability.
Telemedicine then, said Mr Tharman, is a huge opportunity for cities to tap so that seniors at home have peace of mind, knowing they have a nurse or doctor to get advice from.
In closing, Mr Tharman said innovation is going to be a source of inclusivity. “It is not a contradiction to say that we want a highly innovative society and open society as well as an inclusive society.”
Click on link for read further: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/tharman-spores-retirement-age-has-to-go-at-some-point?xtor=EREC-16-1%5bST_Newsletter_AM%5d-20160712-%5bSingapore%27s+retirement+age+has+to+go+at+some+point:+DPM+Tharman%5d&xts=538291
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A key decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has re-affirmed that the rights of trade unions are protected in the Inter-American System, issuing an Advisory Opinion in response to a case brought by the Government of Panama in 2014.
In its amicus brief and oral testimony to the Court, the ITUC, supported by its regional organization TUCA, argued that freedom of association under the American Convention on Human Rights, should include not only the protection of individual workers but also their trade unions as organisations. The Court agreed, affirming the importance of unions as indispensable to defend the rights of workers, embedding protection under Article 8 of the Protocol to the American Convention for workers seeking justice from employers and governments.
The majority of the Court ruled in favour of the ITUC’s position, despite submissions from Argentina, Colombia and Guatemala, which would have deprived workers of this protection. The ITUC also argued that corporations do not have “legal person” standing, and the Court again accepted the ITUC’s arguments on this issue. Had the decision gone the other way, unions would not be able to challenge interference in or limitations to their activities, including the right to federate and confederate, or join international organisations, nor have standing to bring those claims.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said “This ruling is crucial in the Americas, with the highest human rights authority in the region re-affirming the importance of the role of trade unions at a time when workers’ human rights are under sustained attack in many countries. For many people, particularly in Central America, the right to union representation is a matter of life and death. It is a welcome sign that when so many employers in the Americas fail to respect the ILO, the eminent jurists of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have stood firm. Regional bodies such as this have an important role to play and we will continue our work to secure the respect for ILO standards at the regional level as well as through national legal processes and through UN and other global bodies.”
ILO Director General , Guy Ryder
Opening a conference on “Shaping the new world of work – the impacts of digitalisation and robotisation” organized by The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), ILO Director-General Guy Ryder discussed some of the major drivers of change, and their impact on the world of work.
“The future of work is not determined by technology or by any other circumstance,” he said, “it is fundamentally going to be the result of what we, the actors of the world of work, decide to make it.” The major global drivers of change, such as technology but also demography, climate change and the greening of our economy, present both opportunities and challenges to which the policy response should promote social justice principles.
The Director-General underlined the social function of work, often ignored, but yet vital. “Today, there is too much unemployment and inequality, and we need to challenge some of the basic fundamentals of current labour market policy,” he concluded.