China passes new labour law
The Chinese government has just made it more difficult for employers doing business in China.
It has just passed a new labour law that requires companies to:
* provide workers with contracts that include pension and insurance contributions.
* pay workers who are fired a month's wages for every year worked
* pay workers overtime equivalent to:
– one and a half times the normal rate for extra hours on a weekday,
– double time on weekends
– triple time on public holidays.
It will also provide protection for workers against forced labour, the withholding of wages and unfair dismissals.
Already there are reports of workers walking off their jobs and lining up for work with employers who pay better and treat their workers better!
African countries look to China to fund development. The Chinese government is becoming an important financier of sub-Saharan countries says a report by two Norwegian NGOs.
And unlike its western financial institution counterparts, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China lays down few conditions for lending the money.
The main condition is that countries recognise “one China” and reject the existence of Taiwan.
African countries are still recovering from years of structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that the IMF and the WB required them to enforce in exchange for receiving loans from these institutions.
SAPs required countries to implement "free market" programmes and policies. They had to privatise any state-owned entity, deregulate regulated areas and reduce their trade barriers.
The report notes that China has agreed to fund much needed infrastructure projects that other agencies have refused requests for.
However, Peter Bakvis, a representative of the ITUC, notes that the report did find negative aspects of these loans.
One was that the Chinese government required no social and environmental standards to be followed.
Another was that it didn't seem to care whether the regime that it funded was repressive or not.
In a specific case study of loans to Zambia it was also worried that there was no transparency over the loans that the government had signed.
Although China was making it easy for governments to get loans, the writers of the report are concerned that new unsustainable debt burdens will be created with China just as countries are freeing themselves from WB and IMF loans as a result of the 2005 debt cancellation policy.
New 'global union' to take on globalisation
One million member US trade union, the United Steelworkers has created an alliance with UK's Unite that has two million members.
The new structure to be called "Workers Uniting" is crucial for challenging the growing power of global capital,” says USW President Leo Gerard.
“Globalisation has given financiers license to exploit workers in developing countries at the expense of our members in the developed world.”
The new structure will have a joint steering committee and will be headed by an Executive Director. Staff will include research, international affairs, and communications specialists.
Brazil holds nation-wide demonstrations to demand shorter working week.
Marches, work stoppages, mobilizations and assemblies were held in every Brazilian state on May 28 in order to make the population and national Congress aware of the importance of approving Constitutional Amendment 393/01, which would reduce the work week from 44 to 40 hours without a salary reduction.
"Workers, particularly those in large cities, wake up very early, need two buses and or walk to get to work after two or three hours and return home very late at night.
"These workers must really succumb to the demands of the productive sector. They live only to work.
"This is inhuman," says General Workers Union Secretary General Francisco Canindé Pegado.
"The reduction of the work week from 44 to 40 hours would immediately generate more than 2.2 million jobs. Can it be said that it would be more costly for companies? No, because companies today pay overtime, and in addition, when a worker gets sick, it is society that pays."
From: UGT, Brazil
Numsa News Bulletin No 20