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There are major strikes in the car manufacturing industries in both South Korea and South Africa.

Workers at Hyundai in South Korea struck today as part of a wider action involving 45,000 workers at that employer and at Kia. This comes a year after another major strike at Hyundai. South Korea’s powerful unions are striking for better pay and benefits.

South Africa’s powerful metalworkers’ union NUMSA brought that country’s car manufacturing industry to a 100% shut down on Monday. South Africa is a major producer and also exporter of cars and components, and the strike affected several global auto companies, including BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan. NUMSA members are striking for a 14% wage increase – bosses have offer an inflation-linked 6% – and an end to unpaid stand down when production slows due to supply chain issues.

The strike comes at a crucial time for NUMSA and the South African labour movement. On the first anniversary of the Marikana massacre, tensions are rife with some analysts claiming that South Africa has the highest level of industrial unrest and class conflict in the world. It is a highly unequal society, and there has been rising militancy from the poor and working class. It is important for NUMSA – the country’s biggest union – to deliver a convincing wage settlement that will help lift its members out of poverty.

An new report on Zero Hours contracts in the UK finds that people on these contracts earn an average of £6 per hour less than permanent workers. There is a proliferation of these contracts, and in many cases bosses have been able to avoid paying wages at all: with unpaid internships. There is an absolute proliferation of unpaid positions, requiring real skills, qualifications and commitment, but offering nothing in return. Young people – already qualified, and saddled with student debt – are expected to compete to work for free just to have the opportunity to one day get a job in their field.

Meanwhile, bonuses are back (pdf).

It’s not a recession, it’s a robbery.


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