Walton Pantland

This is our weekly update of news and union stories from around the world.

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The ITUC today released their annual survey of violations of trade union rights. Rights violations are worse than ever, as unions around the world organise to resist austerity, job losses and rising unemployment.

Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist, with 29 people murdered there last year. 10 people were murdered inGuatemala. Across the world, there have been growing instances of governments ignoring labour legislation. Other common problems were abuse of migrant workers and exploitation of many women workers in export processing zones.

Trade unions were particularly active in the Arab Spring, and paid a heavy price for their support for the uprisings in the Middle East andNorth Africa. However, we are seeing the establishment of strong, independent unions in these countries.

  • Unions in the United States have suffered defeat in an important recall election in the state of Wisconsin on Tuesday. Republican Governor Scott Walker last year eliminated collective bargaining rights for 380,000 public employees in a major attack on the labour movement.
  • An interesting story, also in the US, Mixed Marshal Arts fighters have begun to organise themselves against unscrupulous casinos and fight organisers, starting a Fighters’ Association in the first step towards unionising. They have been supported by Culinary Workers Local 226 who organise many of the fight venues.
  • People in the UK were shocked to learn that a company providing security for the Queen’s diamond jubilee used unemployed people as free labour, threatening them with loss of benefits if they didn’t take the job. They slept under London Bridge – this raises the spectre of the Victorian workhouse values the current government would like to take us back to.
  • Unite won recognition at the aviation firm GE Caledonian inAyrshire,Scotland, after a long and difficult struggle. The union now has the right to bargain collectively on behalf of the 750 workers there.
  • PCS tax office workers in HM Revenue & Customs today voted to take industrial action over job cuts and privatisation. The PCS union argues that theUK’s high rate of tax avoidance is exacerbated by job cuts in the tax office. The Bradford DWP branch of PCS expressed support for Occupy Westfield.
  • Doctors of the British Medical Association will take industrial action for the first time in 40 years over pensions.
  • The RMT union has won an agreement with London Underground over service during the Olympic period. The Olympics will see an additional three million journeys a day, increasing the work load and pressure on transport workers, who will receive bonuses of up to £1,000.
  • In South Africa, unions representing workers in the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation have secured an impressive 9.5% pay increase after two weeks of negotiation. South African unions have substantially raised the living standards of their members since the formation of the federation Cosatu in 1985.
  • In the Southern African country of Swaziland– an absolute monarchy with a long standing democracy campaign – transport workers have embarked on an 11 day strike, despite the minister of labour ruling that it was illegal. Police arrested three leaders of the transport union STAWU.



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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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