Unions set for global action against Cambodian embassies

Global unions are mobilizing workers around the world to protest at Cambodian embassies on Monday 10 February, to demand the release of 23 activists seized during demonstrations in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in January.


IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the ITUC together with NGO partners, are garnering international support in solidarity for protestors who were arrested during demonstrations by garment workers for higher wages last month. The call to action to “Free the 23” comes on the eve of a Cambodian court hearing for the workers on 11 February.

Protests are expected to take place outside Cambodian embassies inBerlinBrusselsGenevaHonk KongJakartaLondon andSeoul amongst others. Demonstrators will present a letter to the ambassador condemning the violence against the garment workers and demanding the release of the 23 detainees. The letter also calls on the government to respect the right to freedom of association.

The detainees, which include trade union activists and garment workers, were incarcerated after peaceful rallies on 2 and 3 of January were met with brutal force by Cambodian police, which opened fire on demonstrators leaving four people dead and 39 injured.

“We implore the Cambodian authorities release the 23 detainees immediately. Imprisoning, intimidating and inflicting violence on garment workers will not succeed in silencing their demands for a just wage and decent working conditions,” said IndustriALL’s General Secretary Jyrki Raina.

The planned action follows an open letter to the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, from IndustriALL, UNI and ITUC together with 30 of the world’s major clothing brands, including Walmart, Nike and H&M, demanding a thorough investigation into the perpetrators of the killings and appealing to the government to honour its commitment to establish a fair and inclusive process for determining a new minimum wage.

The Cambodian government has so far been unresponsive while the garment manufacturers have taken a confrontational approach to union demands.

The past few months have seen a succession of strikes by Cambodian garment workers seeking to double the industry’s minimum wage to US $160 a month.

Cambodia has more than 500,000 garment workers with textiles making up 80% of the country’s exports. The country’s low wages and government incentives for businesses have seen a boom in the textile industry worth some 5 billion US dollars per year, while living standards for workers have not increased.

Ineos sacks Unite convenor on sham charges in Grangemouth, UK

Unite in the UK has launched legal action over the sacking of its vice-chair and Ineos Grangemouth convenor Mark Lyon, accusing Ineos of ‘hypocrisy’ and making a ‘mockery’ of justice.

Mark who has 25 years of service to the company was tried in his absence and told of his dismissal on 4th February for not stopping the union from commenting over fears of job losses at the petrochemical plant which were reported in Scottish national newspaper The Daily Record on 2nd December 2013.

The move follows the resignation of Unite’s other Grangemouth convenor Stevie Deans last year in protest of his treatment by the company and comes as Ineos drops its defamation claim over accusations by Unite that it had ‘victimised’ Mr Deans.

The sacking of Mark Lyon comes in the face of significant medical evidence that he is suffering from a serious stress-related illness as a result of the treatment he has endured at the hands of the company.

Unite believes that Ineos was determined to rush through a disciplinary process against Mr Lyon, denying his legal representatives the appropriate time to prepare his defence.

Unite will be appealing the company’s decision and issuing an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and victimisation for trade union reasons.

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina stated:

Unite is the largest trade union in the UK and a centrally important member organisation of IndustriALL. We stand firmly alongside Unite and the Grangemouth members in face of this intransigent employer. To sack Mark Lyon on pathetic charges is pure union busting, totally in breach of international labour standards. Mark Lyon is a committed trade unionist with a long history of representing oil and chemical workers in the UK.

Pat Rafferty, Unite’s Scottish secretary, said:

Once again, a decent man and loyal employee has been hounded out of his job by Ineos. The rank hypocrisy of Ineos knows no bounds. The company withdrew its defamation action against Unite to “draw a line under the dispute”, yet at the same time it was drafting a letter dismissing a Unite convenor.
Mark Lyon has been subjected to a grotesque mockery of the disciplinary system which saw him tried in his absence. While he attended a doctor’s appointment, his employer was sacking him on trumped up charges.

Big Six in Denmark sign Bangladesh Safety Deal

Bestseller, IC Companys, DK Company, PWT Group, COOP Denmark, and Danish Supermarket all agreed to back the Bangladesh Safety Deal following a meeting organised by the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH) bringing together, NGOs, unions and government officials. The Danish Trade Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr urged the companies to add their names to the agreement which aims to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh’s garment factories in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse that claimed 1,129 lives.
The Accord brokered by IndustriALL and UNI Global Union in a strong alliance with leading NGOs, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers Right Consortium, now covers around 2000 of Bangladesh’s 4000 garment factories.
Andy York from N Brown Group, one of the companies which has already signed the Accord and who is part of the Implementation Secretariat spoke to the Danish companies and explained why signing the agreement was the right thing to do.
IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina welcomed the new signatories, “The Danish trade unions, including IndustriALL affiliate 3F, have worked well in convincing the Danish market leaders into joining the Accord. The momentum continues building the Accord and continues to further alienate those brands remaining outside.”
UNI Global Union General Secretary, Philip Jennings observed, “We had a lively and informal exchange with the retailers present. We welcome the decision by these six “Great Dane” retailers to sign the agreement. This is another important day for the Accord which continues to grow in scope. The retail sector is answering the call for a socially responsible supply chain.
We know that lives depend on it, with the will to succeed shown by the Danish companies and the 60 plus brands who have signed the Accord we will achieve the goal of making Bangladeshi garment factories safer places to work. Trade Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr and the Danish government should be applauded for driving the Accord forward in Denmark. During discussions with the Trade Minister I was impressed with her determination to get all Danish retailers on board. Other European governments should take note and get behind the Accord as should politicians elsewhere, notably in the United States.”

Jennings said that the global brands, unions and NGOs were making rapid and constructive progress to implement the Accord. He concluded, “There can be no excuses in terms of cost or process to not join the Accord. The Danish companies took their time and have made the right decision. The decision by certain U.S. brands, led by Walmart, to refuse to sign, is looking more and more like a serious error of judgement.”
The Accord provides for a binding programme of fire and building safety reforms based on independent inspections, worker-led health and safety committees and union access to factories, signatories commit to underwrite improvements in dangerous factories and properly confront fire safety and structural problems. The Accord grants workers the right to refuse dangerous work, in line with ILO Convention 155.

Help the humanitarian relief effort in Savar

02.05.2013 Please make a financial contribution to the relief efforts of the killed and injured garment workers of the Rana Plaza industrial homicide via a new dedicated bank account set up by the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.

IndustriALL’s affiliates and supporters can make solidarity contributions for the humanitarian relief effort for victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy through the bank details below. The account has been expressly set up by the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, through which all affiliates in the country coordinate their joint work. This follows numerous requests received by IndustriALL from those wanting to provide support to the victims and their families of the Rana Plaza industrial homicide.

The IndustriALL Bangladesh Council reports that the conditions on the ground and of the injured workers are beyond belief, as unions and NGOs participate in the effort to supply drinking water, food and medical care in extreme circumstances.

While urgently required, this humanitarian relief does not and will not remove the need for the Western apparel brands, local employers and Bangladeshi government to provide compensation to the over 427 dead and 2,500 injured and their families.

IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina told Al Jazeera on 31 April that “There is blood on these cheap t-shirts and it is time for change now”.

Raina told Al Jazeera:

This latest tragedy just illustrates the completely unsustainable business model that the international brands and retailers have been driving in Bangladesh based on extreme exploitation of workers, wages of US$38 a month, long working hours, lack of freedom of association, and over 1,000 workers who have died in factory fires and collapses during the past seven years.

IndustriALL Global Union will continue to fight for the payment of compensation for the affected workers, as in the cases of the recent Tazreen Fashion and Smart Fashion disasters. But it will also continue to fight for proper trade union rights in the Bangladeshi garment industry to empower organized workers to force improvements in safety, conditions and wages.

In May Day marches in Geneva, India and Uruguay IndustriALL rallied behind the call for justice for the over 427 murdered garment workers in Savar, Bangladesh. The May Day march in Dhaka combined mourning and anger, after garment workers took strike action last week demanding improvements in safety and justice for those directly responsible for the Rana Plaza collapse.

The bank details for solidarity contributions:

Account name: IndustriALL Bangladesh Council
Account number: 0010-0210020054
Bank name: NCC Bank Ltd.
Branch name: DHANMONDI
Email: nccbdhan@yahoo.com