Ban Asbestos Campaign gets a boost in Pakistan

Pakistan is the latest country where the Ban Asbestos Campaign is making inroads. More than 170 dignitaries, experts and members of the general public took part in the Ban Asbestos Conference held on 1st February 2014 in Karachi. The Conference got a big boost with no less than the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain stating in his message “Scientific research has proved that asbestos is a human carcinogen and there is no safe level of Asbestos exposure”.

One of the key organisers of the Conference was Mr. Syed Haroon Ahmed who lost his brother Syed Fareed in 2007 due to Asbestos exposure at the Dadex Eternit factory, which has been manufacturing Asbestos cement pipes for over 50 years. Mr. Ahmed initiated his fight to ban Asbestos in Pakistan by filing a petition in the Sindh High Court and the case now awaits decision at the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Addressing the delegates, the ACEEU President and BWI Asia Pacific Regional Committee Titular Member Bro. Md. Ishtiaq Virk mentioned “ The world over, millions of people have suffered due to Asbestos exposure and, like several other countries, we also need to get asbestos banned in Pakistan”.

The Asian Ban Asbestos Network* (A-BAN) Coordinator, Sugio Furuya made a presentation on the Ban Asbestos campaign and reported on the global and regional progress made to date.

Asbestos is the biggest industrial killer of modern times. After leaving its devastating legacy in Europe, the asbestos trade has been thriving in developing economies. According to the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, Pakistan’s Asbestos consumption is more than 10,000 metric tons per year as of 2012.

BWI is a founding member of A-BAN launched in 2009

ITF celebrates Fiji union win

Union leadership at Fiji’s National Union of Hospitality Catering and Tourism Industries (NUHCTI) celebrated as police charges against their ‘illegal strike’ were dropped on February 2.

The ITF-affiliated union’s president, Dan Urai, was one of six union leaders charged by the military dictatorship on January 9 – despite the fact that the union had entered negotiations with management following the brief industrial action a week before the arrests were made. Urai maintains that he doesn’t know why he and the other workers were arrested and that they have never been given a satisfactory explanation.

Following international protests, the Fijian director of public prosecutions dropped all charges against the workers.

The illegitimate Fijian military government has a reputation for anti-union behaviour, with reports of union leaders being intimidated and even assaulted at military barracks back in 2011. The ITF-affiliated Fiji Sugar & General Workers’ Union, Transport Workers’ Union and Fiji Public Service Association have all been on the receiving end of anti-union aggression.

In January 2013 the ITF joined the global outcry when the military regime introduced the Fiji Political Parties Decree – aimed at wiping out political opposition and forbidding trade unionists from even showing support for a political party. The timing of this decree, issued just days after the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) launched a new political party that would include trade unions, is not thought to be coincidental.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin hailed this latest victory: “Unions the world over have united and joined in protest at this flagrant abuse of workers’ rights, showing once again that my brothers’ and sisters’ struggle is my struggle and that workers will not be walked over. With its history of workers’ rights abuses, we’ll continue to keep an eye on the situation in Fiji – and we won’t hesitate to take every legitimate action to protect our fellow workers.”

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.