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Hong Kong: Hong Kong civic society decimated: enough is enough

A recent estimate suggests that over 50 groups in Hong Kong have gone in just 11 months –including the ITUC-affiliate the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), after over 30 years of improving life for working people through improvements in labour legislation, wages and social protection.Lee Cheuk Yan, general secretary of the HKCTU, is in prison for participating in pro-democracy events and faces more charges for his role as chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Hong Kong Alliance).
Civil society groups have faced unprecedented attacks, intimidation and allegations of offences under the national security law since it was enacted in July 2020.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “Enough is enough. The only way forward now is for this repressive, so-called ‘national security’ law to be repealed and for all political prisoners to be released, and we demand an end to further prosecutions and intimidation.”
“This law has now clearly shown its real face as a political tool to suppress opposition and dissent.
“As our report, Rings of Repression, spells out, the Chinese Communist Party has accelerated its political occupation of Hong Kong. China is not a safe place, and the International Olympic Committee and governments must do more to guarantee the security and safety of athletes and all others who are attending the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“We welcome the decision by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), citing the risks faced by staff and players, to suspend all tournaments in China following the treatment of Peng Shuai after her allegation of sexual assault.
“The IOC should stand up and take robust action to ensure that everyone is safe at the Winter Games.”

Amazon’s unilateral mailbox installation nets workers a second election at Bessemer facility

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Amazon’s unilateral mailbox installation nets workers a second election at Bessemer facility

By Pamela Wolf, J.D. Employees at the Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon distribution center will get a second chance at electing union representation due to National Labor Relations Act violations that occurred during the first election. The results of that election, conducted by mail ballot, the National Labor Relations Board reported on April 9, 2021, as a win for Amazon and a loss for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) by a 738 to 1,798 vote. The union quickly sought a hearing to determine whether the results of the election should be set aside because Amazon’s conduct created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion, and/or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees’ freedom of choice (see RWDSU files objections to Amazon’s election conduct, wants results set aside, April 19, 2021). After the hearing was held, the Regional Director of the NLRB’s Region 10 on November 29 adopted the recommendations of the hearing officer, sustained certain objections, set aside the election, and ordered that a second election be held. Postal box installation. The great bulk of the ruling addressed six objections related to Amazon’s orchestration of the installation of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox at the Bessemer distribution center. Shortly after the pre-election hearing ended, and while awaiting the Region’s decision and election instructions, Amazon independently initiated the process of acquiring an official Postal Service mailbox on its premises to aid in collecting employee-voter mail ballots. Amazon told the Postal Service that it needed the mailbox installed due to the facility hosting a mail ballot election and the company’s desire to encourage high voter turnout. After discussions between Amazon and the Postal Service in January and February, the Postal Service installed a gray “cluster box unit” instead of its more typical blue mailboxes on February 4. The mailbox was installed on the walkway at the main entrance of the facility, one of three locations suggested by Amazon, and in plain sight of the company’s security cameras. The mailbox did not bear Postal Service insignia or other any signage associating it with the Postal Service. Amazon erected a tent around the mailbox and attached a large banner that read, “SPEAK FOR YOURSELF! MAIL YOUR BALLOT HERE.” The “speak for yourself” message was part of Amazon’s campaign slogan encouraging employees to vote against the RWDSU. Graphics below the banner’s written message depicted several ethnically diverse hands grasping a yellow ballot envelope. Amazon sent messages to employees informing them that the Postal Service had installed a secure mailbox outside the main entrance, “making mailing your ballot easy, safe, and convenient.” Issues raised. The Regional Director agreed with the hearing officer that Amazon’s installation, selected location, and encouraged use of the mailbox raised several election-related issues including Solicitation; The collection and security of the mail ballots; Surveillance or the impression of surveillance; and The false impression that the Amazon—not the Board—controlled the election. The hearing officer concluded that the aggregate effect of the newly installed mailbox interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair …

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USA: NLRB Directs new Election at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 29, 2021
Contact: Chelsea Connor | [email protected] | 347-866-6259
(BESSEMER, AL) – Today, the Director of Region 10 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) formally issued a Decision and Direction of a Second Election, granting workers at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama a new election based on the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU) objections to Amazon’s conduct during the union election conducted in the Spring of 2021. 
Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following immediate reaction:
“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace – and as the Regional Director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal. Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union.”
The RWDSU charged Amazon with illegal misconduct during the union vote in Bessemer, Alabama. In August, the Hearing Officer who presided over the case determined that Amazon violated labor law; and recommended that the Regional Director set aside the results of the election and direct a second election. The date and method of the new election are yet to be determined.
NOTE: Please contact the NLRB directly and follow their FOIA procedures to potentially receive a copy of the Decision and Direction of a Second Election.
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The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members throughout the United States. The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). For more information, please visit our website at www.rwdsu.org, Facebook:/RWDSU.UFCW Twitter:@RWDSU.

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Indonesia: Unions celebrate critical 'omnibus' law victory

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The law stripped away workers’ rights and entitlements as well as environmental protections, and it cleared the way for privatisation of the electricity sector.But last week the Indonesian Constitutional Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, immediately suspended its most harmful features and gave the government two years to repair the law.
The ITUC’s Indonesian affiliates, KSPI and KSBSI, have opposed changes to labour regulations in the law, with millions of working people joining nationwide strikes.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “This is great news for the working people of Indonesia, and I congratulate the KSPI and the trade unions in Indonesia for this legal victory.
“They will continue to have our full support to ensure that the government fulfils its legal obligations and completely dumps these wretched laws within two years.
“As Indonesia assumes the presidency of the G20
The Group of Twenty, or G20, is a forum for international cooperation on the most important aspects of the international economic and financial agenda. It brings together 19 countries and the European Union, which together represent around 90% of global GDP, 80% of global trade and two thirds of the world’s population.
, the Indonesian government must sit down with the unions and agree on a plan, together with them, that redresses the negative impact of the omnibus law. Now is time to show global leadership, respect workers’ rights and social dialogue and show that competitive advantage cannot be based on exploitation. Only when the labour protection floor is respected will the global economy contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, decrease poverty and conflict, and preserve the environment.”

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Global: 200 million workers call for universal access to COVID-19 vaccines

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The Council of Global Unions (CGU), representing more than 200 million workers, opposes the gross disparity between developing and developed countries in terms of equitable access and distribution of COVID-19 health products and technologies, including vaccines, diagnostics, devices, personal protective equipment, and drugs. The different global unions, including the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), back trade union and civil society campaigns around the world for a temporary waiver of WTO intellectual property rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, as proposed by India and South Africa and the co-sponsors, and to the extent necessary to address the needs of the pandemic globally.The global unions also call on governments and vaccine manufacturers to expedite and urgently expand the availability of COVID-19 health products and technologies to lower income countries and to pursue initiatives, including the sharing of technology – particularly mRNA vaccine technology – to develop manufacturing capacity in many countries. Read the full statement here.

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Global: A global footprint: How LabourStart works to support unions and their members

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With networks in over 20 countries, and working in nearly 30 different languages, LabourStart has been campaigning with unions and their members for over 25 years.

Simon Sapper is a trade unionist and host of the UnionDues podcast.
In the latest UnionDues podcast episode, we look at the phenomenon that is LabourStart.  With networks in over 20 countries, and working in nearly 30 different languages, LabourStart has been campaigning with unions and their members for over 25 years.  There really is nothing quite like it, so it was a treat to sit down with its founder and guiding light  Eric Lee, to understand where LabourStart has come from, what it does and how it works.
We need to go back to 1996 and Eric’s book exploring the possibilities for using the internet for trade union solidarity activity.  What was imaginative – fanciful even- then is commonplace today.  As Eric says,  a list of union websites in the mid 1990s would fill less than half a page, now it is almost infinite.
LabourStart works thanks to a network of roughly 1000 contributors who channel information up to linked LabourStart sites in each country or in different languages.  But the organisation doesn’t create or propagate policy.  It is a platform for those in dispute or struggle, seeking and needing support.
Eric told me about some of LabourStart’s campaigning work, which ranges from union recognition to saving the lives of imprisoned or otherwise at risk trade unionists in far flung or hostile environments – including rolling back repressive anti-union proposals in Kyrgyzstan (10 points if you can point to it on a globe), and freeing Cihan Erdal from jail in Turkey.
But LabourStart is not without its challenges. Despite making in-roads into parts of the far East, it remains predominantly rooted in the more developed global North and the English speaking nations within that.  There is a sensibly opportunist approach taken to sustaining and expanding LabourStart’s global footprint based on seeking out correspondents and interns with unique linguistic skills – this has led, for example to the first campaigns in Yoruba (with 50 million having this as their mother tongue).
Criticism is also made of a reliance on email lists as the principal campaign tool.  Whilst acknowledging that your medium must match that of the population you’re working in (and I hadn’t realised that, apparently,  FB has supplanted emails in the Philippines, for instance), Eric mounts a passionate defence of the humble email, pointing out that response rates are much better than for social media channels, and that this method of communication has survived and spread, outlasting a host of one-time rivals.
Two challenges above all others are most pressing.  First,  most campaigns don’t succeed.  Victory is a rarity, but the process of publicising, mobilising, dissenting is nevertheless valuable in itself – and a necessary precursor to making more progress.
Second, time is pursuing Eric and those who have travelled with him as LabourStart has developed. A succession plan is both necessary and, thankfully,  coalescing.
A fascinating conversation with someone who can fairly be described as iconic. 
In her “#thought4theweek” Professor Mel Simms from Glasgow University complements the discussion about LabourStart with a focus on the use of social media as an organising tool. She draws out the experience of her own union, the UCU, and sets out three trenchant arguments for being cautious here – data security, ensuring unions are using social media in a way that is accessible, and the risk of abuse.
LFF’s very own Basit Mahmood has low pay in his sights as he previews this week’s #RadicalRoundUp, with miserable wages driving (sorry!) an employment exodus in the bus industry, multiple strikes at Panasonic’s Cardiff plant in a long running row over pay rates, and a clarion call for common sense to prevail on statutory sick pay as the Omicron variant of Covid lands in the UK.
And finally, there are shout-outs to Ian Tasker and Rory O’Neil  who have both been short-listed for the Most Influential Health and Safety Practitioner of the Year (you can vote here until 31 December), Unite for their important legal win in the long-running Kostal case, and to the Labour Radio Podcast Network, the portal through which you can access 150 union-linked shows.
Download/stream this and all episodes here.
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No injunction pending appeal for Mass General Brigham employees denied COVID vaccine exemption requests

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No injunction pending appeal for Mass General Brigham employees denied COVID vaccine exemption requests

By Kathleen Kapusta, J.D. Mass General Brigham employees failed to convince the First Circuit to issue an injunction pending appeal of a district court’s denial of their request for preliminary injunctive relief against MGB’s application of its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to them individually. Noting that the employees, who sued MGB under Title VII and the ADA, did not challenge the policy itself, but only the denial of their individual exemption requests, the appeals court found adequate legal remedies foreclosed injunctive relief (Together Employees v. Mass General Brigham Inc., November 18, 2021, Lynch, S.). Vaccination policy. In June 2021, MGB, which owns and operates hospitals and other facilities throughout Massachusetts, announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy requiring all employees to receive the vaccine by October 15. Noncompliance would result in unpaid leave and ultimately termination. The policy also provided that exemptions would be available for medical or religious reasons. Exemptions. MGB created several committees to review exemption requests. In addition to plaintiff Together Employees, an unincorporated association of 229 MGB employees who were denied a religious or medical exemption, eight individual plaintiffs were also denied their exemption requests. Of those eight, each had been denied their requested religious exemptions and four had been denied their requested medical exemptions. Some of the religious exemption requests involved opposition to taking a vaccine that used fetal cells in its testing and development, while other requests centered on keeping the body pure from foreign substances. The four medical exemption requests were based on pregnancy, a prior allergic reaction to a flu shot and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, severe mental anguish and anxiety from being vaccinated, and PTSD. When they still refused to get vaccinated after their requests were denied, they were placed on unpaid leave. After the vaccination deadline passed, one resigned, one got vaccinated, and the other six were terminated. Preliminary injunctive relief. The plaintiffs sued MGB, alleging a failure-to-accommodate claim in violation of the ADA, religious discrimination in violation of Title VII, and retaliation. They also sought a preliminary injunction to stop MGB from enforcing its vaccination policy. Finding they were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims or demonstrate irreparable harm, the district court denied their request. Lower court reasoning. As to the employees’ ADA claims, the district court held that they were unlikely to be able to show they were disabled, that they were qualified to do their jobs because they posed a direct threat to patients, that their requested accommodations were reasonable, that they could defeat MGB’s undue hardship claim, or that the exemption process was legally inadequate. Regarding their Title VII claims, the district court, after assuming they demonstrated their sincere religious beliefs, found they could likely not show they could defeat MGB’s undue hardship assertion or that the exemption process was legally inadequate. The court also found, as to both claims, that they had not shown they exhausted their administrative remedies. Nor were they likely to demonstrate irreparable harm, that the balance of equities favored them, or the …

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Global: Nursing unions around world call for UN action on Covid vaccine patents

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Nursing unions around world call for UN action on Covid vaccine patentsBodies in 28 countries file appeal for waiver of intellectual property agreement and end to ‘grossly unjust’ distribution of jabs Nursing unions in 28 countries have filed a formal appeal with the United Nations over the refusal of the UK, EU and others to temporarily waive patents for Covid vaccines, saying this has cost huge numbers of lives in developing nations.The letter, sent on Monday on behalf of unions representing more than 2.5 million healthcare workers, said staff have witnessed at first hand the “staggering numbers of deaths and the immense suffering caused by political inaction”.The refusal of some countries to budge on rules about intellectual property rights for vaccines had contributed to a “vaccine apartheid” in which richer nations had secured at least 7bn doses, while lower-income nations had about 300m, it argued.Such a distribution was not only “grossly unjust”, the letter said, but the rampant transmission of Covid in developing nations also increased the risk of new variants emerging, such as Omicron, first identified this week in South Africa and which has prompted the UK and other nations to tighten travel restrictions and other rules.South Africa, along with India, has been pressing the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help improve access to vaccines by waiving the multinational Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement.A temporary waiver on Trips provisions for Covid vaccines would, supporters say, allow them to be manufactured more widely, improving global distribution. On Friday, the US president, Joe Biden, called for WTO members to take this step following the emergence of the Omicron variant.However, other countries have resisted. The letter to the UN – coordinated by the healthcare umbrella organisation Global Nurses United, and Progressive International, a collection of leftwing parties, movements and unions – cited what it called an “immediate threat to people’s right to health” from the EU, UK, Norway, Switzerland and Singapore.It said that at least 115,000 medical and healthcare staff around the world have died as a result of Covid, and that while 40% on average have been fully vaccinated, in Africa and the western Pacific the figure is lower than one in 10.“As frontline workers, we are well placed to testify against the violation of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health because of the impact of a delayed Covid-19 Trips waiver,” the letter warned.It was sent to Tlaleng Mofokeng, a South African doctor and health campaigner who is the UN’s special rapporteur on physical and mental health, and has the power to launch an investigation under the UN’s human rights council.Mofokeng said the demand for a patent waiver “is one I share”. The role that health workers have played during the pandemic “provides them with moral authority” over the issue, she added.In addition to South Africa and India, the call comes from unions representing nurses and healthcare staff in the US, Ireland, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, New Zealand, Paraguay, the Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Uganda and Uruguay.Deborah Burger, co-president of the National Nurses United union in the US, said the unequal distribution of vaccines and the resultant likelihood of new Covid variants “poses a dire risk to all people around the world”.Shirley Marshal Díaz Morales, the vice-president of Brazil’s Federação Nacional dos Enfermeiros union, said: “It is way past time for the governments of the world to prioritise the health of the people over the profits of multinational corporations by approving the vaccine waiver.”TopicsCoronavirusVaccines and immunisationUnited NationsNursingnewsReuse this content

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Palestine: #PalestineDay: ITUC calls on UN to update list of companies backing illegal settlements

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The ITUC is also calling for a relaunching of the peace process and the recognition of Palestine as a state.On 12 February 2020, the UN Human Rights Council published the database of 112 companies, but it has not been updated, despite resolution 31/36 requiring this and “that the Human Rights Council establish a group of independent experts, with a time-bound mandate, to report directly to the council for such a purpose”. A group of experts is yet to be appointed.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “Adding and removing companies from the long-awaited database creates a necessary incentive and deterrent against engaging with Israel’s illegal settlement industry.
“It is vital that the UN Secretary-General do all that he can to ensure this update is completed and published, and that, in order to sustain the database, the group of independent experts be appointed without delay. This is not just in the interests of justice for the Palestinian people, but also of the companies on the original database that have since cut ties with illegal Israeli settlement.”
The 194th state

In the letter, the ITUC also calls on the UN to call an international peace conference in 2022 to relaunch the peace process, strongly centred on “the fulfilment of human rights for all”. The State of Palestine must also be recognised as the 194th full member of the United Nations.
“It’s nearly 75 years since Palestine was partitioned to establish the state of Israel. But the people of Palestine are still held hostage by the Israeli occupation.
“The current peace process is at a dead end, with the expansion of illegal settlements, supported by dozens of corporations, reducing the chances of the two-state solution.
“The UN must make 2022 the year that the peace process, grounded in human rights for all, restarts, and Palestine is recognised as a state, giving the Palestinian people the right to self-determination, return and security in the face of ongoing Israeli violations and crimes,” added Sharan Burrow.

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Global: COVID-19: Global Unions call for universal access to vaccines, healthcare products and medical technologies

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In a statement, the CGU explains that while working people everywhere have been at the front line of saving lives during the pandemic, a handful of governments are “sabotaging global recovery by blocking the sharing of … medical advances, costing more lives and putting workers and communities at further risk.”The CGU “calls on all governments, in particular, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland, along with the European Commission, … to support the temporary and targeted ‘TRIPS waiver’ proposed by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organization (WTO), tackling a key obstacle to protecting workers and communities around the world as the coronavirus continues to impact. The WTO system envisages suspending intellectual property rules in exceptional circumstances: the pandemic is clearly an exceptional circumstance.”

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