NI 495 - Trade unions - rebuild, renew, resist - September, 2016

NI 495 - September, 2016

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Trade unions - rebuild, renew, resist

A note from the editor

Jo Lateu

A striking thought

It might just have been because I had my ear to the ground, but while I was researching this magazine, it seemed to me that the world had gone on strike. News cycles in May and June were reporting workers on strike in Britain (junior doctors, transport), France (transport), Italy (teachers), Belgium (transport), New York (communications), Greece (farmers, transport), Brazil (taxi drivers)... the list went on. I, like many others, no doubt, cheered them on while keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t be inconvenienced by their actions.

Then I realized that, though each group was protesting against a particular injustice, as a whole they represented our best bet against a corporate, globalized world gone mad. Workers don’t go on strike lightly – they know that they will sacrifice pay and may also lose public support, or their jobs, or, in some countries, their lives. They strike as a last resort – because governments and employers won’t listen and because, long-term, a lot is at stake if they don’t.

So next time my travel plans are disrupted, or my routine doctor’s appointment cancelled, I will be trying to rise above the irritation and remember that trade unionists are fighting not just for themselves, but for us all.

Also in this issue, Jo Eckersley and Ashwin Hemmathagama report from Sri Lanka on a country still struggling to unite seven years after the end of the civil war, and we meet Afghanistan’s inspirational ‘mother of education’, Sakena Yacoobi.

Jo Lateu for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

Keynote article.

‘We’re worth it!’ Members of the German ver.di trade union make a noise ahead of wage negotiations in April.

‘We’re worth it!’ Members of the German ver.di trade union make a noise ahead of wage negotiations in April.

Photo: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

Still standing or standing still?

Jo Lateu considers the state of the unions, and argues that a revival has already begun.

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A cheer goes up every time a taxi driver honks his horn in solidarity. Passers-by stop to sign our petition and ask questions. A couple of well-heeled women hurry towards the hotel entrance, averting their eyes from the cluster of hospitality workers waving flags and chanting: ‘What do we want? Fair tips and a union! When do we want it? Now!’

We’re here on a busy London street, as the evening rush hour gridlocks the city, to support Robert, a Hungarian waiter at the luxury five-star Melia hot...




Features.

A migrant’s story

Trade unions aren’t even on the radar of most of London’s poorly treated hospitality workers. But a union could help them find their voice, as Afrika explains.

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Trade Unions - The Facts

From the changing workplace to zero-hours contracts, precarious working and outsourcing: workers are open to extreme exploitation. Here are the facts.

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‘We need to be on the right side of history’

Unions can play a vital role in the battle for climate justice, says Anabella Rosenberg, Policy Officer for Health and Environment at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Here she talks about growing awareness in the global labour movement and the challenges ahead.

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Migrant workers join Hong Kong dockworkers in a protest for better working conditions. Though Hong Kong has more progressive labour laws than China, trade unionists still face discrimination and there is no law protecting the right to collective bargaining.

Taking matters into their own hands

Labour rights in post-socialist countries such as Russia, China and Vietnam are being fought for from outside, not within, official trade unions. Tim Pringle reports.

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The missing Ayotzinapa teachers remembered in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The fight goes on…

Workers’ struggles and successes from around the globe, from this month's New Internationalist magazine.

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Picking up the pieces: a garment worker sorts material in a building near the site of the Rana Plaza collapse.

Out of the ashes of Rana Plaza

The factory collapse in 2013 caused an international outcry – but have labour conditions improved? Thulsi Narayanasamy reports from Bangladesh.

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Still wary: a Muslim woman peers around a gate in Aluthgama, a town 50 kilometres south of Colombo. At least three Muslims were killed there in 2014 in a clash with a rightwing Buddhist group.

A long road to reconciliation

Seven years after the end of the civil war, Jo Eckersley and Ashwin Hemmathagama assess Sri Lanka’s progress.

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Standing to attention – but how attentive to locals’ needs are UN peacekeepers?

How not to build peace

UN peacekeeping is big business, but is it achieving its aims? asks Louisa Waugh.

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Welcoming the digital residents

Estonia has found an innovative way to boost its population and its economy, discovers Haley Joelle Ott.

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Blog.

Bill McKibben founder of 350.org

Political organization, not light bulbs, key to climate fight says Bill McKibben

Fighting climate change requires organization rather than individual actions, founder of 350.org Bill McKibben told this year’s Greenbelt festival's audience. Joe Ware reports.

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Read more blogs...

Agenda.

Human rights activist Valentina Cherevalenko targeted.

Russia’s witch-hunt against Valentina Cherevatenko

Moscow has opened the first criminal case for an alleged violation of its widely criticized ‘Foreign Spy’ law against civil-society activist Valentina Cherevatenko. Erin Kilbride reports.

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Racism bites in Britain

Racism bites in Britain

Activists have stepped up anti-racism efforts, Amy Hall writes.

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Afghanistan’s rebel verse

Afghanistan’s rebel verse

Poetry has traditionally been a powerful medium to comment on social and political life in Afghanistan, but it is now mostly for men, writes Ruchi Kumar.

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Introducing Virginia Raggi

The politician symbolizes a shot across the bow of Italy’s complacent political class, writes Richard Swift.

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Grassroots growers in Venezuela

Grassroots growers in Venezuela

Three years of inflation and chronic shortages of basic foods have hit Venezuelans hard. Tamara Pearson reports.

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A fisher surveys a coral reef near a small island in Papua New Guinea where reefs are doing better than expected thanks to local management.

‘Bright spots’ show some reefs are thriving

Scientists have discovered sites where local communities are defying expectations of global reef degradation, Cristiana Moisescu writes.

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Domestic slavery persists in India

The system of slavery remains alive and well in India. Nimisha Jaiswal reports.

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Sun sets on Japanese media freedom

Sun sets on Japanese media freedom

Conservative forces are on the rise in Japan, threatening its commitment to peace and democracy. Tina Burrett and Christopher Simons report.

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Top-ups for refugees in Europe

Top-ups for refugees in Europe

A Facebook group is harnessing the generosity of strangers to save lives and put separated families back in touch. Lydia Noon reports.

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Reasons to be cheerful

This month's collection of positive news by Kelsi Farrington.

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Regulars.

Letters

Virtual profits, Tell it to my intestine, Real life, Uncommon language.

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Beirut, my city

Green shoots of hope spring up among the rubble of discontent, writes Reem Haddad.

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Open Window: Buying weapons in the US

This month: Sherif Arafa from Egypt with ‘Buying weapons in the US’

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Worldbeaters: Avigdor Lieberman

Israel’s defence minister is a political chameleon and lightning rod for controversy, among other things.

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Making Waves: Sakena Yacoobi

Veronique Mistiaen meets Afghanistan’s ‘mother of education’, who for more than two decades has been transforming lives through community-based learning.

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And finally... Jay Griffiths

Author Jay Griffiths talks to Graeme Green about manic depression, hiking the Camino de Santiago and the constellation of language.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews.

Chancers or hostages? Film stars Choi Eun-hee  and husband Shin Sang-ok.

Mixed Media: Films

The Lovers and the Despot, directed and written by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan; The Confession, directed by Ashish Ghadiali.

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The Greek ‘now’ – Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis.

Mixed Media: Music

NYN by Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis; ‘They Will Kill You, If You Cry’ by Khmer Rouge Survivors.

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Mixed Media: Books

Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy by Ece Temelkuran; The Seamstress and the Wind by César Aira; Remembering Akbar by Behrooz Ghamari; Irregular War by Paul Rogers.

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