The Bangladesh Cabinet approved a change to the nation’s labor laws that it says would enable workers to more freely form unions. The proposal, which must be approved by Parliament, would allow workers to join unions without showing the list of union supporters to factory owners to verify their employment—a practice that effectively makes it impossible for unions to gather sufficient support to register with the government because factory owners often penalize or fire workers who support unionization.
In Colombia, “even when there’s an improvement in the overall economy, women don’t see any improvement,” says Sohely Rua Catañeda. As a result, many women who are unable to secure formal employment are forced into the informal sector to support themselves and their families, laboring as domestic workers or street vendors. Women in these low-paying jobs have limited or no access to social services and are unable to address workplace harassment or unsafe working conditions.
A stunning 73.4 million young workers are estimated to be jobless in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013, according to an International Labor Organization (ILO) report released Wednesday. Even worse, the number of unemployed young workers is likely to increase through 2018, with the long-term impact felt for decades, the report forecasts.
UPDATE 04/29/2013: The death toll as of this morning stands at 377 and hundreds of people remain missing, reports The New York Times. CNN reports that authorities have arrested six people: three factory owners, two government engineers and the owner of the building, Sohel Rana—a local-level leader of the ruling Awamil League— who was caught as he tried to flee the country.
More than 300 workers now have been confirmed dead from Wednesday’s building collapse in Bangladesh. Some 2,200 survivors have been pulled from the ruins of what is being called one of the worst manufacturing disasters in history. More than 3,000 garment workers were on the job when upper building floors pancaked on top of each other.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered the arrest of the building’s owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, a local leader of ruling Awami League's youth front, who told factory operators the building was safe. Hasina also has ordered the arrest of five garment factory owners.
For sick or injured Bahrainis, going to the hospital means risking a prison term—or even death. Describing the “militarization of hospitals,” Rula al-Saffar, president of the Bahrain Nursing Society, said patients with “head traumas, broken bones or burns” are first interrogated by police to determine if they are involved in protests against the government. Health professionals are only allowed to treat patients after police investigate and clear them for treatment. For some, the delay means death.
The AFL-CIO Solidarity Center and the international worker rights movement are commemorating Bangladesh union leader Aminul Islam, who was brutally murdered one year ago today. His murderer or murderers remain at large.
Afro-Colombians are far likelier than other Colombian workers to earn less than the minimum wage and to be employed in jobs where they cannot form unions to improve their working conditions. And all of this exclusion “has a strong current of racial discrimination under it,” said Agripina Hurtado, the newly elected president of the Afro-Colombian Labor Council (Consejo Labor Afrocolombiano). A quarter of Colombia’s population is Afro-descendant, yet Afro-Colombians comprise more than three-quarters of the country’s poor.
Irís Munguía began toiling at a banana packing plant at age 18, living on the banana finca (plantation) as a condition of employment. After 22 years at the plant, the longtime union activist now heads the Honduran banana and agricultural worker confederation, COSIBAH (Coordinadora de Sindicatos Bananeros y Agroindustriales de Honduras), founded in 1993. Munguía also is the first female coordinator of COLSIBA, the Latin American coordinating body of agricultural unions.
In December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 23-year-old market vendor in Tunisia, self-immolated to protest deep-seated government corruption that made it impossible for him to earn a living. Following his desperate action, Tunisian women helped spur protests and end autocratic regimes in Tunisia and throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Today, Tunisian women remain in the forefront of ensuring democratic change in their country during the difficult years of government transition.