Bangladesh garment workers strike against COVID-19 jobs and wage cuts; Australian maritime union ends COVID-19 strike at Hutchison Ports
Worker Struggle: Asia and Australia
April 18, 2020
Bangladesh garment workers protest factory closures and unpaid wages
Thousands of garment workers from industrial estates in Gazipur, Ashulia, Savar Narayanganj, Dhaka, Uttara, Tongi, Mirpur, Pallabi and Chattogram continued protests that began on April 4 after finding their factories closed when they tried to return to work after the removal of the coronavirus lockdown. They demand unpaid wages and to reopen factories.
On Tuesday, in Ashulia and Savar, thousands of garment workers from four factories, including World One Denim and Washing Ltd, protested demanding several months of unpaid wages. Factories closed on February 20. In Gazipur about 20,000 garment workers from closed factories demonstrated on Sundays and Mondays demanding unpaid wages.
India: Migrant workers trapped in COVID-lockdown demand extraordinary wages
Hundreds of migrant workers affected by India’s national COVID-19 lockdown were demonstrated in Surat, Gujarat state on April 10 to demand that their wages be paid so they could return home. Some workers were arrested by the police.
On Tuesday, migrant workers demonstrated at the Bandra bus stop in Mumbai, India’s largest city. They demanded extraordinary transportation and wages to return to their village homes. Lathi (stick) holding the police attacked several demonstrators. Workers ended their protests after the Maharashtra state government promised to provide food and accommodation.
Thousands of garment workers in Cambodia and Burma lost their jobs because of COVID-19
Hundreds of thousands of low-paid garment workers in Cambodia and Burma faced layoffs when hundreds of factories closed in response to orders being canceled from large western retail outlets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 110 factories that employ around 96,000 workers have applied to the Cambodian government to suspend production due to a pandemic. The government said it would offer deferred workers of $ 40 per month while the factory would provide S30, a smaller amount than promised earlier this year.
A spokesman from Human Rights Watch (HRW) said many workers had received their March wages but in April “I think it would be a total mess.” Most of the 800,000 Cambodian garment workers receive a monthly minimum salary of only $ 190 but are forced to work overtime to make ends meet.
In Burma, around 20,000 migrants returned from Thailand last month after losing their jobs due to factory closures.
Taxi drivers in China protest
Tens of thousands of Chinese taxi drivers who are fighting 2.6 million are demonstrating in several cities across the country. They demanded a reduction in the costs they had to pay to the taxi company or the right to leave the business completely without penalty.
Many drivers report that their income dropped 80 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic, but many taxi companies continue to ask for normal monthly rental fees. Drivers protested in Shenzhen and Guangzhou on April 13 and 14, respectively. Taxi drivers have held 25 national protests since the beginning of this year to demand reductions in rent or cancellation of contracts.
Electronic retail workers ask for closure
The largest consumer electronics retailer in Australia JB HI-FI ignores workers’ concerns and remains open and has the potential to expose more than 12,000 employees to deadly COVID-19 infections. Nearly 900 workers have so far signed a petition calling for retailers to close their doors and continue to pay wages.
JB HI-FI’s decision to continue operating is supported by Shop Distributive and Allied Employees (SDA). Unions are trying to convince their members that retailers must keep their doors open “where and when it’s safe” so workers in the hard-hit retail sector, the country’s largest private employer, can keep their jobs.
A worker told the media, “I’m grateful to have a job, don’t misunderstand, but to the point where [you ask], Is our safety prioritized over sales? I think not. “Another worker said,” People are exploring, people are touching everything and we should clean everything up right after they touch it. “
Many JB HI-FI workers believe that the store does not provide important services because many of the items they sell can be purchased online or even from supermarkets. More than 100,000 retail workers have withdrawn since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, with many casual workers unable to access JobKeeper wage subsidies from the federal government.
Qantas workers ordered isolation through COVID-19
More than 750 workers of Australia’s largest airline company Qantas have been ordered to be isolated by SA (South Australia) Health after Qantas staff at Adelaide Airport were directed to continue working after it was discovered that they had been exposed to COVID-19. The quarantine order is an attempt to accommodate a group of cases related to the airport, including 18 baggage handlers, three other workers and 13 close contacts.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said it was gathering evidence that Qantas was “consciously exposed” to workers after the first known case was confirmed. However, while TWU accuses Qantas of taking a “blasé” approach in managing this problem, unions have failed to close the infected work site and turn it over to SA Health to take action.
Quarantine orders apply to employees who work in certain areas of the airport since March 17, and affect cabin crew, pilots, customer service staff, engineers, and baggage insurers. Prior to this incident, Qantas refused to pay staff who did self-isolation, forcing infected workers to continue working.
The maritime union ended the Sydney strike over COVID-19 at Hutchison Ports
Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), a division of CFMMEU, announced on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with the international stevedore company Hutchison Ports Australia. The agreement ended the closure 10 days after a positive COVID-19 infection among workers at its Sydney terminal.
It took Hutchison six days to inform the worker about a positive COVID-19 infection. Despite this unnecessary and dangerous delay, the union agreement with the company introduces “measures at work to combat Covid-19 transmission at work.”
Under the agreement, which was claimed by the union as a victory, production will continue at the Sydney facility. The agreement should include shift protocols and physical distance, cleanliness measures throughout the terminal and machinery, the communication process before each shift tells members not to come to work if they are sick and the full supply and supply of PPE.
The union called the closure of the Hutchinson terminal in Sydney for ten days only after intervention by the NSW Department of Health.
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