Information Digest – May 2024

With the International Day of Mourning for the too many workers killed and injured at work, we focus on the climate crisis and its impact on workplaces, look at the many issues on workers safety rights around the world, Artificial Intelligence, and making a better or worse publishing industry plus wage inequality and organising struggles.

Resources

A Bad Climate: The climate crisis is putting workers at potentially deadly risk

Rory O’Neill looks at the new risks emerging as a result of the climate crisis which have seen emergency preparedness become an essential part of a workplace safety policy.

Whether you are baking outdoors or wading to work, the changing climate has made working and frequently just getting to work an increasingly challenging prospect for many workers.

In response to the accelerating crisis, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) declared the theme for International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2024 as ‘Climate risks for workers’. ITUC says extreme weather and changing weather patterns are affecting job security and health for workers.

Hazards 165; January-March 2024 WORKING IN A BAD CLIMATE Graphic: Ned Jolliffe

Read the full article here.

Indonesia: remember the dead, fight for the living

On 28 April, 2024 a commemoration event was held in Morowali, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia to honor 21 workers who died in the furnace explosion at PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS). IndustriALL Global Union and indonesian affiliates participated.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kan Matsuzaki called for a moment of silence to honor workers who lost their lives and injured on the job, and urged participants to continue fighting for the living both at ITSS and the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park. Highlighting the importance of safeguarding the well-being of workers across the industry, highlighting the need for ongoing efforts to improve workplace safety standards.

Read the full article here.

Protecting workers from the impacts of climate change: An occupational safety and health perspective

Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH); Marcus Boocock

As we face an uncertain future, one thing we can be sure of is that the world of work will continue to change. Looking at new and emerging risks, we know that this change will be driven by varied factors, with climate change being one of the major influences. It is only right then that this year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work focuses on climate change, its impact on OSH, and the actions we need to take urgently.

With a safe and healthy working environment now a fundamental principle and right at work, responsible corporate action should be founded on sustainable business conduct and respect for human rights, guided by the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. Strong OSH policies contribute significantly to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG8 (Decent Work) and SDG13 (Climate Action). SDG Target 8.8 makes OSH a sustainable development priority.

Workers can get injured or become ill from climate change due to excessive heat, ultraviolet radiation, extreme weather events, workplace air pollution, vector-borne diseases, and agrochemicals1. This list is not exhaustive so this health emergency must not be underestimated. The spectrum of impacts can restrict workers’ physical functions and capabilities, work capacity and negatively affect workforce productivity, particularly in regions vulnerable to climate change.

Read the full article here.

Remembering dead and injured workers on April 28, food and agricultural unions in Bangladesh demand protection of workers’ safety & health as a fundamental right

IUF Asia/Pacific

On April 28, the IUF Food and Beverage Workers Council-Bangladesh, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Workers Federation and National Women Farmers & Workers Association held a workers’ rally and demonstration in Dhaka to remember those who suffered from work-related deaths, injury and illness, including the unreported deaths of the unknown workers. The unions called for action to ensure the fundamental right to health and safety is fully realized for all food, farm and agricultural workers in both the formal and informal sectors.

Read the full article here.

Kenya: Respect health workers’ rights

Health workers have been on strike in Kenya since March 15th over noncompliance with the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement and the accompanying implementation matrix signed in 2021. The Kenyan government refuses to respect previous CBA agreements and bargain in good faith. Instead, the government is demanding cuts and responding to workers’ demands with intransigence and violence.

The government has threatened to fire striking doctors, arrest the KMPDU leadership, stop paying union dues, and cut workers across the public sector. The Council of Governors, which signed the current collective agreement in 2017, is claiming that doctors already earn enough. While the Ministry of Health is intent on slashing junior doctor’s (Interns) salaries by 90%. The internship program is required for qualified doctors to get their license to practice.

Read the full article here.

Philippines: Fishworkers Solidarity remembers commercial tuna fishing workers lost at sea; calls for urgent action to protect lives

On International Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28, the IUF-affiliated Fishworkers Solidarity, a member organization of SENTRO, remembered the commercial tuna fishing vessel workers who died or who were “lost” at sea and remain unaccounted for.

Among those remembered on April 28, were workers on tuna fishing vessels who died at sea but whose death was not considered a workplace death. This includes Perfect Aldo who died onboard on January 10, 2020, Arnel Abada who died at sea from pneumonia on June 12, 2021, and Noneto Romero who died onboard from cardiac arrest on November 5, 2022.

Read the full article here.

In Australia, Fitness Workers Are Organizing

Grace Dowling

Last year, instructors at over 150 Fitness First and Goodlife Health Clubs launched a union campaign to halt underpayment, wage cuts by stealth, and deteriorating work conditions. Within a few months, management caved to their demands.

Thanks to the cost-of-living crisis combined with employers desperate to drive up profits at workers’ expense, many instructors have begun seriously questioning whether their labor of love is sustainable.

Spearheaded by UWU members, fitness instructors at FLG recently won significant pay increases. And, most importantly, they developed strategies that could help to build workers’ power in the industry and beyond.

Read the full article here.

Books Are the Missing Piece of a Unionized American Culture Industry

Hamilton Nolan

Of the ​“Big Five” publishers, only HarperCollins is unionized. Last year, workers at HarperCollins went on strike for more than two months in a fight over the modest demand of a $50,000 per year salary minimum, which gives you a good idea of the industry’s traditionally low wages.

The one part of the book industry that has joined the union wave in earnest is book stores. Some of the biggest independent book stores in the country, like The Strand and Powell’s, have long been unionized.

Gaze at the book industry with optimistic eyes and you will be able to see the outlines of a union-fueled alternative to the shoddy and deflating commodification of culture that American businesses specialize in. We can unionize the schools that teach people to write, so they can think without debt suffocating them. We can unionize the media outlets where the writers hone their craft, so that they don’t have to give up their writing dreams before it starts. We can unionize the publishing houses so the people who do the actual work of producing the books can share in the prosperity of the successful authors (and the always successful corporate managers). We can unionize the book stores, so that no one who plays a part in the delivery of books to readers has to be condemned to a life of genteel poverty. And then we can sell the books to a unionized Hollywood, where unionized screenwriters can turn them into movies staffed by unionized actors and directors and crews.

Or, we can just let AI read every book ever written and produce infinite versions of Twilight that can be turned directly into CGI movies overseen by a single paid employee whose job is to send the profits directly to the limited partners of the private equity firm. The choice is ours!

Read the full article here.

Make Work Better in Amazon

GMB members are leading the fight to make work better in Amazon, campaigning for union recognition and a proper pay rise.

Yet Amazon workers earn just pennies above the minimum wage, face brutal working conditions and are under constant surveillance in the company’s distribution centres.

Amazon workers deserve their fair share of the profits they create, and they deserve to be treated with respect at work.

That’s why workers at Amazon sites across the country are joining GMB and taking historic strike action in their campaign for union recognition and a proper pay rise.

GMB have a site of resources and campaign news here.

Society of Authors (SoA) survey reveals a third of translators and quarter of illustrators losing work to AI

A Survey on generative AI highlights the growing impact of new technologies on creative careers, and an urgent need for ethical development that works within copyright laws.

The findings of the SoA member based survey, run in January 2024, demonstrate not only the deep uncertainty about the future role of generative AI in the profession, but also the impact it is already having on careers and livelihoods.

Use of generative AI by creators

While some respondents are starting to use generative AI as a tool in their work out of choice, others – specifically some translators and illustrators – are now being asked to use it by publishers and commissioning organisations.

    Approximately 1 in 5 respondents (22%) said they had used generative AI in their work.

    This included 1 in 10 illustrators (12%), a third of translators (37%), a fifth of fiction writers (20%) and around a quarter of non-fiction writers (25%).

    Around 3 in 10 illustrators and writers (31%) said they have used generative AI for brainstorming ideas.

    Around 1 in 10 translators (8%) and a smaller proportion of illustrators (5%) said they have used generative AI in their work because their publisher or commissioning organisation asked them to.

The SoA calls for responses such as:

1. Calling on AI developers to commit to transparency and ethical development

2. Government regulation of generative AI systems

3. Government to uphold copyright laws

4. AI developers should engage with creative industries to develop remuneration models for past infringements

Publishing and creative industries should commit to protecting human creativity.

Read the full article here.

Wage inequality in Europe—and why it is falling

Wouter Zwysen

A recent working paper https://www.etui.org/publications/wage-inequality-europe by the European Trade Union Institute takes a closer look at wage inequality across Europe. In particular, it focuses on how institutional specificities and high demand for labour can strengthen the bargaining power of workers in wage distribution, thus counteracting the large-scale trends that have undermined workers’ bargaining positions over time. Understanding how these key factors still support especially lower-wage workers in the EU is crucial when thinking more widely of ways to reduce wage inequality.

Read full article here.

Social Europe needs a new concept of ‘worker’

Nicola Countouris, Valerio De Stefano and John Hendy

A quarter of a century after Alain Supiot advocated a comprehensive extension of labour and social rights ‘beyond employment’, labour-law regimes in Europe remain fundamentally anchored by the ‘binary divide’ between employment and self-employment. By and large, those working under subordinate and bilateral contracts of employment for a particular employer continue to be afforded a range of labour rights (often underpinned by European Union directives) while those who work as contractors under contracts for services enjoy few, if any, protections.

Read full article here.

Read more here.

ITF and Uber launch safety charter for couriers, as social dialogue continues under new agreement

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Uber launched a joint charter to help improve health and safety for millions of couriers in over 11,000 cities around the world.

The Global Charter on Courier Health and Safety introduces 12 principles Uber has committed to expand, that address the unique safety concerns of couriers, especially those who deliver by bike, scooter and motorcycle on the Uber platform.

This includes helping improve couriers’ access to safety equipment, launching in-app road safety features, enhanced interpersonal-safety and mental health support and working with couriers and their representatives to advocate for safe and sustainable standards. Download the Charter here:

Download the charter here.

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