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World of Work:
World Labor
News Roundup

From Jeff Apter In Paris
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Italy Stages Biggest
Industrial Protest for 20 Years

The CGIL, CISL and UIL labor federations, which together represent 11 million members, staged the biggest industrial protest movement seen in Italy for 20 years mid-April. They were protesting the conservative administration’s plans to implement legislation to reform the labor laws and make it easier for bosses to dismiss workers.

The federations said that nearly all their members stopped work and that 2.3 million workers took to the streets over the length and breadth of Italy. Factories closed, trains, planes and buses were disrupted and schools, post offices and banks shut.

The movement, which was joined by broad sections of the population dissatisfied with the ultra-conservative policies of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, followed a series of two-hour national stoppages earlier this year.

Backed by the employers’ federation, Berlusconi, Italy’s multi-millionaire media mogul who owns most of Italy’s television stations, is seeking to change Italy’s 30-year old "workers’ statute" by removing the obligation on employers to reinstate sacked employees if a labor court states they have been unfairly dismissed. The measure is seen as the cornerstone of labor law.

The unions say that the proposed changes will remove hard-won job security, widen the gap between rich and poor and generally undermine Italy’s social stability. When he was last prime minister, for seven months in 1994, Berlusconi lost power following massive strikes against his plans to reform the pensions system.

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European Union Fights Against Sexual Harassment

The European Union has adopted a measure to fight sexual harassment in its 15-member countries. It seeks to ban "all types of verbal and non-verbal behavior and physical attitudes with a sexual connotation liable to jeopardize a person’s dignity." The new measure, which comes into force only in 2005, includes steps to strengthen respect for sexual equality in the workplace. At the moment, France and Belgium are the only two European Union member countries with anti-harassment laws.

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Britain Launches Super-Union

Two of UE’s sister unions in Great Britain have merged to form the country’s largest private sector and manufacturing union. The Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) and the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union (MSF) have combined to form the 1.2 million strong Amicus, effective from Jan.1.

Amicus, a Latin word, means "friend, supporter, wise councillor and partner." The full merger will take some time. Meanwhile, the MSF section has stepped up its campaign for equal pay for women in 2002 by demanding equal pay audits from 10,000 employers and threatening to establish a "list of shame" for companies who refuse the audit.

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Ten Million Indians Strike
Against Privatization

Almost 10 million Indian public sector workers went on strike mid-April to protest the administration’s privatization program and pass legislation making it easier for companies to lay off workers. The strike, which was strongly backed by India’s labor federations, included clerks at state-owned banks, the railroads and publicly owned manufacturing companies. India’s international telephone company was privatized earlier this year. The next companies earmarked for privatization and manpower reduction schemes are two oil companies, an auto manufacturer and an aluminum producer.

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German Metal Union
Stages Strikes for Pay

IGMetall, the giant engineering and electrical union and UE’s sister union in Germany has stepped up its series of warning strikes ahead of what could be a massive all-out strike of its 2.8 million members in May.

The tactic has been for tens of thousands of workers in different parts of Germany to down tools for a few hours at a time in support of the union’s demand for salary increases of an average 6.5 percent. So far half a million workers have been involved in the lightning strikes.

The employers have made an initial offer of 2% in each of the next two years but IGMetall Pres. Klaus Zwickel said the union would not accept increases of less than 6 percent.

Meanwhile, the moderate IG BCE chemical and energy workers’ union accepted a 3.6 percent salary hike for its 570,000 members, lower than its original claim for a 5.5 percent increase.

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UE News - 04/02

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