Navigation Bar

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article


World of Work:
World Labor
News Roundup

From JEFF APTER in Paris
Special to the UE NEWS

GERMANYIGMetall, UE’s sister union in Germany, has won a 4.2 percent pay hike following warning strikes and temporary stoppages by 150,000 workers in 900 plants. The 2.7 million member IGMetall, Europe’s biggest union, claimed a 6.5 percent hike while the employers offered 2.3 percent. The employers were angry at having to concede the increase and threatened job cuts.

Wage agreements in the key metalworking sector usually set the pace for other industries in Germany and unions representing more than 3 million public service employees secured a 3.1 increase, plus a one-off payment of about $150, the highest award since 1995. The unions had demanded 5.5 percent. Union president Herbert Mai said the offer "guaranteed a real rise in income for public employees." The public service increases followed warning strikes by about 100,000 selected workers which interrupted hospital services, office work and affected transport nationwide.

Top of Page

EUROPEThe European Trades Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European employers’ federation have approved draft agreement giving legal protection to millions of fixed-term workers. The measure will affect discrimination in working hours and company pensions and limit the use of successive short-term contracts in the 15 countries that are members of the European Union (a kind of European NAFTA). The EU has about 17 million fixed-term workers in a workforce of 150 million.

Some countries’ national laws already protect contract workers against discrimination in working hours and holiday entitlement. The ETUC is confident national administrations will amend their national laws to bring the measure into effect. European unions criticize employers for using short-term contracts to deprive workers of the rights and benefits they would receive if they had full-time employment. The ETUC affiliates 58 million employees belonging to 67 national union federations from 28 European countries.

Top of Page

CHINAWorkers in a plant in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin have formed an underground labor union dedicated to helping Chinese workers regain their place as the "masters of the nation." Labor activists formed the Chinese Association to Protect Workers’ Rights because the government’s "so-called union" does not serve the workers’ interests, the new union said. The CAWR is concerned that growing unemployment, unpaid overtime and low wages are impoverishing working people and wants the working class to be "restored to its leading role in society," a status enshrined in the Chinese constitution.

Top of Page

KOREAThe Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has withdrawn from a major committee with the government and employers because it believes it is hamstringing its role as a fighting union. The 650,000-member KCTU says the committee is doing nothing to stem continuing massive job losses and wage reductions. It wants a 7.7 percent salary hike in 1999, a re-evaluation of the minimum wage and replacement of dismissals by establishment of the 40-hour work week, down from 44 hours now. Unemployment stands at 8.5 percent, twice as much as a year ago. The KCTU says it will not rule out a strike to back its claims this spring. The more conservative FKTU federation stays on the tripartite committee.

Top of Page

FRANCERenault, Europe’s sixth biggest automobile manufacturer, has signed an agreement establishing the 35-hour week with four rival metal unions but the biggest union has refused to sign because of job losses. Renault, meanwhile, has taken a big shareholding in Nissan, Japan’s second-ranking car maker. Negotiated under France’s new 35-hour working week law, the deal sets a 35-hour week (34 hours, 24 minutes for shift workers), without loss of pay, 10-15 days annually for training and the hire of 6,000 young workers in the next five years.

The CGT, one of UE’s sister unions in France, representing 41 percent of Renault’s 46,000 employees, says it was not signing the contract as 10,500 workers over 57 years old are being encouraged to quit Renault and will not be replaced. The 35-hour week law was "meant to create more, not fewer jobs," a CGT spokesperson said.

All unions are meanwhile concerned for jobs following Renault’s purchase of a 36.8 percent stake in Japan’s Nissan Car Company. The deal has been approved by the French administration, which holds 44 percent of Renault’s shares. Renault-Nissan will be the world’s biggest auto manufacturer with a 9.1 percent share of the world vehicle market.

Top of Page

UE News - 04/99


Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

Home  About UE  Organize!  Independent Unions  Search  Site Guide  What's New  Contact UE
UE News  Political Action  Info for Workers  Resources  Education  Health & Safety  International  Links

Copyright 2003 UE. All Rights Reserved