Asia: Coca-Cola workers mobilize

Unions representing Coca-Cola workers in Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Sri Lanka met in Manila earlier this month and agreed to coordinate their efforts to build strong bargaining power to protect the interests of all employees including “irregular” workers, the IUF international federation of food, agricultural and related workers reported.

In the conference to prepare for talks between the IUF and global Coca-Cola management on Oct. 21, the unions emphasized concerns about company plans to restructure production through subcontracting and outsourcing.

The meeting paid special attention to the need for “atypical, contract and irregular workers” to have trade union rights including collective bargaining, and condemned the company’s frequent practice of replacing long-time regular workers with subcontracted employees.

“We call on the Coca-Cola system to respect the core labor conventions of the International Labor Organization, in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining, and to honor collective bargaining agreements which have standards that exceed national legislations,” the unions said in a statement.

Russia: Bauxite miners win big

Striking miners at Russia’s largest bauxite mine have won an unprecedented agreement for a substantial increase in miners’ salaries, an end to withholding of past-due payments and elimination of wage cuts linked to productivity, the Russia Journal Daily said last week.

What began as an unsanctioned strike by about 500 underground miners turned into a weeklong strike by several thousand workers at the Northern Urals Bauxite Mine in Sverdlovsk Oblast. The mine, owned by Siberian Ural Aluminum (SUAL), is Russia’s largest producer of bauxite, the raw material for aluminum. The agreement is the first such victory in a labor action by Russian aluminum workers.

Strikers demanded management end its practice of cutting official wage payments according to a scale of rising production targets. They also sought payments of overdue overtime wages and an increase in miners’ base pay. Further improvements are to be negotiated by a special labor-management committee over the next two months.

Greece: Strikes paralyze capital

Massive labor rallies in Athens brought the city to a halt last week, as teachers, sanitation workers, doctors and other medical workers, construction workers, taxi drivers, police and others protested low wages and inadequate benefits.

The government, which included wage hikes for low wage workers including farmers and students in its budget proposal to parliament, maintains it cannot afford an increase for what it calls “privileged sectors” of the workforce.

In the wake of attacks by riot squads against striking police officers, the Associated Press quoted a leader of the police union as calling the attacks “a disgrace,” and demanding the police leadership resign.

The Oct. 9 rallies were part of a month-long series of labor actions that have played havoc with services and transportation throughout the country.

Venezuela: Chavez says, ‘Celebrate resistance’

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on Latin Americans to mark Oct. 12 as the “Day of Indian Resistance” instead of the traditional “Columbus Day” holiday observed in the U.S. and several Latin American countries, Reuters reported this week.

“Christopher Columbus was the spearhead of the biggest invasion and genocide every seen in the history of humanity,” Chavez told a meeting in Caracas of representatives of indigenous people from throughout the continent. He said Spanish, Portuguese and other foreign conquerers slaughtered South American indigenous peoples at an average rate of one every 10 minutes. He said even the continent’s geographical names, like America and Venezuela, were imposed by foreigners.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (