By Harry Kelber | The World of Labor | October 26, 2012

Ford Says 4,000 Will Lose Jobs in Belgium

Car sales across Europe have slumped since the economic crisis began, and Ford expects to lose more than $1 billion in the region this year. Ford said the decision to close the factory could save the company about $500 million.

The U.S. company is not the only carmaker who will need to trim production, Manufacturing across Europe has been contracting continuously for more than a year. This week, the French government has offered Peugeot a $9 billion lifeline to keep the car industry moving.

A Ford worker reacts after the European Ford management announced it would close the Ford plant in Genk, Belgium on Wednesday Oct. 24, 2012. A union leader says Ford has decided to close its factory in Genk, Belgium, at the end of 2014 in a move that will result in 4,500 direct job losses and 5,000 more among subcontractors. – AP Photo

Union Pressure Brings Reversal of Turkish Law to Ban Strikes

The Turkish government has withdrawn a ban on the country’s civil aviation sector, following an international campaign led by the ITF and Turkish aviation union Hava-Is. The aviation strike ban was added to Law 2822, passed earlier this year.

This is now being replaced by a new Collective Relations Labor Law which is awaiting presidential approval. Although the new law falls seriously short in relation to international standards, but the amendment that took away aviation workers’ right to withdraw their labor has been completely removed. ITF general secretary David Cockroft commented; "This ugly attack on fundamental rights was rightly decried by Turkish Aviation Union Hava-Is and the ITF. We are delighted that those protests paid off, and this shabby piece of legislation has been buried."

Iberian Peninsula Calls General Strike

Portuguese and Spanish unions prepare the first Iberian national strike in history. Last month, Portugal’s largest union, CGTP, called a general strike for Nov. 14 "against the "exploitation and impoverishment" of the Portuguese population. The union emphasized the need to change government policies "for the sake of a better future" and urged all to join in the protests against the government and its recently announced measures for next year.

Turning its back on the CGTP, the country’s second largest trade union, UGT, decided to go it alone with leader Joao Proenca, saying his union would not be joining the general strike., due to CGTP’s "divisive and partisan" intent., like calling a general strike without previous discussion. "This strike is against the government, but also against UGT," said Proenca, adding that his union may organize another general strike in the near future.

The Spanish unions are also protesting against the 2013 state budget, which is expected to include 30 billion euros in additional spending cuts and tax increases to help Spain meet deficit targets agreed to with the European Commission–4.5 percent in 2013.

Singapore May Tighten the Inflow of Foreign Workers

Despite the clamor from employers, there will be tighter limits on foreign workers in Singapore, Active Manpower Minister Tan-Chuan Jin said Oct. 26. In fact, the S Pass is a sector we are not comfortable with, because there is a lot of transference of lower level and mid-level workers. We are now exploring methods to tighten that sector," Tan said.

Speaking at the National Small and Medium Enterprises convention, Tan also expressed concern over rising business costs and difficulties in hiring workers. A survey of 200 companies found that eight in ten face manpower shortages.

One of the most common questions he has been asked, Tan said, was why was the government tightening the foreign worker supply, if it wants to prosper?" Tan noted that some companies felt the government was treating them like an "enemy." Tan said "The government will manage the pace of tightening the supply of foreign workers carefully, and at a sustainable rate that allows businesses to grow. "

Violent Attack on Peaceful Demonstration at Canadian-Owned Mine

Mexican and Canadian civil society groups are denouncing this week’s violent attack on protesters at a mine owned by Canada’s Excellon Resources. The peaceful demonstration by Mexican landowners against Excellon was wiped out Wednesday after scores of thugs ,arrived aboard buses and proceeded to destroy and burn the camp’s installations.

Photos and witness accounts of the destruction have emerged in extensive coverage of the incident by Mexican media, with estimates on the size of the group of thugs, ranging from 80 to300 men. Injustice to local landowners that has characterized Excellor’s presence in Mexico, added Ken Neumann, Canadian National Director of the United Steel Workers.

Said Neumann: "The ongoing conflict surrounding Excellor Resources’ mining operations should have been settled years ago. This deplorable situation could be resolved quickly and easily if Excellon would treat the landowners and workers with respect and dignity and negotiate a fair and reasonable contract"

Unemployment in Spain Exceeds 25% as Economic Crisis Deepens

Though hardly a surprise, Spain’s unemployment rate has surpassed 25 percent, despite the government’s efforts to streamline its labor market rules. The ranks of the unemployed swelled to 5.8 million people at the end of the third quarter, compared with 2.6 million four years ago, when Spain’s property bubble burst,

There was, however, one positive aspect to the gloomy latest report. It could give Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy more time to obtain better financial terms from Germany and several other countries. But Rajoy also faces a Nov. 14 general strike, which will be a test of his leadership.

Luis Garicano, a professor at the London School of Economics, said the government’s cost of paying unemployment benefits, now almost 4 percent of gross domestic product, was unsustainable. After 20 consecutive quarters of job destruction, he said, "people see very little light at the end of the tunnel, and Spaniards are losing hope."

Rubber Bullets Are Fired in Fresh S. African Mining Clash

South African police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas on Oct. 26 to disperse a protest by striking miners, who accused union leaders of betraying worker interests. Bullet casings littered the ground and a helicopter circled with police, while sirens howling outside a stadium in Northern Rustenburg which was the latest scene of strike unrest.

The violence erupted as the Congress of South African Trade Unions Cosatu), the country’s largest umbrella union, marched to the venue for a rally in a bid to regain its authority, which has been dealt a heavy blow since the mining wildcat strike began last August. The strikers are unhappy with the way the National Union of Mineworkers, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, has been representing them.

They make their own decisions by themselves. They don’t consult with the workers, say the striking miners. Nearly 60 people have been killed since August, including 34 shot dead. South Africa is sitting on a time bomb, when it comes to unemployment, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, said, after addressing 1,500 people.

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