Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Ruling: ‘McDonald’s accountable for labour violations of franchises’

In a ruling called ‘outrageous’ by business groups, the American National Labor Relations Board asserts that McDonald’s may be held jointly accountable for labour and wage violations at its franchises. Experts quoted by the New York Times suggest the ruling, if upheld, may have far-reaching consequences, “making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations”.

The labour board ‘found merit in 43 of the 181 claims, accusing McDonald’s restaurants of illegally firing, threatening or otherwise penalizing workers for their pro-labor activities’. Another 64 are still being investigated.

Via. Background on fastfood campaign

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

New phase in fastfood campaign may involve direct action

The past months have seen an amazing spread of fastfood workers’ protests over the US and even across the world (last May, see map above). Workers are demanding $15 per hour and the right organize. Last weekend, over 1,300 fastfood workers attended a convention in Illinois to discuss the next stage of their campaign, vowing to do ‘whatever it takes’. This may include direct actions such as occupying restaurants and sit-down strikes.

Inspired by Martin Luther King and by the Justice for Janitors campaign, workers ‘voted unanimously to conduct a wave of civil disobedience actions’. The campaign is growing into a broad social movement:
A video shown at the convention on Saturday morning drew an explicit line between the civil rights era, organized labor, feminism, the immigrant justice movement, the push for marriage equality, and the fast food workers. Speakers repeatedly emphasized the inclusiveness of the fast food workers’ movement, and its commitment to immigrant rights, racial justice, gender parity, and LGBT equality. (MSNBC)
The campaign is already paying off, explained president Mary Kay Henry of service workers’ union SEIU. The union has just signed a contract for 20,000 cafetaria and other service workers in the LA school district that will raise their wages, now often $8 or $9 per hour, to $15 by 2016. The campaign has also put income inequality on the political agenda. Seattle introduced a local minimum wage of $15 per hour and similar measures are considered in San Francisco and Chicago. In the midterm elections in November, there will be efforts to raise the minimum wage in many states.

Meanwhile, fastfood ceo’s earn about 1,200 times as much as they pay their workers. Since 2000, their pay has increased by over 300% while their workers’ wages have risen only 0.3%.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Domestic workers participate in action research

A network of researchers, trade unionists and domestic workers has done a study on the position of domestic workers in the Netherlands and South Africa. Domestic workers had an active role in the research. The researchers explain:
In doing so, we wanted to redress the frequent experiences of domestic workers who have been “studied” by researchers who often demand time, ask difficult and intimate questions, and rarely return their results or give back to the domestic workers and their organizations. At the same time, we focused on assuring that this research would be relevant to domestic work- ers themselves, accessible to organizations and applicable to the active national contexts that are developing policy changes to increase workers’ rights.
In a manual, they describe how the research was done. The researchers took responsibility for the research methodology, while workers had a role as co-researcher. Any worker who is interested in participating as a co-researcher should be allowed to do so, the authors suggest, although there are some practical considerations (language, literacy, time). The co-researchers were trained and carried out interviews. The manual discusses issues like deciding on the research question, finding respondents, interview skills, transcribing and coding the interviews and analysing the results.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Netherlands: More industrial action, better outcomes

During the first five months of this year, the number of collective actions has doubled relative to the same period last year, the Dutch union federation FNV has announced.

Those actions were often a necessary response to employer proposals to deteriorate employment conditions. In sectors that saw industrial action, better collective bargaining agreements have been reached. The average wage increase, 1.73%, is better than last year.

Mariëtte Patijn, collective bargaining co-ordinator at the FNV:
We want employers to treat people in a sustainable manner. We want them to provide honest jobs for everybody, paying living wages, without exploitation and underpayment. This requires that workers mobilise. This will not happen overnight. We expect this to take a couple of years.

The graph shows the average number of actions and ultimatums per month over the first five months of each year.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Labour conflicts: Unions trusted more than bosses

The Radboud University has done a survey among union members to gain a better undertsanding of the role of identification and trust in decisions to join a strike:
In the strike literature, identification with the trade union is considered an important predictor of strike participation. Social identification is a person’s connection with a group. In social psychology, it’s an important concept to explain the choices people make. The stronger the connection with the union, the more likely the person is to join the strike. But an employee can also identify strongly with a company. Many people are proud of their jobs and the organisation they’re working for. It’s not unlikely for employees to identify both with their employer and the trade union.
The survey shows that during an emerging collective bargaining conflict, workers identify much more strongly with the union (3.5 on a 1-5 scale) than with management (2.4). Also, they trust the union far more than management (3.8 vs 2.9).

Source (pdf, in Dutch)

Friday, 16 May 2014

Map: How the fastfood workers’ fight just went global

In November 2012, fastfood workers in New York went on strike for decent wages. Since, the fight has spread rapidly in the US and on 15 May, it went global. There were actions in cities like Dublin, Mumbai, São Paulo, Bandung, Kagoshima and many others. Security workers at Amsterdam Airport, who had just had their own action for real jobs, also showed their support.

The map above shows cities mentioned in tweets with the hashtag #FastFoodGlobal.

Security officers at Schiphol Airport demand real jobs

Photo Roderick Polak

Fierce competition among security companies at Schiphol Airport has caused huge pressure on security officers. On Tuesday, hundreds of security officers joined a manifestation demanding Schiphol to take action, with hundreds more showing their support by wearing a protest badge on the job. The security contracts are up for renewal later this year and Schiphol can require security companies to provide decent labour conditions.

“We take our jobs very seriously. We make it possible for people to fly safely. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to do our jobs properly. We have to work for hours on end”, Debbie Theunissen, security officer at Schiphol, said. “This affects our alertness and therefore the security of passengers. Also, we’re dealing with a lot of insecurity: when will we work, how much money will we earn each month. This has to change.”

At the protest, Schiphol cleaners and ground handlers pledged their solidarity with the security officers.

After being presented with a symbolic key to solving the situation, Schiphol spokesperson Herman Vreeburg said decent labour conditions will be regulated in the new security contracts. Security officers said they will monitor the procurement process closely to make sure this really happens.

Schiphol is prospering. Passenger and cargo records are broken year after year. However, for security officers at Schiphol, the situation isn’t as rosy. They have important but straining jobs. They are the public face of the airport. Yet they have to do their jobs under increasingly difficult circumstances.

For security officers to be able do their jobs properly, the downward spiral of employment and health and safety conditions has to end. Considering how well the airport is doing economically, there should be no problem offering them permanent, fulttime jobs. Further, Schiphol should require security companies to respect the limits set by the independent research institute TNO for how long workers should have to work at the checkpoints before they get a break. The frequent disregard of these limits poses both health and security risks. Last but not least, security officers want respect from Schiphol, from their employers and from the passengers.

Trade union FNV Beveiliging thinks jobs at Schiphol should be real jobs. Jobs that pay a living wage, don’t damage your health and allow you to have a private life. Security officers should be able to do their jobs properly, so the airport will be safe and passengers can pass the security checks quickly and without hassle. In order to achieve this, Schiphol must take responsibility for the labour conditions of the thousands of security officers working at the airport.

Currently, security services at Schiphol Airport are provided by G4S, Securitas, Trigion (Facilicom) and I-Sec (ICTS). In an effort to control costs, the number of security officers at the airport has been reduced from 4,850 to 4,400, and Schiphol plans to cut another 20%, notwithstanding substantial passenger growth.