In One Slum, Misery, Work, Politics and Hope “India is a rising economic power, even as huge portions of its economy operate in the shadows. Its “formal” economy consists of businesses that pay taxes, adhere to labor regulations and burnish the country’s global image. India’s ‘informal’ economy is everything else: the hundreds of millions of shopkeepers, farmers, construction workers, taxi drivers, street vendors, rag pickers, tailors, repairmen, middlemen, black marketeers and more. This divide exists in other developing countries, but it is a chasm in India: experts estimate that the informal sector is responsible for the overwhelming majority of India’s annual economic growth and as much as 90 percent of all employment. The informal economy exists largely outside government oversight and, in the case of slums like Dharavi, without government help or encouragement.
Toyota Cuts Profit Forecast by 54% “Toyota Motor cut its annual profit forecast by half Friday after destructive floods in Thailand, a crucial manufacturing hub, hurt production in a year already marred by natural and nuclear disasters in Japan.”
A Banker Speaks, With Regret “All this came into sharper focus this week as Bloomberg Markets magazine publisheda terrific exposé based on lending records it pried out of the Federal Reserve in a lawsuit. It turns out that the Fed provided an astonishing sum to keep banks afloat — $7.8 trillion, equivalent to more than $25,000 per American. The article estimated that banks earned up to $13 billion in profits by relending that money to businesses and consumers at higher rates. The Federal Reserve action isn’t a scandal, and arguably it’s a triumph. The Fed did everything imaginable to avert a financial catastrophe — and succeeded. The money was repaid. Yet what is scandalous is the basic unfairness of what has transpired. The federal government rescued highly paid bankers from their reckless decisions. It protected bank shareholders and creditors. But it mostly turned a cold shoulder to some of the most vulnerable and least sophisticated people in America. Last year alone, banks seized more than one million homes.”
Outsourcing Giant Finds It Must Be Client, Too “Mr. Sabharwal runs TeamLease, a Bangalore-based agency that has created thousands of jobs by fielding temporary workers for companies in India that want to expand their work force while skirting India’s stringent labor laws, which businesses say discourage the hiring of permanent employees. Many labor leaders and left-leaning politicians accuse him of running the nation’s largest illegal business. He does not completely disagree. ‘We should not exist,’ Mr. Sabharwal, a 40-year-old graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said about his company, which has 60,000 employees. ‘The genius of India is to allow us to exist.’ What Mr. Sabharwal calls ‘genius’ others would call dysfunction, or at the very least, an elaborate workaround, or temporary fix. India is known the world over as a prime innovator of outsourcing for foreign companies, which take advantage of its cheap, English-speaking labor force. Less well known is the extent to which Indian companies outsource their own jobs within their own country. Walk into any of India’s shining new shopping malls that sell expensive brands, like Gucci and Satya Paul, and many of the store clerks, janitors and security guards will be on the payrolls of outsourcing companies, not those of the owners of the mall or stores in it, executives say. The practice highlights a fundamental tension between India’s socialist past and a new freewheeling, private sector that is increasingly powering the economy while chafing at what many companies say are laws so protective of workers that they blunt hiring and stifle growth. Mr. Sabharwal provides a backdoor way around the old system in a manner that is not without controversy. He fills thousands of jobs at a cost that allows many companies to continue to function, and even helps retrain India’s large population of young job seekers — half of Indians are 25 or younger — who are undereducated and ill prepared to enter the labor force. In that highly competitive environment for jobs, Mr. Sabharwal supplies workers who are paid as little as half of what permanent employees earn and who usually receive few benefits. Though technically temporary, many of them keep their status at the same companies for years. In India’s nascent industrial hubs near New Delhi, autoworkers are increasingly protesting the use and treatment of the kind of contract workers Mr. Sabharwal supplies, who lack job security. But the reason Mr. Sabharwal has thrived, he and others say, is because India needs him. The nation’s complex web of federal and state labor laws intended to protect permanent workers are so onerous that few employers want to hire them, they say. Those laws cover virtually every aspect of employment — how workers are hired, what they are paid, how many hours they can work and whether they can be fired. Factories employing 100 or more workers are not allowed to lay off employees without the government’s permission. The laws are unevenly enforced, but many businesses still consider them so cumbersome that they find it worthwhile to have somebody else manage the ‘compliance issues,’ which is why TeamLease also employs about 60 people in its regulatory division who do so. ‘India, compared to even European countries, has more restrictive labor laws,’ said Sean Dougherty, a senior adviser at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development who has studied India’s labor market.
Fortunes, and Tables, Turn for Portugal and Angola “Angola is rich in cash thanks to its huge oil reserves and its equally significant underinvestment in its own 18 million people. By the end of 2010 it was Africa’s biggest oil exporter, and by the end of June it had $24 billion in international reserves, according to the State Department. But it ranks only 148th on the United Nation’s 187-nation Human Development Index; around two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 a day.”
Solis Kicks Off Vulnerable Workers Series Secretary Solis participated in the first of four webcasts Thursday examining the economic hardships faced by vulnerable workers. This inaugural forum focused on workers in the restaurant industry. ‘Whether you run a company or work in a restaurant, all working people deserve a livable wage, health care and the opportunity to care for their families,’ Solis said. She noted that more than 10 million people work in the restaurant industry, and many receive poverty wages and no access to benefits like paid leave to care for a sick parent or child. Panelists from the Labor Department included Sara Manzano-Diaz, director of the Women’s Bureau; Dr. Gabriela Lemus, director of the Office of Public Engagement; Nancy Leppink, deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division; David Michaels, assistant secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and Phil Tom, director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. View the SlideshowRead the Secretary’s Remarks
Letting an Ugly Skeleton Out of China’s Closet “The news media often report that 81 million families, or 30 percent of China’s 270 million families, live with domestic violence, a figure supported by a 2006 survey in Society, a scholarly journal, that also found a 30 percent abuse rate.”
In Latin America, Looking at the Positive Side of Child Labor “Globally, according to the Switzerland-based International Labour Organization (ILO), there are currently more than 215 million workers between the ages of 5 and 17, 14 million of them in Latin America. They dot agricultural fields, weave through city markets and shimmy down mine shafts. More than 150 nations, backed by millions of dollars from the U.N. Children’s Fund, have adopted the ILO’s landmark conventions, establishing legal minimum working ages (normally 14 or 15) and promising to abolish the ‘worst forms’ of child labor. As a result, millions of children no longer endanger their lives every day for a pittance.”
Obama Trip Stresses Ties to Economies Across Pacific “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta paved the way for Mr. Obama in trips to Asia last month. Mr. Panetta, there after Mr. Obama announced all troops would be out of Iraq by the year’s end, said the United States was at “a turning point.” Mrs. Clinton’s recent long essay in Foreign Policy magazinewas read as the fullest statement yet of American aspirations in the region and for rebalancing foreign policy after 10 years and 3 wars in the Middle East. Michael J. Green, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the president’s trip ‘comes at a point when the American elite, at least, and I think the American public is really focused on Asia.’ Mr. Green cited a recent poll for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that for the first time showed that Americans, by a wide margin, consider Asia the most important part of the world for the United States. On Saturday, Mr. Obama will meet with eight other leaders in what they are calling the Trans-Pacific Partnership for expanded trade. Neither China nor Japan is included. China is watching warily, given the group’s talk of rules against government subsidies of state-owned companies. On Sunday, Mr. Obama is to host the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, known as APEC, with leaders of 21 economies on both sides of the Pacific, including Canada and Mexico. Mr. Obama chose Honolulu, his birthplace, as the site ‘to highlight America’s position as a Pacific nation,’ the White House said.”
Latin America: Shift in direction fuels growth across continent “Heavy metal: a security guard in Valparaiso port, Chile, walks past a shipment of copper destined for Asia. Deng Xiaoping was a leader with vision. And about 24 years ago, the man who led China towards a market economy made this surprising remark: ‘It is often said that the 21st century will be the century of the Pacific. But I believe it could also be the century of Latin America.’ For most of its history, Latin America has looked east across the Atlantic to Europe. Today, however, it increasingly looks west across the Pacific to Asia – especially when it comes to trade. Between 1999 and 2009, the total value of Latin American trade with Asia rose sixfold to $230bn – about half of that with China alone. Indeed, China – hungry for the commodities that South America produces, be it Brazilian iron ore, Chilean copper, or Argentine soya – had by 2009 become Brazil and Chile’s biggest single trading partner, according to data from the Inter-American Development Bank. It had also become Peru’s second biggest trade partner and Argentina’s third largest. The impact of this profound shift in trade patterns can be felt throughout the region. Most obviously, it helped fuel a commodity price boom that has been among the most prolonged in Latin America’s history, which is littered with so many commodity booms and busts. Some countries have spent much of this bonanza. Of these, Venezuela has been the most profligate. During the past decade, it has been recycling its oil wealth, seeking to fulfil President Hugo Chávez’s dream of a united “Bolivarian” continent. Others have been more prudent. Chile, the world’s largest copper producer, has squirrelled away the windfall in sovereign wealth funds. Throughout the continent, however, the boom has fostered growth. For the past decade, the region has grown at an average of almost 4 per cent a year. In the previous decade, it grew at 3 per cent per year. Today, the shift towards greater Pacific trade is also producing an upgrade of the infrastructure that Latin America needs if it is to continue meeting Asia’s demand for commodities. Perhaps the most ambitious of these plans is a Brazilian project to build a series of roads across the Amazon that will link its western regions to Pacific ports in Peru and thence Asian markets. Meanwhile, in Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has talked about Chinese plans to finance and build a rival to the Panama Canal, which would link the country’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The idea behind this “dry canal” – it would be railway-based – is that it would facilitate easier transport of Colombian coal to energy-hungry Asian markets. In addition, there has been a reconfiguration of the “soft infrastructure” that underpins trade. Chile and Peru have signed free-trade deals with China. The “Pacific Arc” group of countries – Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico – have meanwhile talked about forming a trade bloc, partly to achieve the economies of scale that are required to supply Asian markets effectively. Nonetheless, greater Pacific-based trade has not been a painless ride for all. While China’s rise has complemented commodity-rich South American economies, it has increased competition for Mexico’s more manufacturing-based economy. Still, the huge cost advantage that Chinese manufacturers enjoyed in 2001, when the country acceded to the World Trade Organization, has shrunk to about 14 per cent, says Ernesto Cordero, who was Mexico’s finance minister before stepping down in September to run for president. As trans-Pacific transport costs have risen with energy prices, Mexican manufacturers have increased their share of the US market and found new customers abroad. Then there has been the impact of low-priced Chinese imports on domestic manufacturers. After all, it was more than a decade ago that China became a bigger maker of sombreros than Mexico. Last year, much the same thing happened in Brazil, when it transpired that most of the outfits worn in its celebrated Rio carnival were made in China. Combined with appreciating local currencies, this has led to Latin American complaints that local industry is being hollowed out. Despite this, the increase in trans-Pacific trade has, on the whole, been a boon. Many Latin American economies barely slowed during the financial crisis. While developed markets are mired in sluggish growth and high debt, emerging economies have continued to surge ahead. In many ways, therefore, Asia has provided an antidote to the usual course of economic events. When the US economy caught a cold, Latin America used to get pneumonia. Now, Mexico apart, when the US gets pneumonia, Latin America barely gets a sniffle. Yet that raises a new question: what would happen to Latin America if Asian economies stuttered and commodity prices fell with them? Nobody knows, although Peru’s finance minister has a partial answer. Every day Luis Castilla says he lights a candle and prays China won’t crash”.
Rousseff warns about global unemployment; calls for plans to generate jobs “Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff addressing the results of the G20 summit in Cannes, where Brazil was one of the countries represented said that job creation is a way to tackle economic crises. In her weekly radio show, Rousseff said on Monday that the current crisis, which is affecting the United States and the European Union, cannot be tackled by reducing workers’ rights. ‘Our message at the summit was water clear: the unemployment matter is extremely worrying. It affects 200 million people in the world’ she said, stressing that, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), most of the unemployed around the world are young people. ‘Jobs must be created, domestic demand stimulated, that’s the only way out to the current crisis. Cutting spending and investments will only make the situation worse’, said President Rousseff. She said that the situation in Brazil was ‘completely different’ because when the crisis erupted in 2008, the country turned ‘to reinforce the domestic market.’ ‘We are close to full employment. From January to September 2011, over 2.079 million formal jobs were created’ said the Brazilian president. She also stressed the importance of proper regulation of the financial sector. ‘The difference between us and the rich countries which are undergoing a crisis is that we have a solid economy, with solid, regulated and controlled banks. Brazil does not have a high debt, on the contrary, it has reserves of 350 billion U.S. dollars,’ she said. ‘The crisis was the making of the rich countries; it was born in the lack of controls in the financial systems of those countries and with a globalized economy had an immediate impact and influence on the world scenario’ even when the emerging economies have ‘their houses in order.’ President Rousseff said that the emerging countries have been the locomotive of the world economy growth even when they have also suffered some of the slowdown, ‘but we are still upholding global economic expansion.’ Finally Ms Rousseff said she was extremely proud of the ILO initiative to create a ‘World Floor for Social Protection’ which has been basically copied from the social policies that have been implemented in Brazil for the last nine years. ‘It is very similar to our Family Bourse program and the ILO is taking it as a reference, this should make us all Brazilians very proud.’
CAW Builds International Links to Fight Precarious Work “Billed as a lead up to World Day for Decent Work, the Canadian Auto Workers union recently hosted two ”Good Jobs Bad Jobs” round tables with visiting union delegations from Denmark and South Africa:
Billed as a lead up to World Day for Decent Work, the Canadian Auto Workers union recently hosted two ”Good Jobs Bad Jobs” round tables with visiting union delegations from Denmark and South Africa.
With almost 40 per cent workers in Canada now in non-standard employment including temporary, contract and part-time jobs, there is a new urgency to develop our analysis and cross-border strategies.
Delegates from NUMSA and 3F strategized with representatives of the CAW and other Canadian unions, action centre coordinators, researchers, and community activists who are engaged in the fight against precarious work.
The round tables highlighted the striking similarities between the three very different economies of Canada, Denmark and South Africa. We heard examples from all three countries of the escalating use of temporary help agencies and labour brokers and the super-exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers, as governments shift away from traditional immigration.
Discussions also focused on the power corporations are wielding to pressure governments to allow unrestricted access to these precarious work arrangements, further eroding the standard employer-employee relationship.
The roundtables underscored the systemic nature of the global rise in precarious employment and, at the same time, allowed for international solidarity to be made more concrete. These were also opportunities to build stronger links with community organizations that work with non-unionized workers.
Landmark victory for Indonesian workers “After a more than year-long bitter struggle, the Indonesian labour movement won the fight to reform the social security system, under the banner of the Social Security Action Committee (KAJS).”
Malaysians oppose labour law change “Thousands of workers led by the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) picketed across the nation to protest against the amendment to the labour laws.”
Harassment and Evictions Bedevil Even China’s Well-Off “The clash would seem to suggest a new wrinkle in the seemingly ubiquitous fights over land that have become one of the most nettlesome challenges to the stability so prized by the ruling Communist Party. Last year, the government-run Research Center for Social Contradictions found that forced evictions, more than all other issues combined, were the driving cause behind the 180,000 so-called mass incidents — protests, riots and group petitioning — counted by one prominent sociologist in 2010. “
Latam should turn to Korea for trade and investment, suggests IDB “‘Korea represents much more than just another attractive export market for Latin American countries, or a source of foreign investment,’ says Moreira. ‘Korea is proof that developing countries are capable of climbing the economic ladder toward greater prosperity, if they follow prudent economic policies and devote ample resources to education and innovation.’ In less than 30 years, Korea transformed its battered economy, which after the Korean War had just half the per capita income of the average developing country, into a highly sophisticated developed economy, exporter of a wide array of high-tech products, backed by a highly educated workforce and a world-class private sector. Today, Korean has a trillion-dollar economy and per capita income of around 20.000 dollars, and has averaged 7% annual growth since the early 1960s. Although resource-poor Korea, like China, imports large amounts of Latin America’s natural resources-minerals, oil, and agricultural products-manufactured goods account for nearly 30% of what Korea buys from LAC. That is in part because Korea has already upgraded beyond labor-intensive sectors, offering less of a competitive threat to most of LAC’s industries, according to the report. Korea also has sent three times as much foreign direct investment (FDI) to Latin America as China has over the past seven years, investing in mining as well as in factories manufacturing everything from garments to more sophisticated products such as TV, electronics and household appliances. Next year, Hyundai Motors will inaugurate an auto-assembly plant in Brazil to build flex-fuel cars for the fast-growing consumer market there. Over the past two decades, LAC-Korea bilateral trade has expanded rapidly, growing at an annual average rate of 16.1%, faster than trade grew with the US (7.4%) or the European Union (7.4%). Only trade with China grew at a faster annual rate, 27.5%. Still, bilateral trade now totals just 44 billion dollars, or only 2.5% of LAC’s trade, meaning there is ample room for growth. Part of the reason behind the fast expansion of trade is the profound economic reforms carried out in LAC since the mid-1980s, which reduced trade barriers with the rest of the world. Existing free trade agreements (FTAs) with Chile and Peru, and future FTAs under negotiation with Mexico and Colombia, will add to that dynamism.”
No consensus on agency work at ILO “At the ILO Global Dialogue Forum on private employment agencies, unions put on record their experiences of employment through agencies being used to drive down wages and prevent agency workers from joining a union and bargaining collectively.”
Maruti Suzuki breaks agreement, sparks new strike – shot fired “Again Maruti Suzuki workers at Manesar went on strike from 4 pm on October 7, demanding reinstatement of contract workers. The strike was triggered by the company’s continued lock-out, and physical attacks by hired goons on contract workers. October 9 a shot was fired.”
Squeezed Out in India, Students Turn to U.S. “Indians are now the second-largest foreign student population in America, after the Chinese, with almost 105,000 students in the United States in the 2009-10 academic year, the last for which comprehensive figures were available. Student visa applications from India increased 20 percent in the past year, according to the American Embassy here.”
S. Korean State Visit Highlights Bond Between 2 Leaders “In some respects, South Korea’s leader has had the kind of presidency Mr. Obama would like to have. With less strangling government debt and a society driven to transform itself, Mr. Lee has been able to pursue much of the ‘win the future’ agenda that Mr. Obama has advocated. South Korea, as Mr. Obama likes to point out, has a high-speed broadband network that reaches more than 90 percent of its people, compared with only 65 percent of Americans. A larger percentage of South Koreans than Americans graduate from college. At a time when financially struggling school districts here are laying off teachers, South Korea is hiring them to satisfy demanding parents. Indeed, Mr. Obama cites Mr. Lee’s views on education in virtually every speech he gives these days, including one in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, holding up the hard-working Asian country as an example of what the United States needs to do.”
China’s Export Growth Eases Amid Global Turmoil “The International Monetary Fund, meanwhile, echoed the general sense of worry about the global outlook Thursday, tempered with a degree of confidence about Asian domestic demand, which is helping to cushion the region from the global upheaval. ‘Domestic demand is still resilient, and it should continue to sustain activity across the region,’ the I.M.F. said in its regional economic outlook for the Asia-Pacific region. The fund forecast relatively robust growth of 6.3 percent for the region this year and 6.7 percent in 2012 on average, slightly below a previous forecast of 6.8 percent for 2011 and 6.9 percent for 2012 made in April. Nevertheless, it stressed that an increase in financial turbulence in the euro zone and a more severe slowdown in the United States would have ‘clear macroeconomic and financial spillovers to Asia.’ ‘Asia has clearly not ‘decoupled’ from advanced economies,’ the I.M.F. said.”
Strike Adds to Labor Problems for India’s Largest Auto Company “Union workers are also angry over the growing use of contract workers, who are paid far less than regular employees and — unlike permanent workers — can be laid off without government approval. In some auto factories, contract workers make up more than half the staff…Still, while government protection against layoffs gives union autoworkers some leverage, they know they have few employment alternatives — especially in north India where Maruti Suzuki and many other auto companies have built their factories. About half of the country’s population is 25 or younger, and nearly 12 million people become of working age every year. But India creates only a few million new jobs each year because of its stringent labor laws, weak infrastructure and anemic education system.”
The Other India: Where Are the Children? “Some of the children who were eventually found spoke of being taken by force or of being enticed with promises of food and clothes. But they were then sold into various forms of slavery, including domestic labor, beggary, agricultural labor or commercial sex work. While statistics on a subject like this can never be entirely accurate, given the nature of the crimes involved, a recent U.S. Department of Labor report said that in India ‘forced child labor is a problem’ practiced in its ‘worst forms.’ A provisional Indian census report released in 2010 estimated that 1 in 10 workers in India are children. Staggering as they appear, experts say these figures may be conservative. Conversations with the parents of missing children reveal that the police are often dismissive of poor families who report a missing child. Almost all of Delhi’s missing children live in slums or unregistered colonies. One parent I spoke to was told by the police, ‘You can’t feed the dozens of children you produce. Of course they’ll run away!’”
Indonesian unions cooperate to fight precarious work “Indonesian unions and NGOs gathered at the end of September 2011 to step up their fight against contract and agency labour in Indonesia…The Indonesian national trade union centre KSBSI says that outsourcing and the contract system has sharply reduced the number of permanent workers in the country, from 67% of the total formal labour workforce in 2005 to only 35% in 2011, also citing reports from the World Bank and the ILO.”
Indonesian unions build unity through organizing “Indonesian union leaders met for a strategy and planning meeting in Jakarta, and agreed on a joint organizing plan. Through a project supported by SASK 6000 workers should be recruited to FSPMI and Lomenik during 2011.”
Fighting back through unity in the Philippines “Union leaders in metalworkers’ organizations in the Philippines met for a national workshop on September 28-29 in Manila to find pragmatic solutions, boost cooperation and share information.”
Thai metalworkers unite to get stronger “Three days after attending the IMF workshop on union building and organizing two Thai metalworkers’ unions agreed to forge closer cooperation and build a stronger metalworkers union movement in Thailand with an estimated hundred thousand membership.”
Maruti Suzuki workers in India end the impasse “After a month long struggle by workers of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL), a car manufacturing giant, at Manesar plant, Gurgaon, India an agreement is reached between the management and workers of MSIL Manesar Plant and Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union (MUKU) on September 30, 2011. The IMF congratulates Maruti Suzuki workers and hopes that the management will respect the terms of settlement in its letter and spirit.”
Chinese City Shuts Down 13 Wal-Marts “Mislabeling pork as organic might seem like a small offense in a country where the reuse of rancid cooking oil by restaurants has become a national scandal, and where the deliberate mixing of powdered infant formula with industrial waste from plastics manufacturing to meet minimum protein standards has sickened an estimated 50,000 babies. But Chinese government officials have long set more stringent standards of quality control, labor rights and other industrial issues for foreign companies than for Chinese-owned companies. Economic nationalism, which critics describe as bordering on xenophobia, is more visible in cities deep in China’s interior than in its export-oriented coastal cities. Nowhere is nationalism more visible now than in the largest city in the interior, Chongqing.”
As Its Economy Sprints Ahead, China’s People Are Left Behind “Under an economic system that favors state-run banks and companies over wage earners, the government keeps the interest rate on savings accounts so artificially low that it cannot keep pace with China’s rising inflation. At the same time, other factors in which the government plays a role — a weak social safety net, depressed wages and soaring home prices — create a hoarding impulse that compels many people to keep saving anyway, against an uncertain future…Mainly, like many in China, the Wangs save because they worry about soaring food pricesand the high cost of health care, which the People’s Republic no longer fully provides. They also worry about whether they can afford to buy a home for their son, a cost that Chinese parents are expected to bear when their male children marry…Some analysts trace the current policies to habits formed in the late 1990s. That’s when the bloat of China’s giant, uncompetitive state-run corporations nearly brought China’s economic expansion to a standstill. Suddenly, with state-owned companies facing bankruptcy, the state banks were saddled with hundreds of billions of dollars in nonperforming loans; many banks faced insolvency. To avert a crisis, Beijing allowed state-owned companies to lay off tens of millions of workers. In 1999 just one of those companies, the parent of PetroChina, a big oil conglomerate, announced the layoff of a million employees. And to shore up the banks, Beijing assumed tighter control over interest rates, which included sharply lowering the effective rates paid to depositors. A passbook account that might have earned 3 percent in 2002, after inflation, would today be effectively losing 3 to 5 percent, once inflation is factored in…It was during this same period that the Communist government discarded the longstanding “iron rice bowl” promise of lifelong employment and state care. Beijing shifted more of the high costs of social services — including housing, education and medical care — onto households and the private sector.”
Ex-President of China, Said to Be Ill, Appears in Beijing “The two officials and their supporters have expressed diverging views on economic growth using a cake metaphor. Mr. Bo says the economic cake should be divided more equally as it is being baked; Mr. Wang has emphasized that the cake must be baked fully and efficiently first.”
Domestic Workers Convention May Be Landmark “The twin developments — accord in Geneva and maid wars in Riyadh — show opposing forces in a global campaign to protect domestic workers, an overlooked group of as many as 100 million people. More broadly, that campaign tests the effort to raise work standards in a world of cheap and mobile labor. Many domestic workers are migrants, and the precedents could shape the treatment of other migrant groups. On Sept. 30, for example, Hong Kong’s High Court struck down a law that had excluded domestic workers from the residency rights offered to other foreign citizens, potentially allowing 100,000 maids to gain the right to stay.”
Recession Officially Over, U.S. Incomes Kept Falling “The full 9.8 percent drop in income from the start of the recession to this June — the most recent month in the study — appears to be the largest in several decades, according to other Census Bureau data. Gordon W. Green Jr., who wrote the report with John F. Coder, called the decline ‘a significant reduction in the American standard of living.’ That reduction occurred even though the unemployment rate fell slightly, to 9.2 percent in June compared with 9.5 percent two years earlier. Two main forces appear to have held down pay: the number of people outside the labor force — neither working nor looking for work — has risen; and the hourly pay of employed people has failed to keep pace with inflation, as the prices of oil products and many foods have jumped. During the recession itself, by contrast, wage gains outpaced inflation. One reason pay has stagnated is that many people who lost their jobs in the recession — and remained out of work for months — have taken pay cuts in order to be hired again. In a separate study, Henry S. Farber, an economics professor at Princeton, found that people who lost jobs in the recession and later found work again made an average of 17.5 percent less than they had in their old jobs.”
Israeli Cabinet Backs Outline for Social Change “The social movement began in mid-July when a group of young Israelis pitched tents in the center of Tel Aviv to protest inflated housing prices. The committee recommended building almost 200,000 apartments over the next five years, making more apartments available as rentals and increasing housing subsidies for the needy. The panel also recommended raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, building more day care centers and providing free pre-kindergarten for children 3 to 5 years old. Even so, leaders of the social protest movement criticized the report, saying it merely moved money around within the existing budget and did not call for more fundamental changes.”
Confronting the Malefactors “A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.”
In Myanmar, Seize the Moment “But U Thein Sein, the new president and himself a former general, surprised everyone. In his inaugural address to Parliament, he spoke forcefully of combating poverty, fighting corruption, ending the country’s multiple armed conflicts, and working for political reconciliation. By June, state pensions for nearly a million people, most of them very poor, were increased by as much as a thousandfold, taxes were reduced, and trade cartels were dismantled. The government redrafted banking and foreign investment rules and began revising its foreign exchange rate policy — all of this in consultation with businessmen and academics. That alone was a huge step, because army rulers had long shunned any civilian advice. Then, on July 19, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who was released from house arrest last November, was invited to the annual Martyrs’ Day ceremony. The holiday memorializes the 1947 assassination of her father, who is considered the architect of the country’s independence. Thousands of her supporters were permitted to hold their first lawful march in years and several independent newspapers came to life. Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s name, which couldn’t be mentioned in print a year ago, began to appear regularly on the front pages. By August, Parliament began debating sensitive issues, like the release of political prisoners, and passed laws legalizing microfinance for the rural poor and allowing independent trade unions. All Internet restrictions were soon lifted. On Aug. 18, at a meeting with dozens of independent civic groups, the president called for peace talks with the country’s ethnic-based rebels and invited exiles to return. The next day, he met for over two hours alone with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Dalai Lama’s Visa Request Is Denied by South Africa “Many have accused South Africa of buckling under pressure from China, which has accused the Dalai Lama of trying to split Tibet from China and create an independent state. The Dalai Lama has said he does not favor independence but has criticized what he calls Chinese repression of Tibet’s religious and cultural traditions. Even before the Dalai Lama’s announcement on Tuesday, South Africa’s government had come under harsh criticism for not promptly issuing the Dalai Lama a visa. Cosatu, a powerful coalition of trade unions, criticized the government for allowing China to influence South Africa’s foreign policy, South Africa’s Sapa news agency reported. ‘Even though China is our biggest trading partner, we should not exchange our morality for dollars or yuan,’ the news agency quoted Tony Ehrenreich, a Cosatu leader, as saying. Loyiso Nongxa, vice chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, said in a statement that denying the Dalai Lama permission to visit undermined South Africa’s long struggle against injustice. ‘The state’s deliberate indecision ridicules the values pertaining to freedom of speech, expression and movement enshrined in our Constitution and the freedoms for which so many South African have lived, and indeed died,’ Professor Nongxa said. Last week, the Desmond Tutu Peace Center, an advocacy group co-founded by him, and the Pretoria branch of the Office of Tibet, the official name of Tibet’s government in exile, issued a joint statement calling the failure to issue the visa in a timely manner ‘profoundly disrespectful of two Nobel Peace laureates who are among the most revered spiritual leaders on earth.’ That statement coincided with a visit to China by South Africa’s vice president, Kgalema Motlanthe, who signed multiple trade and development agreements.”
Opposition Leader Is Handed Reins in Zambia “The Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata, a 74-year-old veteran politician who had whipped up not-so-subtle anti-Chinese sentiment (China runs several big mines in Zambia), handily won the presidency in election results announced Friday. It was a rare example in Africa of an opposition candidate’s cruising to victory and, perhaps more important, the incumbent’s graciously admitting defeat. Rupiah Banda, who was elected president in 2008, tearfully acknowledged that he had lost and called for his supporters to recognize Mr. Sata as president, paving the way for a smooth transition of power. News services reported that Mr. Sata was sworn in to office on Friday. Zambia, a sparsely populated, copper-rich country in southern Africa, had been ruled by the same party for 20 years. But Mr. Sata, a former government minister who once worked as a railway porter and is popularly known as ‘King Cobra’ for his fierce tongue, tapped into anger about the deplorable conditions in Zambia’s Chinese-run mines. On Friday, he said, ‘Foreign investment is important to Zambia, and we will continue to work with foreign investors who are welcome in the country.’ But, he warned, ‘they need to adhere to the labor laws.’ Last year, Chinese managers opened fire on protesters at a huge coal mine in southern Zambia, and though the Zambian government initially indicated that the Chinese managers would be punished, the charges were quietly dropped. The shootings outraged many Zambians who resent China’s enormous economic influence over their country, where most people live on less than $5 a day, and the episode seemed to feed straight into Mr. Sata’s political campaign.”
Land Dispute Stirs Riots in Southern China “The violence was the latest outbreak of civil unrest in Chinafueled by popular discontent over industrial pollution, police misconduct or illegal land grabs that leave peasants with little or no compensation. Such “mass incidents,” as the government calls them, have been steadily increasing in recent years, providing party leaders with worrisome proof that official malfeasance combined with a dysfunctional judiciary often has combustible results. According to a recent study by two scholars at Nankai University, there were 90,000 such incidents in 2009, a figure that includes melees as well as mass petition campaigns by people seeking justice. Government censors often work hard to make sure such incidents stay off the Internet and out of newspapers.”
From Gandhi to Gatsby “In isolating these strains of misery, Deb is not unique; several journalists and commentators have previously dismissed the bluff cheer about India’s growth that has been peddled by authors like Thomas L. Friedman. The transformation of India has wrecked the lives of her farmers, has stoked people’s appetites for money and power and has ripped open fresh gulfs of inequity between her rich and her poor. But there is a nuance to even the direst of Deb’s pessimisms — an acknowledgment that India’s lives are newly precarious precisely because they could swing either the way of opportunity or the way of ruin.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Says He Will Abolish 2 Security Laws “The decision by Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia to abolish two controversial security laws that allow for detention without trial and to relax laws governing the media is an attempt to revive public support ahead of elections which many believe could be called by early next year, analysts said Friday.”
5 Central Banks Move to Supply Cash to Europe “The European Central Bank said it would allow banks to borrow dollars for up to three months, instead of just for one week as before, giving them breathing room for the rest of the year. The E.C.B. said it was acting in cooperation with the Federal Reserve of the United States, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank.”
Bipartisanship of the Wrong Kind “Some Democrats oppose the jobs bill for its apparent connection to the stimulus law from 2009, which Republicans lambasted on their way to victories in the midterm elections in 2010. The problem with the stimulus bill is not that it did not work. The problem is that neither the administration nor Congressional Democrats ever persuasively used the evidence of its positive effect on jobs, as documented by the Congressional Budget Office and in private economic analyses. The last thing Democrats should do now is repeat that mistake, cowing in the face of Republican tirades against government help. Economists have estimated that Mr. Obama’s plan, if fully adopted, could create 1.3 million to 1.9 million jobs next year. Despite poll after poll showing that Americans support tax increases on the wealthy, Democrats have failed to act. In 2010, with majorities in both houses of Congress, they did not even vote on letting President Bush’s high-end tax cuts expire.”
Free to Die “In the past, conservatives accepted the need for a government-provided safety net on humanitarian grounds. Don’t take it from me, take it from Friedrich Hayek, the conservative intellectual hero, who specifically declared in ‘The Road to Serfdom’ his support for ‘a comprehensive system of social insurance” to protect citizens against “the common hazards of life,’ and singled out health in particular. Given the agreed-upon desirability of protecting citizens against the worst, the question then became one of costs and benefits — and health care was one of those areas where even conservatives used to be willing to accept government intervention in the name of compassion, given the clear evidence that covering the uninsured would not, in fact, cost very much money. As many observers have pointed out, the Obama health care plan was largely based on past Republican plans, and is virtually identical to Mitt Romney’s health reform in Massachusetts. Now, however, compassion is out of fashion — indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the G.O.P.’s base. And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we’ve had for the past three generations — that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the “common hazards of life” through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Poor Models. Seriously. “The truth is, modeling epitomizes the kind of precarious job that, since the 1990s, has been spreading from the informal labor market into traditionally more secure workplaces, like the retail and service industries and my own occupational home, the university, where contracted adjunct instructors are replacing tenure-track professor lines.”
Apple Has Opened a New iPad Factory in Brazil “The Junai, Brazil factory was made possible through a partnership between China-based Apple manufacturer Foxconn and the Brazilian government. It was rumored back in April that Foxconn would invest $12 million in a plant in Brazil, money that would be spent on number of related costs including facilities, financing, taxes, broadband infrastructure, and other incidentals like improving roads in the area. MacStories cited another report from June that claimed Foxconn had hired 175 engineers and sent them to China for training. Foxconn had reportedly aimed to kick off production in South America by November, but it appears the project has been completed ahead of time. ”
South Korean Family Conglomerates Pressured “While struggling to rebuild the economy after the 1950-53 Korean War, the military dictators of South Korea favored a handful of families with tax benefits, special loans, anti-labor policies, cheap electricity and other subsidies. They grew into industrial giants, each commanding a fleet of subsidiaries. The policy also left South Koreans with a belief that they had participated in and made sacrifices for the achievements of the chaebol, said Mr. Kim of the Corea Institute. Today, conglomerates like Samsung, Hyundai and LG ship more than 70 percent of the country’s exports, which in turn account for half its gross domestic product. They also dominate domestic markets for cars, TV sets, credit cards and cellphones.”
House Is Expected to Pass Bill Aiding New Boeing Plant “Mr. Solomon issued a statement Wednesday, saying his decision to issue a complaint against Boeing ‘was based on a careful investigation and a review of the facts under longstanding federal labor law.’ ‘The decision had absolutely nothing to do with political considerations, and there were no consultations with the White House,’ he said. ‘Regrettably, some have chosen to insert politics into what should be a straightforward legal procedure. These continuing political attacks are baseless and unprecedented and take the focus away from where it belongs — the ongoing trial in Seattle.’ To prove that Boeing’s decision to assemble the 787 Dreamliners in South Carolina was retaliation, Mr. Solomon pointed to statements by top Boeing executives saying their dismay about past strikes was motivating them to open the production line in North Charleston. But Boeing officials say low costs were the reason they located the plant in South Carolina. Some assembly began there this summer. Richard L. Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s president, said the Republican bill was ‘sleazy legislation,’ and added, ‘This is sweeping legislation that would gut the National Labor Relations Act and result in serious harmful changes to workers’ rights throughout the country.’ He said that if the bill passed, the labor board would be powerless to stop an employer from moving an operation to punish workers who staged a protest against unsafe conditions or sexual or racial discrimination. Republicans have voiced confidence that the bill will pass the House, which they dominate. But Bill Samuel, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s legislative director, said defeat of the bill was possible, although he said the bill’s chances were not good in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has strongly backed the bill. ‘No government board should have the authority to dictate where a private employer can run a business,’ he said. But Representative George Miller of California, the committee’s senior Democrat, said the bill was ‘the Outsourcers’ Bill of Rights.’ He said that Republicans were pushing the bill ‘to change the rules midtrial on behalf of one Fortune 500 company.’”
ITUA starts a campaign against precarious work in Russia “On August 29 the Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA) rallied in front of the office of the employment agency Adecco in Kaluga, Russia. The action marked the beginning of the union campaign against precarious work.”
Hanjin workers and KMWU continue fight “Hanjin Heavy Industries insists on dismissals in breach of contract, despite huge company profits and payment of generous dividends and bonuses to owners and senior company executives. KMWU continues its fight to protect the interests of workers. A Hope Bus Rally is planned in Seoul on August 27 to 28 under the theme “Another World is Possible!”
Maruti-Suzuki workers in India fight for their union “From August 29 the management of Maruti-Suzuki India at Manesar asks workers to sign a “good conduct” pledge before allowing them to enter the plant, in effect locking out workers who refuse to give up their labour rights. Since then the management terminated 23 workers and suspended 34 on charges of misconduct and instigating workers to stop production.”
IMF unions demand fair trade in Trans-Pacific agreement “IMF affiliates from countries in Asia-Pacific and the Americas met in Geneva on August 29 to discuss the ongoing negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. A joint trade union strategy was defined to make the creation of quality jobs and the promotion of fundamental labour standards an explicit goal of the agreement.”
Global Unions demand policy change in finance institutions “With the prospect of several millions more job losses in a new worldwide economic downturn, the Global Unions urge the financial institutions and G20 group of countries to put a halt to their ‘destructive and ultimately self-defeating economic policies that will lead to a new surge of global unemployment’.”
Vietnam Accused of Abusing Drug Addicts “The Vietnamese government calls it labor therapy, a program to move drug addicts off the streets and into treatment centers, where they process cashew nuts, sew garments, weave baskets — any work that might help them get back on their feet. But a report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch says that labor therapy is nothing more than sweatshop servitude in the guise of a social program. Drug addicts are paid little or nothing for their work and are subject to beatings with truncheons, electric shocks and solitary confinement, says the report, which was based on interviews with 34 people who were detained as part of the program. Some of the products made in the treatment centers are destined for export to the United States and Europe. ‘Forced labor and physical abuse are not an adjunct to drug dependency treatment in Vietnam,’ the report says. ‘Rather, they are central to how the centers operate.’ Vietnam, like many other countries in East Asia, uses a special administrative system for people who are accused of being drug addicts that is separate from the criminal courts. Addicts are sent, often by the police, to rehabilitation centers rather than to jail. That is the theory, at least. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, who oversees the centers as the minister of labor, invalids and social affairs, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment about the Human Rights Watch report. But Vietnamese government documents in recent years have promoted the system as a way for addicts, many of them heroin users, to restore their dignity and learn the value of work. The camps, which have their roots in a re-education system established by Hanoi after the South Vietnamese government fell in 1975, have been judged a success by the government, and over the past decade the number of drug rehabilitation centers has more than doubled, to 123. At the start of this year, the Labor Ministry reported that the centers held about 40,000 people. The government has extended the maximum time that addicts can spend in the camps to four years from one year. Human Rights Watch says the system has turned into a profit-making network of de facto factories. The centers are given tax exemptions for the goods they produce and are expected to be self-financing. The focus of the centers is to make money, not to treat drug addiction, the report says. Relapse rates, it notes, are often above 80 percent. The report quotes one former detainee as saying that the only attempt at rehabilitation was marching and chanting slogans like ‘Try your best to quit drugs!’ In the generally opaque world of Vietnamese manufacturing, with layers of contractors and subcontractors, some foreign companies have discovered that their products have been created by the detainees in these centers. One center produced mosquito nets for a Swiss company, Vestergaard Frandsen. Detainees in another center sewed jacket liners destined for Columbia Sportswear, an American company. The detention center’s involvement was a “surprise to us,” Peter Bragdon, senior vice president for legal and corporate affairs at Columbia Sportswear, said in a telephone interview. Mr. Bragdon said a contractor had subcontracted the work to the rehabilitation center. The company has stopped doing business with the contractor, he said, and plans to give the 847 pieces stitched by the detainees to charity. ‘Involuntary labor of any kind is unacceptable to us,’ Mr. Bragdon said.”
In Italian Heartland, Indians Keep the Cheese Coming “Nearly 16,000 Indian immigrants are legally employed in agriculture in Italy, with the Lazio region becoming the newest pole of immigration, especially for seasonal workers. “You only have to travel 100 kilometers from Rome to discover a world most people don’t even know exists,” said Patrizia Santangelo, a filmmaker whose documentary about the Sikh community in the province of Latina, ‘Visit India,’ is to have its premiere in October. Ms. Santangelo’s documentary exposes some of the exploitation that many immigrant workers are subject to, regardless of their provenance. ‘They often live in camps, like homeless people, and can get paid low wages, 2 to 4 euros an hour for 12-hour days,’ she said. ‘But what struck me is that even though the live in difficult conditions, the Indian workers are still able to see the positive side of situations.’ In the north, life seems less harsh, at least on the surface. Many of the Indian immigrants have become Italian citizens. Many have bought homes and settled their families here. According to the national statistics agency, about 40 percent of all Indian immigrants to Italy are women, but only a small percentage have jobs. In the case of Pessina Cremonese, concerns about their isolation have been sporadically addressed with Italian lessons and work-training programs, and labor unions have offered similar programs in other towns. Many of the Indian immigrants have also raised children in Italy, who imagine a different future. ‘They work hard at school; they’re not spoiled like our kids,’ said Gianluigi Fiamenghi, who employs seven Indian workers on his dairy farm of 1,700 cows. ‘And their children won’t want to work on a farm, they’ll go to university and want to get ahead.’ One of Mr. Fiamenghi’s workers, Prem Singh, moved to Italy in 1995, and many of his relatives followed. He and his wife are raising three children now in primary school. ‘They feel more Italian than Indian,’ he said, adding that he had no plans to return to his native land. ‘We’ve put down our roots here. It’s our home, and that’s that.’”
China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise “Maybe more important, the nature of 21st-century competition favors the United States. In the 20th century, we measured a nation’s wealth primarily by its natural resources, its land mass, its population and its army. In the 21st century, the true wealth of a nation is found in the creative minds of its people and their ability to innovate. As I told students in Chengdu, the United States is hard-wired for innovation. Competition is in the very fabric of our society. It has enabled each generation of Americans to give life to world-changing ideas — from the cotton gin to the airplane, the microchip, the Internet. We owe our strength to our political and economic system and to the way we educate our children — not merely to accept established orthodoxy but to challenge and improve it. We not only tolerate but celebrate free expression and vigorous debate. The rule of law protects private property, lends predictability to investments, and ensures accountability for poor and wealthy alike. Our universities remain the ultimate destination for the world’s students and scholars. And we welcome immigrants with skill, ambition and the desire to better their lives. America’s strengths are, for now, China’s weaknesses. In China, I argued that for it to make the transition to an innovation economy, it will have to open its system, not least to human rights. Fundamental rights are universal, and China’s people aspire to them. Liberty unlocks a people’s full potential, while its absence breeds unrest. Open and free societies are best at promoting long-term growth, stability, prosperity and innovation. We have our own work to do. We need to ensure that any American willing to work can find a good job. We need to keep attracting the world’s top talent. We must continue to invest in the fundamental sources of our strength: education, infrastructure and innovation. But our future is in our own hands. If we take bold steps, there is no reason America won’t emerge stronger than ever.”
Saab Files for Court Protection While It Awaits Chinese Cash “Faced with uncertain prospects for recovery, Saab’s employees are growing increasingly anxious. They have not been paid for August, and were paid late for both June and July. Unions have been considering a legal challenge that could have led the company into bankruptcy. As part of the three-month reorganization plan, Saab’s court-appointed administrator will ask the Swedish government to guarantee that all Saab Automobile employees be paid, though the company will have to repay the state. The company also said it hoped to gain the support of creditors for its plan, as it is aiming to fully reimburse them. Unions said the company’s maneuver would forestall their legal action. ‘The decision to seek reorganization can be a positive solution for Saab,’ Stefan Lofven, an IF Metall union spokesman, said in a statement. He called on the court to deal swiftly with the company’s application ‘so union members can get a quick decision on whether they will be paid under the state guarantee.’ Saab has signed what it called “binding agreements” with two Chinese partners this year, but said it had not yet received any of the promised investments. Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile agreed in June to pay 136 million euros ($191 million) for a 29.9 percent stake in Swedish Automobile. Pang Da Automobile Trade said in May that it would pay 109 million euros for 24 percent of Swedish Automobile. Saab said that the Chinese deals remained ‘subject to obtaining certain approvals.’ It did not elaborate, but Chinese companies investing abroad must first obtain the approval of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, something that has not yet been forthcoming. A previous deal with another Chinese company, Hawtai Motor, foundered after it was denied approval. Both Chinese companies support the filing, Victor Muller, chief executive of both Saab and the parent company, said in the statement.
U.N. Body Warns of Risks of Global Austerity “‘Making balanced budgets or low public debt an end in itself,’ the report said, ‘can be detrimental to achieving other goals of economic policy, namely high employment and socially acceptable income distribution.’ The report said Western governments should instead be more strictly regulating financial markets, promoting wage increases that will stimulate spending and returning to managed exchange rates and other measures that decrease speculation. ‘Domestic consumption remains weak owing to persistently high unemployment and slow or stagnant wage growth,’ said the report. The report said that the global economy was expected to grow by only 3.1 percent this year, compared with 3.9 percent in 2010, and that developing nations, particularly economically dynamic ones like Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey, would grow at a far higher rate than the developed Western nations. ‘Unemployment depends very much on demand,’ said Heiner Flassbeck, the lead author of the report and the chief of globalization and trade strategies for Unctad. ‘If you have no demand, then you need government to step in with a huge program for stimulating the economy,’ Mr. Flassbeck, a former deputy finance minister in Germany, told reporters, according to Reuters. ‘This was the U.S. scenario in the past,’ he said. ‘Now it’s worse because wages are rising less than in the past, so you’re going to need a bigger stimulus program.’”
Italian unions mobilize against austerity plan “The Italian metalworkers’ unions, FIOM, FIM and UILM mobilize against the government’s plans for cuts and retrenchments, that disproportionally hit workers and pensioners, while protecting the wealthy, overpaid politicians and high-ranking state officials. Sit-ins, rallies and a 8 hour general strike are planned for September 1-6.”
Italian Workers Strike Against Austerity Measures “Most significantly, the latest incarnation of the austerity package would change Italian labor law to allow businesses to bypass national labor contracts, making it easier to hire and fire workers — a move that economists say is crucial for making the Italian economy more flexible but that labor unions vehemently oppose.”
From a Summer Focused on the Debt, Congress Now Pivots to Jobs “Democrats are waiting to see what they can convert from Mr. Obama’s speech into legislation, but are focused on things like a payroll tax cut, which they may offer outside the forum of the bipartisan Congressional committee, and perhaps an infrastructure bank that would turn seed money into investments for new projects. Democrats would also like to see tax credits for clean manufacturers renewed. Mr. Cantor said there were areas both sides agreed upon, as he and Speaker John A. Boehner outlined in a letter to Mr. Obama. ‘We believe in infrastructure spending,” he said. “We know that our roads and bridges and highway networks are in need of repair and we know that there are certain areas of the country that need additional roads.’ Mr. Cantor also said that he believed Americans were looking for the end of rancor in Congressional policy debates. ‘I don’t question the president’s motives or his commitment to country now,’ he said, adding, ‘Plain and simple, my point is that good people can disagree.’