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Eight biggest workers’ stories from around the world in 2015

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By Martin Watters

Friday, 01 January 2016

IT’S been a turbulent, challenging and inspiring year for workers around the world.

From fights for workers rights, elections and controversy, Working Life has covered it all.

Here’s a look back at the biggest headlines for this year.

 

1. After Paris terror, world agrees on climate

Just weeks after a shocking terrorist attack on the streets of Paris in November, leaders from across the world came together in mid-December to discuss what action to take on climate change.

Gone was the usual debate about the science, this time delegates focused on how best to deal with catastrophic global warming, and unions had their part to play.

There was some unhelpful efforts from Australia, yet all 195 countries settled on a UN agreement, they had a deal.

But despite the diplomats rejoicing in Paris, workers and civil rights groups lamented the protections that were omitted and scientists questioned if it was enough. Working Life was on the ground in Paris, check out our verdict here.

 

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2. Greece crisis takes Europe to the brink

Tear gas and molotov cocktails punctuated protests outside Greece’s parliament in July. Public anger was boiling over after Greece agreed to a debt deal that would lock in yet more crippling austerity.

Since coming to power in a wave of optimism, Greece’s Syriza government had halted or reversed many austerity measures dictated by Europe. But Greece’s finances were veering dangerously close to collapse and Eurozone leaders forced the left-wing Greek government to accept a $127 billion “toxic” deal that punished ordinary Greeks the most.

The deal didn’t prevent Syriza winning a follow-up election in September.

 

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3. Secret TPP deal invokes fear

This year one of the most “ambitious” international trade deals was attempted in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Ambitious in the scope of how much corporations have been able to influence governments to further their interests in the name of free trade. Twelve countries including Australia have agreed to the controversial TPP deal that was negotiated in secret.

Some of the major criticisms include: opening the door to legal action from corporations against sovereign countries if they don’t get their way, weakening of labour and environmental standards and making common medicines more expensive. Check out the five reasons why it’s a sh*t sandwich.

 

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4. Corbynmania sweeps Tory-ravaged Britain

Pundits predicted a close call for the UK election, but no-one was able to foresee the whopping poll success of David Cameron and the Tories.

Britain was already feeling the effects of “worse-than-Thatcher-Thatcherism” but without the Lib Dem Coalition, the Tories embarked on more cuts of further heartlessness.

With Labour in disarray, stalwart left-wing backbencher Jeremy Corbyn amazingly captured the zeitgeist to swept to win the party’s leadership.

Check out exactly how Corbynmania swept Britain here.

 

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5. Worst 10 countries for workers named

In June the world’s 10 worst places in which to be worker were named in the International Trade Union Confederation’s global ranking. Check out the full report here.

China was ranked alongside Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and the United Arab Emirates as the very worst.

While falling outside the top 10, Burundi, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Iran, Georgia, Russia, United Kingdom and Spain were all noted for deteriorating conditions for workers over the past year.

Meanwhile in Bangladesh and just days out from the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, some of the world’s biggest clothing brands were accused of failing to deliver full compensation for the victims.

 

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6. World Cup host slammed for labour laws

One of those worst countries for workers, Qatar, continued to make headlines for its shocking treatment of the migrants labourers working to build stuff for the 2022 World Cup.

In May global unions launched a campaign urging big-name FIFA sponsors to pressure Qatar into improving conditions for the foreign workers.

During the year FIFA itself was investigated, drawing Qatar’s bid into contention.

Finally in December, it was revealed up to 7000 workers migrant workers are estimated die while companies make $15 billion in profits in the lead up to the country’s hosting of the football tournament.

 

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7. Big ideas win big

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, there was big wins for workers globally.

Firstly the anti-austerity movement gathered pace in Europe, in countries like Ireland and later in Spain where left-wing parties such as the newcomers Podemos polled well in the country’s elections.

In October, a campaigner dedicated to improving the lot of exploited garment workers in Bangladesh received one of the highest honours recognising individuals who defend human rights against the odds.

Founder and President of the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh, Amirul Haque was awarded the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award.

The same month, the little known Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Check out Sharan Burrow’s take on the group that brought together people across Tunisian society, from trade unions, employers, human rights groups and lawyers to forge a peaceful democratic transition.

 

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8. Workers celebrate where it all started

Finally, in a small village in rural England workers gathered to mark the anniversary of where the modern union movement began.

Entertained by the likes of Billy Bragg, unions rallied at Tolpuddle to celebrate the legacy of the town’s “martyrs” who were sent to the penal colonies of Australia for forming the first trade union.

The annual festival was especially poignant for UK unions who were facing the “biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years” announced just two days prior by the Tory government.

 

Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.

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Comments

  1. Cassandra
    Saturday, 2 January, 2016 at 7:29 pm · Reply

    Re Item 8 above:
    The annual festival was especially poignant for UK unions who were facing the “biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years” announced just two days prior by the Tory government.

    After reading the link there can be absolutely no doubt where the Turnbull Government is getting its anti union ideas from and we can be sure that if re-elected this is just the sort of legislation that we will face here.

    In short it will not be illegal to belong to a Union (as it was for the Tolpuddle Martyr’s) but it will be illegal for any union member to take any action to defend their rights or the rights of others.

    This legislation is not only a clear breach of the United Nations convention on human rights but is also an attack on the very society that we in the union movement have created. What next – only the rich and land holders being allowed to vote?


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