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This column is dedicated to spreading the truth about the labor resistance that is unfolding today. It seeks to give voice to those engaged in battle and help build solidarity. Its success depends on input from readers. If you are involved in a labor struggle or have information on one, please contact me at 306 W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018; or (212) 244-4899; or firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll work together to ensure your story is told.
— Maggie Trowe
Locked-out British Columbia rail workers keep up fight for safety
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Rail workers locked out since Jan. 5 by Southern Railway of British Columbia are standing strong against company efforts to weaken their fight.
The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled Jan. 23 against broadening the limits on picketing demanded by the company, Bill Magri, president of the 126-member Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 7000, told the Militant.
Southern Railway is attempting to operate with replacement workers, but the union won rulings by the British Columbia Labour Relations Board, the latest Jan. 23, disallowing half a dozen from working.
The lockout is having an impact on the company and its customers. The railway has stopped servicing the big grain merchant Parrish & Heimbecker, said Magri. “Catalyst Paper, which ships to the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, is not getting the number of carloads they usually get,” he said. “Any paper they can’t get out on a box car has to be trucked,” which is more expensive.
The issue of fatigue as a result of forced overtime is central to the fight. Rail workers on the picket line in nearby Abbotsford said one worker didn’t have a day off in two months last summer.
“Before a day off, workers are notified that they have to come to work,” said Magri. “The company doesn’t care. They tell workers you can work for the railway or you can have a life.”
The unionists are closely monitoring managers doing their work, noting any safety infractions. A large photograph of a manager working without proper safety equipment hangs in the New Westminster picket tent.
— Mike Barker and Ned Dmytryshyn
Turkish metalworkers protest government order to end strike
Some 15,000 metalworkers, members of the United Metal Workers Union at 22 factories in 10 Turkish provinces, went on strike Jan. 29 for better wages, a shorter contract and safer working conditions. They are affiliated with the Progressive Confederation of Trade Unions (DISK).
On the first day of the walkout, however, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a cabinet decree postponing the strike for 60 days, citing a threat to “national security.” Turkish labor law authorizes such an action, which is in fact a ban, because the dispute must be settled by the government’s High Board of Arbitration after 60 days.
The coercive action didn’t sit well with metalworkers at two plants in Istanbul. At the Ejot Tezmak plant and the Paksan auto parts factory the workers delayed resuming production when they went back. “The right to strike is protected by the Turkish Constitution,” DISK General Secretary Arzu Cerkezoglu said in a press statement Jan. 30. “We will fight back!”
This is not the first time the government has ended a strike. In June a strike by glass workers was banned under the same law.
Last fall, during contract negotiations between metal bosses and the union, thousands of workers and their families demonstrated in a number of cities across Turkey.
— Yasemin Aydinoglu
18,000 Kaiser nurses in California win pay raise, increased staffing
SAN FRANCISCO — Nurses at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics voted overwhelmingly at membership meetings across Northern and Central California Jan. 20-23 to approve a three-year contract that includes a 14 percent pay increase and the company’s assent to add 540 nursing positions.
During a two-day strike in November, some 18,000 nurses, members of the California Nurses Association, put a spotlight on the high patient-to-nurse ratio at Kaiser clinics and hospitals.
The union demanded that more nurses be hired to address chronic understaffing and to help meet the needs of additional patients signed up under the Affordable Care Act.
The contract includes improved safety standards in treating patients with Ebola and other infectious diseases, another issue raised by nurses during the two-day strike.
“We are relieved, happy and proud of what we accomplished,” labor and delivery nurse Edie Stone, who walked the picket lines in South Sacramento, told the Militant.
— Betsey Stone