Asia-Pacific workers demand for higher wages, employment in Labor Day celebration

13:32, May 02, 2010      

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International Labor Day, also known as the May Day, have seen tens of thousands of workers around the Asia-Pacific region staging rallies to demand for higher wages and better employment opportunities Saturday.

Thousands of workers from several labor unions in China's Hong Kong SAR joined the Labor Day processions in the city, to demand for early passage of minimum wage legislation and improvement of employment situation in the near term.

Labor unions from trade, construction, transportation, communications and other sectors all took part in the Labor Day march on Saturday morning, held by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, the largest labor union in the city.

The federation estimated over 2,000 workers took part in the march. The workers marched to the headquarters of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and handed in a letter to government officials.

The workers demanded the legislation of minimum wage to be passed as soon as possible, and urged the authority to set the hourly minimum wage at 33 HK dollars (about 4.3 U.S. dollars).

Ng Chau-pei, the chairman of the federation said workers demanded a share to enjoy the continuing economic recovery from the global financial turmoil, and 33 HK dollars should be a reasonable minimum level to sustain a living in the city.

The Hong Kong government announced on April 20 that the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in the first quarter this year, the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2008.

Falls in the unemployment rate were mainly seen in the insurance, arts, entertainment and recreation, and information and communications sectors.

Yet the unemployment rate for the construction sector rose to 8 percent, and that for young people aged 15 to 19 grew to 18.2 percent, due to the seasonal fluctuation which resulted in a reduced number of seasonal jobs after the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

In the Philippines, job fairs were held in various parts of the country on Saturday to bring chances of better life for unemployed workers.

In Metro Manila, job seekers trooped to the SM Mall of Asia to apply for over 100,000 local and overseas jobs offered by 150 employers.

Similar job fairs were also held in other cities on the Labor Day.

In the western Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rezal and Quezon provinces, the Department of Labor and Employment organized job fairs offering 15,000 job vacancies in total. Unemployed individuals, especially those affected by last year's typhoons, were on the priority list.

The unemployment rate in the Philippines hit 7.5 percent in 2009.

Over 10,000 Indonesian workers Saturday staged peaceful protests in roundabout of Jakarta 's Hotel Indonesia and the presidential palace to present their demand to the government.

The protesters, following organizers from several labor organizations, were coming and gathering from factories around the capital city of Jakarta with buses and motors since Saturday morning. They carried banners and flags, demanding the government lift labor welfare and strike corruption.

Some protesters criticized the government's policy that they said of siding up the interest of capitalists instead of addressing the labor welfare issue.

Chanting on their demands, the protesters, who gathered in the Hotel Indonesia roundabout and were led by a number of trucks loaded with loudspeakers and drums, marched down to the presidential palace where thousands of others already waited there since the morning.

The protesters had minor clashes with police in front of the presidential palace when some of them tried to burn down the effigies of Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani whom they accused of committed in graft cases that cost the state trillions of rupiah.

"As we see now, the protest is still in peace in general. They were just only convey what they want about the future of labor prosperity," Colonel Boy Rafli Amar, the Jakarta Police Headquarters spokesman told Xinhua.

He said that at least 10,000 labors took part in the May Day protest in Jakarta, and the police have deployed 15,000 policemen in several locations in the city to monitor the protests.

Similar labor protests were conducted simultaneously in other major cities across the country, such as in Semarang, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Bandung.

The protests that were conducted in front of provincial administration buildings in those cities ended peacefully after representatives of the protesters read out their demands to the officials in charge of the buildings.

The labors demanded the regional government amend the existing regional labor regulations to improve their welfare by raising their wages to let them afford to support their families.

The International Labor Day was also marked all over Nepal with various programs on Saturday.

Various political parties, their affiliated organizations, trade unions, labor unions from hotel and factories were celebrating the May Day as a landmark for the establishment of their rights.

On the occasion, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal extended his best wishes to all the laborers and expressed his belief that this May Day will be successful in establishing the right of the ordinary people.

Similarly, Acting President of Nepali Congress Shusil Koirala extended his best wishes on the occasion and hoped that the day would help solve the problems of Nepali labors and ensure their rights.

In Timor-Leste, its Labor Union (KSTL) Saturday demanded the government to amend the labor regulation set by United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), saying its minimum wage regulation cannot afford to finance the life of labors.

The demand was conveyed by KSTL spokesperson Carolino Marques at a press conference to commemorate the International Labor Day held in Lesidera.

The labors demanded the government to replace the existing labor regulation with the one drafted by the Timor-Leste government itself.

"We want the government to amend the regulation No. 5/2002 on minimum labor wages set by UNTAET since it is no longer afford to finance our families," Carolino said.

Carolino said that the regulation set minimum labor wage at 85 U.S. dollars per month, an amount that is hardly able to cover the monthly needs of a labor's family.

The KSTL spokesperson said that the government also needs to issue regulation on overtime payment as many companies operating in the country were yet to pay the overtime payment for workers who work more than 8 hours in a day.

The KSTL also demanded the government to open more jobs for the youths, many of whom were still left unemployed.

Responding to the labors' demand, Timor-Leste secretary for labor affairs, Benditu Dos Santos Freitas, said that the government is drafting a labor law that would provide minimum wage of 200 U.S. dollars per month.

The draft law is being discussed in the parliament at the moment, Benditu said. He added that after the draft law is enacted by the parliament, each firm operating in the country will be obliged to abide by the law immediately.

Any company found of violating the law will be fined ranging from 100-1,000 U.S. dollars, depending on the company's size.

Speaking at a May Day rally, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that more than 100,000 new jobs will be created if the city state's economy grows by seven to nine percent this year.

Singaporeans will take up many of these jobs, but some proportion will be filled by foreigners on employment or work passes, he said.

In his opinion, the two integrated resorts in the Sentosa Island and the Marina Bay are a major boost to Singapore's economy.

Lee also announced that the employer's contribution to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), a national pension fund, will go up by one percent to 15.5 percent. This will bring the overall contribution rate to 35.5 percent. The adjustment brings the CPF contribution rate closer to the target of 36 percent.

A good sign was seen in Pakistan when the country's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced a minimum 7,000 rupees ( about 83 U.S.dollars) salary for laborers and a policy aiming at transforming the lives of working class for a better future.

The new policy was approved by the federal cabinet on Saturday, the Labor Day.

The policy hikes minimum wages of the laborers from existing 6, 000 rupees (about 71 dollars) per month to 7,000 rupees. Committees will be formed on both federal and provincial levels to implement labor laws.

Gilani said that the government was regularizing all contract employees, providing social security to retired registered workers and giving financial relief to sacked employees. This policy will come into effect from June 1, 2010.

The federal cabinet in its meeting also decided to bring to an end the practice of forced labor.

Laws and acts regarding labors rights' protections already exist in Pakistan but it has so far failed to translate good intentions of the authorities into reality.

Labors exploitations, bondage labor, forced labor and child labor are still in vogue in the country.

Meanwhile, countrywide demonstrations and seminars were held in Pakistan on the International Labor Day by the labor unions and civil society members to show solidarity with world labors and to commemorate this historical day.

Source: Xinhua


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