2021 will not be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the year of action (or inaction) on the climate crisis.

The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5° C and to restore nature.[1]

There’s no doubt that for most people 2021 is the second year of the great pandemic, and for many it has been much, much worse than 2020. It’s the year of Delta and Delta-plus, and possibly soon the new variant Mu. So it might be hard to imagine why the climate crisis could be more important in 2021 than the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet 228 international medical journals will simultaneously publish an editorial this week saying exactly that.

The unprecedented editorial in these medical journals is aimed at the UN General Assembly which opens on 14 September 2021 that will discuss the need for collective action on climate change. This will be followed by the UN Biodiversity Conference [COP15] on October 11-15, 2021 and the UN Climate Change Conference [COP26] on 1-12 November 2021.

The sense of urgency is heightened by the report to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPPC] released in early August.[2] The report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis runs to over 3,900 pages. There are summaries, and summaries of summaries, for policy-makers. And there are Tweet-length explanations for them too. What it all says is clear enough.

Human activities have contributed to global climate change, including extreme weather, rising sea levels and rising surface temperatures. Hot extremes, including heatwaves, have become more frequent and more intense. Human-induced climate change has contributed to increases in agricultural and ecological droughts.

The evidence of this is visible. There were devastating  heat waves, wildfires and droughts in several countries this year and it’s far from over.

What is also clear from the IPCC report is that we’re at a critical juncture. We’re about to exceed the internationally agreed 1.5 ºC limit on rising global temperatures.[3] The report determined that we could pass this 1.5°C limit between 2030 and 2035.

What this means for human health is made clear in the editorial of the medical journals:

The risks to health of increases above 1.5° C are now well established. Indeed, no temperature rise is “safe.” In the past 20 years, heat-related mortality among people over 65 years of age has increased by more than 50%. Higher temperatures have brought increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality. Harms disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children, older populations, ethnic minorities, poorer communities, and those with underlying health problems.
Also clear is the impact on food and nutrition and the ongoing pandemic of undernutrition:
Global heating is also contributing to the decline in global yield potential for major crops, which has fallen by 1.8 to 5.6% since 1981; this decline, together with the effects of extreme weather and soil depletion, is hampering efforts to reduce undernutrition. Thriving ecosystems are essential to human health, and the widespread destruction of nature, including habitats and species, is eroding water and food security and increasing the chance of pandemics.

Even in the best possible scenario explored in the IPCC report we’ll still pass this 1.5°C limit. So no more talking, no more voluntary carbon emissions levels, no more ‘let’s wait and see’. We’ll see nothing through the fires, haze, heat exhaustion, and hunger. It’s time for action.

That’s why the 228 international medical journals are calling for urgent action by governments, pointing out (again) that the climate crisis is also an urgent global health crisis. And they say it very clearly:
Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world. We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course.

So 2021 will be remembered as the year that the world changed course and averted a global ecological and health catastrophe. Or didn’t. It can’t get much clearer than that.

Hidayat Greenfield, Regional Secretary

Notes

[1] Call for Emergency Action to Limit Global Temperature Increases, Restore Biodiversity, and Protect Health, a joint editorial of 228 international medical journals. This is published online here in The New England Journal of Medicine.

[2] The report is the Working Group I (WGI) contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (APR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

[3] In 2009 more than a hundred Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries called to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels to prevent the worst of climate change impacts. This 1.5°C temperature limit was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement. In 2018, the IPCC published a report called Global Warming of 1.5 ºC which explained the climate impacts at 1.5°C of warming and why it is a critical limit we should not pass. A global increase in the earth’s surface temperature of more than 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels will have devastating and irreversible effects on the environment, food supply and human health.

 

 

International Day of Democracy 2021 posters: Accor and Hilton must stop financing Myanmar’s military junta

International Day of Democracy 2021 posters: Accor and Hilton must stop financing Myanmar’s military junta

Posters in English, Japanese, Thai, Khmer, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, Urdu, Bengali and Myanmar languages.

Posters in PDF

Englishဗမာဘာသာစကား Myanmar日本語 Japaneseภาษาไทย Thaiភាសាខ្មែរ KhmerBahasa Indonesiaहिन्दी Hindi繁體字 Chineseবাংলা Bengaliاردو Urdu

See The military coup in Myanmar is business as usual for Accor [3 Feb 2021] and “Hilton Hotels Corp and PTT Oil and Retail (PTTOR) in business with Myanmar military cartel”, Justice for Myanmar, 3 March 2021.

International Day of Democracy 2021 posters: the UN must reject Myanmar’s military junta

International Day of Democracy 2021 posters: the UN must reject Myanmar’s military junta

Posters in English, Dhivehi, Japanese, Thai, Khmer, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, Urdu, Bengali and Myanmar languages.

Posters in PDF

Englishဗမာဘာသာစကား Myanmarދިވެހ Dhivehi日本語 Japaneseภาษาไทย Thaiភាសាខ្មែរ KhmerBahasa Indonesiaहिन्दी Hindi繁體字 Chineseবাংলা Bengaliاردو Urdu

See trade unions call on UN to reject Myanmar’s military government in lead-up to the International Day of Democracy 2021[26 Aug 2021]

trade unions call on UN to reject Myanmar’s military government in lead-up to the International Day of Democracy 2021

trade unions call on UN to reject Myanmar’s military government in lead-up to the International Day of Democracy 2021

15 September was designated as the International Day of Democracy by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, which passed a resolution encouraging governments to strengthen and consolidate democracy. In particular the reference was made to Article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

In the lead up to the International Day of Democracy 2021, trade unions are mobilizing internationally to call on the United Nations General Assembly to support democracy in Myanmar when the 76th session opens on 14 September.

In the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly the military State Administration Council (SAC) will try to get recognition as the legitimate government of Myanmar. The 193 member states of the United Nations must overwhelmingly reject any recognition of the military government.

The government representatives to the United Nations General Assembly must be consistent with its previous decisions. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on 18 June 2021 condemning the violent repression by the military in Myanmar. Only one country – the brutally oppressive regime of Belarus – voted against the resolution.

The government representatives to the United Nations General Assembly must also recall the resolution passed by the International Labour Conference on 19 June 2021.

Trade unions in Myanmar and internationally are calling on the United Nations General Assembly to recognize the National Unity Government (NUG) as the democratic government of Myanmar and as its legitimate representative in the United Nations system. This occurs in a context where the National Unity Government adopted the Federal Democracy Charter in April which states in its goal and objectives in Chapter 1:

To bring an end to the conflicts and problematic root causes in the Union, to ensure all ethnic nationalities – population can participate and collaborate and to build a prosperous Federal Democracy
Union where all citizens can live peacefully, share the common destiny and live harmoniously together; a Federal Democracy Union where democracy is exercised and equal rights and self-determination are
guaranteed, all ethnic nationalities of the Union, all citizens enjoy mutual recognition and respect, mutual friendship and support and solidarity based on freedom, equality and justice, we intend to carry out the following activities:
1. Eradication of dictatorship;
2. Ultimate Abolishment of 2008 Constitution;
3. Building Federal Democracy Union; and
4. Emergence of Public Government.

This is based on acknowledgement of the failures of the past and a commitment to full recognition of the rights of all ethnic groups and an end to the persecution of the Rohingya people. If the National Unity Government (NUG) fulfills this commitment then it is the basis for restoring the path democratic transition in Myanmar.

In the lead-up to the International Day of Democracy 2021, trade unions will call on all governments to ensure that the United Nations General Assembly lives up to the principles of freedom and democracy by rejecting the military State Administration Council (SAC) and recognizing the National Unity Government (NUG).

Click here to download the PDF File

Disguised employment at Lipton tea producer in Pakistan under investigation for labour rights violations

Disguised employment at Lipton tea producer in Pakistan under investigation for labour rights violations

Production is booming and workers are working overtime at the “Lipton tea factory” in Pakistan. This is happening in the weeks leading up to the sale of Unilever’s tea business under the new global tea company ekaterra. But it is not the unionized Lipton tea factory in Khanewal owned by Unilever – and now ekaterra – that is ramping up production. It is a dubious third-party manufacturer called AGA PACK Private Limited in Karachi.

the unbranded main gate of AGA PACK producing the Lipton global brand

Known in the Federal B Industrial Area as “the Lipton factory”, the AGA PACK factory has no sign boards or any indication of its registered name. This in itself is a legal violation that has not been reported by either Unilever or ekaterra in their due diligence. As a disguised factory, AGA PACK uses Unilever machinery and equipment and only provides minimum wage labour to manufacture one of Unilever’s global brands of purpose.

Unilever Pakistan moved machinery and equipment from its Lipton factory in Khanewal to AGA PACK in 2013 and again in 2018. This undermined jobs and job security at the Khanewal factory while increasing production under precarious employment arrangements.

Even as production increases in advance of the sale of the global ekaterra tea business on 1 October, management at AGA PACK refuses to pay the new legal minimum wage announced by the government in June 2021. Workers remain on PKR 17,500 (USD 106.30) per month, which is the legal minimum wage set in 2019.

protesting uncertainty at Lipton Khanewal

As the 199 workers at the Unilever/ekaterra Lipton factory in Khanewal protest against an uncertain future, the 288 workers packing Lipton tea at AGA PACK are in perpetual uncertainty. Only 52 of the 288 workers are legally registered for mandatory social security and health insurance. This suggests that 82% of workers do not actually work for AGA PACK. They are most likely casuals hired through third-party labour contractors.

 

It is still unclear who these contractors are and whether they are paying mandatory social security and health benefits. It is also unclear whether mandatory pensions are being paid and this is also under investigation by the Labour Department.

Workers at AGA PACK do not know because they do not have written employment contracts. This not only contravenes Pakistan labour law, but is one of the internationally recognized indicators in assessing the risk of forced labour. The absence of written employment contracts could be just another layer of deception, underpinning what seems to be a disguised employment relationship with Unilever Pakistan, and now ekaterra.

 

Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee calls for Hashem Foods fire tragedy and child labour to be incorporated into ILO Road Map

Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee calls for Hashem Foods fire tragedy and child labour to be incorporated into ILO Road Map

At a press conference on 16 August, the Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee welcomed the findings of the report of investigation committee formed by the Narayanganj district commissioner office into the fire tragedy at Hashem Foods factory. The investigation report confirmed what the Justice Committee has found in its own investigation. Workers were killed due to the systematic violations of laws and regulations and the criminal negligence of the company. This included the violation of laws concerning the exploitation of child labour, precarious employment, and unsafe working conditions.

The Justice Committee said it is now clear what happened at Sajeeb Group’s factory on 8 July, 2021. Now we need to know;

  • why child labour was employed in the factory;
  • why there were abusive precarious employment practices;
  • why the responsible Government authorities failed to ensure a safe working environment and decent work at the Hashem Foods factory;
  • why management could violate the rules and regulations of various government agencies with impunity;
  • why management could simply ignore the fire safety plan of the Fire Service and Civil Defense Department (given to the company in October 2020).

The Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee said these questions must be answered since the Government already committed to implementing the ILO Road Map adopted on 10 June 2021, at the International Labour Conference. They also urged Government to form a tripartite monitoring committee to implement the ILO Road Map. The Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee is comprised of eight unions of food and agricultural workers and workers and family members of the victims of the Hashem Foods fire tragedy.

Translation of the Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee Press Release [16 August 2021]

Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee asks Govt. to continue investigation regarding workers’ rights violation and hazardous working situation at Sajeeb Group’s factories including implementation of ILO road map.

At a press conference organized by Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee at the National Press Club, Dhaka on Monday, August 16, 2021, it was demanded to implement ILO roadmap including further investigation into the violation of workers’ rights and distinguish hazardous working condition at Sajeeb Group’s factory in Narayanganj. Member Secretary of Sajeeb   Group Workers Justice Committee Golam Sorowor read out a written statement at the press conference chaired by Abdul Mazid, Convenor of Sajeeb   Group Workers Justice Committee.

The Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee welcomed the findings of the report of investigation committee formed by the Narayanganj district commissioner office into the fire tragedy at Hashem Foods factory. The investigation report has confirmed  what the Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee found in its own investigation. The workers were killed due to the systematic violations of laws and regulations and the criminal negligence of the company. This included violation of laws concerning the exploitation of child labour, precarious employment, and unsafe working conditions.

The Justice Committee said it is now clear what happened at Sajeeb Group’s factory on 8 July, 2021. Now we need to know why child labour was employed in the factory, why there was abusive precarious employment, why the responsible Government authorities failed to ensure a safe working environment and decent work at the Hashem Foods factory, why the management could violate the rules and regulations of various government agencies with impunity, and why the management could simply ignore the fire safety plan of the Fire Service and Civil Defense Department given in October 2020.

The Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee said these issues are vital and need to be addressed to ensure workers’ rights and safety at work. These questions must be answered since the Government already committed to implementing the ILO Road Map adopted on 10 June 2021, at the International Labour Conference. They also urged Government to form a tripartite monitoring committee to implement the ILO Road Map.

The Justice Committee also called for further investigation into the missing workers still unaccounted for.

Regarding compensation, the Justice Committee demands to provide compensation to the deceased and injured workers and their families in accordance with ILO Convention No.121 and in addition to provide fair compensation to the victims, all of the workers working at Hashem Foods should be given their wage arrears, unpaid overtime and lost wages. (Note: Unpaid overtime and wage arrears were the reason for a mass protest action one week before the tragedy.)

The Justice Committee supports the recommendation of inquiry committee to provide a job to an eligible member of each deceased family in another factory of Sajeeb Group another factory. However, they repeated their call that before the employment of the family member of the dead workers in other factories under Sajeeb Group, the government must immediately conduct an investigation into the hazardous working conditions, workers occupational health and safety measure in all the factories of Sajeeb Group. They said first it needs to ensure safety and workers’ right and no workers should be employed in another unsafe factory.

Among others, the members of Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee representing eight unions of food and agricultural workers and workers and family members of the victims of the Hashem Foods fire tragedy were present at the press conference.