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Vol. 74/No. 28      July 26, 2010

On the Picket Line
Minnesota nurses approve new contract
MINNEAPOLIS—Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association overwhelmingly approved a three-year contract July 6 by a margin of 90 percent.

The nurses fell short in their demands around patient staffing levels. The contract does not include any language that enforces a better nurse to patient ratio.

Leading up to the strike deadline, many nurses in the 12,000-member union were preparing to walk off the job. Talks with representatives from the 14 hospitals had broken down. It was at this point that mediators from the federal government intervened and a proposed settlement was reached.

The nurses were successful in pushing back proposed cuts in health and pension benefits and won a small increase in wages.

The nurses' contract fight was widely supported by working people in the Twin Cities. Union placards in solidarity with the nurses were seen on many yards throughout the area. The nurses also organized mass picketing involving thousands of nurses and waged a one-day strike June 10.

A similar contract fight around staffing levels is brewing at hospitals in Duluth, Minnesota. Nurses from the Twin Cities are planning to join their informational pickets there this week.

—Frank Forrestal

Pakistani ship breakers strike over work conditions
Some 15,000 members of the Ship Breaking Democratic Workers Union in Gadani, Pakistan, went on strike July 5 to demand increased wages, safety equipment, and better working conditions. The workers are also protesting that the government excludes them from social security and old-age benefits.

The ship-breaking operation at Gadani reached record levels in the current fiscal year with 107 ships producing 852,022 tons of scrap. Each ship requires 200 to 250 workers three months to dismantle. More than 17 workers died on the job in the past year. In addition to basic safety equipment such as shoes, gloves, goggles, and belts, workers are demanding clean drinking water, medical facilities, and adequate housing.

Workers at the Gadani ship-breaking facility staged a three-day strike in mid-June, standing up to harassment and physical attacks from the police and the Anti-Terrorist Task Force. The ship-breaking bosses refused to negotiate with the union, which then called the July 5 open-ended strike. —Angel Lariscy

New Zealand paper workers win pay increase
AUCKLAND, New Zealand—After two weeks on strike, 25 members of the National Distribution Union at the Paper Reclaim recycling plant won their demand July 9 for a wage increase of $1 per hour. On the picket line the day before, Sinapati Solia said, “We work with rubbish and where there are many rats. I once found a dead rat inside our drinking water cooler. Some of the workers have been here over 25 years but they still make only $16 an hour [US$11].”

—Felicity Coggan and Janet Roth
Related articles:
Nickel miners in Canada end year-long strike, ratify contract
Teachers facing mass layoffs and wage cuts  
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