Thursday, November 24, 2005

Global Trade

OK, so we are now in the age of the "Global Economy." I'm never sure what that means, but what it seems to mean these days is that multinational corporations currently rule the planet. The bottom line is the line we get in assessing how homo sapiens are progressing, but I get kind of confused how the whole things fit together.

Moonbootica, one of the early morning Eschatonions served up the following news story from Azerbaijan.

RIMORSK, Azerbaijan, Nov 22 (AFP) - More than 1,000 local workers employed by a leading US oil services company in Azerbaijan went on strike Tuesday protesting low wages, discrimination and poor working conditions.

The workers briefly took control of the McDermott oil services company's seaside facility some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Baku, bypassing a security cordon and escorting reporters inside.

They later dispersed, but promised to continue their job action to press their demands for higher pay, health coverage, better treatment and unionization.

"They've never changed anything. All they give us are promises," said Emin Abdullayev, a McDermott employee.

The workers were demanding that compensation be brought in line with payment packages earned by foreign laborers from India, the Philippines and elsewhere. They said they also wanted health coverage, unionization and overall better treatment.

...A number of Azerbaijani employees told AFP they earned between 300 and 350 dollars (256 and 300 euros) per month and said they would continue their strike until wages were increased.

Azerbaijan is becoming an increasingly important energy exporter, but projects appear to be under threat because of tensions between local staff and expatriate workers.

"Why do they need to bring welders from abroad and pay for their travel expenses and housing? There are plenty of welders in Azerbaijan who are out of a job," said one striker, Rovshan Ahmadov.
[Emphasis added]

The odd part of the story is that Indian workers are being paid up to $100 per month more. That confused me for a bit until I realized that foreign workers would be less likely to complain about wages and living conditions than would locals. It's worth it to the multinationals to add a few pence to foreign workers in the long run.

Yes, global trade is now a reality and something with which we have to deal. Here in the US, especially in places like Detroit and other rust belt areas, jobs are going over seas because the pay is more than the locals are used to, even if it is less than a living wage.

What's the answer?

Maybe our unions need to go back to their roots as an international movement. After all, workers are workers.


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