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workers' rights

Philippines: Socialist party supports Australian workers' blockade

February 12, 2013 -- Radio Australia -- A Philippine socialist party has thrown its support behind the Australian workers blockading the Werribee Water Treatment plant south-west of Melbourne.

Unemployed local tradespeople have been blockading the Werribee Water Treatment plant for the past week to protest against the employment of Filipino workers on special 457 visas [for guest workers].

Earlier this week, the Federal Court reserved decision on the Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectorate's bid to end the eight-day blockade.

On Monday, a group of 12 men, including Filipino workers, were helicoptered into the water treatment plant to avoid the blockade.

The chairperson of the Party of the Laboring Masses (PLM), Sonny Melencio, has told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program he's concerned Filipino workers are being used to break picket lines.

Indonesia: Solidarity needed for trade unionists

January 30, 20133 -- Solidarity -- Trade union activist Sulthoni Farras, a leader of the Indonesian union federation Progresip, union alliance Sekber Buruh, and member of Indonesian political organisation KPO PRP, is in danger of arrest for leading a strike in 2012. Another activist, Bona Ventura, may also face charges.

The Indonesian government and bosses are using these kinds of tactics against a growing workers’ movement in Indonesia. Solidarity is asking for messages of support and for signatures to a letter we will give at the Indonesian Consulate this Friday 1 February, 2013. More details below.

* * *

Dear Comrade/Friend,

We are writing to ask your solidarity for a number of unionists in Indonesia presently in danger of being arrested and charged for taking part in lawful industrial action.

Below is some background to their situation in Indonesia. We would ask you to sign the letter (text below) that we intend to hand to the Indonesian consulate this Friday, 1 February following a solidarity protest at the consulate.

Conviction of Thai labour activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk condemned

Please continue to send protest notes to the addresses contained in this link.

By the Socialist Party of Malaysia

January 23, 2012 -- Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) is deeply concerned and disappointed over the verdict of Thai court today that sentenceed labour activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk to 10 years of imprisonment for charges under the Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse-majesté law) and another year of imprisonment for a violation of printing act in 2009, totaling 11 years of jail terms.

The PSM is of the view that those charges and convictions of Somyot are politically motivated, with the aim to suppress the right to freedom of expression and activism of political dissidents who not adhere to the will of ruling elite in Thailand.

The prosecution and conviction of Somyot are regressive and push the country back to the Middle Ages. Such persecution against a political activist is devastating to the democratic process in Thailand.

Palestinian workers in Israel's illegal settlements: Who profits?

Palestinian, Israeli and international protesters break into Rami Levi supermarket in the Shaar Binyamin settlement near Jerusalem, to protest against the Israeli occupation and call for a boycott of Israeli settlements, October 2012. Photograph by Yotam Ronen, ActiveStills/Whoprofits.org.

January 2013 -- Whoprofits.org -- In order to work in Israel's settlements, Palestinians must obtain work permits from the Israeli Civil Administration, which also entails the approval of the Israeli internal security service (the Shin Bet). This permit can be annulled at any time, especially when workers demand their rights or try to unionise, or if they (or one of their family members) engage in any kind of political activity. This situation exposes Palestinian workers to extortion by the Israeli internal security service.

South Africa: Harvesting discontent -- farmworkers rebel; Stop rural slavery! Respect the farmworkers!

This elderly couple has been forced to live for years in this former outhouse (toilet) on a farm near Rawsonville. The husband worked on the farm for approximately 20 years until 2010, when he stopped working due to ill health. ©2011 Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch.

By Mercia Andrews

January 13, 2013 -- International Viewpoint -- The protests and mobilisation that started in the small town of De Doorns on November 6, 2012, galvanised the anger of farm dwellers against decades of discontent at extreme exploitation and oppression that persist on farms, in rural towns and South Africa's agricultural sector.

US economy: A major attack on labour rights

President Barack Obama bragged how he had saved the US auto industry by handing out billions in taxpayers’ money to the auto bosses, and even establishing what amounted to temporary federal ownership of the old General Motors plants when GM went bankrupt during the “Great Recession”.

By Sam Williams

December 23, 2012 -- A Critique of Crisis Theory, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Journal with permission -- December 11, 2012, brought news of a major new attack on basic labour rights in the United States. The following day, the Federal Reserve [the US central bank] announced new inflationary measures designed to end the economic stagnation the US economy has been mired in since the “Great Recession” bottomed out in July 2009.

South Africa: The tortuous road from 1996 to Mangaung

By Terry Bell

December 13, 2012 -- Terry Bell Writes, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The tortuous road to the governing African National Congress' (ANC) centennial conference at Mangaung ends next week. And, not to put too fine a point on it, much of the country is gatvol [fed up] with the route it has taken and where it has arrived.

Potholed with corruption, meandering in no fixed direction to the profit of cronies, and riddled with damaging scandal, it should long ago have been resurfaced, rebuilt and given a clear destination. But it has remained in place as a national project and, in the process, has pushed into the background the ongoing — and often more subtle — unethical dealings outside of government circles.

In recent years and despite occasional grumbles, the country’s major trade union federation, the congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU), has continued to stumble along that road, praising its supposed promise. The federation was committed to it, especially after declaring, at its congress in 2006, that a “Zuma tsunami” would cure the ills on the road ahead. In the event, the leapfrogghing into power of President Jacob Zuma has proved even more destructive.

South Africa after Marikana massacre: Strike wave and new workers' organisations challenge old compromises

Thousands of Amplats mineworkers rally in Rustenburg, South Africa.

By Leonard Gentle

November 12, 2012 -- International Labour Research and Information Group -- Over the November 10-11, 2012, weekend striking mineworkers of the Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) corporation gathered at a mass rally in Rustenburg and howled their defiance of a series of ultimatums issued by the company. At De Doorns, farm workers are on a "wildcat" strike -- the latest of a series that has become a feature of the South African landscape over the last three months, knocking the African National Congress conference in Mangaung off the front pages. Something is stirring from below … and it is time we got beyond the fear and trepidation that have become the stock response in the media.

China's 'bureaucratic capitalism'

Photo: Alex Mahan/Flickr.

November 7, 2012 -- Socialist Resistance -- Terry Conway interviews Au Loong Yu,author of the forthcoming book, China’s Rise: Strength and Fragility (Resistance Books, IIRE, Merlin Press).

* * *

Can you explain why you have developed the term bureaucratic capitalism to describe China today and what you mean by that term?

I did not invent the term. It was first used, ironically, by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the 1940s to depict the kind of capitalism that the Guomindang (Koumintang] had created under its rule.

Maurice Meisner defines bureaucratic capitalism in his book The Deng Xiaoping Era – An Inquiry into the Fate of Chinese Socialism 1978-1994 as a term to refer to the use of political power for private pecuniary gain through capitalistic or quasi-capitalist methods of economic activity. He adds that although this is not new in history, the form of this in China today is more prominent than the others.

South Africa: Latest ANC/police attack on militant miners condemned

SACP's Blade Nzimande leads COSATU members prior to clashes with striking Anglo Platinum miners. October 27, 2012, Rustenburg, North West. Photo by Greg Marinovich, Daily Maverick.

Statement by the Democratic Left Front (South Africa)

October 29, 2012 -- The Democratic Left Front condemns the police for shooting workers in Rustenburg on October 27. Two workers who work at Amplats were hit by live ammunition, and one, hit in the chest, is in a critical condition in hospital. Eleven other mineworkers were injured by rubber bullets. The DLF also condemns Blade Nzimande, SACP general secretary and minister for higher education, for condoning this shooting by the police. This so-called “Communist” defends the shooting of workers in the interests of the capitalist bosses.

Palestine: The Histadrut -- its history and role in occupation, colonisation and apartheid

Histadrut poster marking the "Twenty Fifth Anniversary of the National Workers Federation" (1959).

By the Trade Union Friends of Palestine (Ireland)

October 11, 2012 -- BDS Movement -- Israel's trade union federation, the Histadrut, was founded in December 1920 in British Mandate Palestine. From its inception its aims were neither to build workers' solidarity nor represent or campaign for workers' rights.

Instead it was founded as an exclusively Jewish organisation to facilitate the colonisation of Palestine. As such it worked in tandem with the Jewish Agency to promote the exclusion of Palestinian labour and produce, and was at the forefront of the movement to turn Palestine from an Arab country into a Zionist one.

Today it continues to work hand in hand with th government of Israel and promotes and defends policies that violate the basic civil, political and human rights of Palestinians.

South Africa's political economy after the Marikana massacre

Marikana miners protest against the August 16, 2012, massacre by police.

For more on the Marikana mine massacre, click HERE.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

October 18, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When a ruling party in any African country sinks to the depths of allowing its police force to serve white-dominated multinational capital by killing dozens of black workers so as to end a brief strike, as happened in South Africa in August, it represents not just human rights and labour relations travesties. The incident offers the potential for a deep political rethink.

But that can only happen if the society openly confronts the chilling lessons learned in the process about the moral degeneration of a liberation movement that the world had supported for decades. Support was near universal from progressives of all political hues, because that movement, the African National Congress (ANC), promised to rid this land not only of formal apartheid but of all unfair racial inequality and indeed class and gender exploitation as well. And now the ANC seems to be making many things worse.

There are five immediate considerations about what happened at Marikana, 100 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg, beginning around 4 pm on August 16, 2012:

South Africa: (Updated) Marikana Lonmin workers win 22% wage rise, but the struggle for justice goes on

victory-for-marikana

Amandla! editorial

September 20, 2012 -- Amandla! -- A heroic struggle has tasted its first victory. The reported wage settlement with the mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine -- site of the terrible August 16 massacre of workers by police -- of R11, 000 is a massive victory, nothing less than the murder and sacrifice of so many workers dictated.

With an unholy alliance of Lonmin bosses, the bosses of the entire platinum sector, the army, police, government and even the leadership of the South African Communist Party and the pro-government National Union of Mineworkers rangeed against them, Lonmin workers can turn from their wage struggle to the struggle for justice with enormous pride and their dignity restored. This struggle has already rewritten the history of the international labour movement. In the eyes of the world, Marikana is not a place but an expression that workers' struggle -- class struggle -- is not yesterday's language and ideology, but lives in the struggles of the exploited and oppressed from below who continue to fight the good fight.

South Africa: Dying for growth -- World Bank's role in Marikana massacre mine, carbon pollution

More than 3000 mineworkers take part in a march at Lonmin's Marikana mine in South Africa on September 5, 2012. Photograph by Mike Hutchings/REUTERS.

For more on the Marikana mine massacre, click HERE.

By Patrick Bond

September 5, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “One of the things you learn as an anthropologist, you don’t come in and change the culture”, Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim told wealthy alumni when contemplating the institution’s notorious hazing practices, prior to US President Barack Obama’s request last February that he move to the World Bank.

Kim’s Harvard doctorate and medical degree, his founding of the heroic NGO Partners in Health and his directorship of the World Health Organization’s AIDS division make him the best-educated, most humane World Bank president yet. A decade ago, he co-edited the book, Dying for Growth, pointing out that "Washington Consensus" policies and projects had a sharply adverse impact on health.

Thailand: Urgent appeal -- please endorse open letter for the release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk

[More background information is available here.]

By the Thai Labour Campaign

September 4, 2012 -- Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is to appear again on September 19 to hear the Criminal Court announce the date of the verdict of Somyot's criminal trial. At the same time,  it will await the decision of the Constitutional Court on the request forwarded by the Criminal Court of the Constitutional Court’s verdict as to whether or not the lèse majesté law is unconstitutional in response to a petition by him and his lawyers. Somyot, however, speculates that the decision of the Constitution Court will not be delivered on that day and the verdict in on his specific case will be further postponed until the constitutional verdict is reached.

This means that Somyot faces a further and potentially long period in prison.

Hence, we are again calling for your international solidarity to continue sending letters to the Thailand authorities  in order that Somyot can be released soon.  We need to ensure at least that Somyot be released on bail while he is waiting the verdict.

Act now! Please endorse this open letter to the Thai authoritiess before September 12. Please send the name of your organisation to:

Patchanee Kumnak, program coordinator, Thai Labour Campaign.

Email: patchanee@thailabour.org

South Africa: Marikana massacre – a turning point?

Marikana mineworkers on strike for higher pay.

For more coverage of South Africa, click HERE.

By Martin Legassick

August 27, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The massacre of 34, and almost certainly more, striking mineworkers at Marikana (together with more than 80 injured) on August 16 has sent waves of shock and anger across South Africa, rippling around the world. It could prove a decisive turning point in our country’s post-apartheid history.

Marikana is a town situated in barren veld, dry brown grass in the winter, with occasional rocky outcrops (kopjes, hillocks). The Lonmin-owned mines – there are three, Karee, West and East Platinum – are situated on the outskirts of the town. Alongside two of them is a settlement of zinc-walled shacks festooned with lines of washing called Enkanini, where most of the mineworkers live.

South Africa: 'Sorting fact from fiction at Marikana' -- Terry Bell on the massacre of mineworkers

For more coverage of South Africa, click HERE.

August 27, 2012 -- Terry Bell is a widely respected labour reporter and activist based in Cape Town, South Africa. His "Inside  labour" columns in Amandla! magazine and on his blog, Terry Bell Writes, are essential reading for those interested in developments in South Africa's labour movement. Below, with Terry Bell's permission, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal posts some of his recent columns dealing with Marikana massacre and the background to it.

* * *

By Terry Bell

August 23, 2012 -- Terry Bell Writes --  The deaths at Lonmin amount to the bloodiest tragedy of the post-apartheid era. As a result, the blame game is in full swing and is likely to continue in the weeks ahead.

Aotearoa/New Zealand: Call for international solidarity with Burger King workers

By Joe Carolan

August 24, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Workers employed by the Burger King fast-food chain, organised by the Unite Union in Aotearoa/New Zealand, are suffering a sustained union-busting campaign, and are now fighting back.

Burger King workers are the lowest-paid fast food workers in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Most are on the minimum wage, even some who have worked there for 15 years. Managers on salary are forced to work extra hours, and sometimes work for less than the minimum wage per hour. Many workers in Burger King are migrant workers, mostly from the Indian subcontinent. They face a bonded labour system. They are terrified of speaking out about mistreatment in case the company revokes their visa sponsorship .

Now the company has tried to bust their union, and is seeking an injunction stopping them from speaking to the media and conducting teach-ins in the community. Unite has taken the company to the Employment Authority, detailing the company's illegal anti-union activities, in a battle that is now shaping up to be the McLibel case of the South Pacific.

Unite union appeals to workers in other countries to organise pickets outside Burger King outlets in all the great cities of the world in solidarity with our fight.

Our fight is for the low-paid precarious workers.

South Africa: The massacre of our illusions … and the seeds of something new

By Leonard Gentle, director of the International Labour Research and Information Group (South Africa)

August 23, 2012 -- ILRIG -- The story of Marikana has so far been painted shallowly as an inter-union spat. In the first few days after the August16 police killing of  34 striking mineworkers, employed by the Lonmin mining corporation, and the shock and horror of watching people being massacred on TV, there have correctly been howls of anger and grief. Of course no one wants to take responsibility because to do so would be to acknowledge blame.

Some pundits have even gone the way of warning at anyone “pointing figures” or “stoking anger”. That buffoon, African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema, stepped forward as if scripted, and promptly lent credibility to those warnings. So South African President Jacob Zuma’s setting up of an inquiry and his call for a week of mourning for the deceased and their families could come across as “statesmanlike”.

Barry Sheppard: Wisconsin recall defeat caused by wrong strategy

Protesters occupy Wisconsin's Capitol building in Madison to support the rights of public sector workers, February 17 last year.
By Barry Sheppard

June 17, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- In a much-watched election on June 5, Republican Scott Walker handily defeated Democrat Tom Barrett in a recall election for governor of Wisconsin. Walker is on the right wing of the Republican Party and Barrett on the right wing of the Democrats. Walker was first elected in late 2010. When he took office early last year, Walker launched a drive to smash public worker unions. In response, there were huge mobilisations.

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