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Hong Kong dockers claim victory after 40-day strike; Interview with dockers' leader

Workers and protesters holding a defaced portrait of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing march on May Day, May 1, 2013. Thousands of workers, local labour rights groups, socialists and striking dockworkers joined in. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions said a record 5000 people took part in its march from Victoria Park to government headquarters before ending near tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Center.

By Ellen David Friedman

May 7, 2013 -- Labor Notes -- The 40-day strike of more than 500 dockworkers at the Port of Hong Kong ended on May 6 with a settlement that included a 9.8 per cent wage increase, non-retaliation against strikers and a written agreement, all of which had been fiercely resisted by the four contractors targeted in the strike.

Strikers accepted the offer by a 90 per cent vote.

Britain: The 1970s and the movement for workers’ control

[Click for more discussion of workers' control, cooperatives and "green jobs".]

By Andrew Coates

Trade unions have historically bargained for better terms for the sale of labour power; they have not been able to challenge the existence of the labour market itself. Today, however, the relation between "political" and "economic" struggle have changed.” -- Perry Anderson. "The Limits and Possibilities", in The Incompatibles: Trade Union Militancy and the Consensus,1967.

Hong Kong: 'We're all on the same ocean' -- dock workers' strike holds firm

April 17, 2013 -- Labor Notes -- A new video shows Hong Kong dock workers walking off the job March 29 and describing apalling working conditions at the world’s third-busiest port, where their dramatic strike has brought transport to a virtual halt.

Their energy is palpable. “It’s like—the things we’ve suppressed for 10, 20 years, it’s all blowing up now”, one worker says (at 3:59 in video above). He points to a co-worker seriously. “Look at his face. He’s done 24. That’s what a 24 looks like.” Then he cracks a smile. “Actually, you know, he used to be pretty [bleep] good-looking—at least if you shave that beard!”

The workers are appealing for protest letters to be send to support their strike. Please visit Dock workers defy Hong Kong's richest person, seek solidarity, attract huge support for sample letters and more background the struggle.

The video was produced by students from Left 21, a left organisation in Hong Kong. Richard Chen, who translated it, writes:

Dock workers defy Hong Kong's richest person, seek solidarity, attract huge support

Striking Hong Kong dockworkers and supporters march at the world's third-busiest port. The two-week-old strike has bottlenecked cargo and gained enormous public sympathy. Photo: Left 21.

By the Union of Hong Kong Dockers

April 9, 2013 -- Text via ESSF -- Hundred members of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD) are striking to demand pay rise while their wages have not risen in the past 15 years. Moreover they are also fighting for the collective bargaining right to negotiate with the management.

We ask you to send protest letters to the Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) as well as its parent companies Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPHT), Hutchison Whampoa Ltd (HWL) and the Hong Kong SAR government to support the dockers.

For this purpose we attach a template which you can adapt and send, with a copy to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (hkctu@hkctu.org.hk).

Mexico: Can worker-owners make a big factory run?

Two workers of the 1000-member TRADOC cooperative. The hiring of women in the plant was one of the many gains of worker ownership. Photo by Bob Briggs.

By Jane Slaughter

April 3, 2013 -- Labor Notes -- A tyre is not just a piece of rubber with a hole in it. I learned this when I visited the workers’ cooperative that makes Cooper tyres in El Salto, Mexico. A tyre is a sophisticated product that comes about through a chain of chemical processes, lots of machine pounding, and still the intervention of human hands.

A fervent inspection worker pointed out that every single tyre is tested under road-like conditions, “If not, it could kill people”, he noted. And, he added practically, “keeping the tyres safe saves our jobs”.

The problem of relative privilege in the working class

"Waterside worker', by Noel Counihan, 1963.

By Chris Slee

March 18, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In his article entitled “Is there a labour aristocracy in Australia? (published in the Socialist Alternative magazine, Marxist Left Review) Tom Bramble criticises the concept of the “labour aristocracy” on a number of grounds.

India: Two-day general strike shakes country; crackdown on working class follows

By Kavita Krishnan

February 27, 2013 -- Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal via Radical Socialist -- The dominant capitalist media narrative about the February 21-22 all-India strike called by the country's major trade union centres was one of "hooliganism" by workers and inconvenience caused to the "public". As is usual, the main demands of the striking workers found little space in the media’s discussion of the strike.

Canada: New Democratic Party poised for power, but to what effect?

For more on the New Democratic Party, click HERE. For more on politics in Canada, click HERE.

By Richard Fidler

February 19, 2013 -- Life on the Left, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- In the summer of 2012 I drafted an article on the New Democratic Party (NDP) for the purpose of introducing a discussion among some comrades seeking information about the party that now forms the official opposition in Canada’s House of Commons. While by no means a definitive study, the article draws on a number of books, academic papers and other documents addressed to the history and nature of Canadian social democracy, all of which are referenced or linked in the text. A French version of this article, addressed to a Québécois readership, is published in the current issue of the left journal Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme devoted to “La question canadienne”, a critical analysis of the “Harper revolution”.

Fiji: New workers' party formed

Fijian Trade Union Congress secretary Felix Anthony.

By Byron Clark

February 7, 2013 -- The Spark (Fightback, New Zealand), posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- After a conference in Nadi last month attended by more than 400 delegates from all affiliates of the Fijian Trade Union Congress (FTUC), Fiji’s trade unionists have begun forming a new political party. Felix Anthony, secretary of the FTUC and a one time a Fiji Labour Party MP who left the party last year citing a lack of internal democracy told Radio Australia;

“The people of Fiji and the workers of Fiji have little choice and what we need really is a political voice that represents a cross section of people and more so the workers of Fiji. It’s really a necessity that drives the trade unions at this time to consider a political movement and a political party.”

South Africa: Inauspicious start to the ANC’s year; COSATU needs to get back to first principles

Patrick Bond, director of the Center for Civil Society and professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, was interviewed by the Real News Network on February 14, 2013. Bond discussed the "resource curse" and the influence of the mining corporations on the ruling African National Congress, in particular the role of former anti-apartheid activist, now mining magnate, Cyril Ramaphosa. A full transcript is available HERE.

By Terry Bell

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.

United States: An ascending trajectory? Ten of the most important social conflicts in 2012

Striking Chicago teachers rally, October 2012.

By Dan La Botz

December 31, 2012 -- New Politics -- The most important social conflict in the United States in 2012—the Chicago Teachers Union strike—suggests that the rising trajectory of social struggle in the United States that began at the beginning of 2011 may be continuing. While the United States has a much lower level of class struggle and social struggle than virtually any other industrial nation—few US workers are unionised (only 11.8%) and unionised workers engage in few strikes and those involve a very small numbers of workers—still, the economic crisis and the demand for austerity by both major political parties, Republican and Democrat, have led to increased economic and political activity and resistance by trade unions, particularly in the public sector.[1]

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.

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 African metalworkers' union: 'For a class struggle approach to climate change and energy transition'

Karl Cloete addresses NUMSA's February 2012 International Conference on Building a Socially Owned Renewable Energy Sector in Johannesburg.

Click HERE for more discussion on radical workers' solutions to the environemntal crisis.

By Karl Cloete, deputy general-secretary, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)

[The following paper was presented on October 10, 2012, at a conference at Cornell University. NUMSA is South Africa's second-largest union, with alomost 290,000 members in the smelting, maunufacturing, auto and electricity generation industries.]

Our starting point as NUMSA is that to effect an energy transition, we as the global union movement DO need a perspective to guide us as well as strategies to be utilised by the movement. While such a perspective and accompanying strategies will definitely not come fully formed and in one go, we HAVE to keep working on them through discussions, through struggles, through experimentation and through learning from experiences of those in the forefront of energy struggles (within and outside of the labour movement).

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.

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