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trade unions

New Zealand: What has happened to real wages since1982?

By Mike Treen

Official data on wage movements in New Zealand point to a real wage decline of around 25% between 1982 and the mid-1990s that has never been recovered.

There have been two series measuring wages in the period – the Prevailing Weekly Wage Index (discontinued in June 1993) and its replacement the Labour Cost Index. I have created a continuous series based on the LCI series back to 1982 (by adjusting the PWWI numbers before December 1992 when PWWI at 1000 was equivalent to the LCI at 868). These numbers are in turn deflated by the CPI index covering the whole period.

What is revealed is that by the mid-1990s real wages had declined at least 25%. There has been no recovery since then and real wages remain 25% below their 1982 peak. This result can be directly attributed to the combination of the massive deunionisation as a result of the anti-union employment laws and the recession that accompanied it in the early 1990s.

Iran: Interview -- Trade union activists face repression as regime imposes austerity

Homayoun Poorzad interviewed by Bill Balderston

Pakistan: Special appeal for families of killed socialist activists

By Farooq Tariq, Nasir Mansoor and Khalid Mahmood

December 27, 2009 -- The Labour Party Pakistan has lost our four most brilliant comrades, Abdul Salam, Najma Khanum, Rehana Kausar and Wahid Baloch, in a road accident on December 13 near Ormara, Baloachistan. They were in the coastal region, one of the most deprived areas of the country, to organise the home-based women workers (HBWW). They held two focus group meetings and a wider consultation on December 11, 12 and 13 in the port cities of Pasni and Gawadar. They also formed core groups and clusters of local HBWW and planned to organise more meeting in the region in month of January next year.

Comrades Abdul Salam, Najma Khanum, Rehana Kausar and Wahid Baloch were dedicated members of the team who lost their lives for the cause of downtrodden masses and were on mission until their last breath. Another member of team, Mohammed Rafiq Baloch, central president National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan (NTUF) survived but was severely injured in the fatal accident.

Comrade Abdul Salam, Najma Khanum and Rehana Kausar were staff members of the Labour Education Foundation (LEF). While Wahid Baloch was trade union activist in industrial city of Hub and by profession he was a driver.

Britain: One million climate jobs now!

By the Public and Commercial Services Union (Britain)

November 15, 2009 -- Earlier this year, Britain's Campaign against Climate Change (CaCC) trade union group set up a commission to produce a detailed plan for a million ``climate'' jobs.

The commission includes academics and environmental groups as well as several unions including the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

In November 2009 the CaCC trade union group published a pamphlet, One million climate jobs NOW!, which sets out how this can be achieved. The pamphlet is the first stage in a national campaign to get the government to employ a million unemployed workers to save the climate. It contains the arguments workers need for building the campaign.

You can download the pamphlet here: One million climate jobs PDF or read on screen below.

 

A new united movement stops Mexico for a day

By Tamara Pearson

November 14, 2009 -- Mexico City -- In the many metro stations of this giant city, amidst the ugly smell of Pizza Hut and the newspapers vendors yelling out, “Grafico! 3 pesos!”, every day young people crowd around the handwritten posters recruiting for the national police. At 12,000 pesos (US$1000) per month, and with increasing unemployment and harder prospects, the offer is very tempting.

Canada: Vale Inco strike shows need for international action

On strike since mid-July.

By Marc Bonhomme, translated by Richard Fidler

A Québécois militant, member of Québec solidaire, discusses the global implications of the strike by 3500 workers at Vale Inco, the world’s largest nickel mine, in Sudbury, Ontario.

November 11, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- In France’s South Pacific colony of New Caledonia [Kanaky], a small delegation of Vale Inco strikers from Sudbury, in northeastern Ontario, most of them Franco-Ontarians, met in October with the union at the island’s Vale Inco nickel mine, due to open in 2010, although it threatens a UNESCO nature reserve. The newspaper Nouvelles calédoniennes reported the encounter, in its October 31 edition:

Britain: The Lucas Aerospace workers' plan -- A real Green New Deal

By Hilary Wainwright and Andy Bowman

October 9, 2009 -- Red Pepper -- Thirty-five years ago, workers at the Lucas Aerospace company formulated an ``alternative corporate plan'' to convert military production to socially useful and environmentally desirable purposes. We consider what lessons it holds for the greening of the world economy today

There are moments when a radical idea quickly goes mainstream. A cause for optimism but also caution; an opportunity for a practical challenge. The ``Green New Deal'’, a proposal for a green way out of recession, is such an idea (see interview with Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Red Pepper, June/July 2009). It has now been adopted in some form, in theory if not in corresponding action, by governments across the world.

In Britain, the workers’ occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight – supported by green, trade union and socialist campaigners across the country – has provided a practical challenge to the government. The Vestas workers’ argument, committed as ministers say they are to green investment, is that here is an exemplary case: so intervene and save green jobs, creating a base and a beacon for further action in the same direction.

Karen Silkwood: an inspiration to fighters for environmental justice and workers' rights

Karen Silkwood.

By Sharyn Jenkins

Thirty-five years ago, on November 13, 1974, US anti-nuclear activist and trade unionist Karen Silkwood was killed in a car crash many suspect was deliberately caused. Karen Silkwood will be remembered as someone who fought an uphill and often unpopular battle against the ruthless nuclear industry. She is an inspiration to all who believe in environmental justice and workers' rights.

Silkwood grew up in Nederland, the petrochemical heart of Texas. Following an unhappy marriage and bitter divorce, in which she lost custody of her three children, she moved to Oklahoma City to look for work. In 1972 she began work in the Kerr McGee Metallography Laboratory.

Australian socialists demand `green jobs'

A worker welds a wind turbine mast. Photo from Greenpeace.

By the Socialist Alliance

[The following leaflet was distributed at the ``switch off Hazelwood'' power station protest in Victoria on September 12 and 13, attended by more than 300 people.]

September 13, 2009 -- The transition from a fossil fuel dependent society to renewable energy is perhaps the most urgent question facing humanity. The public debate about climate change has shifted from a discussion about the reality of global warming to a discussion focused on how to transition to renewable energy.

Industrial action for peace: The Communist Party of Australia and antiwar activity before 1960

[Douglas Jordan was politicised in England in the late 1960s. After arriving in Australia he joined the Socialist Youth Alliance/Socialist Workers League/Socialist Workers Party, in which where he remained a member for 14 years. Today he is a community activist and co-presenter of the City Limits radio program on Melbourne's 3CR.

[After working as a tram conductor in Melbourne and Adelaide he was replaced by a ticket machine in 1998 and so lost his lifetime profession. He returned to study and is now writing his PhD thesis. The thesis -- of which this article is an excerpt -- is a detailed examination of the extent to which Communist Party of Australia union activists raised political issues in their unions.

[In particular it looks at the peace movement, attitudes to the post-war migration program and the Aboriginal struggle for human rights. There was been a general perception that Communist Party union activists were nothing more than industrial militants. The thesis aims to challenge this and show that CPA members often raised political issues and sought support for them from their co-workers.]

* * *

By Douglas Jordan

Kanaky: Interview with jailed pro-independence trade union leader Gérard Jodar

Gérard Jodar (right).

This interview with Gérard Jodar, president of the pro-independence trade union federation USTKE (Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers), was published in Libération, issue #14790, on August 17 2009. He was interviewed by Matthieu Ecoiffier. Translated into English for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Annolies Truman.

Sentenced at the end of June 2009 to a year in prison for ``hindering the circulation of an aircraft'' [click HERE for background information to the struggle], Gérard Jodar is one of very few trade unionists to be imprisoned in France –- and his lawyers’ application for a lesser sentence has just been rejected by the appeals judge of the Noumea Supreme Court.

Gérard Jodar explains the conditions of his detention as well as the situation on the ``Pebble’’ [the nickname for New Caledonia, the colonial name for the South Pacific territory of Kanaky, which remains a colonial possession of France -- translator].

Lucas Aerospace -- When workers said `no' to military production, `yes' to green jobs

Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

By Rob Marsden

August 22, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance -- Today, the twin drivers of economic recession and the possibility of catastrophic climate change are beginning to push working people towards action. A series of small-scale but high-profile occupations of threatened factories, not just at Vestas wind turbine plant but also at Visteon car plant, where 600 workers took on the might of Ford and won a greatly enhanced redundancy package, show what is possible. In the 1970s workers at Britain's Lucas Aerospace went even further. We look back at the lessons of Lucas Aerospace.

It is clear that if we are to avert catastrophic climate change by moving rapidly to a low-carbon economy, certain industries will have to be wound down or drastically scaled back, for example, the power generation, aviation and car industries. However, rather than this leading to a net loss of jobs, efforts must be put into creating new green jobs or ``converting'' old jobs.

Petition: Appeal for the immediate release of USTKE trade unionists in Kanaky

By Collectif Solidarité Kanaky, translation and introduction for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Annolies Truman

* * *

August 12, 2009 -- On August 6, a general strike in Kanaky (or the French overseas territory of New Caledonia) was called off after an accord between the trade union confederation USTKE (Federation of Unions of Kanak Workers and the Exploited) and Air Caledonia was finally signed by the airline.

The signing of the accord, which had been negotiated on June 11, put an end to 10 days of demonstrations, roadblocks and violent confrontations with police, motivated as much by a desire for independence and decolonisation, as by the issue of industrial justice.

The conflict originated with the unfair dismissal of an Air Caledonia employee in March for “betraying commercial confidentiality” for telling her mother that her father had taken a flight with his mistress.

South Korea: Ssangyong workers occupy plant, win partial victory -- Class war in midst of economic crisis

Ssangyong worker is greeted by family member at the conclusion of the occupation, August 6, 2009.

[See also South Korea: Graphic photos, video -- Ssangyong sit-in workers' appeal: `Our lives are at stake'.]

By Young-su Won

August 6, 2009 -- After days of harsh and inhumane assaults by riot police and company thugs on striking workers occupying the Ssangyong Motor plant in Pyeongtaek, near Seoul, the Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU) and management reached an agreement: the union accepted part of the company’s redundancy proposal, saving about half the strikers’ jobs, while the rest will apply for voluntary retirement or unpaid long-term leave, or accept another job with the spin-off company.

(Updated August 5) South Korea: Graphic photos, video -- Ssangyong sit-in workers' appeal: `Our lives are at stake'


(For best results: allow video to load on `pause' before pressing play.)
[Go to ``South Korea: Ssangyong workers face brutal police/thug attacks as factory occupation continues'' for the backgound to the sit-in.]

Urgent appeal by the Korean Metal Workers Union and Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

[Please send solidarity messages to the KCTU at inter@kctu.org]

 

Wave of workplace occupations aims to reverse tide of closures; August 5: Thomas Cook workers arrested

Avril Boyne, more than eight months' pregnant, who has nine years' service at Thomas Cook, protesting at the closure of the travel agency and the redundancy package offered to staff at the Thomas Cook office, Grafton Street, Dublin. Thomas Cook is offering five weeks' pay for each year of service but workers are holding out for eight weeks. Photograph by Matt Kavanagh/Irish Times.

* * *

STOP PRESS: Thomas Cook sit-in raided by police, workers arrested!

Send protest/solidarity emails to wendy@thomascook.ie and fennj@tssa.org.uk

Public ownership of coal industry needed to move to 100% renewable energy and retain jobs

An open-cut coalmine in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia.

Graham Brown is a retired coalminer and a climate change activist. He’s also a member of the Upper Hunter branch of the NSW Greens party. The Hunter Valley, near the city of Newcastle, is a major source of Australia's coal exports. Brown is helping build a union and community alliance to create a “just transition” to a carbon-neutral economy. Such a transition would ensure workers in the coal industry move into alternative employment. Socialist Alliance's Zane Alcorn spoke to Brown.

How important is public ownership of electricity generation in a transition to a carbon-neutral economy?

It is definitely of the first importance. A private company is out to make a profit. When that profit starts to drop, it’ll move away. There’s no commitment to the community.

Public ownership is the reverse of that. It will enable the transition to carry through from start to finish. But it’s not going to finish, it’s going to be ongoing. Retrofitting power stations is a first step, but down the track, the best thing about renewable energy is that it is decentralised, and it will be owned by the public. Each community will have its own power generators.

COSATU: Working-class internationalism in the era of deepening global economic crisis

COSATU-supported protest in solidarity with the people of Swaziland.

Declaration of the Congress of South African Trade Unions International Solidarity Conference, Johannesburg, June 24-26, 2009.

COSATU -- Gathered at this historic International Solidarity Conference of COSATU are workers, activists and internationalists committed to a new and just world order, free from poverty, hunger and injustice. We have concluded two days of intensive engagements, critical reflections and dedicated work to assess and ascertain the revolutionary mood of workers and the poor masses of the world, the ebbs and flows of the global class struggle and the state of readiness by working-class forces and their organisations to wage a decisive battle for the new and just global economic system.

Iranian workers in action for democratic rights

Tehran's bus drivers have joined the struggle for democratic and trade union rights.

Introduction by Robert Johnson and John Riddell

June 29, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- The mass protests in Iran, sparked by charges of fraud in the June 12 presidential elections, express deeply felt demands for expanded democratic rights. The establishment press has been silent on the aspirations of rank-and-file protesters. Socialist Voice is therefore pleased to be able to publish several statements by components of Iran's vigorous trade union movement, which has been a major target of repression by Iran's security forces. We have provided the titles and some introductory comments.

Trade unions and New Zealand’s economic crisis

By Grant Brookes

Unity, May 2009 -- Comparisons now abound between the global economic crisis of 2009 and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Naturally, there are similarities and differences. The following bleak assessment of the role of trade unions in the early 1930s comes from the best-known book by one of New Zealand’s foremost social historians of the 20th century:

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