France: On March 18 a million and a half young students from universities and high schools, public and private sector employees, and parents demonstrated to demand the repeal of the Temporary Employment Contract (CPE), which was adopted by the National Assembly. We publish a leaflet issued by the French Workers Party that indicates: "Youth are here and ready to fight. All those who care about the fate of youth, the entire people, have only one demand: the immediate withdrawal of the CPE followed by an interprofessional strike." These were the chants heard everywhere. Also published here is an interview with a law professor specializing in labor law: "In one week, the labor law was modified by six laws, six ordinances and 15 decrees," which demonstrates that labor rights have been trampled in France by the CPE contract.
Following the Berlin Conference of February 25 and 26, we have received the following:
- From Romania: documents published in the bulletin of the "Free Romanian Mineworkers" committee. Our correspondents speak about the creation of "a labor solidarity fund for the jailed miners and their families" and call for the support of this initiative.
- From Germany: we have been informed of strikes in hospitals and the public sector: "Over one million doctors of German university hospitals have started an unlimited strike on March 16 to support the demands for a 30% increase in wages and better working conditions." "A warning strike of university hospital doctors, followed by 7,500 practitioners had taken place on March 1." Regional public services are therefore in their sixth week on strike around the length of the workweek."
- From Russia: The new housing code has been undermined. "In numerous cities resistance to increases and privatizations has been voiced. There have been demonstrations in Vladivostok (7,000 demonstrators), in Tomsk (where the temperature was minues 30 degrees celsius) in Saint Petersburg" The demonstrators demand the repeal of this new code and link other demands on housing, charges, privatization of water, electricity, etc. Our correspondents give us their point of view on the Russian Social Forum and "the reform of housing in the interests of the inhabitants."
- Also From India: The national convention of the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) was held in New Delhi on March 4 and 5. The ILC was invited to participate on the eve of this meeting and to hold a discussion on the situation of the workers in the textile industry. We publish the greetings from the ILC to this conference as well as a synopsis of the conclusions reached in the international workshop on textiles and a fraternal letter to the Chinese workers.
- Also From Iraq: Three years after the announcement of victory by George Bush, we are witnessing a plunge into barbarism. A press report from a correspondent reports on the number of deaths: "The Independent considers that the figures given by The Lancet, an international recognized British medical journal, are closer to reality: 100,000 Iraqis are said to have been killed since March 2003. The Independent confronts several statements made by Bush." We publish these.
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Free the jailed trade union miners in Romania! From the "Free Romanian Mineworkers" No. 1 issue - March 2006
The situation of the prisoners
The situation of the five jailed trade union miners is very difficult. Vasile Lupu, Dorin Lois, Ionel Ciontu and Miron Cozma were taken to Bucharest to stand trial. Constantin Cretan is still in jail in Tirgu Jiu, where his wife can only visit him three times a month. He is ill and has asked the judges to allow him to get treatment outside the prison. The court in Tirgu Jiu had agreed to give him a three-month's suspension of his penalty, but this sentence was voided by a so-called 'judicial error' and he is now awaiting for his appeal to be heard.
Some trade union activists who visited him last week indicated that he has not lost his will as a trade union leader and this decision weighs heavily on his mind. The trade unions that wish to send him personal messages of solidarity can do so by writing to his wife at the following address:
Ileana Cretan Boulevard Minerilor, bloc 2, Scara 8, Etaj 2, Apt. 4 Rovinari, judetul Gorj Romania
His son's e-mail is: email@example.com (mention "For Constantin Cretan")
The mineworkers trade unions protest in the Valley of Jiu
The statements of support in favor of those sentenced mineworkers continue. In January, the Timisoara court rejected the condiltional release demanded by Miron Cozma, which had the approval of the prison's director and that of a lower court. On this occasion the League of Mining Trade Unionists of the Valley of Jiu issued the following statement:
"Miron Cozma, the trade union leader is still in prison. On Friday, January 13 the magistrates at the Timis court rejected the mandate of the civil court of Timisoara for conditional release formulated by the miners' trade union.
"In December, the commission for conditional release of the Timisoara penitentiary agreed on Miron Cozma's request for conditional release on the basis of positive behaviour during his period in jail considering that he had already completed over half his sentence for 'having taken over the power of the state' at the time of the miners' uprising in 1991 and 1999.
"Later, on December 21, 2004, the magistrates of the civil court in Timisoara admitted the request for conditional release. However, the prosecutors attacked the decision.
"According to Cozma's lawyers, the decision of the tribunal is inadmissible since it has no legal basis. We consider that again, it is a political decision, taken by the magistrates under pressure from the powers that be. Since this decision is about an important trade union leader jailed for trade union activities, the decision is about maintaining an atmosphere of intimidation of the trade union movement in Romania.
"We strongly protest this absurd decision taken by Romanian justice. We also protest against the imprisonment of the trade union leaders Constantin Cozma, Dorin Lois, Vasile Lupu and Ionel Ciontu, accused of having usurped the power of the State during the miners' demonstrations in January 1999. Keeping them in prison, Romania continues to infringe international legislation that concerns it, especially the ILO Conventions 87 and 98, that it has ratified."
"In citing ILO Conventions 87 and 98 the LSMVJ recalls "the International Labor Organization (ILO) is an organization associated with the United Nations, and its norms have the power of law in the countries that have ratified it. Along with several trade union representatives from Romania we plan to take action in order to present an urgent demand before the ILO in order to prove a breach of the law in the trial of the mining leaders and to punish the Romanian state."
Creation of a "Solidarity labor fund for the jailed miners and their families"
After the European Labor Conference in Berlin (February 25 and 26, 2006) dozens of worker activists and trade union leaders from all political tendencies again indicated their support for the jailed mining trade unionists and called for a widening of the campaign. In the tradition of international labor solidarity an international solidarity fund was established in support of the prisoners and their families in need:
"We demand the immediate release of Miron Cozma, Constantin Cretan, Romeo Beja, Doris Lois, Vasile Lupu and Ionel Ciontu and the withdrawal of the accusations against them. They were judged and thrown into jail in violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98. The families of the prisoners are in a desperate situation due to the arbitrary illegal and brutal activities of the Romanian authorities. The jailed miners have been deprived of all their civil rights including the right to look after their children. Their families are devoid of any support. The labor movement of all countries have always acted according to the principle that the workers, the colleagues, the trade unionists that campaign for the rights of all workers can count in the event of persecution on the solidarity and support of their labor organizations.
"In the framework of this tradition we address trade union organizations, trade union sections and trade unionists in our countries and appeal to them for the creation of a support fund for the jailed miners and their families. If all contribute to this fund to the best of their ability we will be able to support their families and relieve our colleagues of their concern for the fate of their wives and children.
"We propose that the support funds will be placed under the responsibility of the trade unions of our countries who undertake to use the funds in the spirit of the donors and to publicly account for them before their trade unions."
Leaders of trade unions in Serbia-Montenegro, Germany and France as well as a representative of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples are members of the board that administers this fund.
Planned delegation to the Romanian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
A North American trade union leader from California sent us the following information:
"We were shocked to learn of the sentence against the mineworker trade unionists in Romania. This information is being circulated widely across the United States among trade union leaders at different levels in the AFL-CIO, many of whom have supported the appeal for the immediate release of the mineworker leaders. We were particularly shocked to learn that the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest (and later the European Commission) protested when former President Iliescu issued a presidential pardon for Miron Cozma, and pressed for the annulment of this decree. We are planning to organize a delegation of trade unionists to go to the Romanian Embassy in Washington. As we say in the labor movement in our country: "An injury to one is an injury to all!"
To contact the Free Romanian Mineworkers Committee:
In Romania: firstname.lastname@example.org
In France: C/0 International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples 87, rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis 75 010 Paris email@example.com
1.5 million people flooded the streets for the withdrawal of the CPE
What does the law that has just been adopted, creating the CPE (First Employment Contract) mean? It says (article 8) that "this contract is subject to the dispositions of the Labor Code except within the first two years running of articles L.122-4 to L.122-11, L.122-13 to L.122-14-14 and L.321-1 to L.321-17 of the same Code." These articles regulate the conditions for termination of the CDI, or Permanent Employment Contract, and of economic redundancy. A detail!
Here is what a trade unionist work inspector explained:
"A layoff is a break of a work contract at the initiative of the employer. It is subject to extremely strict rules that are breached by the CPE.
"The employee must receive a letter by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt, which summons him or her to a prior interview where the motivations for the redundancy are exposed orally; the employee can be assisted by a shop steward or an "employee's counsel". The employer must send the employee a letter by registered mail with acknowledgement of receipt explaining in writing the motivations of the redundancy; the employee can go before the "Conseil des Prud'hommes" (an industrial tribunal) to file an appeal if the layoff is considered "unsoundly motivated."
"If the layoff is considered "unsoundly motivated," the employee has the right to damages and interests in general equal to at least or more than six months wages. With the CPE or the CNE (New Job Contract) the employer can put an end to the contract at any time without furnishing any explanation to the employee or the industrial tribunal."
Why does the Prime Minister lie on this point? Does he think he will appease the anguish of youth and their parents?
Where does the CPE come from, implemented by different governments, regardless of their political leanings, if not from the European Union, the "directive for employment" No. 20 of 2005 that demands the " flexibility of employment."?
Excerpts from Informations Ouvrieres journal of the Labor Party
"In one week the right to work has been modified by six laws, six ordnances and 15 decrees"
Excerpts from an interview with a law professor, labor law specialist, published by Sud-Ouest:
Is there a worsening in the conditions for redundancy?
The possibility of breaking a job contract at any time does not exist in the long-term labor contract or in part-time contracts of pre-determined length. With the CNE and the CPE the employee is in an extremely precarious situation over two years with the fear that his or her contract might be broken at any time. From a judicial point of view, nothing prevents that tomorrow the CPE could be applied to other categories of workers, such as those over 50 or women, etc.
Is the labor force facing the risk of general casualization?
Casualization is not yet generalized but it is gaining ground. There are many other projects in the same sense such as the "single job contract" put forward by the Camdessus report: the rights of employees will be proportionate to their seniority. Can you imagine this?
Can we speak of a general attack against the right to a job?
Several months ago, or we should say several years ago, the right to a job entered into a regressive phase. But the dynamic is fast accelerating. Between July 24 and August 2, 2005 -- that is, in about a week -- the right to a job was modified by six laws, six ordinances and 15 decrees. One of these ordinances created the CNE. Another foresaw the exclusion of employees less than 26 years from the company's workforce especially with the implementation of personnel delegates and company committees. The CPE is along the same lines: it participates in the destruction of entire section of the right to work.
Workers Party March 18, 2006 - 7.30 p-m.
1.5 Million People Flooded the Streets The Cry Swells Up: General Strike Withdraw the CPE!
We were among the 1.5 million throughout France who demonstrated to say: Withdraw the CPE!
1.5 million united: high school and university students, employees, together with all their organizations.
"We are not negotiating a social setback, we are ready to fight, general strike!" (Reuters Press Agency)
"General strike until the CPE is withdrawn!" in Paris (Agence France Press) "Withdraw, withdraw the CPE!"
The government must give in now. The CPE must be withdrawn, now!
Three times, in growing numbers, people workers have gone on strike, have taken to the streets to say:
No, we do not want slavery for youth. No, we do not want our rights destroyed on the orders of the European Union! Withdraw the CPE, now!
What can be done now if not the general strike, to force them to retreat. NOW.
This is the cry that is swelling up now from every corner of the country:
- "The vast majority of the youth marched on March 16th to have the CPE withdrawn, against general flexibility, to have a future. They are right. The CPE is against the Labor Laws, against the CDI, against statuses. It is the end of all social gains: hospitals are being closed down, the number of jobs offered for public sector work is being cut, schools are being severely trimmed. We think that what is needed is a general interprofessional strike." (motion by 9 teachers in a school of the 19th arrondissement, or district, of Paris)
- "The government has refused to fulfill the demands that again were massively expressed: withdraw the CPE; we cannot accept it. What is at stake is everyone's fate, the fate of the youth, of collective guarantees threatened with cancellation in the public as well as the private sector, the fate of public education is threatened by massive job losses and by privatization through the transfer of TOS [maintenance and service workers in the education sector]"
- "The government does not budge; so we feel there is no other solution than a call by the trade union confederations for an interprofessional general strike till the demands are met." (35 teachers and staff members of the Jean Monnet secondary school Crépy-en-Valois, Oise)
- "We consider that the CPE and the CNE are a threat to the very future of the youth, we consider that, as teachers, we do not intend to do our job to see our pupils doomed to casualisation; we consider that this onslaught is connected to the destruction of all the gains, which is affecting us day by day; we consider that all together we can force the government to give in; if tonight March 18th, the government has not given in, we are ready to answer the call to a united general interprofessional strike, called by the confederations, for the withdrawal of the CPE." (Unanimously voted minus four abstentions by 37 teachers meeting for half a day "inter-union information exchange, or "information syndicale," [according to the labor legislation, one hour each month can be used for trade union meeting] in St Denis, on March 18th.
Those who say: a social setback is not to be negotiated are right. The youth have stood up, they are there. All those who are concerned about the youth and their future, all the people who have mobilized in the millions, have one single demand: WITHDRAW THE CPE, NOW, GENERAL INTERPROFESSIONAL STRIKE!
Greetings of the International liaison committee of workers' and peoples' (ILC) to NTUI National Convention, New Delhi, March 2006
Dear comrades and friends,
I thank the organizers of the NTUI convention for giving us the opportunity of addressing this impressive gathering of trade unionists from all over India. Comrade Dominique and myself convey to you all the fraternal greetings of the International liaison committee of workers' and people's (ILC) and especially those of Daniel Gluckstein, coordinator of the ILC, and comrade Olivier Doriane, who have met several friends present here in the course of common activities.
As you know our presence today is linked to a common activity: the ILC is co-organizing with NTUI a workshop on the situation in the textile and garment industry, a year after the end of the multi-fiber agreement (MFA). What has taken place during that year in that sector has concentrated a general trend present in all sectors and at worldwide level in all countries and continents.
Everywhere, the capitalist system of exploitation -- based on private ownership of the means of production -- has deepened, in the name of competitively its onslaughts against workers' rights and its drive to lower the cost of labour. Everywhere also the working class resists and seeks the ways and means to fight back efficiently.
Those developments have in our opinion vindicated what is at the core of the very existence of the ILC: more than ever, the working class needs its own class organizations, it needs its trad -unions based on the defence of the interests of the working class, interests which are irreducibly opposed to those of the exploiting class.
This ruling class offensive carries with it war, devastation and military occupations. To reach its ends it tramples upon all forms of democracy, and aims at destroying the sovereignty and the unity of nations. In fact, it threatens the very existence of nations and the basis of civilisation. The struggle for peace and democracy cannot be separated from the struggle for workers' rights. There cannot be democracy if the working class is denied its right to form its own organisations.
Never has there been so much rhetoric about the whitering away of classes, the existence of a "civil society" in which class contradictions could give way to harmony-- and yet never, as today, has the reality of class struggle been so present.
The so-powerful American imperialism, whose representative is visiting your country, was not able to cope with the consequences of a hurricane devastating New Orleans, leaving tens of thousands peoples, mostly Black, trapped by the flood. But even worse, the rebuilding of New Orleans has witnessed the eradication of some neighbourhoods, gentryfiying others, all of which amounts at a huge ethnical cleansing operation, doing away with the Black population. In the same time, tens of thousands of lay-offs are planned at the very heart of industrial America, at Ford and at General Motors, while profits are soaring.
If one turns to your continent, to Asia, one will witness the same drive towards flexibility -- all workers' rights being regarded as contradictory with flexibility -- the offensive to open all countries to imperialist penetration, to privatisation which in fact destroys the national economies, undermines the independence and the existence of the nations.
It is often said that China is a model in this race towards deregulation and privatisation. But China cannot be separated from the Chinese revolution, from that historical upheaval, the greater revolution of the past century after the Russian revolution. It was a message of hope for the people of the world, and especially of Asia.
The Chinese revolution put an end to the power of landlords, and of foreign and domestic capitalists. The means of production were placed in the hands of the state. Whatever the problems, it is a fact that it is on that basis that China experienced a tremendous development, and that a working class -- ten times larger than in 1949 -- was forged, organically linked to the state property of the means of production. The Chinese workers are right -- they have the right to freely organize and to defend those gains, to oppose lay-offs, to struggle against privatisations, against exploitations by foreign owners.
Just as the Indian workers are right to defend in the existing labour laws, all the elements that limit exploitation, to not be lured by the need to have "investor-friendly laws", to have repeatedly demonstrated nationally and gone on strike.
Taking about labour laws, in France, the government is now introducing a law under the name "first employment contract" which allow all employers when someone is hired for a first job to lay him or hef off without any special reason and without any benefit, for a period of two years. It is an attack against the very notion of collective-bargaining agreement, of a collective contract.
That law conforms to the demand and the regulations of the European Union, a union against the people of Europe, which the French people massively rejected on the 29th of May 2005, in a referendum.
The International Liaison Committee acts as link, a means of organising campaigns and exchange between organisations who share -- whatever the diversity of their situation, the origins of their political views or many others -- the common understanding that, "in a world daily confronted by war, military occupation, the assault on national sovereignty, plunder, the threat to the very democratic forms, including the existence of nations : it is the very basis of human civilisation that is threatened. More than ever, the working class needs its organisations there cannot be democracy if the workers are denied the right to create their own organisations, trade unions and parties".
These last sentences are quoted from the final declaration of the Madrid international conference called by the ILC in March 2005, attended by representatives of 50 countries among which India.
In that conference it was emphasized that the attempts to deprive the working class of its own organisations have assumed various forms.
The violence of repression, the anti-union laws, the blows against the right to strike and the right to organize, are combined with attempts to empty the working class organizations of their content by incorporating them into the schemes of a "new world governance".
This is a system that official reports say must be "set up with the actors : governments, parliaments, members of civil society, trade-union organizations and international organisations". This points to a real danger for the working class.
Trade unions are not an actor among others in a classless society, they are the representatives of a class engaged in a deadly battle against the exploiting class, its governments and its international institutions.
That is why the Madrid conference underlined its concerns as to the process of fusion between ICFTU and WCL which is presented by some of its components as linked to the schemes presented above. As the Madrid conference stated : "with these proposed alliances, will the future trade-union be transformed into a Non-governmental organization (NGO) specialized and mandated to function within the framework of globalized institutions ?"
Those questions must be discussed in the international labour movement.
It is for the same fundamental reasons that the Madrid conference refused to associate with the World Social Forums (WSF). At a meeting of the "bridge initiative" of December 2004 in Paris, the "working group" that included the IMF, and the representative worldwide civil society groups, especially the Wold Social Forum (WSF), it was explained that "the social organizations should place themselves both OUTSIDE the Bretton Woods institutions (demonstrating in the streets) and INSIDE, by cooperating with them at all possible times" ( quote from : IMF Press release for civil society, February 2005).
The Madrid conference raised the question : how could it be possible for the labour movement to accept -- through the intervention of the WSF or otherwise, to place itself inside the IMF and the World Bank and cooperate with those who are determined to destroy nations and peoples?
The labour movement at the start of the XXIst century must fiercely defend the principles and the methods on which it was founded.
When the international press sums up the problems in the case of India it always focuses on the trade unions and the existing labour laws. As The Economist (February, 11th) wrote: "too often, reform projects are delayed, and some times they are even cancelled or reversed." Why? Because, as the International Herald Tribune, notes: the trade union movement in India is still linked to "archaic values" and sometimes even goes on strike against the government, which is supported by the Communist parties.
Dear friends and comrades, we wish a full success to the proceedings of this convention. We hope that NTUI will uphold those so-called "archaic values". It is on that basis that the gains of the working class can be saved, that independence and unity of India can be preserved. These values which the exploiters denounce as "outdated" are not only the future of the trade union movement but also the future of mankind.
International liaison committee of workers' and peoples' c/o Parti des travailleurs, 87 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis 75010 Paris - FRANCE + 33 1 48 01 88 20 - firstname.lastname@example.org
The international workshop on textile and garment co-organized by the NTUI and the ILC with the Bangladesh national federation of workers' and the All Pakistan trade-union federation, met and discussed at the time of the NTUI conference. What are the first conclusions a year after the end of the MFA (Multi-fiber agreement) ?
The various contributions from various countries show that in all countries where textile is an important sector of national economy, the deregulation of the world market of textile has led to increased misery, growing unemployment, dismantlement of labour laws, undoing of labour rights.
The only beneficiaries are the big multinationals which control the market, the bosses who now have a free hand to order what they want, when they want, abiding to only one criteria : the cheapest cost.
That means that countries in which in the name of the requirements of the world market the abnormal development of a single industry, textile industry, had been imposed, should now accept to see that industry disappear with dreadful consequences for millions of workers, for the very life of the country. That in itself is a blow to the national sovereignty and independence of those countries.
What is taking place in the case of textile and garment expresses in a concentrated form a general trend resulting from the crisis of the system of exploitation based on the private property of the means of production.
Everywhere workers rights and gains are under attack. Everywhere the mad drive to the lowest cost of labour threatens the basis of civilisation, the very existence of nations. That affects all continents, and all countries. For instance, in Europe, European union is engaged in a destructive action against the rights of workers, democracy and the existence of nations : it is that course which the French people rejected in the 29th of May 2005. The situation in textile is of course of a major importance for the Asian Labour movement. But it affects in different ways all the world.
Chinese workers are not our enemies !
In the discussion, a point has been specially emphasized : it is the case of China. China has been presented as the main beneficiary of the changes in the textile world market. What is the reality? The answer has been given by facts acknowledged by the Chinese authorities themselves. On December 29th, the deputy chairperson of the permanent committee of the national popular assembly of China, He Luli, delivered a report on the results of the survey of more than 2,000 private enterprises located in several provinces of China. The result was that 80% of the private enterprises do not respect labour laws and that workers do not even benefit of a written contract. She especially denounced the garment sector in which foreign investors controlled 45.34% of the total production. The most official sources therefore confirm that the private sector in which foreign investors occupy a dominant position is developing by trampling upon the most elementary rights of the working class and is threatening the existence of what has been, since the 1949 revolution, the basis of the Chinese national economy and of the unity and independence of China: the state property of the main means of production.
This raises a fundamental problem : The building of Chinese economy, the growth of the working class which now regroups more than 300 million men and women took place on the basis of the results of the Chinese revolution of 1949 which expropriates the landowners and capitalists, foreign and domestic. Chinese economy developed on the basis of collectivization, of state property. The "opening" and the "free market policies" are leading to the dismantlement if Chinese economy, of the very conditions of the unity and sovereignty of China.
- The defence of Chinese workers, cannot be separated from the defence of the gains of the Chinese revolution, with the defence of state property against privatisation.
- The Chinese workers are not "competing" with the workers of the countries of Asia or of the world. They are a major component of our common fight. Their fate will be decisive for our fate.
- We propose that a letter be sent to the Chinese workers and that a delegation be organized during this year to check the facts and discuss with the Chinese workers.
How can we face this onslaught ?
It has been said and repeated in many ways and under various forms that the worst evils could be avoided by cooperation with the employers. There has been a lot of talks about "codes of good conduct" and the "corporations' social responsibility". But it is a fact that the multinationals who pull the strings of the textile industry have endorsed those schemes. But by outsourcing their production, they hide their responsibility in the disasters which are more and more frequent in the industry. The example of Spectrum sweater (Dhaka, Bangladesh) : the factory which fell down killing dozens of workers (mainly women) working at a nightshift, was producing mainly for firms like Zara, Carrefour and Wal-Mart (which had endorsed "good conducts codes").
The results of one year are clear : competitiveness is not only killing jobs, it is killing people. More than ever to face this terrible challenge, the workers need their own organisations.
- Nothing positive can come from "gentlemen agreements" with those who organise the rush to the bottom of wages and rights.
Only the organisations of the workers themselves can by their action put a limit to exploitation. More than ever the working class needs its own independent trade-unions, independent from all forces and considerations other than the interests, needs and demands of the workers who unite under their banners. Who are those responsible for the present situation ? The WTO, the governments who follow its instructions, in fact imperialism, the whole system of exploitation based on the private property of the means of production. That system is leading to disaster in all sectors.
The interests of the working class, the defence of its most elementary needs, cannot be accommodated with the system of "world governance". As an Indian trade-unionist said : "At a time when poverty and unemployment and job losses have grown to an astronomic proportion in all countries including in the heart of the world largest superpower, the very right to organise, unionise and associate the workers is threatened, and that is the real fight. Democracy is a hollow word without this right.() the resultant participatory new world government in country after country with actors as governments, parliaments, corporations, members of civil society, trade union organisations, international financial institutions like IMF, the World Bank, the WTO is a real danger before the working class."
- No to "world governance" ! To defend their jobs, their very lives, the workers in textile have to confront the capitalist system of exploitation. That is why, let's repeat it, they need more than ever their own organisations, then trade-unions.
The defence of jobs, of a genuine living wages, of conditions of work guaranteeing the safety of workers are contradictory to the need of profit, to the rush towards the bottom.
- This is why the struggle to defend jobs, wages and safety requires the nationalisation of industries : immediate nationalisation of all factories threatened by closing !
The demands of the working class express its vital needs : they are not a variable that can be adapted to the needs of trade. We reject the so-called "social clauses" which subordinate working class demands to the needs of so-called free-trade agreements.
- The struggle for wages corresponding to the needs of the workers can on no way be subordinated or linked to trade-agreements in the framework of SARS, and of APEC.
The key is the struggle in each country and internationally, the struggle of trade-unions independent from all governments, against the murderous drive to lower the cost of labour. Therefore what is fundamental is the struggle for the right of the workers to organize, to build trade union of their choice, and to be able to fully exercise they right to strike and to collective bargaining. That is why a common fight must be engaged in all the countries of our continent for the full endorsement and implementation of the ILO conventions beginning by ILO conventions 87 and 98.
- Full right to organize and to strike, right to collective bargaining as they are embodied in the main conventions of ILO such as conventions 87 and 98 !
Those are our first conclusions. On that basis, the discussion must go further.
Letter to our Chinese brothers and sisters
We have met in New-Delhi (India) in a meeting devoted to the consequences for the workers on the situation in the world market of textile and garment, a year after the end of the Multi-fiber agreement (MFA).
As you know, it has been said again and again, by the media that Chinese workers are the main beneficiaries of the changes in the world market. In fact they are attempting to divide us : to pit the workers of other countries of Asia against the Chinese workers, to point at you as if you were our enemies.
We know that it is a lie aiming at weakening you and that weakening us. You are our allies and our friends.
We know that : those who are benefiting in China on the changes in the world market are those who are exploiting us. The Chinese authorities say that 40% of the production of textile in China is in the hands of foreign capital. And in that sector the Chinese labour laws are not implemented.
As a Chinese friend wrote in the course of the preparation of our meeting : "China seems presented as the main beneficiary of the deregulation of the textile market. But the actual persons who benefit are the multinationals () after ugly negotiations, a lot of Chinese workers had to go back to their poverty"
Dear friends, China has the full right to produce and to develop.
Chinese workers have the rights to jobs, to wages, to security at work. They are untitled to the same rights than those all workers around the world should enjoy, and specially the right to organize as they wish to defend their demands We have heard that many struggles took place for the payment of wages, also for better wages, for safety at work. And also against lay-offs and for your pensions.
You are right to oppose privatisations which bring along with them the destruction of your gains, the reduction of your wages, the worsening of your working conditions and lead to the destruction of your jobs, the closure of your plants.
When you defend state enterprises against their liquidation, you defend a very basis on which China rests as an independent, united and sovereign country.
You defend all that was gained by the Chinese revolution in 1949 and which on the basis of the state property of the main means of production allowed the development of China.
We, trade-unionists, who are engaged in the struggle to defend our jobs, and our lives from the deadly consequences of the drive towards lower wages in the name of competitiveness in our countries, we regard you as our allies and our friends.
We wish to organize a delegation of Asian trade-unionists to inquire on what is the genuine situation and to discuss and exchange our experiences with you.
We will send you the conclusions of our encounter as a mean to prepare that meeting.
Receive our warms greetings.
I endorse this letter Name, surname Capacity Address - e-mail signature
Strikes in hospitals and public service
Interview with Martin Korbel-Landwehr, secretary of the Ver.di trade union of the CHU in Dusseldorf
Q: Why are you on strike since February 13?
M: For a wage negotiation and against the lengthening of the working week to 41 hours. This concerns all the CHU in Rhenanie du Nord-Westphalie and eight other hospitals (out of 27) outside Rhenanie du Nord-Westphalie. We are on strike because the lengthening of the work week at CHU in Dusseldorf would mean suppressing 350 jobs.
The student nurses would not have the possibility of being hired for three or four years. We do not accept a reduction in wages, nor on the leave bonus, nor on the 13th month. We do not want an agreement like the one in Hamburg but one of the Rhenanie du Nord-Westphalie to remain on the same work schedule. In our hospitals we must try to point the way for other sectors of the public service.
Q: How long do you think the strike will last?
M: We expect that in the next 15 days we will oblige the employers to come to the table and negotiate. The strike will continue until we have an agreement on working hours and wages.
Over one million doctors of German university hospitals have gone on an illegitimate strike on Thursday, March 16 to support the demands for a 30% increase in wages and better working conditions for the 22,000 doctors in the 34 German university hospitals and the payment of overtime. Over 4,000 doctors on strike demonstrated in Mayence.
The strike affected ten university hospitals in Fribourg, Heidelberg, Mayence, Bonn, Essen, Munich, Wurzbourg, Frankfort, Marbourg and Halles. Only emergency services are operating.
The strike was approved by over 98% of the practitioners consulted. It will extend to other hospitals centers. A previous warning strike took place on March 1 by doctors of university hospitals followed by 7,500 practitioners.
According to a study realized in the Spring of 2004 by the British institute of economic studies (NERA), doctors in German hospitals have the lowest wages in Europe. They earn around two times less than their counterparts in France, 2.25 less than their counterparts in British hospitals and almost five times less than their North American counterparts.
Interviewed on ZDF Radio, Montgomery, President of Marburger Bund, the doctors principal trade union, promised a long strike underlining that "unacceptable wage offers" by the employers and representatives of the regional states led to this movement.
The patients' representatives have indicated their understanding of the situation. The vice president of their association, Wolfram Candidas said, "they must modify the payment of benefits so that the money goes to those who work."
This movement comes at a time of a heated social context in Germany. Regional public services are in their sixth week on strike regarding the length of the working week.
In the address they adopted, constituting a European Liaison of Workers, 160 labor delegates from 15 countries in Europe declared: " Together our peoples will find a solution and help to reconstruct and modernize productive bases in the eastern part of the continent that have been devastated and sacked in respect for a "market economy" and re-establish the property of the state under the control of the workers, a condition for the survival of the peoples and their countries and the realization of the hope born of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989." "A question of survival" write the correspondents from the former Soviet Union.
A question of survival for millions of people: We are on one side or the other of the barricade.
To die of cold has become a common occurrence in the countries of the Soviet Union. According to information from the health ministry, 884 people died of cold in Ukraine from January 16 through February 13, 2006. These are official figures. The press reported 1,500 victims. In Russia, over 5,000 people died of cold.
These are the direct victims of the housing reform that has completely overturned the existing system in Ukraine and Russia. (See box). Privatization of housing has thrown workers and retirees into the street.
The increase in charges as of January 1 found many families unable to pay and in view of the local authorities, those who defaulted suffered various actions such as cutting off the supply of gas, water and electricity. This affected not only those unable to pay but all the tenants of the same building. One of the lessons 'to be learnt' was, precisely, that those who could pay would 'take care' of those unable to pay.
Numerous towns expressed a resistance to the increases and privatization. There were demonstrations in Vladivostok (7,000 demonstrators), in Tomsk (par - 30?????). In Saint Petersburg residents of homes demonstrated (they generally cut off circulation on Zagorodny avenue) against privatization of homes that were privatized at the same time as the companies they depend on.
There have already been legally sanctioned evictions. In Perm, the demonstrators (around 500) rallied around the cry of "Return the homes to their tenants." "Suspend the new housing Code!" On February 17 in Ekaterinburg, there was a massive march against an increase in rates. In Briansk, 5,000 people took part in protests against the increase in rates and the movement was supported by the workers at the mechanical factory. "Finally, half of our pay goes to housing" said the demonstrators. On top of that we are highly qualified cutters and turners and we earn 7,000 to 10,000 rubles per month. But what about a youth starting out? Must he remain in the street? Meanwhile the factory threatened to lay off the workers that participated in the demonstrations.
The principal demands on this question are:
- Suspend the new housing Code - Reverse the increase in charges - Abrogation of decree No. 144 whereby all charges must be paid by the citizens - Abrogation of the privatization of offices exploiting housing (JEK) - Abrogation of privatizations of water and electricity services - Ensure the right to housing - Reestablish the reductions in housing and charges for retirees and other needy categories
These are the demands made during all demonstrations against the housing reform.
The position of the second Social Forum in Russia
Under these conditions how can one understand the position of on the principal organizer of the forum, Carine Clement, director of the Institute for Collective Action?
She proposes as the order of the day at the forum the "Reform of housing (JKKh) in the interest of the inhabitants. What does this mean? Don't the workers demand the abrogation of the new housing Code and the defense of the present housing service (JKKh)? The order of the day, "]Stop the housing reform", "No to the privatizing of housing" are the words at the center of all demonstrations in all of Russia. It is a question of finding a roof over one's head or find oneself in the street. It is about the survival of the population.
Why does Clement substitute another notion? The workers need their housing service (JKKh) guaranteed by the state and lower rates ensured by the state for water, electricity, etc. They do not need another reform, they want to keep the one they have. The question is: another reform, another privatization, a subtle, humane destruction of housing or the defense of the housing service (JKKh), abrogation of privatization and the new housing Code.
Clement invited the representatives of civil society to the forum (that is to say the NGO's, that receive subsidies from the European Union and whose interests are subordinate to implementing the directives of the European Commission and the U.S. State Department) as well as the activists of the Iabloko party. We stress that the decision of the bureau of this party No. 363 on March 18, 2005, was to obtain a weakening of the monopoly system in the area of housing, to create new economic incentives so that this sector passes into the hands of the non-monopolistic business. In other words, this party is fighting for privatization. It does not hide that it does not want to abrogate the reform but rather adopt the amendments to the Housing Code proposed by the deputies of the party (declaration by Iabloko on February 27, 2006).
Can Clement ignore the position of her party and the Iavlinski principle? It is not about ignorance but rather it is a conscious policy of the leading forces of the forum to intervene as a cover for implementing the directives of the European Union and the United States. In this case both Clement and the Forum are playing the unenviable role of supplicants in the destruction of the housing service of Russia.
It is about having a roof over one's head or finding oneself in the street, it is a question of survival for millions of people: we are on one side or the other of the barricade.
The new housing code and a series of laws adopted by the Duma will deprive millions of citizens of the right to housing as of 2007. It fixes a ceiling of income in order to qualify for state housing . New dispositions allow the eviction of tenants and in certain cases without a proposal for other housing. This code legitimizes the barbaric practice of the purchase of the tenants' debts by private firms. These go to court and use strong-arm tactics to execute the seizure of the goods and housing of the debtors who cannot pay. How do they obtain the information on the debtors and how do they know how much is owed? In fact it is the local administration that gives these loan sharks the information on the debtors who are pensioners, workers who have not been paid in years, single mothers who cannot afford the constant increases.
The consequences of the new Code are:
- An unlimited increase in rates (according to Spassk-Danlnii the increase in rents is 56%, in the Orenburg region 30 to 40%, in Rostov and Oulianovsk nearly 30%%. In Petersburg a family of three with one child pays around 1,500-1,600 rubles for housing and rates. The median income is 8,500 rubles and this represents 10% of the family budget, but for pensioners it is at least 20%.)
- The increasing dilapidation of public housing and the government's refusal to co-finance heavy work
The next step will be the replacement of social advances by a miserable financial compensation that the government had to offer in view of the widening demonstrations. The more fragile categories will not be able to pay.
The process of privatization of the housing offices (JEK), water and electricity is another aspect. This means that each time there is an increase in rates, layoffs, the destruction of companies and losses for its employees of this or that service.
The consequences of this reform will become more destructive than the process of monetarization.
The second war against Iraq started on March 19, 2003. Iraq, three years later (excerpts from the British press)
There is no greater indictment against the consequences of the invasion and occupation of Iraq than the confrontation between the triumphal declarations of Bush (and Blair) and the reality exposed by the testimonies coming from personalities associated with or favorable to, the policies of Bush.
The British daily The Independent (see below) undertook this task.
The people of Iraq have not only been starved and decimated by the sanctions decreed by the UN, crushed by bombs before being invaded but they are now confronted by a bloody chaos under the 'protection' of the forces of occupation. The military occupation under the leadership of the U.S. (with the backing of the UN, where the Security Council has recognized its legitimacy) has been the means to the break-up of the Iraqi nation.
The 'ethnic' and religious divisions have been fanned and manipulated in order to counter the unanimous rejection to the occupation by the Iraqi people.
The result has been a descent into barbarism brought on by the occupation forces.
What the new "Greater Middle East" project promoted by U.S. imperialism means to the people of the region is inscribed in the tragic reality of Iraq today.
What is written in blood in Iraq is a warning for all peoples. The fate of Africa, what is happening in Rwanda and Burundi, dramatically shines a spotlight on the reality of the "new world governance" under the direction of U.S. imperialism: it is the march towards barbarism.
Where are those who control the UN taking us? Where are those who control the European Union taking us who again, have become the accomplices of Bush against Iran? The fate of humanity is in jeopardy.
March 19, 2006 marks the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. On May 1, 2003, George Bush, speaking from the deck of an aircraft carrier, announced victory. Where are we three years later?
"We have opened a Pandora's box which leads to a situation that makes the Afghanistan of the Talibans look like child's play." The author of this alarmist vision is not an adversary of the Bush administration. He is the ambassador of the United States in Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, quoted in The Guardian on March 13, 2006.
On March 12 another British paper, The Independent, published a balance sheet of three years of occupation. Here are several excerpts:
"The greatest change in our lives: the risk of violent death. Iraq is today the most dangerous country in the world. Things are getting worse. The private organism (Iraq Body Count) that reports on civilian deaths -- which the Pentagon and the Iraqi government refuse to do -- considers that even before the third year of occupation, the number of losses is even greater than in the two preceding years. According to its evaluation there have been 6,331 deaths between May 1, 2003 and the first anniversary of the invasion. On the second anniversary of the invasion up to March 1, 2006 there were 12,617 deaths. This does not include the victims of the violence that broke out in the attack on the Samara mosque. When questioned, the great majority of the Iraqis said the greatest change in their existence after 2003 was the fear of a violent death.
"After the invasion the losses of the US Army amounted to 2,306 dead. During the same period there were 16,653 injured.
"Iraq Body Count estimates there were 37,589 Iraqis killed during this period. They admit that these figures are harder and harder to estimate in view of the censorship of the press and the difficulty of moving around the country."
The Independent considers that the figures published by The Lancet, the British medical journal are closer to reality: 100,000 Iraqis were killed after March 2003. The Independent continues to confront Bush's declarations with reality.
On April 8, 2003, Bush and Blair made the following statement:
"The future of Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. We will create a framework that will allow the Iraqis to peacefully and democratically determine their destiny."
The reality: "Not only the government has been unable to furnish the minimum protection for the population but it has carried on a policy of arrests and tortures against innocent citizens." (From Amnesty International, March 9, 2006. Today there are 14,000 political prisoners in the hands of the occupation forces.
Another promise: "The Prime Minister and I have made our choice. Iraq will be free. Iraq will be independent. Iraq will be a peaceful nation and we will not step back because of fear or intimidation." (Statement by Bush and Blair on April 16, 2004)
The reality: "Three years after the invasion one cannot establish in what sense Iraq is still a nation. After two elections and a constitutional referendum, Iraq hardly has an operative government." (TV analyst George Will, March 2006)
Another promise: "We will improve the highway network, the schools, the hospitals. We will re-establish basic health, water and electricity services. Together, with our allies, we will help the new Iraqi government to ensure a better life for their people." (George Bush, June 27, 2005.)
The reality: "The people of Iraq are suffering from a lack of housing, health and electricity services. If we compare the present situation to that of 1896, there is a considerable degradation." (Braham Saley, Iraqi planning minister in 2004).
Baghdad has only 5 hours of electricity per day.