Workers of the world Round-up

Submitted by Anon on 6 March, 2004 - 9:05

By Pablo Velasco

  • Colombian oil workers halt privatisation: solidarity works!
  • "Massive summer strikes" planned in Korea
  • ANC against anti-privatisation activists
  • Argentine workers fight for a six-hour day

Colombian oil workers halt privatisation: solidarity works!

Colombian oil workers have won their struggle against privatisation, thanks to their resolute strike action backed up by international solidarity.

In the last issue of Solidarity we reported on how the Colombian government was trying to break the month-long strike at Ecopetrol, the national oil company, using military force.

The Uribe government had declared the strike illegal, defining petroleum refining as an "essential service" in Colombia and placing troops in and around Ecopetrol's petroleum facilities.

Hundreds of members of the oil workers' trade union, Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria Del Petróleo (known as USO), had been sacked for participating in the strike and others faced arrests, death threats and other forms of harassment.

Within days of the call for solidarity put out by the global union federation ICEM through the Labourstart website, the Colombian government had received thousands of protest messages.

According to a report from the ICEM, the union has won an agreement that will keep "oil reserves in the hands of the citizens of Colombia". Around 250 USO members who were sacked will retain their full pension rights and have an opportunity to win their jobs back through the arbitration process.

"Massive summer strikes" planned in Korea

The independent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has announced plans for "massive general summer strikes" later this month, unless its demands are met across different industries.

Health and medical unions will go on strike on 10 June; taxi drivers' union and other federations including the powerful metalworkers' union plan strikes on 16 June.

The KCTU also announced its 10 objectives, including:

  • abolishing the part-time working system;
  • applying the five-day workweek plan and increasing jobs;
  • improving the minimum wage system;
  • negotiations with industries;
  • withdrawing troops sent to Iraq;
  • ending the free trade agreement between Korea and Japan;
  • increasing the social welfare budget.

The KCTU held a large gathering in front of the National Assembly on 4 June, and plan another rally on 16 June. There is a demonstration in defence of the minimum wage on 24-25 June. Health and medical unions have agreed to provide emergency cover in A&E and intensive care units, to minimise the effects of the strike on other workers.

ANC against anti-privatisation activists

Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) activists in South Africa have been fined for opposing ANC plans for privatised pre-paid water meters.

Last week a magistrate's court in Soweto convicted two APF members of "intimidation" and fined them R10,000 each.

The activists were arrested and charged in September 2003 as part of a crackdown on community resistance to the installation of pre-paid water meters in Phiri. They were alleged to have broken the law at an ANC-controlled Johannesburg City Council meeting to propound the benefits of pre-paid meters. One of the men, Tshepo, was denied bail and was kept in jail for two weeks.

The prosecution's case consisted of contradictory testimonies from two ANC councillors and a police officer. One of the councillors and the police officer were unable to identify the APF men, or to confirm that they had carried out any act of "intimidation". But the judge still convicted the men on the basis of the testimony of the other councillor.

The APF says the decision to fine the activists is "outrageous", "nothing less than a cynical and politically-motivated act of desperation against the growing community resistance".

Argentine workers fight for a six-hour day

Argentine tube workers are fighting for a six-hour day - a demand that is galvanising workers in other industries as the answer to unemployment in the country.

Last September Solidarity reported that workers on the underground in the capital Buenos Aires had won a six-hour day. Tube workers in Argentina wrote to us thanking us for our support, but point out that at the time only drivers had won the six hour day and that workers in ticket offices still had to work eight hours.

In April this year tube workers struck for four days to secure the six-hour day for all their members.

For four days, not a train moved. Workers took over key stations to prevent scab supervisors running trains. Workers faced obstruction from leaders of their union, the UTA, which systematically betrayed workers' interests.

However, as a result of the strike, all grades of tube worker, including those not previously included, have won the six-hour day. Workers are now writing a history of their struggle after privatisation in 1994 up to the six-hour victory. They have also organised a meeting to launch a national movement for the six-hour working day in every industry, to solve the problem of high unemployment that continues to plague Argentina.