News from working-class struggles around the world...
The importance of the August holiday tradition in Italy can be seen in the fact that — during the break — the trade unions and management have a “summer truce” and class struggle comes to a halt for several weeks.
Except that this year, the transport union SULT called a strike of Alitalia cabin crew during the holidays. The strike’s over the derecognition of SULT after the union refused to discuss a restructuring plan put forward by Alitalia.
The government has responded by threatening the “call-up” of Alitalia staff. The word they use is “precettazione”, which is also used for a military call-up – but as far as I can understand it has the same effect as a court injunction in the UK and would make the action illegal.
After talks with the government, SULT has postponed the strike until 6 and 7 September. But the whole affair has kicked off a big row about union rights here. It seems that Alitalia has gone further than most employers would by deciding to derecognise a union, to the point that even the right-wing Labour Minister has expressed mild concern.
The militant Batay Ouvriye union has published a English-language newsletter on the current situation facing workers in Haiti. The union says it is the first of many, “for us to continue building our own camp, with the objective of organizing our own forces, throwing our own weight into the battle.”
Struggles in the north-west free trade zone continue. Negotiations between the union SOCOWA and CODEVI management for a collective work contract have begun and a bipartite committee is functioning. Batay Ouvriye say “democratic practices and regular assemblies remain basic to the task of heightening the consciousness of all discussions with the management and, especially, to confirm or reject them”.
Around Cap-Haitien, the union is organising among orange pickers and in the hotel sector. The union says that in some neighbourhoods, “workers’ committees” have been established, to help defend people themselves against abuses by Lavalas party gangs [i.e. members of the old ruling party under Aristide.] For example these gangs force people to pay for state-distributed water and “tax” low-income street vendors.
Haiti Support Group: www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org
Batay Ouvriye: www.batayouvriye.org
Workers at all three Hyundai factories in Korea, more than 40,000 in number, walked off the job in August. Car workers have gone on strike almost every year since their union was established in 1987 to win higher wages. In June, the union demanded an 8% increase in basic wages, incentive payments and shorter working hours.
Hyundai wants to become the world’s sixth-largest carmaker by 2010. More than 70% of its cars are made in South Korea, but it has also opened plants in Turkey, India, China and the United States.
At least 17 workers at Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India are still missing presumed dead after a police baton-charge in Gurgaon. Some 800 Honda workers were attacked after they demonstrated against police action earlier in the day to break a highway blockade on 25 July.
The Haryana government, which has not carried out an inquiry into the beating, has denied that anyone was killed when police attacked workers. But a citizens’ committee — made up of labour leaders, social activists and academics – has demanded that state authorities either trace the missing workers or consider them dead and compensate the families.
According to Honda union members, as many as 28 workers are still missing. Union lawyers said they had witnessed torture in custody, including the beating to death of one injured worker, whose body was then burned by police.