Workers' news round-up

Submitted by AWL on 1 April, 2005 - 6:21

News from working-class movements around the world.

EUROPE

Around 75,000 people marched in Brussels on 19 March calling for a stronger social Europe, with more and better jobs, and protesting against the neo-liberal Bolkestein directive.

The Bolkestein or Services directive would mean that companies could effectively choose which European country’s laws to follow and whose enforcement regime to abide by.

Large delegations came from France and Germany, and smaller delegations from other European Union countries.

The demonstration was called by the European TUC (ETUC) trade union federation.
The EU summit last week appeared to make some concessions on the directive — but the fight against it is far from over.  
 
VENEZUELA
 
The National Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT) has issued an appeal to trade unions around the world for recognition and solidarity.

The UNT was formed in April 2003 in opposition to the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV). The leadership of the CTV and the FEDECAMARAS employers’ association participated directly in the attempted military coup of April 2002. In December 2002 and January 2003, FEDECAMARAS and the CTV organised an lockout to try to bring down the Chávez government.

As a result the CTV is discredited in Venezuela. The UNT now represents the majority of organised workers in the country. It says it wants to create “a trade union federation that is built from the bottom up by the rank and file and is rooted in the principles of class independence, trade union democracy and full autonomy in relation to the state and all political parties”.

The UNT has led strikes and, while it is aligned with Chávez, it is not simply a tool of the Chávez regime.

The full appeal can be read at: www.venezuelanalysis.com.

INDIA

Nearly a million bank workers in India took part in a one-day strike last week in protest at “reforms” that will lead to job cuts.

The strike was called by the United Forum of Bank Unions, which is made up of nine separate unions.

The government wants 27 state-run banks to merge in order to compete in the global economy. Unions say this measure will result in the closure of 22,000 branches.

Workers had earlier organised a sit-in demonstration in front of the Indian parliament building on 11 March.

BOLIVIA

Blockades by workers’ and peasants’ organisations have once more pushed the Bolivian political system into crisis.

Over the past few weeks, Bolivian president Carlos Mesa has twice almost resigned, and he is now calling for early elections.

The protests, led by indigenous organisations and by social democrat Evo Morales, demanded higher taxes on the foreign energy companies that are exploiting Bolivia’s vast natural gas reserves — among the largest in the Americas.

A new bill in parliament raises taxes on profits from 18% to 32%, but the protesters want a 50% levy — as existed before the IMF and World Bank imposed austerity measures on Bolivia.

Mesa only came to power after the uprising in October 2003 to stop President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada’s gas export deal. After Sánchez de Lozada resigned, Mesa took over. However, he has now called for elections this year to end his term of office two years early.

The blockades have been called off for the time being, but they are likely to start up again if the gas issue is not resolved.

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