Workers of the world: ROUND-UP

Submitted by Anon on 18 August, 2003 - 7:01

by Pablo Velasco

  • Indonesian party fights for legal recognition
  • Hong Kong: Article 23 postponed
  • Korean unions to stand in parliamentary elections
  • Yale University strike
  • General strike in Bangladesh
  • Colombian Coca-Cola workers face the sack

Indonesian party fights for legal recognition

The Party of United People's Opposition (POPOR) in Indonesia is fighting to be registered as a legal political party in time for next year's elections. To be granted legal recognition the party, which includes socialists and trade unionists and is led by Dita Sari, must prove that it has branches in at least half of Indonesia's 32 provinces. The party, which was only formed in July this year, has been able to submit documentation for 18 provinces.

In an interview in the Australian Green Left Weekly, Dita Sari said: "There is just no other party that has broken away from the old Suharto-era way of doing things: the old 'bread-and-circus' style of politics. Buying votes and putting on festivals. There are more and more workers, farmers, poor people in the kampungs [poor neighbourhoods], who have real grievances on almost every front, who are suffering dreadfully under the neo-liberal policies of the government and who are sick of its empty talk. They all want a new kind of politics. The question is, can we get our message to them?"

The logical step is for POPOR to field a candidate in Indonesia's first direct presidential election, set for next July. Any party that gets 3% of the vote in the general election can nominate a candidate. Although Dita Sari would be the obvious choice, she is not eligible to stand because a new law says that a presidential candidate must be over the age of 40 - effectively disenfranchising the generation that led the fight to overthrow the Suharto dictatorship.

Hong Kong: Article 23 postponed

Hong Kong's pro-China government has shelved the introduction of Article 23, a so-called anti-subversion law that would have curtailed important freedoms in the province.

The proposed law provoked the biggest demonstrations Hong Kong had seen since protests against the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. In July this year over half a million marched in demonstrations, with Hong Kong trade unions playing a leading part.

Korean unions to stand in parliamentary elections

Both wings of the South Korean trade union movement are planning to field candidates in next year's general election. The independent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the traditionally pro-government Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) have said they plan to challenge the existing pro-business parties with their own representatives.

The KCTU will choose 50 candidates within the year after receiving applications from its constituent unions. In the last elections in 2000, the KCTU almost won a seat in Ulsan. The FKTU said it will field as many as 150 candidates through the Social Democratic Party of Korea. The two organisations have even talked of joining forces to propose joint candidates, based on issues such as the anti-union laws and the campaign for a shorter working week.

Yale University strike

A fierce battle is taking place for a living wage at Yale University, one of the premier academic institutions in the US.

Secretaries, food service workers, maintenance employees, researchers and registrars have been on strike since the end of August, demanding a pay rise, improved pensions and more job security.

The strike is being coordinated by the Federation of Hospital and University Employees (FHUE), which includes four different unions of Yale employees. Yale University is the largest employer in the predominantly black town of New Haven.

Last week, 10,000 strikers, trade unionists and students shut down the centre of New Haven. During demonstrations, the presidents of five national unions, including AFL-CIO national president John Sweeney, were arrested along with around 150 other demonstrators.

Students at the university have been organising solidarity. The Undergraduate Organizing Committee has organised benefit concerts, collected money and visited picket lines.

General strike in Bangladesh

A general strike against the government's privatisation plans brought Bangladesh to a standstill last week. Schools, factories and ports shut down and train services were severely disrupted.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government has listed 100 state-owned companies for privatisation by 2005, at the cost of about 150,000 jobs. The World Bank has asked Bangladesh to sell off 220 enterprises in the jute, textile, paper and food sectors.

Colombian Coca-Cola workers face the sack

Coca-Cola FEMSA, Coke's primary bottler in Latin America, has just announced plans to close nine bottling plants in Colombia, leaving 2,500 workers without a job.

On 9 September, Coca-Cola FEMSA called the workers to meetings in Barrancabermeja, Cartagena, Cœcuta, Duitama, Monter'a, Neiva, Pereira, Valledupar, and Villavicencio. The managers announced their plan to close those plants and pressured the workers to resign from their contracts in exchange for a lump-sum payment - "voluntary retirement". The workers were told that if they didn't "resign", they would be dismissed.

Coca-Cola FEMSA's efforts to force the workers to resign comes just two weeks after paramilitary gunmen shot at the vehicle of Juan Carlos Galvis - vice president of SINALTRAINAL (the Coke workers' union) in Barrancabermeja. Juan Carlos' bodyguards returned fire and the gunmen fled.

In another recent attack on the union, the 15-year-old son of a union leader was kidnapped and tortured.

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