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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #1 -- International Left and Labour News

The inaugural edition of our new weekly review of international left and labour news debuts with stories from the UK, Brazil, the United States, Nigeria, and elsewhere. There are also updates from the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

The 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba launches in Cuba

This is the inaugural edition of our new weekly Red Review roundup of international left and labour news.

April 11:

This Sunday’s presidential races in South America produced mixed political results. Andres Arauz, the Correista candidate in Ecuador’s second round, conceded victory to right-wing candidate and banker Guillermo Lasso, while in Peru the Ipsos exit poll results showed the leftist candidate Pedro Castillo (Peru Libre) winning with 16.1%, not enough to secure a victory, and thus ensuring a second round.

April 12:

Following news that approximately 60 programs have been cut at Laurentian University and that over 80 faculty members have lost their jobs, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations is calling for the resignation of Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano. These devastating cuts are the direct result of negligence on the part of the Minister, who was well aware of the financial challenges Laurentian was facing at least six months before they became public. Romano has not done the work needed to support Laurentian University and its students, faculty, or community. Ontario’s university faculty and academic librarians have lost confidence and trust in the Minister’s commitment to the university sector.

April 13:

April 12 1973 saw the banning of political parties by the Swazi monarchy, supported by the apartheid regime in South Africa. This move ushered in an era of repressive feudal-capitalist control under an iron fist monarchic system, one that has forced our people to be subjects rather than citizens.

We commemorate this date by urging a renewed focus on the role of youth in the struggle to end the dictatorship in Swaziland. The revolutionary potential of the youth has been neglected, youth political education is non existent, and yet the youth have played major frontline roles in defending the rights of students and learners. In many countries, the youth are instrumental in fighting for progressive change, whether for democracy, to defend the environment or to end racism. We need a similar reinvigoration and widening of youth activism in Swaziland.

For this reason, the CPS is dedicating the 12 April as the day of youth struggle. The aim of this is to focus youth activism on a particular theme - namely, the need to end the dictatorship and institute a progressive democratic dispensation. We are calling this youth initiative the 12 April Movement, and while we realise that this is a work in progress, we believe as CPS that this can be a rallying point for a broad campaign of youth inclusion in progressive struggle across a variety of fronts: education, culture, anti-GBV activity, an end to Reed Dance exploitation of women and girls, and other pressing demands that will be worked out as the 12 April Movement is developed.

Vietnam has elected a new government, and although many Americans might not pay much attention to Vietnamese politics, there are significant reasons for them to do so—especially now.

With one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Vietnam has become an important trade partner with the United States, reason enough to give it consideration. But secondly, the country’s internationally recognized success in containing the COVID-19 pandemic offers many lessons on what a socialist-oriented economy can achieve when people are prioritized over capital.

The Syndicat des débardeurs du port de Montréal (CUPE 375) issued a notice of a partial strike on Saturday in response to a notice from the employer that announced they would be suspending the job security provisions in the collective agreement effective Tuesday.

After a hard-fought, two-year struggle, Teamsters at Republic Services in Cumming, Ga., unanimously ratified their first contract on Saturday. The four-year agreement contains better wages, seniority language, a grievance procedure and stronger security for the 40-worker unit.

"We stayed true to our beliefs of unionization. No matter what the company threw at us, we knew we could stop it by standing together as a union," said Greg Dowis, a 23-year industrial driver for Republic Services and union steward for Local 728. "I want to thank my brothers and sisters in Cumming for staying united throughout our battle at the bargaining table."

"These workers were ready to take a stand and hit the picket line, but thanks to our unified negotiating committee, it didn't come to that," said Rich Fredrick, Local 120 Business Agent.

The agreement is good for the next four years and has a number of improvements. These include annual raises of at least one dollar per hour and a pay increase of $2.45 for workers with a Class A Commercial Driver's License, an improved vacation accrual schedule, improved successor language and protections against unjust termination due to the on-board vehicle cameras. The agreement also has no increase to the workers' health care or pension contributions, in fact, any unused health and welfare contributions are now put towards an increased pension benefit for the workers.

April 14:

Organizations are demanding that the federal and provincial governments intervene as well as for the resignations of Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano and others. It is hard not to see this absolute devastation of a post-secondary institution -- using an insolvency process that was never intended to be used by public-sector institutions -- as an austerity canary in the coal mine test case, making resistance to the cuts all the more important.

The Czech Communist Party has announced that it is withdrawing its support for the current minority government composed of ANO and ČSSD, following disagreements over policy. The Communist Party leadership told the media that their support for Babiš’s government will end, but that they will not call a motion of no confidence in the government themselves, preferring to support policies on a case-by-case basis.

“There is a vaccine against fascism, against corruption, and for equality — it is called the republic,” the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) declared.

Demos “pay a well deserved tribute to those who defended democracy in the face of the fascist coup of 1936 … and fought for freedom during the 40 years of the fascist dictatorship,” it said, adding that thousands of people were still missing from that time, buried in “ditches and unmarked graves.”

On May 6, voters in Britain will go to the polls in local elections that will see the largest number of candidates representing the Communist Party since the early 1980s. Candidates will be campaigning in the Welsh Senedd, Scottish Parliament, and London, Assembly as well as in English local councils.

The launch of the Communist Party’s manifesto, or platform, for the May 6 elections on Tuesday night will reflect “the confidence and enthusiasm of a growing Communist Party,” general secretary Robert Griffiths says.

British Gas go ahead today (April 14) with a mass sacking of striking gas engineers who refused to submit to corporate bullying to accept a 15% cut in pay rates and other imposed changes in terms and conditions.

The People’s Party is opening nominations for its inaugural slate of candidates. The party will run a diverse and dynamic first generation of working class community-champions for Congress in 2022 and may include a candidate for the U.S. Senate. The national slate will include about a dozen candidates. And they won’t do politics as usual. They will be powered entirely by working people and grassroots donations, rejecting all funds from corporate lobbyists and PACs, like the party itself.

April 15:

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Automobile, Boatyards, Transport, Equipment and Allied Senior Staff Association (AUTOBATE) is fighting for the payment of wages to over 60 workers at Galba Nigeria and for the engineering company to respect workers’ rights.

At a day of action in support of Local 121 members locked out since November 27, Quebec Federation of Labour President Daniel Boyer and Unifor Quebec Director Renaud Gagné announced the launch of a boycott of Shell products in Montreal.

Recalling that Shell turned a profit of $4.85 billion in 2020, despite an economic slowdown due to COVID-19, on top of profits totalling more than $16 billion in 2019, the union leaders denounced the oil company’s conduct toward its employees.

“This super-rich company refuses to treat Quebec workers fairly,” Boyer said.

University students’ associations held new militant rallies in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities on 15/4, sending the message that they are not backing down and will intensify the struggle they have been waging for months. Their main demands include their safe return to universities and the non-implementation of the ND government law, which establishes police forces inside universities.

Brazil saw two important legal victories for former Workers' Party presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff:

April 16:

RNAO says the government's decision not to close all non-essential workplaces and compensate non-essential workers so they can stay at home, demonstrates Premier Ford is not up to the task of wresting control of the pandemic. "The decision to allow these businesses to remain open will lead to even higher case counts, significantly greater pressures on hospital ICUs and their staff, and more lives lost and families in anguish. This will unfold in front of our eyes in the coming weeks, despite the Premier and his team's insistence that they are doing all they can by "opening more beds," says RNAO's CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun. She adds: "This is catastrophe by design."

"Workers are scared, and are looking to the province for leadership. Instead, Doug Ford is playing politics amid the crisis, and workers in essential jobs across the province are still waiting to be put on a fast-track to vaccination," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "We need to do everything we can to keep all people safe who cannot work from home, but Ford continues to pass the buck instead of prioritizing workers."

In an effort to advance negotiations at the tables and meet the priorities set by the 73,000 teachers they represent, the Fédération des syndicats de l'enseignement (FSE-CSQ) and the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (APEQ-QPAT) announced a second legal strike for Tuesday, April 27, from 2:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. This strike targets all education sectors from pre-school, primary, secondary, to vocational and general adult education.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is gravely concerned that new COVID-19 restrictions do not include additional protections to keep workers safe. Workers, public health officials, and medical experts have repeatedly urged Ford’s Conservative government to implement policies like paid sick days to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Despite case numbers in the province reaching an all-time high, Ford continues to announce half-measures and refuses to implement sensible solutions.

“The Ford government’s continuous refusal to put in place the protections that workers need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is infuriating,” said Patty Coates, Ontario Federation of Labour President. “Doug Ford’s handling of this pandemic has been an abject failure and absolute disaster. It is far past time for this government to introduce paid sick days, guarantee paid time off for vaccinations, and ensure that all front-line workers have priority access to vaccines.”

Some 20 animators, who have been unionized for over a year, are currently negotiating their first contract. The bargaining talks began in the summer of 2020 and are moving at a snail's pace. "We had managed to settle some important non-monetary issues over the past few months but now the employer is going back on some of the points that had already been agreed upon," says union president Tamarind King. "We find this tactic disrespectful and in bad faith, to say the least."

News from the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba:

"In this new Congress, the leaders of the historic generation, led by Raul Castro today, will pass on to the new communists the torch of the Revolution and Socialism," Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel explained.

As of this Friday, the communists will set an age limit on membership in the PCC Central Committee (60) and leadership positions within the Party (70).

“The passing of the leadership to a new generation of Party members will stimulate the systematic rejuvenation of its entire militancy,” Raul Castro said during the 7th Congress, held in April 2016.

“Minute by minute, time is inexorably ticking away and shortening our lives. With these changes, we are repairing our Revolution’s great leader of today, tomorrow, and always: our Communist Party,” Castro assured."

Beginning today [April 16] through the 19th, Cuba as a whole, represented by its delegates to the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, will gather in the capital's Convention Center in historic sessions, to analyze what has been accomplished over the last five years and, above all, outline, in a sovereign manner, the country's future.

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