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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Red Review #21: International Left and Labour News

The twenty-first edition of our weekly review of international left and labour news with stories from Greece, Bolivia, Cuba, China, the UK, Venezuela and elsewhere.

Mass trade union rally in Athens, September 1 -- Image via KKE

August 30:

Brazil registers today 1.8 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17 in a situation of child labor, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), cited by the R7 portal.

Although they represent 54 percent of the national population (more than 213 million inhabitants), blacks or mulattos comprised 66 percent of the total.

Among the children mentioned by IBGE, 45.9 percent (706 000) were active in occupations considered the worst. The term refers to activities such as operating tractors and agricultural machinery, the processing of tobacco, agave and sugar cane, and the extraction and cutting of wood.

The findings of a binding expert report on the human rights violations during Bolivia’s 2019 coup have given a new sense of hope to victims.

The long-awaited report examined the period from September 1 to December 31, 2019, during which indigenous President Evo Morales was driven from power by an alliance of economic elites, the paramilitary forces they created, military and police commanders, and anti-indigenous middle-class sectors.

Experts documented with precision how the coup government aimed to kill protesters, then insisted that security forces had not fired a single bullet. Most of the people injured in those two massacres, other smaller massacres, and individual attacks were Indigenous. The technical analysis of the injuries and deaths fills the 400-plus pages of the GIEI report. Perhaps the most frequent quote of GIEI this week has been, “We call things by their true names. What took place in Sacaba and Senkata were massacres.”

As state lawmakers continue to introduce legislation that would limit how schools can teach about racism and sexism, some teachers are pushing back and speaking out.

This past weekend, educators in more than 50 cities held in-person and virtual events pledging to “teach truth"—in other words, to continue teaching about oppression and injustice in the face of new laws that they believe attempt to stifle these kinds of discussions.

These rallies and teach-ins are an initiative of the Zinn Education Project, a resource for teachers coordinated by the nonprofit organizations Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. The group provides free lessons and materials aligned with historian Howard Zinn’s approach to teaching history—foregrounding the perspectives of people whose stories have been marginalized or ignored in dominant narratives.

Hundreds of Ontario emergency room physicians have signed an open letter to Premier Doug Ford demanding that the province increase the pay of critical-care nurses and repeal Bill 124.

The letter, released Monday, claims that emergency departments across the province “are in crisis.”

“This time, it is not an issue of a lack of beds or ventilators. It is because we are losing our acute care nursing colleagues in droves,” the letter reads.

The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) has filed for conciliation in Ontario and Québec after bargaining talks with The Canadian Press (CP) broke down. The decision follows more than a year and a half of talks between CP and CMG that saw little progress on the major issues.

Retail members at Indigo Chapters Coquitlam have ratified their first collective agreement fresh off the heels of a successful organizing campaign.

“This first contract gives our members at Indigo Chapters Coquitlam better working conditions and a much-needed voice at work,” says UFCW 247 President Dan Goodman. “The bargaining committee did an outstanding job ensuring the issues that led to unionization were at the core of every negotiated article.”

August 31:

Nasir Mansoor, general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan, says that the fire reminds him of the Baldia factory fire in 2012, where 259 workers died.

“If lessons had been learned from the fire in 2012, maybe this incident would never have happened. The authorities handled the Baldia factory case politically and deliberately overlooked the corruption and incompetence of government departments.

“We demand compensation from the owners, as well as the government. There must also be a judicial inquiry into the cause of the fire.”

TRADE unions and indigenous interests in Bolivia have come together to form an alliance to defend the progressive government of President Luis Arce from US-backed interventions.

The People’s High Command was established yesterday with its founding document signed by the Mineworkers Union, Gas & Oil Workers Union, trade union confederations CIDOB and CSUTCB and the indigenous Interculturales group.

The new aggregation vowed to defend the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS)-led government from any future US interference against the interests of the Bolivian people, the plunder of natural resources, and any attempt to destabilise the country via political or economic means.

"The opposition Labour party and its allies including the Socialist Left are widely expected to replace the ruling coalition of Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, polls indicate. Labour supports continued petroleum exploration while the Socialist Left opposes it.

Since the publication of a United Nations report on Aug. 9 warning that global warming was dangerously close to spiralling out of control, parties that prioritise climate change, such as the Green Party and the Socialist Left, have seen their popularity rise in polls. The Greens saw a 25% rise in their party's membership."

The Chinese Communist Party will hold a key plenum in November, state media reported on Tuesday.

The decision to hold the plenum, a gathering of over 300 members of the Central Committee, was made in a meeting of the party’s politburo on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency said.

The ITUC has praised the decision by the president of Kyrgyzstan, Sadyr Japarov, to veto a new law on trade unions.

The law was drafted by the Parliament without properly consulting workers unions, competent government officials or the expertise of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

It largely contradicts the country’s constitution and core labour standards, including ILO Conventions 87 and 98 covering freedom of association, freedom to organise and the right to collective bargaining. In particular, it would have installed a trade union monopoly of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan and would have put all unions under its control.

245 production, sanitation, warehouse and maintenance workers employed by Foster Farms have ratified their latest contract with Teamsters Local 630.

"These brave women and men never stopped working during the pandemic to keep Californians fed, and now they have a collective bargaining agreement that reflects the immeasurable value they bring to their communities as essential workers," said Lou Villalvazo, Local 630 Secretary-Treasurer. "This victory illustrates that when workers come together as Teamsters and refuse to bow down to fear in the face of adversity, they can ensure that their employers give them the strong wages and good benefits they deserve."

Workers at the Olymel pork processing-plant in Quebec's Beauce region have voted in favour of a deal reached by union and management representatives, effectively putting an end to a four-month-long strike that has devastated the industry.

Workers voted 78 per cent in favour of the agreement in principle, the Olymel Workers Union in Vallée-Jonction (CSN) announced Tuesday shortly after polls closed at 6 p.m.

The six-year contract includes salary increases of around 26.4 per cent over that time, with 10 per cent in the first year, the union says.

September 1:

The Mexican Air Force (FAM) has revealed that a projectile was launched against the plane in which they rescued President Evo Morales, just as he took off from the Chimoré airport, in November 2019.

A document of the National Defense Secretariat, published in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s latest book, details that, since the time they were at the airport, an element of the Bolivian armed forces targeted the aircraft, with an RPG rocket launcher.

More than 90 global brands and retailers have so far signed the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Garment and Textile Industry, since it began this week on 1 September. More brands are expected to sign on to the 26-month legally-binding agreement, which comes into effect as the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety expires.

The new signatories include the world’s biggest fashion retailers H&M, Inditex (Zara) and Uniqlo, as well as Next, C&A, Marks & Spencer and U.S. brands Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and American Eagle.

By signing the International Accord with UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union, garment brands commit to the health and safety work already undertaken in Bangladesh and to the expansion of country-specific health and safety programmes based on the principles of the 2013 and 2018 Accord agreements. The new agreement will be implemented through the International Accord Foundation in the Netherlands.

Activists and organizers—including members of the Claudia Jones School for Political Education, D.C. Young Communist League, and CODEPINK—met in front of the Organization of American States (OAS) building here last week to rally in support of the Peruvian people and their president, Pedro Castillo, who was elected on June 16th but faces massive right-wing opposition.

Protesters in Athens, Thessaloniki, and other cities, responded to the call of trade unions and asserted their opposition to the dismantling of Social Security, demanding the abolition of all laws against the social security system as well as public, universal, and compulsory Social Security.

"Socialist governments in Spain and Portugal are raising wages and stepping up social spending to ensure a “fair recovery” from recessions triggered by Covid-19 as EU funds begin to pour in and their economies revive.

Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister, announced an increase in the minimum wage on Wednesday, saying there would be “no economic recovery if it does not reach the pockets of all Spaniards in the form of more jobs, better wages and more dignified pensions”.

Earlier this week António Costa, his Portuguese counterpart, pledged a package of reforms ranging from measures to tackle youth unemployment to increased child tax benefits as well as investments in health and social security. “The best response to crises is solidarity, not austerity,” he said."

SCOTLAND’S trade union leaders backed calls today for a four-day working week, a move supported by more than eight out of 10 Scots.

A new poll carried out by think tank IPPR Scotland found that 80 per cent of people believed that cutting their number of days at work with no loss of pay would have a “positive effect on their wellbeing.”

The B.C. Federation of Labour is calling for immediate action to protect workers after the collapse of a high-profile criminal trial related to a worker's death.

The labour organization's president, Laird Cronk, described the decision this week to stay charges against Peter Kiewit Sons and two former managers as a "profound failure" of the justice system.

The trial for criminal negligence in the 2009 death of Sam Fitzpatrick was supposed to begin next week.

September 2:

Thai police is using the Emergency Decree and the Disease Control Act to investigate the president of Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation of Thailand (TWFT), Sia Jampathong, and three labour activists, Suthila Leunkam, Tanaporn Wijan and Sriprai Nonsee, after they participated in pro-democracy rallies.

Seven IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Zimbabwe are embarking on a campaign to encourage workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 amid hesitancy caused by anti-vaccination messages on social media and other platforms.

Jeremy Corbyn will be granted a pass to Labour’s conference in Brighton later this month and will be free to address fringe meetings despite currently sitting as an independent MP, a party spokesperson has said.

The former leader, who had the whip suspended by Keir Starmer last year, has applied for a conference pass and accepted invitations to speak at several events, the Guardian understands.

LABOUR’S leadership faces an autumn uprising against its “McCarthyite” persecution of socialists in the party.

Left-wing members campaigning as Defend the Left will take the battle for internal party democracy to the leadership with protests at Labour offices nationwide, culminating in a mass demonstration at the annual party conference at the end of September.

The campaigners have promised a “storm of protest” against purges which have included the expulsion of veteran socialist film-maker Ken Loach.

With the start of the school year less than a week away for students in Manitoba, a labour dispute in Thompson, Man., is putting some plans for a return to the classroom up in the air.

Members of the United Steel Workers Local 8223, which represents support staff in two bargaining groups at the School District of Mystery Lake, walked off the job on Monday morning.

About 180 clerical staff in the district, which include clerical staff, educational assistants, custodians, maintenance, I.T. and other support positions have been without a contract for four years, according to union spokesperson Matt Winterton.

September 3:

China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the country’s main oil producer, is preparing to reactivate operations in Venezuela, following the devaluation of its investment due to illegal US “sanctions” against the Caribbean country. China thereby demonstrates once again that it is willing to do business with Venezuela, despite the blockade against the Venezuelan people which prohibits the vast majority of business transactions with Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA).

Anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the subject declared to Bloomberg that CNPC sent engineers and commercial personnel to Venezuela, and is exploring local companies to carry out maintenance work on an oil blending facility that it operates with Petróleos de Venezuela SA. Furthermore, they report that CNPC contacted local service providers to potentially boost crude production in five other joint ventures with the Venezuelan state oil company.

“A cycle of political stability has been opened that must be at least until 2030,” he said. “Every vote is a commitment to dialogue, to peace, to reconciliation.”

And he expressed especial pleasure that Mr Guaido, who led a failed coup attempt in 2019 and is still fighting a legal battle to obtain Venezuelan gold held in the Bank of England, would be taking part.

“I’m going to sit in my armchair, with the television on and my popcorn, to see Juan Guaido voting on November 21,” he said. “And I will applaud, because we managed to include him in democracy again.”

LABOUR is facing fresh allegations over its treatment of left-wing Jewish members who say they have been unfairly accused of anti-semitism.

Senior party figures hit out at the “disgraceful treatment” of the members today following a report which was produced and published by Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) detailing incidents.

Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the Star he was “appalled” by the contents of the report and “the evidence that demonstrates the grotesque way Jewish members are being treated.

Albania’s prime minister has announced his new cabinet in which women form the majority, keeping most of his previous government’s officials but naming new finance and justice ministers. The new government has to be formally confirmed by parliament, which convenes Sept. 10, and until then members of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s previous cabinet will keep their posts. But his Socialist Party holds a strong enough majority in parliament to ensure the new cabinet’s approval. Rama secured his third consecutive mandate in an April 25 parliamentary election, winning 74 of parliament’s 140 seats. The main opposition center-right Democratic Party got 59 seats.

Friday Morning, the CUPE Centralized Bargaining Team in New Brunswick held a press conference to denounce the relentless concession demands of the Premier through the NB Treasury Board in centralized bargaining sessions.

At 11:30 today, Government left the bargaining table, having refused to respond to CUPE’s last pass on Thursday night. “They were not interested in bargaining unless the union accepted concessions,” said CUPE NB President Stephen Drost.

“No real movement happened on a general economic increase for workers,” Said Drost. “The Premier said bargaining is “give and take,” but all he wants at the table is to take, take and take. He never moved from his initial offer, as the moves he made were coupled with significant concessions demands instead of talking about a general wage increase.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the largest public sector union in New Brunswick, will begin province-wide strike voting on September 7. More than 22,000 CUPE members in the province are in a legal strike position, some having been without a collective agreement for almost five years.

CUPE members in 10 locals could begin work stoppages within weeks if they vote to strike. Each union local member can vote yes or no on a strike vote but the CUPE NB executive team has been discussing strike vote coordination for months in meetings with the presidents of the New Brunswick locals. Voting in the healthcare sector and francophone community colleges will begin later in the month.

After years of frustrations at the bargaining table and a fruitless round of negotiations this week, CUPE NB is making good on its 100-day ultimatum to the Higgs government: agree to fair wages or face job action.

September 4:

IndustriALL Global Union is outraged over the arrest of KCTU president YANG Kyeung-soo in the early hours of 2 September. The arrest came after Korean police raided the KCTU headquarters, dragging out YANG Kyeung-soo.

An arrest warrant had been issued 20 days earlier by the Seoul Central District Court for organizing a rally, allegedly violating the Criminal Act provisions against general obstruction of traffic, the Assembly and Demonstration Act and the Act on Infectious Disease Control and Prevention.

IndustriALL Global Union vehemently condemns the arrest and considers it an outrageous, unacceptable attack on fundamental workers’ rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly.


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