Red Review #89 -- International Left and Labour News
With news from the People's Republic of China, Greece, South Africa, the UK, the DPRK, South Korea and elsewhere.
Closing of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress, People's Republic of China, March 13
On Wednesday, March 8 tens-of-thousands of workers, students and people from all walks of life took to the streets in protests and general strikes across Greece to show their anger and fury over the horrific train crash on February 28 that killed at least 57 people. Many protestors are demanding the resignation of Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as well as a reversal of the privatization, austerity and "liberalization" agenda that they feel directly led to the disaster.
The horror of the crash is further compounded by the fact that many of those on board the train and among the dead were young people returning home from university.
On Wednesday 8/3/23, the GS of the CC of the KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, speaking at the plenary session of the Parliament, referred to the tragedy in Tempe.
“A week after the tragedy in Tempe that claimed the lives of 57 people — mostly young people— we repeat what we said from the very first moment: It was not an accident, it was not bad luck, it was a crime that was bound to happen!
It is not only the mothers and fathers of these children who characterize this incident as a crime, but all of us. The workers, university and school students who have been on the streets for so many days and are demonstrating right now, are also talking about a crime. The thousands of students all over Greece are shouting that “This crime must not be covered up, let us be the voice of all the dead”!
Like every crime, this one too has causes and culprits. Your government is guilty, because when trade unionists, railway workers’ unions and KKE MPs in parliament denounced the poorly maintained network and the shortcomings and gaps in safety systems, personnel, and critical infrastructure such as signalling, you turned a deaf ear.
I would like to remind you the statement of the grouping of railway workers rallied in PAME, which also made a shocking prediction: ‘we will not wait for the accident to come to see them shedding crocodile tears while making ex post observations’. These words were written just 20 days before the tragedy in Tempe, on 7 February, and unfortunately they were confirmed. I wish they had not been confirmed.
Three leaders of the Gyeonggi Midwest Construction Workers Branch of the Korean Construction Workers' Union (KCWU) on 8 March were arrested and charged for allegedly disrupting business after holding a rally that sought the adoption of their collective bargaining agreement. The charged trade union leaders, including the former and current presidents of KCWU’s Gyeonggi Midwest Construction Workers Branch, were also accused of resorting to intimidation for requesting employers to hire union members. Two of the said trade unionists received two-year prison sentences, while the other one was meted with a one-and-a half-year sentence.
Currently, 8 trade union leaders from KCWU have already been detained and charged by authorities. Since last year, 500 trade unionists are under investigation, and at least three individuals are scheduled for court hearings. 20 mobile phones owned by trade unionists were also seized by authorities. South Korean trade unions said that the latest arrests and charges against the said labour leaders are part of the government’s continuing assault on trade union rights, particularly the right to associate, organise and collectively bargain.
Trade union Unite confirmed on Friday that 200 Sparrows offshore workers in the UK will take strike action in a dispute over pay, potentially shutting down dozens of platforms on the UK Continental Shelf.
Around 150 contractors had voted to take strike action across more than 20 oil and gas platforms in a dispute over pay. Around 95.5% of Unite members voted to take strike action and 96.4% voted for action short of a strike. The strike would affect major operators like Apache, Shell and Harbour Energy.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has demanded the immediate release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former member of the Black Panther Party in the US.
The trade union is marching to the US Embassy in Pretoria on Friday, to hand over a letter of their demands.
Watch the video of Numsa calling for the release of Abu-Jamal
Under the slogan “OUR LIVES OR THEIR PROFITS” thousands rallied once again in cities all over Greece, on Sunday, March 12, to denounce the deadly crime of the train crash in Larissa 10 days ago, caused by the policies that treat human life as a cost.
On Sunday 12/3, the trade unions and the mass movement responded with a new mass rally and demonstration in Athens, so that the crime in Tempe is not covered up and the struggle against the system of capitalist profit, the state and its governments is strengthened.
“We will give them no rest. This crime must not go unpunished, we will not let it be forgotten. We will all become the voice of our dead”, stated Dimitris Koutsoumbas, GS of the CC of the KKE, during the rally.
The struggle will be further escalated with a new nationwide general strike on Thursday 16/3.
The 5th enlarged meeting of the 8th Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) took place at a time when the whole country has turned out in the efforts to implement the resolutions of the 8th Congress of the WPK and plenary meetings of its Central Committee in singled-hearted unity.
Kim Jong Un , general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, guided the meeting.
Attending it as observers were members of the WPK Central Military Commission, commanding officers of the Ministry of National Defence, commanding officers of the Korean People's Army (KPA) services and army corps, and cadres of relevant departments of the WPK Central Committee.
The 5th enlarged meeting of the 8th WPK Central Military Commission discussed the orientations of major political and military activities facing the KPA including the issue of powerfully organizing the nationwide struggle by dispatching the KPA to the major theaters for rapid development in socialist construction, and measures for it.
On Sunday, March 12, workers represented by Teamsters Local 377 and Local 1033C of the International Chemical Workers Union Council walked out on an unfair labor practice strike at INEOS Pigments’ production facility in Ashtabula. The Teamsters and Chemical Workers are demanding that the company and its founder, British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, stop violating U.S. labor law.
Workers at the Ashtabula facility say the company is intimidating workers who are involved in union activities, denying workers their right to collectively bargain, and failing to provide safe working conditions.
So far, after weeks of targeted strikes by workers opposing President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the national retirement age and reform the country’s beloved pension system, the French government has refused to change course. That is why unions across different industries raised the ante last week, launching an indefinite strike until workers’ demands are met. As Eric Challal of the Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques (SUD) Railway Union put it, “We have no choice, we must make Macron back down, make the employers back down. There is no lack of money in this society… Wages are too low, prices are exploding, the high cost of living, the threat of war… We have this opportunity to fight, all the workers together.” TRNN contributor and video journalist Brandon Jourdan reports from the streets of Paris on the latest escalation of strike actions in France.
Bin workers, grounds maintenance and street and toilet cleaners have begun a week-long strike in a dispute over pay.
Unison members in North Norfolk and Breckland have called on Serco to resume negotiations.
Cameron Matthews, Unison's eastern regional organiser, who was on the picket line at Aylsham, said Serco had made a "terrible" offer.
The trade union Verdi has called health sector workers in Germany out on a two-day strike this week, beginning on Tuesday. Hospitals, psychiatric clinics, care facilities and emergency services will be affected nationwide.
In Bavaria alone, more than 30 municipal hospitals and district clinics, as well as several institutions providing care for the elderly, plan to take part in the two-day walkout. The Nuremberg Hospital has had to cancel operations - including those for tumour patients. Only "absolutely not postponable operations" would take place, the hospital said.
Around 18 lakh Maharashtra government employees will begin an indefinite strike from Monday midnight after talks with the state government on reintroducing the old pension scheme failed. The Maharashtra State Government Employees Federation has said the strike will continue till the state agreed to reintroduce OPS.
Tens of thousands of junior doctors went on strike across England on Monday to demand better pay, kicking off three days of widespread disruption at the U.K.'s state-funded hospitals and health clinics.
Junior doctors -- who are qualified but in the earlier years of their career -- make up 45% of all doctors in the National Health Service. Their walkout means that operations and appointments will be canceled for thousands of patients, and senior doctors and other medics have had to be drafted in to cover for emergency services, critical care and maternity services.
The British Medical Association, the doctors' trade union, says pay for junior doctors has fallen 26% in real terms since 2008, while workload and patient waiting lists are at record highs. The union says burnout and the U.K.'s cost-of-living crisis are driving scores of doctors away from the public health service.