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Lock out at Cooper Tire, Ohio

15 Dec

Over 1,000 members of the USW – our partner union in Workers Uniting, have been locked out by Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio. In the increasingly bitter dispute the USW are taking legal action against Cooper Tire for unfair labour practices and imposing a lockout.

USW members were locked out when the company demanded that workers ratified a new contract without the full details of an incentive plan been agreed that could possibly result in major wage cuts.

Cooper have insisted that its proposal would have to be accepted, ratified and implemented before necessary studies would be finalised.

That meant workers would vote on a proposal not knowing if their wages were increasing or decreasing.

Cooper is now a profitable company. They have hired a scab workforce to run the Findlay plant.

Unite represents workers at Cooper Tires in the UK and our members have sent messages of support and solidarity to locked out workers in Ohio.

Unite members and branches should please  send messages of support and solidarity to our USW-Workers Uniting brothers and sisters via Adam Lee at the USW – email alee@usw.org. You can also show your support by signing the petition on the new website, and sharing the campaign through social media.

Please take a few seconds to send messages of support to our brothers and sisters in the USW and Workers Uniting through this new website.

Unite will be placing advertisments in local newspapers in Ohio supporting the United Steelworkers and over 1,000 of their members locked out by the global corporation Cooper Tire this weekend to coincide with demonstrations in the area. Below is a PDF advert which is appearing in the local press in Ohio explaining the dispute.

Your help is much appreciated.

USW-CooperLockout-ad

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Protesting Youth in Greece

13 Dec

Alexandra Koronaiou, Alexandros Sakellariou Irini Chiotaki-Poulou and Vangelis Lagos, members of the Greek MYPLACE team at Panteion University Of Social And Political Sciences on the protesting Greek youth, the current socio-political crisis, memory and their relevance to the work of MYPLACE.

The Greek society has, for the past three years, been experiencing an unprecedented economic, social and political crisis that has profoundly affected both the majority’s living conditions and the functioning of the entire institutional apparatus. The deep recession and the harsh austerity policies that have been continuously implemented within this period have influenced all aspects of social life as large parts of the population have suffered great losses in their income and they have been living in a climate of insecurity, fear, anger and pessimism regarding the future. In this context, social conflicts have sharpened and protests, strikes, and clashes with the police have become an everyday phenomenon, some of the most impressive instances of which have been covered extensively by (inter)national and global media.

The social unrest had begun after the agreement between the Greek government, and the so-called E.C, ECB I.M.F troika regarding the first Greek bailout and the austerity measures announced by the socialist government in2010. Inthese protests participated people of almost all social groups, classes and age-groups, particularly the middle-aged. The protests included strikes, marches, the occupation of the Syntagma square in the centre ofAthensas well as the occupation of public buildings mainly by the public sector’s syndicates. Similar protests had taken place in other Greek cities too likeThessaloniki, Ioannina, Heraklion, etc. Young Greeks had been participating actively in these conflicts and protests, although no distinctive youth or students’ movements have emerged so far.

To read the whole article click here 

For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE

Unite Scotland podcast episode 2

6 Dec

In the second episode of the Unite Scotland podcast, Andrew Brady speaks to sociologist Vangelos Lagos in Athens about the crisis engulfing Greece.

Swaziland – the Land of the Forgotten Despot

5 Dec

– by Geraldine Donnelly, Community the Union

STUC nomination ACTSA 2011 Delegation to Swaziland

If you were asked what you knew about Swaziland, what would be your response? What do you know about this small country of less than a million people located between Mozambique and South Africa?

As the Scottish Trades Union Congress delegate on the recent ACTSA visit to southern Africa I had little knowledge of Swaziland. What I saw in this beautiful country shocked and saddened me. Seventeen years after the overthrow of apartheid another people in Southern Africa are suffering under a brutal tyranny that is relatively unnoticed by the world.

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy ruled by King Mswati since 1986. The Forbes Rich list named him in the top fifteen of the world’s richest royals with a personal fortune that is in excess of $100 million enabling him to provide palaces and new BMWs for his 14 wives. Three quarters of the country’s land is effectively owned by the King and administered by the local chiefs, with the government handpicked, the parliament has increased the King’s budget by 60 percent in the last two years. According to the US Government about “40 percent of the government’s workforce is allocated to security”.

In stark contrast two thirds of the people survive on less than $1.25 a day. Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV rate and half the population dies before 40. Perhaps the saddest statistic is that 1 in 12 of all Swazi are orphaned children. This is compounded by the growing economic crisis. The government threatens to cut 7,000 jobs, pushing thousands deeper into poverty, whilst spending increases on the king and his friends.

The bedfellow of this poverty is political tyranny. Swaziland has the unenviable achievement of having a worse record on political rights than Zimbabwe. Political parties are banned; it has endured a state of emergency since 1973 and opponents of the regime are often arrested, tortured or even murdered as the main opposition are declared “terrorist” under the repressive Suppression of Terrorism Act. Maxwell Dlamini, President of the NUS and Musa Ngebuni of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) are still behind bars awaiting trial, arrested ahead of protests held in April.

Women are subjected to horrendous levels of gender based violence. A 2009 survey reveals that almost one third of women and girls aged 13 to 24 had experienced sexual violence before their 18th birthday. The law provides no protection for women from domestic violence and rape by their husbands. The laws governing marriage ensure that women are treated as second class citizens as married women are denied the right to own property, with widows unable to inherit property forced from their homes by their husband’s relatives.

However, the people of Swaziland have continued to struggle for democracy. The trade unions, despite their leaders being regularly arrested and harassed, have held regular strikes and protests. Women and students have formed groups to campaign for democracy and rights and an underground pro-democracy party PUDEMO was formed in 1983. Despite constant harassment, including the arrest of one leader, Sipho Jele, for wearing a protest T-shirt, who died in custody in May 2010, they have grown in strength. In 2008 King Mswati held lavish celebrations costing millions of dollars to mark his 40th birthday and 40 years of independence but the people of Swaziland responded by organising the country’s biggest pro-democracy protests with 10,000 crowding the streets of the Manzini and reassembling in the capital Mbabane the next day.

The pro-democracy movement in Swaziland have called for smart sanctions including the denial of international travel for the Royal Family and their lackeys, a ban on investment in companies controlled by the regime and an embargo on military sales to Swaziland.

Until now the devastating situation in Swaziland has largely gone unnoticed by the international community, but gradually more and more voices across the world are beginning to speak out. Swaziland needs our solidarity now; the voices of the Swazi people’s struggle must be heard as Swaziland is still the land of the forgotten despot. In Swaziland we listened humbled as student leaders told us of the daily danger of death or imprisonment, but they left us in no doubt that they will continue to fight until Swaziland is free.

The international Labour movement must support them in their continuing struggle for political and economic freedom. In solidarity we must advance to strengthen the trade union and pro-democracy movements building upon partnerships and projects that have raised the profile and capacity building of trade unions and civil society in Swaziland to bring about change.

  • Action for Southern Africa, the successor organisation to the British Anti Apartheid Movement is one of the few organisations campaigning for democracy and rights in solidarity with the people of Swaziland.
  • If you want to get involved in supporting the fight for democracy in Swaziland contact ACTSA.

–  a Documentary about Swaziland Without the King is available on YouTube.

N30 – Solidarity messages from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

29 Nov

Bangladeshi garment workers marching in solidarity with N30 strikers in the UK

– by Jackie Simpkins, War on Want

We have been very pleased to receive messages of support from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for public sector workers taking strike action on 30 November. The messages come via War on Want, an organisation Unite is affiliated to.

The messages come from trade unions, affiliated through the Global Union Federations and ITUC. They have been involved in plenty of action themselves recently. The Sri Lankan has also been campaigning against imposed changes to their pension schemes, and many have been arrested for speaking out.

Solidarity Messages from War on Want partners

War on Want partners, the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) will be organising a rally as a strong signal of their solidarity for our UK union members and supporters who are taking strike action on 30 November.

“The National Garment Workers’ Federation (NGWF) has been fighting for the rights of garment workers in Bangladesh since 1984. We will stand with the public sector workers in the UK on 30 November in your fight against the attacks on your pensions and the cuts that your government have imposed. We know that these abuses and the programme of cuts will make thousands of you poorer as a result and as workers, we stand united against poverty wherever it is found.” 

– Amirul Haque  Amin  – General Secretary,

National Garment Workers’ Federation, Bangladesh

And from Sri Lanka

The Free Trades Zones & General Zones Employees union (FTZ & GSEU) extends its fullest support to the UK Trade Unions joint actions which is scheduled to be held on 30th November 2011 against the unilateral decision of the UK Government to make people more and work longer for a lot less

Yours in Solidarity

Anton Marcus

Joint Secretary

FTZ & GSEU

Sri Lanka

 

 

 

Special report from Malawi – urgent action required

10 Aug

– by Aisha Bahadur

19 dead after violent disruption of civil protests in Malawi – urgently solidarity needed. Send a message to the Malawian government today.

MCTU General Secretary, Robert Mkwezalamba is harassed by security forces at the July 20th protests.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has launched a campaign to condemn the violent repression of civil protests in Malawi that left 19 dead, including a 13 year old boy, as a violation of human rights. ITUC has called upon President Bingu wa Mutharika to respect the right to protest and engage in meaningful dialogue with civil society. Several global union federations, national centres and trade unions have given their support to the ITUC campaign. You can add your voice to the online campaign hosted by Labour Start.

Nationwide demonstrations planned by civil society for July 20th turned into two days of riots after the Malawi government tried to prevent the demonstrations from taking place. According to a report from senior leader of the Malawi Confederation of Trade Unions (MCTU), radio announcements were made on the morning of 20 July that an injunction had been obtained by government to prevent the demonstrations but this injunction was vacated by the court by lunchtime the same day. People that had gathered for the demonstrations were being held back by police that used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse protestors in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. Anger mounted from the brutal put down of the demonstrations erupting in two days of riots, which has left 19 people dead and scores more injured, including several children.

There has been growing dissatisfaction in Malawi with President Bingu wa Mutharika’s regime. Civil society has been critical of laws that have been passed to limit the freedom of the press, restrict lawsuits against government and limit civil liberties. Popular discontent has been mounting over worsening economic conditions with crippling shortages of fuel and foreign exchange.

The MCTU leader explains that workers have been hard hit by the economic crisis. Shortage of foreign exchange means that companies cannot bring in raw materials and parts which have resulted in job losses. With fuel shortages and high prices for fuel and foreign exchange on the black market, cost of transport has become prohibitively expensive and the basic goods have become unaffordable.

The situation in Malawi worsened after Malawi expelled the British high commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet in April 2011 after a British diplomatic cable was leaked which said President Mutharika was “becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism”. In response Britain expelled the Malawian high commissioner and suspended US$550 million in aid over the next 4 years.

Britain had already reduced its support to Malawi in protest of the government’s purchase of a luxury jet exclusively for the president. Prior to the protests, other donor countries also withheld aid with rising concerns on repressive laws and mismanagement of funds. This has worsened since the July repression actions, with the US suspending aid of US$330 million following the protests. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 70% of the population living on less than a dollar a day and millions of people will suffer the consequences of worsening donor relations. Malawi is heavily dependent on foreign aid, with donor funding accounting for 40 percent of government’s budget, thus alienation of donors have added to the countries economic woes and intensified the foreign exchange crisis.

Organised labour came together with about 80 other civil society organisations, to arrange the 20 July protest marches in Malawi’s cities on 20 July, intended to be peaceful and within constitutional bounds. Despite the brutal police crackdown, protestors took their demands to local district commissioners and called on the President to address these demands by 16 August 2011 or they would return to the streets.

Protests which were intended to remind the President that he was elected by the people and was accountable to the people have shown Mutharika to be unwilling to heed their calls. The day after the protests, Mutharika recognised the need for dialogue with civil society but now seems unwilling and has since resorted to blaming civil society for the riots and deaths, increasing his dictatorial stance by threatening to put down any further protests against his rule saying “If you go back to the streets, I will smoke you out”.

“If you go back to the streets, I will smoke you out”.

It is rumoured that the ranks within the security forces are disgruntled with shuffling in top security posts in the country after the protests and riots. The army chief commander was replaced but has been retained in government as the national security advisor. Government has not linked these changes to the violent actions of security forces, instead it has openly supported these actions.

There is also discontent amongst civil servants, the majority of whom have not received their July salaries. Government, the largest employer in Malawi with about 162,000 workers, insists that this is due to network upgrading and not a result of dwindling cash flows that many suspect are a result of the donor pullout.

Whilst many of the local civil society leaders, including labour leaders, feared for their lives, having received threats, civil society organisations, including the MCTU, have kept up the pressure. The MCTU is one of eight organisations that has appealed to the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute Mutharika for the 19 deaths. They insist that plans for a follow up demonstration on August 17th are intact given the lack of commitment by government to address the demands.

Local church leaders have also been vocal about the unwarranted violence at the demonstrations. As one journalist points out, in Malawi the church is social media, should people be called on to protest again it is expected that they will come out in great numbers.

It seems that Mutharika may be bowing to pressure. On August 9th, when opening the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Africa region meeting being hosted in Malawi, Mutharika announced the formation of a Presidential Contact and Dialogue Committee. The proposed committee would allow for social dialogue on challenges facing the country. Mutharika also called on ruling parties in Africa to listen to constructive criticism from opposition.

Opposition leaders in Malawi are sceptical of these proposals, saying that talk is not enough, they need to see action. How civil society will reacts to Mutharika’s proposals remains to be seen. It may be too little, too late; in which case civil protests planned for August 17th may go ahead.

Aisha Bahadur provides communications support to the African regional office of the International Metalworkers Federation.