Nepal: Solidarity needed

A political crisis that has been simmering since last fall erupted in violence last week, as over 150,000 security forces mobilized by the monarchy attacked peaceful protests organized by five major political parties throughout the country. Hundreds were wounded, many severely.

Several leading members of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), including former members of the government and parliament, were injured, as were many leaders of other democratic parties.

The crisis began last October when the king unconstitutionally sacked the elected government, and arbitrarily formed a new cabinet. The multiparty movement to safeguard democracy, the multiparty system and the rule of law, sought unsuccessfully, over a period of months, to reach a national consensus and cooperative environment with the king.

The CPN (UML), which is among the parties organizing the people’s movement to uphold democracy, is calling for messages protesting the attack and urging the protection and expansion of democracy. Faxes can be sent to the royal palace and military command, 011-977-1-422-8515, to the prime minister, 011-977-1-422-7286, and the CPN (UML) at uml@ntc.net.np.

S. Korea: Truckers win victory

South Korean truck drivers went back to work May 15 after a week-long strike that crippled Pusan – the world’s third busiest port – which handles four-fifths of the country’s ocean-going cargo. Their union won a series of concessions from the government, including fuel subsidies, tax cuts and lower highway tolls for truckers.

Other recent labor movement victories include abandonment of plans to privatize the country’s national railway network and sell the state-owned Chohung Bank, and a victory for workers at Doosan Heavy Industries in March.

France: New strikes protest gov’t pension changes

Several French trade unions have launched a new wave of strikes to protest the government’s plans to reform the pension system. The BBC reported that “tens of thousands” marched through Paris in heavy rain May 19, as teachers, hospital workers and other public sector workers stopped work. The protest is part of an ongoing campaign of labor action against the pension reform plan, which would require workers to contribute for a longer period to receive a full pension.

About half the country’s primary and nursery school teachers, and 40 percent of other teachers, reportedly joined the strike. Also stopping work were postal workers, bank staff and workers at the state controlled France Telecom. Though one French union federation, the CFDT, has dropped protests against the changes, several other unions including the left-led CGT have vowed to continue the struggle, if the government did not change its proposals, CGT head Bernard Thibault said over the weekend.

Argentina: Workers’ co-ops taking root

As the country’s economic crisis – brought on by IMF and World Bank instigated “austerity” measures – has worsened, workers are increasingly taking over bankrupt factories and running them as cooperatives.

Two years ago, workers at Fuerza y Union (“Strength and Union”), a metalworks factory in Buenos Aires, could barely make ends meet. “Now, we earn about three times more than our colleagues in traditional factories,” cooperative president Roberto Salcedo told Agence France Presse recently.

The 53 workers, who call themselves “partners,” formed their cooperative in January 2001. After a rough several months, legal problems were solved and orders started coming in. An electrician without managerial training, Salcedo says he is learning as he goes.

Fuerza y Union is one of some 200 firms that have been similarly turned into cooperatives, including a 65-member co-op of shipyard workers at the Buenos Aires port. “It’s neither socialism no capitalism, but a bit of both,” said Alberto Caro, president of the shipyard co-op.

India: 60 million set to strike

At press time, nearly 60 million workers throughout India were poised for a one-day strike May 21, to demand a halt to privatization and other economic reforms, including a government proposal to amend the labor laws to make it easier for employers to fire workers and close businesses. Participating in the warning strike called by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) are workers in government, banking, insurance, oil refineries, coal mining, and small industries. “This is only a prelude,” said CITU National Secretary Tapan Sen. “We are planning further action as there is a need to build up opposition against the government’s policies.”

Compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, who can be reached at cpusainternat@mindspring.com

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