India: Airport workers on strike

About 23,000 employees at Mumbai and Delhi airports successfully resolved their strike that followed a decision by the authorities to turn over the airports to private companies for upgrading. All of India’s main airports are state-run enterprises, and some, like Mumbai and Delhi, are below international standards for modernization although they service about half of the estimated 50 million Indians who traveled by air last year.

Workers say the private companies announced they would fire 40 percent of the present workforce. “It is the question of the lives of thousands of airport employees and their families,” Nitin Jadhav, general secretary of Airports Authority Employees Union in Mumbai, told Reuters.

Left parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India extended support and served as mediators for the agreement with the government, but warned against further moves toward privatization.

Iraq: Trade unionist killed

A prominent member of the executive board of the recently created General Federation of Iraqi Workers was assassinated outside his home in the early morning of Jan. 25. The murder of Alaa Issa Khalaf was strongly condemned by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions as one in a series of targeted attacks against Iraqi trade union activists.

In a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, the ICFTU general secretary urged the government to launch an investigation into the killing, and the ratification of International Labor Organization Convention 87 on the right to association.

The letter says, “It is unacceptable that trade unionists should exercise their activities in a climate of violence, and it is your government’s responsibility to ensure security.”

It continues, “I therefore strongly urge … that adequate steps are taken to provide security for trade unionists, so they can do their legitimate trade union work without having to fear for their lives.”

Colombia: Coca-Cola FEMSA investigation

A resolution filed on behalf of five New York City pension funds is before Coca-Cola shareholders, asking for an independent inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses at its Colombian affiliate, Coca-Cola FEMSA.

According to AFP Business News, consumer boycotts have affected sales in the U.S. and Europe amid charges of collusion between paramilitary forces and company officials in violence directed at union activists.

The U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project (U.S./LEAP) says more trade unionists are killed in Colombia than in all other countries combined. Global Exchange said Coca-Cola in Colombia “leads in the abuse of workers’ rights, assassinations, water privatization and worker discrimination. Hundreds … who have joined or considered joining the Colombian union SINALTRAINAL have been kidnapped, tortured, and detained by paramilitaries who intimidate workers to prevent them from unionizing.”

South Africa: Local elections ahead

The South African Communist Party called on millions to come out to vote for the African National Congress on March 1. Citing advances such as greater access to clean water, electricity and low-cost housing, more local community clinics, greater opportunities for training and education and promotion of needs of youth, women, children and people with disabilities, SACP Secretary General Blade Nzimande said serious challenges remain.

Among the challenges facing national and local government are 4 million unemployed, 5 million living with HIV and many millions living in poverty, Nzimande said. “Our vote for the ANC is a vote for developmental local government,” he said. “Let’s build people’s power where we live and where we work.”

The elections will be the third non-racial democratic elections in South Africa. The first local elections took place in 2000.

Cuba: Chávez wins UNESCO Marti prize

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was in Havana last week to receive UNESCO’s 2005 José Marti International Award. The prize is a Cuban initiative created in 1994 “to honor an individual or institution having contributed to the unity and integration of Latin American and the Caribbean countries and to the preservation of their identities, cultural traditions and historical values,” reported Prensa Latina.

The awards ceremony in Revolution Square was attended by about 200,000 Cubans and international guests. Chávez said he would donate the monetary part of the prize to Bolivia’s people for flood relief or literacy campaigns.

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer (psaffer@pww.org).

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