Australia: Protest vs. gov’t labor proposals

The week of protest starting June 26 against the government’s proposed new workplace laws has brought hundreds of thousands of unionists and their supporters into the streets in communities throughout Australia, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (LHMWU) said.

The union said polls following the week of action and a union movement TV ad campaign show 60 percent of Australians who know of the proposed changes oppose them. In the last month, Prime Minister John Howard’s personal approval rating has dropped 10 points, to 49 percent.

Among changes to be introduced in Parliament next month are significant weakening of protections against unfair dismissals, undermining collective bargaining and giving employers more control over bargaining, freezing and cutting minimum wages, forcing workers onto individual contracts that cut take-home pay and labor rights, and restricting workers’ access to union advice and support.

Guatemala: Union office raided

The office of the Union of Education Workers of Guatemala (STEG) was raided the last weekend in June, the Campaign for Labor Rights (CLR) said. The intruders painted red crosses — presumed to symbolize death — on the walls, desks and union posters. A computer was stolen and two other computers were destroyed along with files and papers.

STEG has been under increasing intimidation since the start of the year, CLR said, especially since March when the union joined with other groups to demonstrate against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). STEG is also involved in protests against privatization of public resources and against government human rights abuses.

CLR is urging protest messages to Ambassador Jose Guillermo Castillo, Embassy of Guatemala, 2220 R St., NW, Washington, DC 20008, fax (202) 745-1908, ambassador@guatemala-embassy.org, with copy to Jacinto Garcia, Labor and Popular Action Unity, uaspgt@yahoo.es.

Japan: Mayors protest U.S. buildup near Hiroshima

Mayors of cities in Hiroshima Prefecture are demanding that the Japanese government not accept the planned relocation near Hiroshima of a U.S. carrier-borne air unit and its night landing practices, the Japanese Communist Party’s newspaper Akahata reported.

The mayors sent a letter June 21 to the foreign minister and defense agency director-general through the Hiroshima prefectural government. Their message warned that the U.S. Marine Corps Iwakuni Air Station, site of the planned relocation, is close to Miyajima, one of Japan’s “three most beautiful spots” and a designated World Heritage site. The mayors said the proposed new runway and other new facilities for the carrier-based unit “will cause immeasurable damage to this region.”

City councils in several other communities have also expressed opposition to the relocation, pointing out that local people are already suffering noise pollution and potential danger of aircraft accidents and will not tolerate the beefing-up of the base.

Iraq: Committee for a Democratic Constitution launched

The Iraqi Committee for a Democratic Constitution (ICDC) was inaugurated in London June 4 to encourage active participation by all Iraqi democrats living in Iraq and abroad, of all tendencies and affiliations, in writing the permanent constitution in Iraq.

ICDC coordinator Salam Ali said the committee will build support for democratic principles, including establishing a democratic, parliamentary and federal republic, ensuring political pluralism and peaceful transfer of power. ICDC is also pressing for separation of state and religion, respect for the Islamic identity of most Iraqis and for the rights of other religions. It promotes equality of women and men and seeks to ban discrimination because of belief, race, gender, ethnic or religious affiliation.

ICDC calls for a decentralized form of administering Iraq’s provinces, including federalism for Iraqi Kurdistan, and cultural rights for all nationalities and religious groups.

Africa: Unions demand action vs. AIDS

No development strategy for Africa can succeed unless it emphasizes radical proposals to combat HIV/AIDS, now affecting over 35 percent of industrial workers in some countries such as Lesotho, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) warned in advance of the G8 summit.

In a letter to G8 host and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, federation head Neil Kearney said the future of the textile and clothing industry — the only source of industrial employment in many African countries — is threatened by the alarming rise in infection and death rates from HIV/AIDS. “If our aim is to ensure decent living and working conditions, we must first ensure that workers stay alive,” Kearney said.

The ITGLWF is calling for a G8 Permanent Working Group and for mechanisms to make sure HIV/AIDS is effectively addressed in an ongoing manner and is not just a summit issue.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org).

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