International notes

Spanish workers poised for general strike

At press time Spanish workers were poised to start a general strike June 20, to protest the government’s move to cut unemployment benefits and to make it easier and cheaper to fire workers. The Spanish trade union federations CC.OO and UGT, which have called the strike, are demanding instead that unemployment compensation be improved, and that the government act for full, secure, quality employment, quality education for all and “a social model that combines growth with social cohesion.”

Consumer groups are also backing the protest by calling for June 20 to be a purchase-free day.

The Communist Party of Spain said in a statement that it is convinced only a strong response by the workers can turn around the current situation and oblige the government to retreat from its aggressive plans.



Czech communists make gains in elections

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (CPBM) made sweeping gains in the June 14-15 parliamentary elections. Despite a vicious anti-communist campaign by the media and the three other parliamentary parties, the CPBM will hold 41 seats (20.5 percent) in the new 200-member Chamber of Deputies, compared with 24 in the previous legislature.

The Communists increased their share of votes from 11 percent in 1998 to 18.5 percent this time, and now have the third largest delegation in parliament. The three other parties all lost seats.

President Vaclav Havel has held post-election talks with leaders of the other three parties about forming a government but excluded the Communists though they now hold one in five seats in the legislature.

The CPBM credited its increased vote to deep-rooted ideas of socialism in the Czech Republic, and the party’s pro-people approach to both foreign and domestic policies.



Nigerian Labor sets warning strike

The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) has selected July 10 for a one-day warning strike over the government’s refusal to implement a 25 percent wage increase it agreed to last year.

“Government has deliberately refused to enter into negotiations with labor and it is very unfortunate that it has reneged on our agreement,” said NLC spokesman Chris Uyot. He said the government had earlier agreed that wage increments decided on last year should be implemented no later than May 1, 2002. The workers deserve a living wage in view of the country’s prevailing economic situation, Uyot said, adding that labor will never tire of fighting for improved welfare for the masses of people.



German construction workers strike

The first construction workers’ strike since World War II began Monday, as workers in Berlin and Hamburg downed tools. The strike is expected to spread to southern Germany later this week and become nationwide by June 24 if negotiations over pay are not resumed.

The construction trade union, IG Bau, is demanding a 4.5 percent pay increase for the industry’s 900,000 workers. It is also demanding an increase in the minimum wage for workers in eastern Germany.

Observers say a prolonged strike would significantly slow the overall recovery of the German economy.



ICEM demands end to killing of Colombian unionists

The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) earlier this month demanded immediate implementation of protective measures to halt the killing of Colombian trade unionists, 4,000 of whom have been murdered in the last decade.

At its June 6-7 Executive Committee meeting, ICEM also called for a joint trade union and U.N. Human Rights Commission delegation to visit Colombia “to specifically investigate the persecution and assassination of trade unionists and to develop recommendations for a long-term solution to the problem.”

The ICEM Executive called for “immediate implementation of the protection measures determined by the Interamerican Commission and calls on all affiliates to register their protest at the Colombian Embassy in their respective countries.”



S. Korean Hyundai workers strike

Workers at South Korea’s largest auto plant, Hyundai Motors, upped their labor action to a full strike Monday over their demand for a 12 percent wage increase and a bonus of 30 percent of the year’s profit. The union said Hyundai’s record first-quarter profit was “from the efforts of employees who worked around the clock.”

Earnings the company retained from last year’s operation would be more than enough to fund its proposal, the union said.

The Hyundai union has been on a partial strike since mid-May, with workers rotating between the factory floor and the picketline. The union declared the start of a full strike after completing a 2-hour shift on Monday morning.