International notes

Colombian strike protests killing

Colombia’s USO oil workers’ union struck for two days last week to protest the assassination of one of its officers, Cesar Blanco Moreno, a union official in Bucaramanga.

Their strike was announced the same day the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) released a report showing 223 trade unionists were killed or disappeared worlwide last year – 201 of them from Colombia.

The ICFTU said Colombia was the most dangerous country in the world for trade union activity because those who carry out the murders enjoy impunity.

Blanco had been seriously injured in a 1998 attempt on his life.

The ICFTU report also said over 4,000 trade unionists were arrested worldwide last year, 1,000 were injured and 10,000 fired for union activity.





Greek workers fight pension cuts

In the latest strike protesting the government’s drive to cut social security benefits, Greek port workers conducted a militant four-day strike last week, shutting down ferries and other shipping.

Thousands of workers gathered at the port of Piraeus June 21 for a rally and march to the Maritime Ministry.

Workers returned to their jobs this week, after the government issued an emergency order that would mobilize them under military control.

Public sector workers also struck for 24 hours last week, halting international and domestic flights, closing many government offices and stopping train service.

The main Greek labor federations joined in calling the actions.





Peruvian dockers urge fair hiring system

Dock workers, clerks and some truck drivers stopped work for 48 hours last week to protest Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo’s veto of a law setting up a registry and rotation system to give dockers the right to work in a fair and equitable way. FEMAPOR, the Peruvian dock workers’ union, said the law, passed overwhelmingly by the Congress, reinstated a legal framework abolished by former President Fujimora.

At the same time, demonstrations sweeping southern Peru over privatization of the electrical companies forced the government to halt privatization. Repression of the anti-privatization protests resulted in deaths of two demonstrators, and the port union said dockers also feared the possibility of repression by the armed forces.





South Africa celebrates Freedom Charter

June 26 marks the 47th anniversary of the adoption of South Africa’s Freedom Charter by the Congress of the People.

“Though clearly a product of its times, the Freedom Charter remains to this day a point of reference as we work to build a new South Africa,” President Thabo Mbeki said in a statement. One of the reasons the charter is still valid, he said, is that it was “truly a product of popular participation” and was drawn up on the basis of demands of people throughout the country.

“The Congress of the People itself, which adopted the final draft, was attended by delegates drawn from all our racial groups and from both urban and rural areas,” Mbeki said. “In a real sense, it was the precursor to the democratically elected parliament which today is our supreme lawmaker.”





Millions strike in Spain

Spanish trade unions said an estimated 10 million workers joined in a 24-hour general strike June 20, to protest government plans to slash unemployment benefits and make it easier to fire workers. The national labor federation said over 80 percent of workers stayed off the job.

The strike took place the day before conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar hosted a European Union summit in Seville.





Canadian G-8 summit draws protests

Some 2,000 demonstrators marched in Calgary Sunday in the first of a series of anti-globalization rallies. Organizers urged protesters to return for demonstrations later in the week.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is hosting leaders from Japan, Italy, Germany, Britain, the U.S., France and Russia at the Kananaskis mountain retreat, west of Calgary.

Protest marches are also slated for Edmonton, Toronto and Victoria this week, along with a large “Take the Capital” protest on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill.





China-Taiwan informal trade talks urged

The Chinese government is proposing that authorities in both China and Taiwan entrust civil groups to jump-start talks on direct links of trade, transportation and mail services.

Meeting with delegations from Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang and People First Party and business leaders, Li Bincai, deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council, said such links could be achieved through people-to-people, industry-to-industry and company-to-company consultation. He said this is the most practical way to establish such links since official and semi-official contacts are lacking across the Taiwan Straits, because the Taiwan authorities refuse to accept the one-China principle.