Greece: Olympic construction takes big toll

George Theodorou, head of the Greek Construction Workers’ Union, told the BBC last week that he has details of 14 workers who have died while building facilities for next month’s Olympic Games. He said the total may be closer to 40 when deaths on the supporting infrastructure are counted.

“Men are being forced to work long shifts, up to 14 hours a day, every day, in very hot temperatures and under constant pressure to complete construction work in time for the Olympics,” he said. “Most have no hard hats or safety boots and if they complain, they’re sacked.”

In a July 23 statement, the Communist Party of Greece cited “the dozens of dead and injured workers” along with violations of people’s labor and democratic rights, environmental damage and repression in the name of “security.” The CPG pointed out that under the control of transnational corporate giants, the Games lack “any measures … to develop and support mass popular athletics for all.” The statement demanded the new facilities be given to the people when the Games are over, and called for development of mass popular sport.

Colombia: Communist farm co-op leader killed

Benedicto Caballero, a leader in the agricultural cooperative movement, is the latest victim in the wave of assassinations of trade union, popular movement and Communist activists in Colombia, the Communist Party of Colombia said last week.

Caballero, killed the night of July 21, was vice president of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives and director of the Agricultural Cooperative of Tequendama.

“This new assassination is part of the systematic persecution against popular leaders and activists of the Communist Party of Colombia and gives the lie to the official demagoguery about guarantees for the opposition,” the CPC said.

Under the Uribe administration, forced displacements, threats, arbitrary detentions and assassinations of CPC activists have increased, the party said.

Over 3,000 Communist activists have been assassinated in the last 15 years, in the context of the political genocide against the Patriotic Union, whose victims number over 5,000, the CPC said.

South Africa: Metalworkers warn of strike

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has warned employers in the fuel and motor retail industries that any further resistance to the union’s demands for a wage hike will spark a countrywide strike. COSATU Weekly, published by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said hundreds of unionists, mostly gas station attendants, presented the employers’ association with a memorandum stating that its “no wage increase” stance would seriously contribute to workers’ misery and grinding poverty. Said union President Mtutuzeli Tom, “It is amazing that workers in the industry are still paid apartheid wages based on the area where they are working, not on the work they are performing.”

Other demands include a 20 percent increase in the night shift allowance and 10 percent for the afternoon shift. The union is also demanding that employers provide free transportation for all workers whose shift ends after 8 p.m.

Ukraine: Mourning mine disaster

Three days of mourning were declared in the Ukraine last week after at least 31 miners died after a July 20 methane gas explosion, the worst mine disaster in recent years, the BBC reported. At the time, 48 miners were in the area of the Krasnolymans’ka coal mine in the Donetsk region. Twelve miners escaped. Bodies of 31 miners were recovered, while the search continued for five more who were missing.

Since the Ukraine became independent following the collapse of the USSR, the country’s mines have been wracked by severe underfunding and poor safety. In that time some 3,700 miners have been killed. Though Krasnolymans’ka is one of the most profitable mines, producing over 10,000 tons of coal per day, it is also regarded as one of the most dangerous.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel @ Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s notes.