Spain: Dockers hurt during demonstrations

At least 50 people were hurt Feb. 17 in clashes between police and dockers in various Spanish cities, Prensa Latina reported.

Nearly 14,000 workers employed by Izar, the country’s largest naval construction firm, are demanding new labor contracts, and their protests have resulted in violent clashes with anti-riot police in recent weeks.

The most serious clashes were in Seville, where trade unions reported 38 workers injured, while government authorities said 12 policemen had been hurt.

Trade union committee president Ignacio Sanchez told reporters the main disturbances occurred when police entered the industrial facilities. Some 300 dockers in Seville used rocks to confront police, who in turn fired rubber bullets and tear gas. The unions are demanding that the company not close any workplaces or cut jobs in the next few years.

Bulgaria: Steelworkers face dangerous conditions

Workers at Bulgaria’s largest metallurgical factory, Kremikovtzi, are facing increasingly dangerous working conditions since the company was privatized in 1999. All 8,000 workers at the plant belong to the “Metalicy” trade union, affiliated with the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF).

Equipment is outdated and faulty, the IMF said, while personal safety units and protective clothing are lacking, and sanitary conditions are appalling. Accidents are frequent and four deaths were reported in January.

In addition, workers’ wages and the contributions to their social insurance have not been paid regularly for the last two years. The union has repeatedly pressed management to improve conditions, but without success. When the workers struck last May, the local’s president and entire executive committee were fired.

IMF General Secretary Marcello Malentacchi called on management to pay all outstanding salaries, update health and safety measures, and halt dismissals. The union is preparing to strike the plant again if its demands are not met.

Nicaragua: Banana workers march

On Feb. 10, over 5,000 Nicaraguan former banana workers ended a 10-day march by setting up a protest encampment in front of the National Assembly in Managua, Resource Center of the Americas reported. The workers left Chinandega Jan. 31 and walked 140 kilometers (84 miles) to urge the government to step up support for their demand that U.S. corporations compensate workers who suffered health problems from the pesticide dibromo chloropropane (DBCP, or Nemagon). In December 2002, a Nicaraguan judge ordered the companies to pay compensation to 50 former banana workers.

The workers are also protesting a countersuit by Shell Oil, Shell Chemical, Dow Chemical and Dole Food Company, accusing the workers of conspiring to make a fraudulent claim. DBCP exposure has side effects ranging from respiratory and vision problems to cancer, sterility and severe birth defects. The chemical was used on Central American banana plantations in the 1960s and ’70s, and illegally into the 1980s after it was banned.

Iran: ICFTU protests killing of workers

Expressing “extreme concern,” the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has called on the Iranian government to identify and prosecute those responsible for the killing of at least four workers and injuries to some 40 more on Jan. 24 in the village of Khatoonabad and the city of Shahr-e Babak. The ICFTU demanded the release of all workers and their relatives arrested in the Jan. 24 protest. It also filed an official complaint with the International Labor Organization.

The workers, who had been building a copper smelting plant in Khatoonabad, struck and held a sit-in when the subcontractor employing them broke a promise to permanently employ all 1,500 workers, retaining only 250 workers. Special police units opened fire on workers and their supporters in front of the plant.

When workers, family members and local residents protested the attack, some 80 people were arrested and 15 held for questioning.

Nepal: Children protest child labor

To highlight the plight of over 2.6 million Nepalese children forced to work hazardous and exploitative jobs, child workers plan to send palm prints of more 1,000 children to the World Congress on Child Labor in Florence, Italy, in May.

Recent studies have shown that of the country’s 2.8 million child workers, comprising 40 percent of Nepal’s children, some 127,000 work in hazardous occupations. Eighty-eight percent of economically active girls, and 80 percent of boys, work 14 or more hours daily.

Children who migrate to urban areas are forced to work as domestic servants, porters, rag pickers or bonded laborers in carpet factories, children in rural areas face the threat of being recruited as child soldiers by Maoist armed insurgents. One-fifth of sex workers in Nepal are under 16.

Nepal’s constitution and laws bar employment of children under 14.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (