Russia: Unions take on Norilsk Nickel

Accusing Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining company, of sabotaging a labor leader’s election as mayor of Norilsk, unions vowed this week to run candidates in a postponed mayoral election, and in federal parliamentary elections in December.

Union leader Valery Melnikov led in last month’s first round voting for mayor but was disqualified after a challenge the plant’s unions say was engineered by Norilsk Nickel. In the ensuing furor, the company-backed candidates withdrew and the election was put off until later this year.

Alexander Bugayev, chair of the All-Russia Confederation of Labor, told Asia Times that “recent mayoral elections in Norilsk were characterized by unprecedented pressure by the company on alternative candidates, in particular Valery Melnikov. There are reasons to believe,” he added, that if not for the dirty tricks played against him, Melnikov “might have received over 50 percent in the first round.”

Nigeria: Public workers say no to layoffs

The Nigeria Labor Congress has rejected the federal government’s plan to cut the workforce at federal ministries by 10 percent. Calling the proposal a deliberate move to satisfy the demands of the IMF and World Bank, the NLC rejected President Olusegun Obasanjo’s allegations that the workforce was too large and was not sufficiently productive.

NLC Vice President Fidelis Edeh told This Day News that problems in the public sector were the responsibility of the government and not the workforce. “In the last 10 years they have not created more jobs, no employment has taken place, yet there has been a series of compulsory retirement, retrenchment and resignation,” Edeh said. He emphasized that many ministries have vacant positions.

Hungary: Peace forces protest Iraq war

The Civilians for Peace Movement has sent a strongly worded protest to the government over its aid to the U.S. and Britain in the war on Iraq. Reminding Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy of his promise not to send troops to Iraq, the statement accused the government of violating that promise by letting the U.S. Army use Hungary’s air space, public roads and rail lines, and agreeing to send peace-keeping troops to Iraq.

“The Civilians for Peace Movement calls on the Hungarian government and parliament not to put their name at all to the new U.S. military plans in connection with Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Syria, Egypt and Cuba,” the May 19 statement said. The statement noted that the first Hungarian Social Forum brought together some 700 community organizations, trade unions, and religious groups who “condemned war and war-mongering, opposed the new world order based on the hegemony of the USA,” and demanded respect for the UN and international law.

Peru: WFTU calls for solidarity with teachers

In a May 19 statement, the World Federation of Teachers called for solidarity with more than 280,000 Peruvian teachers who have been on strike since May 12, demanding higher salaries and better working conditions. “The Peruvian government has so far failed to act to find a satisfactory solution to the just demands of the teachers,” WFTU said.

At the start of the strike, teachers’ union leader Nilver Lopez said talks with the government failed because Economy Minister Javier Silva Ruete claimed the government had no money to meet the teachers’ demands. Lopez said President Alejandro Toledo had made a campaign promise to give teachers an annual raise, but in the two years since his election, teachers have received one increase amounting to 15 cents.

The WFTU called the Peruvian teachers’ wages and working conditions among the worst in Latin America. It called for full solidarity with the SUTEP teachers’ union’s struggle.

Indonesia: Women protest discrimination at work

A recent report on discrimination by the International Labor Organization (ILO) said women in Indonesia still experience discrimination at work ranging from less pay and fewer decision-making responsibilities than men to greater difficulty in entering the workforce.

The ILO said women’s average earnings were only 68 percent of their male counterparts. It said further that married women were often not given family allowances because according to the Marriage Law they were considered “single,” since married men are legally the heads of families.

Indonesia has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Equal Remuneration Convention that states that salaries should be set without discrimination. The country also has a new Labor Law that states every worker has the right to receive equal treatment without discrimination from her or his employer. Manpower Minister Jacob Nuwa Wea has acknowledged that implementation of the country’s antidiscrimination laws is still poor.

Compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, who can be reached at