South Africa: Gov’t releases AIDS guidelines

South Africa’s Department of Labor last week released guidelines to help employers, workers and trade unions deal with the impact of HIV/AIDS in the workplace, including preventing unfair discrimination, conducting education and awareness programs, and prevention.

“HIV/AIDS is having a devastating effect on all South African workplaces and the economy,” Labor Minister Membathisi Mdladlana told Parliament on June 4. “Its impact can be seen through an increase in absenteeism and sick leave, staff turnover and lower staff morale. Since there is no known cure for AIDS, prevention of HIV infection remains critical.”

The Department of Labor forecasts that by 2010, about 3 percent of the country’s workforce, or about half a million people, could have full-blown AIDS.

The Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reported that two major employers – Anglogold and Goldfields – have already concluded pacts with trade unions to provide anti-retroviral treatment and co-fund immune system boosters, while banning discrimination against HIV-infected workers.

Nepal: Workers back anti-monarchy movement

Some 2,000 trade unionists marched in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, June 15, to support an anti-monarchy movement launched last month by the country’s five main political parties. Members of five unions, including the Nepal Trade Union Congress and Nepal Trade Union Federation, stopped traffic for half an hour as they marched through the city shouting slogans.

“As a protest, laborers and workers also laid down their tools in factories in the capital Sunday,” the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions said in a press release.

The five political parties last month launched a protest campaign against King Gyanendra after he dismissed the elected prime minister last October, replacing him with royalist Lokendra Bahadur Chand, and indefinitely postponed elections. When Chand resigned last month, saying he wanted to end the discord, the king’s decision to replace him with veteran politician Surya Bahadur Thapa further angered the five parties.

Britain: Steelworker retirees protest pension losses

Some 500 former steelworkers protested outside Prime Minister Tony Blair’s home, June 8, against pension rules that are robbing them of much of their retirement income, though they had contributed for up to four decades.

The workers were employed by Allied Steel and Wire before it went into receivership 11 months ago. Under current law, only those already on pension are protected when a firm goes under. Those who aren’t on pension yet are listed among the firm’s many creditors, competing for a share of remaining funds. Workers often lose most or all of their pension.

The former ASW workers tried to press the government to compensate them. But, said Andrew Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, “When it comes to investments and markets, there is no such thing as total security.”

Many British workers whose firms have gone bankrupt or been sold face similar problems, while some employers, in response to even minimal government efforts to regulate pensions, have closed their pension plans to new employees.

Haiti: Health ministry receives donation

Haitians from the Diaspora, working in an association called “Ajoupa,” on June 13 delivered a major shipment of medical supplies to the Ministry of Public Health, the Haitian Press Agency reported.

Ajoupa coordinator Alina Sixto said the shipment of beds, mattresses, operating tables and crutches is worth about $3 million. She said the material is part of a concerted effort by Haitians living abroad to help the government, which is in dire straits for resources because of the economic sanctions imposed on Haiti by the world community. Public Health Minister Henry Claude Voltaire expressed great appreciation for the solidarity expressed by the Haitian Diaspora, and said the aid will be distributed to health centers throughout the country.

Guatemala: Teachers hit the bricks, again

Ending three months of relative calm following their 52-day strike earlier this year, Guatemalan public school teachers took to the streets again, June 9, to demand the government live up to the pact that ended their earlier walkout.

Demonstrators in Guatemala City and other communities demanded that the government live up to its pledges to provide acceptable food conditions for students, equip classrooms with furniture, textbooks and other essential equipment, and institute other educational reforms.

The agreement that ended the January-March strike obligated the Education Ministry to accept a major reform of the teaching system, take teachers into consideration, institute a program of “professionalization” and raise salaries by 150 quetzals (U.S. $20).

International notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, international secretary of the Communist Party USA.
She can be reached at