Canada: Women & unions win landmark settlement

Some 100,000 women, in mostly female public sector workplaces across Ontario will get up to $414 million in pay equity funding from the provincial government under settlement of an Ontario Superior Court of Justice Charter application, which was brought by five unions including the United Steel Workers of America and four individual women.

The unions represent over 44,000 workers in nursing homes, child-care centers, developmental services agencies, shelters, home care and other community agencies.

The USWA said the settlement covers both unionized and non-union workers in predominantly female workplaces where there are no male job classes to compare for pay equity purposes. The applicants claimed the Ontario government knowingly perpetuated sex discrimination contrary to the Charter by failing to provide necessary pay equity funding in this sector.

Iraq: War worsens chronic poverty

A UN World Food Program (WFP) survey in Iraq’s 15 central and southern provinces just before the U.S. invasion showed that one in five Iraqis there, or 4.6 million people, suffered from chronic poverty even before the war – a situation the WFP says is undoubtedly “much worse” today. The study defined chronic poverty as the frequent inability of a household or an individual to meet basic needs such as adequate food, water, clothing, housing, health and basic education.

“The survey indicates a high level of chronic poverty and an alarming dependency on the monthly food rations that were established in Iraq in the early 1990s,” said WFP representative in Iraq Torben Due. “About 13 years of stringent economic sanctions, three wars in two decades and failing economic policies have impoverished a majority of the Iraqi people and reduced them to relying heavily on free food handouts.”

The WFP has restarted the monthly food rations this month.

Argentina: IMF threatens homes

Almost a year ago, when the country’s economic crisis was worst, Argentina’s Congress suspended mortgage foreclosures for 90 days on homes that were a family’s “sole and permanent residence.” The law, renewed three times since, expires in August unless Congress renews it.

But the International Monetary Fund now insists the suspension be ended as a precondition for any overall agreement, though Argentina has complied with many other IMF demands.

The Argentine Debtors’ Association says as many as 40 percent of households with bank mortgage loans are behind in payments, while other estimates say over 20,000 households could face instant eviction if the freeze is ended.

At his inauguration last month, President Nestor Kirschner declared, “Judicial security should be for everyone, not just those who have power or money.” He has pledged to “try to find a just and equitable solution.”

El Salvador: Washington meddling in elections

Earlier this month outgoing U.S. ambassador Rose Likins threatened U.S. retaliation against El Salvador if an FMLN (the major left party) president were elected, and said U.S. investment could pull out as a result. In statements made June 3 and reported by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), Likins criticized the political ideology of the current FMLN leadership and said the organization’s economic platform worries Washington. In other interviews, Likins has spoken out against the FMLN’s opposition to dollarization, privatization, and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

“Given U.S. interference in recent elections in Nicaragua and Bolivia, as well as the long history of U.S. intervention in El Salvador and throughout Latin America, these ideological, partisan statements are alarming and inappropriate,” CISPES said.

It urged calls to Andrea Rodriguez in the State Department’s El Salvador office – phone (202) 647-3505, fax (202) 647-2597 – demanding an end to U.S. intervention in the Salvadoran electoral process, respect for Salvadoran sovereignty, and a public apology to the Salvadoran people and the FMLN.

Afghanistan: Anarchy on the rise

Warlords are reasserting control in Afghanistan, says a report just released by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society, and unless the Bush administration gives much more support to the Karzai government and mobilizes support from the international community, the country could sink back into the anarchy of the 1990s. “Such a reversion would have disastrous consequences for Afghanistan and would be a profound setback for the U.S. war on terrorism,” says the report, entitled “Afghanistan: Are we losing the peace?”

The panel assembled by the right-of-center Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society included former ranking State Department personnel from both Republican and Democratic administrations. Said panel co-chair Frank Wisner, former U.S. ambassador to India, if Washington “did not get it right in Afghanistan it will be a lot harder to convince others to work with us to get it right in Iraq.”

International notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, Communist Party international secretary.

She can be reached at