Okinawa: Demonstrators protest copter crash

A Sept. 12 demonstration brought some 30,000 protesters into the streets, a month after a U.S. Marine helicopter crashed into a building at Okinawa State University. It was the prefecture’s largest protest in nearly a decade.

The protesters sent a resolution with 55,000 signatures to the Japanese central government in Tokyo, demanding suspension of U.S. military flights over civilian areas, an early return to Japan of the U.S. Futenma base, and fundamental revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces agreement. The resolution also called for an apology, compensation, and a full explanation of the cause of the crash.

U.S. officials have agreed to renegotiate accident guidelines with Japan, but there is no sign that either government is ready to abandon plans for a new heliport or to abandon the Marine station altogether.

Cambodia: Raffles hotel workers win

In agreements they signed Sept. 12 with management of the Raffles chain’s two Cambodian hotels, Cambodian hotel workers won recognition of their union and reinstatement of a majority of workers dismissed during the dispute which began last April, the International Federation of Food, Agricultural and Hotel Workers said last week.

The Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF), an IUF affiliate, signed the pact with the management of Raffles Le Royal in the capital city, Phnom Penh, and Raffles Grand Hotel Angkor, in Siem Riep.

The IUF said unions around the world showed their solidarity in many ways. IUF members demonstrated at Raffles properties around the world. Unions gave financial and political support, and asked their embassies and diplomatic missions in Cambodia to avoid holding official events at Raffles hotels.

CTSWF President Ly Korm thanked all those who contributed to a successful outcome.

N. Ireland: All-party talks resume

All-party talks to revive Northern Ireland’s peace process and restore the power-sharing government established in 1988 by the Good Friday Agreement resumed Sept. 16 after a two-year stalemate. Though the three-day session led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern ended without agreement, lower-level discussions were continuing early this week, the British newspaper Morning Star reported.

The main obstacle to power sharing has been the refusal of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) headed by Ian Paisley to share power with Sinn Fein before the Irish Republican Army (IRA) disbands. The Morning Star said the IRA had offered “unprecedented levels of decommissioning,” and that an IRA statement on its conditions for full disarmament and renunciation of violence might be released within a week.

Cuba: UN praises hurricane safety measures

Salvano Briceno, head of the UN’s disaster reduction agency, last week called Cuba a role model for developing countries in cutting risks from hurricanes. He said the country has shown that people’s vulnerability can be cut by determined application of cost-effective measures.

Briceno cited preparedness, education and information as key elements in Cuba’s hurricane response program. He said people know what role they are to play, and local authorities know who needs specialized care and how to help the most vulnerable.

During Hurricane Ivan, nearly 180,000 of Pinar del Rio’s 730,000 inhabitants were evacuated to safety. Evacuation shelters in the province were staffed with doctors and nurses and stocked with food and medicine to guarantee the best possible conditions for the evacuees, many of whom were children.

The effectiveness of the program is shown by Cuba’s low death toll compared to neighboring countries. No deaths or injuries were reported from Ivan, despite the high death toll in neighboring Caribbean areas and in the U.S.

Canada: Steelworkers’ long strike continues

Some 1,400 steelworkers in Labrador City, Quebec, have been on strike against the Iron Ore Company of Canada since mid-July, after management refused to budge from its insistence on concessions amounting to about $7 per hour. The company is owned by virulently anti-union mining giant Rio Tinto.

“Rio Tinto wants to strip health care, pensions, freeze wages and introduce a form of psychological profiling of workers on which to base discipline,” union spokesman Yvon Clement said in announcing the strike.

The strike in the tiny one-industry town of 9,000 has had a ripple effect, for example forcing the Sparrows Point mill near Baltimore to contract with Russia for delivery of pelletized iron.

Rio Tinto is the target of a global union protest network over its treatment of workers around the world. In Australia, the company seeks to undermine the union through “personal contracts,” in Zimbabwe workers have struck over nonpayment of promised wage increases, and in the U.S. Kennecott Utah Copper seeks to end health insurance for retirees.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (