Global: Youth unemployment soaring

The International Labor Organization (ILO) said last week that half the world’s unemployed are between 15 and 24 years of age. The ILO’s report, “Global Unemployment Trends for Youth, 2004,” said the worldwide youth unemployment rate last year was 14.4 percent — representing a 26.8 percent increase in the total number of unemployed young people over the past decade.

Although young people represent about a quarter of the working age population, the ILO said, they made up as much as 47 percent of the 186 million people out of work in 2003. Youth have more trouble finding a job than do their elders, and lose jobs faster when a recession hits, the report said.

Youth employment ratios dropped in all regions except North Africa and the Middle East.

Nigeria: Strike ends with a warning

The four-day general strike called by the Labor Civil Society Coalition to protest gas price hikes was officially suspended Oct. 14. But the Nigerian Labor Congress — a key component of the coalition — warned that an indefinite stoppage could begin in two weeks if the government fails to lower gas prices.

In Delta State, the Association of Senior Civil Servants said it would stay out Oct. 15, too, in protest against the arrest and brutal treatment of NLC head Adams Oshiomhole before the strike.

The strike, which had participation of broad sectors of Nigeria’s working people, closed banks, businesses, shops and public services. The action was the third general strike in 18 months over fuel prices, which have soared following government deregulation of the domestic fuel market — a move made at the behest of the International Monetary Fund.

Canada: Wal-Mart questions unionized store’s future

Global low-wage retailer Wal-Mart said last week it was “concerned about the economic viability” of its store in Jonquiere, Quebec, which in August became the only unionized Wal-Mart in North America.

Wal-Mart claims the Jonquiere store “is not meeting its business plan.” According to Agence France Presse, the company said it had not yet heard from the United Food and Commercial Workers union about starting talks on a contract, and alleged that “the unresolved labor situation … is proving detrimental to improving the performance of the store.”

The Toronto Star said in August that Wal-Mart is increasingly besieged by criticism from the labor movement, social activists and academics, and faces as many as 8,000 lawsuits — including a number of class action suits — at any given time. The Star said at least 220 U.S. communities have gone on record opposing Wal-Marts in their areas. Similar resistance has been reported around the world.

Pakistan: Workers hold protest day

Unionists rallied in all industrial areas Sept. 30 under the auspices of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, to protest privatization, union-busting, high inflation, cutbacks and unemployment.

The federation’s secretary general, Gulzar Ahmed Chaudhary, said the government is denying pay increases to workers at the same time it is restricting their ability to struggle for higher wages through collective bargaining. He said the government has also failed to curb rising prices for basic commodities and to control unemployment and lawlessness.

The unionists called on the government to restore trade union rights by bringing the Industrial Relation Ordinance into conformity with International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions.

They passed resolutions demanding an end to all anti-worker laws and restrictions on union activities, a minimum wage for unskilled workers, an end to the contract and daily wage systems, and enforcement of social security and workers welfare fund ordinances.

Bolivia: Peasants march on the capital

Thousands of peasants marched on Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, last weekend for an Oct. 18 rally demanding that former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada be tried for the deaths of 80 people during last year’s protests against export of natural gas. Lozada, who was forced out by the protests, is now in exile in the U.S.

The BBC reported that on Oct. 14, Bolivia’s Congress backed the peasants’ demand.

The current president, Carlos Mesa, had been Lozada’s deputy. But Mesa has been forced to listen to demands of peasants and indigenous Bolivians that their gas resources be used to industrialize and develop the country instead of merely enriching giant energy transnationals. Bolivia’s Congress is currently debating a new law to govern gas exploitation, which would increase the royalties transnationals pay for the gas and direct the income to health, education, roads and jobs.

The current demonstrations, like those a year ago, are being led by indigenous leader Evo Morales.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (