China: New security concept at ASEAN meet

At last week’s annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and over a dozen other states, the Chinese delegation reiterated their proposal for a new security concept based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination.

The position paper circulated by the Chinese delegation said the initiative, first proposed in 1996, seeks common security through mutually beneficial cooperation on the basis of common interests. Transcending differences in ideology and social system, countries should refrain from mutual suspicion and hostility, the Chinese said.

All countries, large or small, the paper said, should be able to meet the objective needs of social development in the era of globalization. All should seek peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiation, and cooperate on security issues of mutual concern in order to prevent the outbreak of wars and armed conflicts.

France: Unions, CP protest Air France privatization

Union and Communist Party leaders are protesting the plans by France’s new right-wing government to privatize Air France. The government now owns 54.4 percent of the highly successful airline, but the government said last week it would sell part of its holdings late this year or early in 2003, as part of an effort to raise cash.

France’s national union federations, and the pilots’ union, sharply criticized the plan. The communist-led CGT called the move “an unacceptable political decision.” Former Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot, a Communist, said the company was functioning successfully, and privatization would be a “heavy blow” for the company and its employees.

Nigeria: Women win again

Hundreds of Nigerian women last week ended a 12-day occupation of oil pipeline stations belonging to U.S.-based transnational ChevronTexaco. The protesters said the company had agreed to create jobs for 10 people from nearby villages, upgrade 20 more workers to full-time positions and create 30 new contract positions.

The company also agreed to help village women start small businesses of their own, and provide schools, hospitals, water and electricity systems for area communities.

The women had occupied the facilities because they said the company exploits the people of the impoverished coastal region and does not share enough of the wealth it obtains from the oil. The latest protest started as other women were ending their occupation of ChevronTexaco’s export terminal – also with victories for jobs and services.

Uruguay: General strike protests economic crisis

Thousands of Uruguayans held a four-hour general strike Aug. 1 to demand wage hikes and public works projects, as the country’s economic woes escalated and the government declared a bank holiday.

“We want to know the International Monetary Fund’s conditions to solve this crisis,” declared union leader Jose Suarez, of the country’s largest labor federation, PIT-CNT. The unions are demanding the government okay a pay raise to compensate for the decline of the peso, which has made basic imported goods more expensive.

The labor movement is demanding defeat of an IMF-backed bill in Congress to slash public spending, and is instead calling for public works projects in the construction sector.

Korea: Reunification Day fete planned

A civil delegation from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will fly to Seoul to participate in the National Reunification meeting slated for Aug. 15.

The South Korean Headquarters for Promotion of National Joint Functions and the DPRK’s National Reconciliation Council agreed to hold a joint commemoration of the 57th anniversary of independence of the Korean nation. The peninsula was ruled by Japan from 1910 to 1945 and independence was won on Aug. 15, 1945.

The two sides also agreed to help each other ensure the success of a meeting of students from north and south for reunification, and a meeting of women, next month.

Canada: Auto workers leader aids homeless

Buzz Hargrove, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers, last week joined a group of homeless people who took over a vacant abandoned house as a protest during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Toronto.

“A shelter should be a matter of right, not a matter of ability to pay,” Hargrove told a crowd of anti-poverty demonstrators. Hargrove, who lives in the city’s downtown, said there are hundreds of buildings similar to the west-end house that was taken over by protesters July 25.

He said the CAW pledges $50,000 to repair the rundown three-story house on condition the city government takes over the building and gives it to the homeless, and if the city and provincial governments also help with the repairs. Hargrove presented the squatters with a mock $50,000 check as a sign of the union’s commitment.