Peru: Thousands of phone workers laid off

Since the Spanish transnational telecommunications firm Telefonica took over Peru’s phone network under then-President Alberto Fujimori’s privatization drive, over 75 percent of the workforce has been cut, with a loss of some 9,000 jobs. When Telefonica dismissed another 570 workers in June, in clear violation of an April 2001 collective agreement, the remaining 3,000 workers – most of whom belong to the telephone workers’ unions – walked out.

Among its maneuvers, the company tried to force many workers to switch to other subcontracting firms, thereby losing rights they had built up over the years.

Despite warning from Peru’s Deputy Labor Minister Jose Echeandia that Telefonica has acted illegally, the company refuses to budge and the strike continues.

The Peruvian labor federation, CUT, has submitted a complaint to the International Labor Organization. The global telecom union, UNI, has successfully pressured Telefonica’s Spanish parent, Telefonica de Espana, to open a formal “dispute procedure” over the situation.

Nigeria: Women launch fresh protests

Women protesters in Nigeria have launched a new action against ChevronTexaco in their demand for jobs and development aid to their communities.

Dozens of women traveling in some 15 boats arrived at the transnational’s Ewan oilfield in the western Niger delta last week, bringing samples of damaged fishing nets and polluted waters, and accusing the oil giant of ruining their livelihoods and polluting the environment of their villages. They are demanding the company agree to clean up the environment and provide jobs and development aid for the area’s population.

Last month, groups of women protesters took over several ChevronTexaco facilities, winning promises of electricity, clean water and other aid.

Yugoslavia: CP to run presidential candidate

The New Communist Party of Yugoslavia (NCP) has announced it will propose its General Secretary, Branko Kitanovich, as a candidate in Serbia’s September presidential elections. The NCP said that, besides financial problems, the greatest difficulty it faces is the tremendous pressure the pro-NATO government places on the media to prevent coverage of opposition to pro-western, neoliberal trends in Serbia.

Other anti-NATO parties are also running candidates; the pro-NATO DOS coalition has not been able to form a united front and may have as many as six candidates.

The NCP said the September elections could be the start of a large popular and social movement aimed at removing the presently governing neoliberals from power.

Ireland: Protest vs. U.S. military landing rights

Over 150 demonstrators converged on Shannon International Airport last Saturday to protest the Irish government’s granting of refueling and landing rights to U.S. military planes. Despite a large police presence at the outer gate, 1.5 km from the main terminals, the peaceful demonstrators broke through the police cordon in a non-violent manner.

A number of protesters spoke at the main arrivals terminal, where the crowd gathered. Others lay down in the roadway, blocking traffic.

Shortly before the protest started, a U.S. C-130 military plane landed at Shannon. It took off about 90 minutes later, apparently because of concern over the demonstrators’ presence.

China: Gov’t pledges better food safety

China’s Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin said last week that his country is developing more stringent quality and inspection standards for agriculture, with the goal of assuring pollution-free food production in the next five years.

Problems have included pesticide residue, heavy metal pollution, epidemic disease and abuse of additives. China is actively encouraging adherence to its national standards, and raising these to international levels.

So. Korea: Rally planned for jailed trade unionists

None of the trade unionists imprisoned in South Korea were granted amnesty on Korean independence day – Aug. 15 – though many citizens and a majority in Parliament were pushing for it.

The International Metalworkers Federation held its second International Day of Action for South Korea in late June, and a letter campaign in the last two weeks, calling for release of Dan Byung-ho, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and over 50 South Korean unionists who have been jailed for legitimate trade union activities. Two imprisoned leaders of the Daewoo autoworkers’ union were released early in July as a result of the international campaign.

Now, the KCTU is organizing a nationwide rally – date to be confirmed, but probably in the last week of August – to protest the government’s repression of trade unionists and its refusal of amnesty for the jailed workers.