Venezuela: WFTU condemns ‘unconstitutional’ efforts to oust president

The World Federation of Trade Unions has expressed its grave concern and strongly condemned “the violent campaign launched by forces representing the oligarchies and anti-democratic forces supported by foreign capital” to disrupt the life of peaceful citizens and sabotage the country’s economy in order to overthrow the lawfully elected government of President Hugo Chavez.

The WFTU expressed great regret that the leaders of the CTV labor federation “have joined the forces resorting to unconstitutional methods,” and called on trade unions in all countries to express their solidarity with the working people and trade unions of Venezuela supporting the constitutionally elected president.

Turkey: Tens of thousands say ‘No!’ to war

Thousands of demonstrators gathered at a square in the heart of Istanbul on Dec. 1 to call for prevention of a war against Iraq. “We will not be U.S. soldiers,” “No to war!” “let there be no wars, Don’t let children die,” were among the protest’s most popular slogans. A common declaration entitled, “Don’t your children have names?” was read out in Kurdish, Turkish and English. The declaration warned that the U.S. administration is fabricating excuses to attack, and that the only winners would be oil monopolies and arms dealers. Demonstrations also took place in many other cities around Turkey, including one in Izmir that brought together over 10,000 people.

Portugal: General strike against government assault on living conditions

On Tuesday, workers throughout Portugal struck to protest the right-wing government’s proposed labor code eroding workers’ rights and protections, and its attack on social security, the health system and education. Portugal’s national trade union federation said the assault, promoted by the big employers and led by the government, “is being developed in a global and articulated manner.” The federation said the objectives of the general strike are to stop adoption of the draft labor code, improve wages and purchasing power, defend social security, defend and strength the national health service in favor of users, and uphold the public education system. The Portuguese Communist Party called the proposed labor code “an inhumane advancement of the power of the employers over the workers, a profound breach of their rights, a violent aggression to their dignity and a brutal strengthening of their exploitation.”

South Africa: Minimum wage set for farm workers

Starting in March, South African farm workers will be guaranteed a minimum wage for the first time. Wealthier farmers will be required to pay at least R800 ($87.60) a month, while poorer farmers will pay at least R650 ($71.17). The new wage regulations also stipulate minimum annual increases that must be higher than the rate of inflation. No more than 10 percent can be deducted from wages for food, and 10 percent for accommodations. “The majority of farm workers are still working under some of the worst forms of exploitation: low wages, high rates of casual and seasonal labor, little income and job security, and appalling living conditions and face regular racist violence and abuse in many cases,” the South African Communist Party said in a statement welcoming the new regulations. However, the SACP expressed concern that the provisions do not adequately address the problems of child labor and excessive working hours.

Britain: Giant rally backs firefighters

9,000 firefighters and their supporters from many other unions marched through London to a mass rally in Hyde Park last Saturday, in the largest organized Trades Union Congress rally since demonstrations against mine closures more than ten years ago. Observers said the turnout in support of the firefighters’ pay demands might have been even larger if the firefighters’ union had not called off the second of its projected eight-day strikes, leaving many firefighters on duty. As traffic in major tourist and shopping areas halted for the marchers, many passers-by signed petitions supporting the firefighters’ wage demands. Firefighters’ leader Andy Gilchrist castigated the Labor government for blocking a 16 percent wage hike offered by local employers, and warned that if the government intervenes again, “we will be back on strike because we are going to win this pay dispute.”

Greece: Peace activists acquitted

Six peace activists and members of the Communist Party of Greece have been acquitted of charges stemming from a demonstration in April 1999, during which they and hundreds of other peace demonstrators blocked a road and stopped a NATO convoy heading for Kosovo. In rejecting the accusation against the protesters, the court declared that they were acting “according to the right provided to them by the constitution,” since the passing of NATO troops through Greed territory was against the Greek laws and constitution. The protesters said solidarity expressed by hundreds of organizations and public figures in Greece and abroad played a very important role in their victory.

International notes are compiled weekly by Marilyn Bechtel, international secretary of the Communist Party.
She can be reached at