Iraq: ICFTU calls for trade union rights

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) is calling for support of the trade union movement now re-emerging in Iraq. At the close of a two-day meeting in Amman, Jordan, last month, the international labor body called on the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council to give more attention to the problems facing Iraqi workers. ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder called for labor laws consistent with international standards to protect workers from exploitation and allow for development of legitimate trade unions, as well as for reconstruction of the economy and development of democracy in Iraq.

The meeting brought together Iraqi unionists, teachers’ and journalists’ representatives as well as delegates from the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unionists and ICFTU affiliates from Arab countries, Europe and the U.S. It was organized after Iraqi workers appealed for international support following two attacks by U.S. occupation forces against unionists and union premises in Baghdad.

Colombia: New Bogota mayor takes office

On New Year’s Day, former trade union federation leader Luis Eduardo Garzon was sworn in as mayor of the capital city, Bogota – considered the country’s second most important political post after the presidency.

Garzon’s election last October was one of the biggest electoral victories for democratic forces in Colombia, and marked a resounding defeat for right-wing President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch Bush administration ally.

Emphasizing that Bogota is a city with extremes of wealth and poverty, Garzon took as his slogan, “Bogota without indifference.” He said he would open food banks in schools and communities in the poorest neighborhoods, and would oppose aspects of the government’s campaign to destroy the popular insurgency, particularly the mass arrests of those suspected of guerrilla activity.

China: Gov’t says pay migrant workers promptly

Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan Jan. 2 called on governments at all levels to increase regulation of the construction market and make sure defaulted or delayed payments to migrant workers are recovered. An investigation in 10 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities found that about half the delayed wages to migrant workers had been made up by the end of last year, but some regions fell far behind and Zeng said coordination needed to be improved. He noted that about 80 percent of the country’s 38 million-plus construction workers are migrants, and delayed payments have affected their lives and incomes. A survey late last year of 19 construction units in Nanning and Guigang cities in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region showed that 41.4 percent of construction workers had suffered from delayed payments, and over one-third of the workers were still owed wages.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel