Peru: Mineworkers strike over job rules

About 40,000 Peru mineworkers from 33 of 74 unions in the industry went out on strike April 30 to demand an end to the outsourcing of jobs to subcontractors, a practice affecting 80 percent of the country’s 100,000 miners.

Striking miners told Inter Press Service that subcontracted workers lack rights to paid vacations, social security and union membership. Their average income is $9.80 per day, compared to $23 per day for directly employed workers, who also benefit from profit sharing.

Labor Minister Susana Pinilla reassured strikers that Peru’s government would soon be legislating against abuses due to outsourcing. However, union spokespersons say the government is paying more attention to tax yields from mine operations than to protecting workers’ rights.

These tax revenues account for 60 percent of the government’s income. Peru is a world leader in gold, zinc, silver, copper and lead production. World prices recently have been soaring.

Philippines: Major election looms

The Philippines will hold midterm election on May 14. All of the 200 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election, along with 12 open seats in the Senate and about 17,000 local positions, such as those for governor and mayor.

Should opponents of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo win a majority, they will likely try, for the third time, to impeach her. Her government is facing charges of massive fraud.

The pre-elections have been marred by scandals and violence. Leaked documents show Arroyo’s government has illegally funneled money to candidates who back her. The number of election-related deaths is officially at 23, according to the election commission, the most recent being the highly publicized April 30 assassination of Mayor Julian Resuello of San Carlos. Many say the real number of casualties is much higher.

Arroyo, a strong Bush supporter, originally sent 51 troops to Iraq as part of Bush’s “coalition of the willing,” but under pressure she withdrew them in less than a year.

Somalia: U.S. promotes, ignores Somali suffering

Conflict in the Somali capital of Mogadishu has led to a humanitarian crisis. For two months, U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops and those of the warlord-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have fought against militia clans and supporters of the previous government set up by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).

Human rights observers and UN officials, quoted at, say that the indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and mortars have caused 2,000 deaths, the wounding of thousands and displacement of 500,000. As of May 2, the carnage and ongoing destruction within the city had subsided, they said, but food and medical care remained scarce.

Invading Ethiopian troops received U.S. intelligence and logistical support earlier this year when they forced out the ICU, which is accused by Washington of “fostering terrorism.” Somalia occupies a strategic position at the Horn of Africa.

The Somali Diaspora network, a U.S.-based advocacy and lobbying group, condemned U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazier, April 25, for praising Ethiopian military and TFG leaders and disregarding humanitarian needs following her visit to Somalia.

Korea: Campaign for unity persists

Despite world tensions over North Korea’s nuclear projects, unity-minded Koreans continue working to refashion ties between the two Koreas.

Activists held a press conference April 25 in Seoul, South Korea, demanding the government withdraw its designation of the country’s Federation of University Student Councils, which favors reunification, as an “enemy-benefiting organization.”

Labourstart reports that 60 North Korean unionists journeyed to the South to join labor activists there for a celebration of International Workers Day, May 1.

The governments went ahead May 2 with negotiations over the exchange of “natural resource” products from the North for raw materials from the South.

Recalling agreements made in February, however, U.S. and Japanese officials pressured North Korean emissaries on May 1 to close down a nuclear reactor. North Korea is holding off until a Macao bank unfreezes $25 million in state funds. In April, South Korean and U.S. planes carried out 180 aerial surveillance sorties, according to North Korean news sources.

Great Britain: World’s biggest union launched

On International Workers Day, leaders of both Amicus, the U.K.’s largest private sector union, and Britain’s Transport and General Workers’ Union announced a merger of their two unions. Unite, the “first global super union,” will encompass 2 million members and take in $300 million annually in membership dues, of which $30 million will go toward organizing.

Amicus had previously established ties with Germany’s IG Metall union and the United Steelworkers in the United States and Canada. With the anticipated incorporation of other U.S., Australian and Indian unions, leaders project an eventual Unite membership of 3.4 million workers.

The purpose of the giant union, joint General Secretary Derek Simpson told The Guardian, is to be able “to deal with multinational companies on an equal footing.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit George Mores contributed.