Greece: Students strike against privatization

Nationwide demonstrations and campus takeovers have brought Greek universities to a standstill. The actions were triggered by government proposals for education reform that included the abolition of Article 16 of the Greek Constitution, which stipulates that all higher education should have a public character.

In the run-up to coordinated actions on June 8, some of which were brutally attacked by police, tens of thousands of university students participated in weekly demonstrations and assemblies. About 200 campuses experienced occupations of university buildings.

The Communist Party of Greece and the Communist Youth have been deeply involved in the actions. The CPG called on workers, students and teachers to demand the preservation of Article 16, the revocation of all negative measures already implemented under EU mandates, the abolition of any private, business-driven activity in schools, and support for free public higher education.

Worldwide: Escalation of attack on workers’ rights

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions issued its annual report on the suppression of trade union activity, country by country.

Citing violent assaults, firings, arrests, harassment and murder, the report says Colombia is the most dangerous country for trade unionists, but noted growing suppression in other regions, including several African nations.

The report cited increasing threats to workers’ basic rights to strike, bargain collectively and organize. Australia was singled out as having passed particularly severe restrictions on union activity last year.

ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder said, “This year’s report reveals deeply disturbing trends, especially for women, migrant workers and those who work in the public sector. … The death toll was slightly lower in 2005 than the previous year, but we are nevertheless witnessing increasingly severe violence and hostility against working people who stand up for their rights.”

Czech Republic: Anticommunist frenzy mars elections

A virulently anticommunist campaign targeting the Communist Party of Bohemia-Moravia in the run-up to the June 2-3 Czech Republic general elections apparently bore fruit as the party’s vote tally fell by 5 percent from the previous election (dropping from 18.5 percent to 12.8 percent), resulting in its loss of 15 seats in Parliament, from 41 to 26.

The right-wing campaign followed on the heels of the vicious beating of Girzi Dolis, the CP’s vice president and a member of Parliament, and the continuing efforts to constitutionally ban the Czech Communist Youth Union.

Reactionary forces offered a variety of incentives to citizens to confiscate and destroy Communist Party ballots, including free beer, theater tickets and clothing discounts. Anticommunists roamed the streets wearing T-shirts with the slogans: “Kill a communist — support peace” and “Save our country, destroy the reds.”

The party has defended the economic and social rights of the country’s working class, and has been outspoken against NATO and the war in Iraq.

Germany: Campaign against human trafficking

Women’s groups and trade unions in Europe and internationally have initiated a campaign against sexual exploitation at the World Cup tournament this summer. Media reports have indicated that upwards of 40,000 women and young girls will be brought to the event as part of the sex trade, and that many of the women have been duped into prostitution.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation and the European Transport Workers’ Federation issued a statement of support, calling for “zero tolerance” of trafficking and forced prostitution.

ETF’s Cristina Tilling said: “The ITF and the ETF condemn all forms of inequality and exploitation. Not only do we continue to oppose human trafficking and sexual abuse, but we will also go on to examine the broader role of the transport industry and of its workers in combating these form of exploitation in Europe and worldwide.”

Iraq: Gov’t backs down vs. trade union

Leaders of the Port Workers’ Union, based in Khour Al-Zubeir Port, reported a victory in their dispute with the government. Following complaints about working conditions, union board members and their families had faced intimidation and harassment, closure of union offices and withholding of salaries.

The International Transport Workers Federation had issued an international call of support for the union, and threatened to take their case to the International Labor Organization if the government didn’t redress their grievances.

General Secretary Zaki Zabbari of the Port Workers’ Union thanked the ITF for support and said, “The order of transferring the board members of the union has been cancelled, and salaries were received. We are now back in our departments and are negotiating on the reopening of the union’s offices and its committees.”

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer ( Laura Petricola contributed to this week’s notes.