Greece: First Call Center Conference

Union Network International’s first-ever Call Center Conference, meeting last week in Athens, focused on how to ensure that outsourced or offshored work is unionized.

The conference heard how UNI’s newest union, UNITES in India, already has 5,000 call center and back office members in six cities. The union was launched in September with backing of UNI and its affiliates to organize the tens of thousands of information technology-enabled jobs arriving from Europe and the USA in a rapidly growing industry.

“Wherever the work goes we want this work to be unionized,” said UNI official Neil Anderson. “We want decent work for all to avoid a race to the bottom.”

Venezuela: Gov’t, employers talk

The employers’ federation Fedecamaras met with President Hugo Chavez Oct. 25 at the Presidential Palace to discuss greater cooperation in order to increase investment and development. “We have ideological and conceptual disagreements … we had what some called a fractured relationship,” Fedecamaras President Jose Luis Betancourt told journalists afterwards, adding, “years have passed since then and we are building this important relationship because businessmen want security and employment.”

Minister of Development and Planning Jorge Giordani pointed to the government’s use of oil resources to achieve a recovery in investment, and added, “There is no doubt that now it’s the turn of the private sector to contribute.”

Reporting on the meeting, called it a big step toward a less aggressive atmosphere in the country. Fedecamaras had been seen as extremely hostile to the government since its former president, Pedro Carmona, led the coup that briefly forced Chavez from power in 2002.

Another meeting, set for Nov. 23, is to take up specific proposals for government-business cooperation.

Nepal: Media rights attacked

Human Rights Watch demanded last week that the government of King Gyanendra immediately reverse its decision to close popular radio station Kantipur FM and that it stop censoring the media.

HRW also urged the king to repeal the ban he imposed last month on broadcasting any news item on the radio.

On Oct. 21 Ministry of Information officials and armed guards went to Kantipur FM and, without a court order, confiscated all the station’s operating equipment. The government later shut the station down entirely. Though the Supreme Court issued a stay, the government kept the station off the air pending a full hearing Oct. 30.

Kantipur is the country’s largest radio network. In countries like Nepal with high illiteracy, radio is often the only source of news.

When King Gyanendra seized power last February, he imposed strict media censorship. Since then many editors and journalists have been questioned, told what they could report, and arrested.

Germany: Iraqi unionists denied entry

Two Iraqi trade unionists, Mrs. Bushra A. Abbood and Taha A. Ibraheem Breshdi from the General Union of Oil Employees, Basra, were denied visas in mid-October, just before they were to embark on a three-week tour of Germany. Abbood’s participation would have marked the first overseas visit by a woman Iraqi oil trade union activist.

The tour, entitled “The other Iraqi resistance,” was backed by 100 German trade unions, peace organizations and anti-globalization groups. It was to visit 20-25 cities, and was an attempt to show the nonviolent Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation and privatization of Iraq’s resources and industrial base.

Tour organizers urged protest messages to German embassies around the world, including in the U.S. (phone: 202-298-4000).

Africa: Doctors move to wealthy countries

A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine Oct. 27 says sub-Saharan Africa is hit hardest by the movement of trained physicians to wealthy countries. Almost one out of seven physicians from African countries having over 1,000 doctors — and 30 percent of Ghana’s physicians — have moved to Canada, the USA, the UK or Australia, the study found. Such doctors account for around a quarter of physicians practicing in the four countries.

The rise of HIV/AIDS has further strained the region’s inadequate health systems, the journal said, adding that with some 600,000 doctors and other health workers for 600 million people, at least a million additional skilled health workers are needed.

Africa’s smallest, poorest countries are targeted by medical recruiters from wealthy nations, reports.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (