Canada: Union calls for marriage rights

Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) President Buzz Hargrove is calling on Prime Minister Paul Martin to continue to press for same-sex marriage legislation.

Canadians are counting on their politicians to do the right thing, Hargrove said in a letter to the Prime Minister, ”and that means protecting the rights of all Canadians.” The CAW leader said he is proud that Canada is seen as a world leader for equal rights for the GLBT community. “Same sex marriage is an important step in the struggle for equality,” he added. “It’s time to take it.”

At its 2003 constitutional convention, 700 delegates from across the country discussed and unanimously passed a new Pride Policy statement including endorsement of laws allowing same sex couples the right to marry.

South Africa: Laborers to get land back

A community of 400 people who were evicted as labor tenants in Mpumalanga (east of Pretoria) will get their land back this month, according to Pretoria’s BuaNews. The land claims commission in Mpumalanga will hand over land at Blaauwbank farm in Stoffberg to the Kwasibange community on Feb. 19. Fifty-two families will get back portions of the farm.

“They had occupied the land as labor tenants on different portions of the farm before being evicted between 1972 and 1975,” said Frank Lesenyego, spokesperson for the regional land claims commission.

The community had first moved onto the land in 1943 and for more than 10 years had raised farm animals and crops and engaged in hunting and fishing, before the evictions started. Regional Land Claims Commissioner Nceba Nqana said resolution of the claim is an indication of the commission’s efforts to complete all the land claims by the end of the year.

China: Deputies urge more social security

At the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress last week, 22 local legislators called on the Beijing city government to improve conditions for poverty-stricken retired workers, farmers, and farmers-turned-workers.

“Retired workers at previous community-owned factories, some 150,000 in Beijing, received less than $48 a month in pensions,” said congress deputy Fei Wenyong. “Their retirement pay was lower than the minimum living guarantee in Beijing, which is $60.”

Fei pointed out that retirees who began working in the 1950s and 1960s did not even have medical insurance, and unlike workers in state-owned factories, they were not covered by any kind of social security system.

Other deputies called for lessening the gap between the pensions of retired production workers and those of retired government employees, as well as better compensation and retraining for farmers who have lost their land.

Brazil: Jobless rate hits new low

In December, Brazil’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in three years, the BBC reported last week. The Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE) said joblessness dropped to 9.6 percent in December, down from 10.6 percent in November, and 10.9 percent in December 2003.

Unemployment has been dropping gradually since a peak of 13.1 percent in April 2004.

The government said the improvement was due to strong economic growth, which reached 5.2 percent last year and is expected to reach about 4 percent this year.

Unemployment is measured in the six main metropolitan areas of Sao Palo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Salvador and Porto Alegre, where most of the population live.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (