Iraq: Workers strike top hotel

Some 400 hotel workers are on strike at a leading Baghdad hotel, the Palestine Hotel, after talks with management for a wage increase failed. Talks later resumed, but according to a report in the Australian labor paper LHMU News, workers say they will keep up the strike until their demands are met. (During the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many foreign journalists stayed at the Palestine — several of whom were killed in “accidental” shelling incidents.)

The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions said it supports the strike and stands in solidarity with the workers’ demands.

Workers at another leading hotel, the Sheraton Baghdad, have won a wage increase, better working conditions and reinstatement of 24 dismissed workers, hotel workers union regional secretary Muhsin Jasim said. “At the time the hotel workers were dismissed, there was no union committee at the hotel, but as a result of the strike we formed a union committee,” Jasim said. “The strike not only educated our members, it educated the hotel manager, too.”

S. Africa: Farm tenants ask for help

Farm tenants living and working on property belonging to Lion Match Co. Ltd., near the community of Seven Oaks in KwaZulu-Natal, are asking the Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs to end long-standing abuses.

A tenant told The Witness newspaper Feb. 22 that the farmers had destroyed a number of homes without notice while they were at work. “Some of us have schoolchildren and their clothes and belongings are in these houses,” said one tenant. “It’s also saddening because the farmers are the very same employers of these people and they came back from work to find they have no shelter.”

Tenants also complained that the farmers forced entire families to live in one room, and routinely spy on tenants.

“The department is currently on a mission to eradicate this kind of abuse to farm workers,” said Agriculture Department spokesperson Vusi Zuma. He pledged that government officials would visit the farm to assess the situation.

Brazil: New rainforest slaying

Just days after U.S. nun and rainforest activist Dorothy Stang was killed in the Amazon jungle, Dionisio Ribeiro Filho, 59, was shot and killed Feb. 24, Reuters reported. Filho was defending the Tingua federal reserve near Rio de Janeiro from poachers and illegal palm tree cutters.

Following Stang’s murder, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has launched the country’s biggest crackdown on crime in the rainforest. Brazil’s federal environmental agency IBAMA, which operates the Tingua reserve, has requested federal police protection for its workers.

Ribeiro belonged to a nonprofit environmental organization that helped set up the park in 1989. He sought to keep people from harvesting trees for the delicacy, heart of palm, and trapping tropical birds and animals for illegal sale.

At least two more killings of rural workers have been reported in the area in Para state where Stang was killed Feb.12.

India: Bank workers will strike March 22

Nearly a million bank workers will strike for one day March 22, according to the Economic Times. The action will oppose the government’s moves to encourage mergers and allow higher foreign holdings in private banks, union leader R.C. Agarwal said last week. He said nine unions representing officers and workers at state-run, private, rural and cooperative banks will participate.

The government is encouraging 27 state-run banks, which handle about 70 percent of all bank loans and deposits in India, to merge so they will be large enough to compete in a globalizing economy. Agarwall said the mergers could lead to job losses.

The federal government is expected to raise the limit on foreign direct investment in private banks to 74 percent from the present 49 percent.

Commercial banks are the second-largest employer in India’s organized sector, employing about 800,000 people in some 46,000 branches. Regional rural banks and cooperative banks employ another 150,000 people, while private banks employ about 50,000 workers.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (