Australia: Unions go global re climate change

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) is supporting the Kevin Rudd labor government’s advocacy of a global emissions trading scheme (ETS) despite its potentially negative effect on jobs.

AWU National Secretary Paul Howes attended a meeting in Japan this week of the Steel Action Group where steel union representatives from 10 countries discussed effects of the global economic downturn on their unions’ response to climate change. He pointed out the necessity to evaluate an Australian ETS in terms of plans put forth by steel unions in other countries.

Howes said on the AWU web site, “Together we have the potential to join up domestic schemes, build sectoral agreements … all as a stepping-stone to a comprehensive global framework.”

Iraq: Awakening Council role in question

The Iraqi government, having taken over payments to the Awakening Councils from U.S. occupying forces, announced reduced salaries for the 100,000 mostly Sunni paramilitaries, effective Nov. 10. U.S. military leaders view the councils’ armed resistance to Al Qaeda as crucial to the reduction over two years of violent attacks in Iraq.

Writing in the Chicago Sun, Liz Sly predicts that the Shiite-led Iraqi government will eventually drop all payments, although there are plans for 20 percent of the militiamen to enter the army. A government spokesperson, pessimistic about reconciliation, expressed concern that the remainder, once idled, will rejoin insurgency groups or form criminal gangs. He observed, “When Americans try to achieve reconciliation, they buy it.”

Italy:School privatization elicits protests

Nationwide student demonstrations against government plans to privatize public education culminated in students, unionists, teachers and left parties taking to the streets Oct. 30 amidst right-wing provocations. A million demonstrators in Rome and over 200,000 in Milan were reacting to a Senate law passed the day before that, according to, imposed deep funding cuts, threatened teachers’ jobs and introduced separate education for immigrant children. Final approval is set for Nov. 29.

Meanwhile, the center-left opposition is preparing a repeal referendum. Identifying the proposals as budgetary rather than reform measures, the General Confederation of Labor Unions accused the right-wing Berlusconi government of “destroying public schools and replacing them with a private system.”

Japan: Profitable Toyota lays off thousands

As a result of declining car sales over several years, Toyota Corporation has dismissed thousands of “fixed term workers” — 2,000 of them during a six-month period this year plus 4,000 since 2004. Nor are temporary workers immune; a Lexus assembly plant in Fukuoka Prefecture fired 8,000 of them last summer.

The Japan Press Weekly reports, however, that Toyota’s profits for the fiscal year ending last March came to a record $17 billion. They are predicted at $13 billion this year. The corporation has accumulated $130 billion in reserve funds. Toyota now is forcing fixed term workers to sign new contracts covering 12 months or less, once their 35 month contracts have expired.

Panama: Tolerance of terrorism gets second look

Prosecutor Mercedes de León last week announced that a former justice minister, police chief and immigration official are to stand trial for arranging the release from prison in 2004 of four Miami-based anti-Cuban terrorists. In June, Panama’s Supreme Court ruled that pardons issued at Washington’s behest by outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso were unconstitutional.

The released prisoners — candidates for extradition to Panama, according to Cuba’s Granma newspaper — now live in Miami. They had been convicted for attempting to assassinate former Cuban President Fidel Castro while he was visiting Panama. The jailing of one of them, Luis Posada Carriles, represented the only occasion he was called to account during a lifetime of terrorist offenses.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney (