South Africa strikes spill into transport sector

The unrest has forced three leading platinum producers to halt mining operations on the richest deposits in the world

By Sibongile Khumalo, Agence France-Presse
JOHANNESBURG, 25/09/2012
South Africa is struggling to quell a wave of strikes that have crippled the key mining sector and now threaten to spark fuel and food shortages, as transport workers became the latest to go on strike Tuesday.

Unions representing an estimated 28,000 truckers said poor pay and conditions had prompted them to launch the latest in a rash of sometimes deadly strikes that threaten to spook investors and curb growth in the emerging nation.

Drivers are seeking a 12-percent wage increase for 2013 and 2014, more than the rate of inflation, which stands at 5.0 percent.

Last week President Jacob Zuma said stoppages in the mining sector in the past nine months had cost the economy close to 4.5 billion rand ($534 million, 415 million euros).

Firms in the transport and mining sectors on Tuesday tried to end the standoffs at the negotiating table, although progress appeared to be slow.

Road Freight Association spokesperson Magretia Brown said no deal had yet been reached with transport workers, but talks were ongoing.

Meanwhile Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) workers, who have been on a wildcat strike which is now on its second week, held their first day of talks.

The strike has shut down operations at the world’s top platinum producer.

“We expect Anglo American to come with something on the table and if they are unable to do that, the strike will continue and it will be the start of the (formal) strike,” said Gaddhafi Mdoda, a workers representative. Continue reading

Spain prepares more austerity, protesters battle police

A demonstrator struggles with Spanish National Police riot officers outside the the Spanish parliament in Madrid September 25, 2012. Protesters clashed with police in Spain's capital on Tuesday as the government prepares a new round of unpopular austerity measures for the 2013 budget that will be announced on Thursday. REUTERS-Sergio Perez

By Tracy Rucinski and Paul Day, REUTERS

MADRID | Tue Sep 25, 2012

(Reuters) – Protesters clashed with police in Spain’s capital on Tuesday as the government prepared a new round of unpopular austerity measures for the 2013 budget to be announced on Thursday.

Thousands gathered in Neptune plaza, a few meters from El Prado museum in central Madrid, where they formed a human chain around parliament, surrounded by barricades, police trucks and more than 1,500 police in riot gear.

Police fired rubber bullets and beat protesters with truncheons, first as protesters were trying to tear down barriers and later to clear the square. The police said at least 22 people had been arrested and at least 32 injured, including four policemen.

As lawmakers started to leave the parliament shortly after 2100 GMT in official cars or by foot, a few hundred people were still demonstrating in front of the building. Most dispersed shortly afterwards.

The protest, promoted over the Internet by different activist groups, was younger and more rowdy than recent marches called by labor unions. Protesters said they were fed up with cuts to public salaries and health and education.

“My annual salary has dropped by 8,000 euros and if it falls much further I won’t be able to make ends meet,” said Luis Rodriguez, 36, a firefighter who joined the protest. He said he was considering leaving Spain to find a better quality of life. Continue reading

‘Drones causing mass trauma among civilians,’ major study finds

September 25th, 2012 | by

An armed US Reaper drone over Afghanistan (U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt/ Flickr)

The near constant presence of CIA drones ‘terrorises’ much of the civilian population of Pakistan’s tribal areas according to a new report.

Men, women and children are subjected to almost constant trauma – including fear of attack, severe anxiety, powerlessness, insomnia and high levels of stress – says a nine month investigation into CIA drone strikes in Pakistan by two top US university law schools. More than 130 ‘victims, witnesses and experts’ were interviewed in Pakistan for the study.

A number of those eyewitnesses corroborated the Bureau’s own recent findings – that rescuers have been deliberately targeted by the CIA in the tribal areas.

The new study heavily challenges US government claims that few civilians have died in CIA drone strikes, saying that there is ‘significant evidence’ to the contrary.

As the report notes in its executive summary: ‘In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.’

by bravenewfoundation, http://www.warcosts.com/
Since 2004, up to 884 innocent civilians, including at least 176 children, have died from US drone strikes in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. A new report from the Stanford and New York University law schools finds drone use has caused widespread post-tramatic stress disorder and an overall breakdown of functional society in North Waziristan. In addition, the report finds the use of a “double tap” procedure, in which a drone strikes once and strikes again not long after, has led to deaths of rescuers and medical professionals. Many interviewees told the researchers they didn’t know what America was before drones. Now what they know of America is drones, death and terror. Continue reading

“Revoke ban on RDF”: Arundhati Roy

[The recent ban of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) in Andhra Pradesh is but the latest of many fascist moves by the Indian government against democratic and revolutionary activists.  Arundhati Roy has joined a growing protest of this ban, as reported below.

—————–

 

Noted writer Arundhati Roy with revolutionary writer Varavara Rao at the meeting of the Revolutionary Writers Association in Hyderabad on Sunday. Photo: G. Ramakrishna

Hyderabad, Indian Express News Service, Sept 24, 2012

Writer and social activist Arundhati Roy on Sunday demanded an immediate revoke of the ban imposed on Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) in the state.

Addressing the gathering at a meeting organised by the Viplava Rachaitala Sangham (Revolutionary Writers’ Association) against the ban, Roy termed the ban unconstitutional and urged the members to keep on with their struggle against state-sponsored violence. “RDF is not a armed organisation. It’s activities are in consonance with the Indian constitution. Then why is it banned?,” she questioned.

However, she said that the ban had indirectly helped the RDF in growing strong. “The ban has indirectly benefited the RDF. It has allowed it to grow stronger and the bond among it’s members and with the people grow deeper,” she said. She lauded RDF’s members for fighting for the human rights of the dalits and the adivasis in rural India.

“The ban has forced mass migration of RDF’s members from Hyderabad to either Delhi or to the rural parts of the state but still the organisation has grown stronger in the state capital, she said indicating to it’s swell of ranks during the first national conference of the RDF in Hyderabad on April this year. Continue reading

South Korea’s Boom Leaves Workers in the Dust

[Another report on the further globalization of exploitation and resistance–class struggle. —  Frontlines ed.]

Hyundai workers protesting in Seoul in February 2011 (Mi Jin Lee, Flickr, Creative Commons)

Monday September 24, 2012

By Michelle Chen, In These Times

South Korea is sometimes touted as an exemplar of capitalist progress in Asia–a sophisticated economy with global brands and an educated populace (not to mention a stunning contrast to its miserable Communist analog to the north). But the lives of South Korean workers tell a different story. In recent months, they’ve been slammed by a much-maligned free trade deal, tussled with Hyundai in a bitter strike, and, according to an international assessment, become examples of how an economic boom can be a bust for labor.

According to a report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), published as part of the World Trade Organization’s periodic Trade Policy Review, Korean workers have faced major challenges in organizing independent unions, and women, migrants, and other marginal workers face widespread discrimination and exploitation.

Though unionization is generally legal, in practice, labor activities are regularly suppressed by employers, and independent organizing may be preempted by “management-controlled” or “paper” unions. Restrictions on public-sector union activities–in the name of protecting the public–parallel the limits on labor activism imposed on U.S. civil servants, according to the report:

[T]here are numerous categories of public officials who are still denied their trade union rights, including managers, human resources personnel, personnel dealing with trade unions or industrial relations, and special public servants such as military, police, fire-fighters, politically-appointed officials, and high level public officials. … The law also prohibits public sector unionists from engaging in “acts in contravention of their duties prescribed in other laws and regulations when doing union activities”. This very broadly worded provision leaves the door open for abuses.

For any issue that isn’t limited to the workplace, including broader economic justice demands, the strike is simply not a tool available to activist workers:

Strikes are illegal if they are not specifically called for labour conditions, such as wages, welfare and working hours. In addition, given the complicated legal procedures for organising a strike, collective actions on labour conditions often become “illegal” for breach of procedure. Unauthorised strikers often are punished with imprisonment for one year or/and heavy fines.

The weakness of organized labor is accompanied by structural inequalities in the workforce. Like many other “developed” economy, migrant workers have streamed in to fill low-paid, less desirable jobs, generating a two-tiered workforce that leaves the poorest workers socially and politically marginalized:

The government has paid insufficient attention to workplaces that employ foreign workers as only 5 to 6 per cent of roughly 75,000 such workplaces were inspected by labour inspectors. Reportedly, in such workplaces there are numerous cases of sexual harassment of migrant women workers and differences in pay. Continue reading

Open letter of the Syrian Revolutionary left to support the Syrian popular revolution!

[The views and voice of the Syrian revolutionary left has been difficult to hear amidst the clamor of contending distortions by international media–whether Western, Russian, Chinese, or from within the Middle East.  We are seeking more information from popular secular forces involved in the uprising–including more information about the revolutionary left forces.  The following is an important statement and analysis by the Revolutionary Left in Syria, detailing the role and relations of the various forces within Syria and of the world imperialist and regional forces who have been attempting to seize control of the uprising.  We will report further materials confirming and contextualizing this, as they become available. —  Frontlines ed.]

“The major Western imperialists powers, and other world imperialist powers such as Russia and China, as well as regional ones such as Iran and Turkey, in their entirety and without exception, continue to try to implement a Yemeni-type solution in Syria – in other words, to cut off the head of the regime, the dictator Bashar Al Assad, while keeping its structure intact, as was witnessed during meetings between U.S. and Russian officials, or at the international conference in June 30 in Geneva. The only sticking point is the Russian position of still trying by all means to keep Assad in power, but Russia may sacrifice this in the near future to protect its interests in Syria. The United States in turn has repeatedly expressed its desire to preserve the structure of the military and security services intact.”  — from the Open Letter of the Syrian Revolutionary left

————————————–

 The resistance of the Syrian people has not ceased to grow since the revolutionary process began in March 2011. The struggle of the Syrian people is part of the popular struggles in Tunisia and Egypt, which has spread to other countries in the region.

Similarly, the Syrian revolutionary process is part of the global anti-capitalist struggles. The “Indignados” or “occupied” movements and occupations have taken their inspiration from the Arab revolutions. More than 700 cities in over 70 countries have resonated and for some still resonate of slogans and demands of a movement that demonstrates against poverty and the power of finance. In the same time, the resistance of the Greek people against the dictates imposed by financial agencies and notations is also a battle for dignity and social justice, but also the emancipation against the capitalist order and not its submission, joining the struggles of the peoples of the region.

The Syrian uprising, arising out of the global financial and economic crisis is also a revolt against the neoliberal policies imposed by the authoritarian regime, and encouraged by international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB).

The neoliberal policies were used to dismantle and to weaken increasingly the public services in the country, to the removal of subsidies, especially for basic necessities, while accelerating the privatization process, often in favor of the ruling and bourgeois classes linked to the political power.

The neoliberal reforms of the regime have encouraged a policy based on the reception and the welcoming of foreign direct investment, the development of exports and of the service sector, especially tourism. The repressive apparatus of this country has served as a “security agent” for these companies, protecting them of all disorders or social demands. This State has played the role of matchmaker for foreign capital and multinationals, while ensuring the enrichment of a bourgeois class linked to the regime.

The ills and consequences of these neoliberal policies in Syria are numerous. This includes the high rate of unemployment, particularly among young university graduates who cannot find opportunities in an economy now focused on low value-added jobs, and where skilled labor is scarce, or characterized by underemployment, a direct consequence of these measures. Continue reading

2,000 Workers Riot At China’s Foxconn Factory

Unrest at the notorious factory where Apple manufactures many of its products injures 40 employees, reportedly stems from security guards beating a worker.

Jessica Testa BuzzFeed Staff
Source: micgadget

A fight among 2,000 factory workers broke out Sunday night at a Foxconn Technology Group factory dorm in China, NBC News reports.

The dorm brawl injured 40 people and shut down production Monday, Foxconn said in a statement. There have been reports in Chinese media that 10 people died, but the company has not confirmed any deaths.

The factory employs about 79,000 workers who make electronic components of automobiles and consumers products, including the Apple iPhone 5, according to Reuters.

Photos and videos of the aftermath were captured and shared on Chinese microblogging sites:

Foxconn said the incident began as a personal dispute around 11 p.m. and ended around 3 a.m. But word spread quickly on Chinese blogs that the fight may have been started by security guards who nearly beat a worker to death. Continue reading