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(en) UK, Direct Action #28 - Wage Slavery - International news: Irag, Spain, Peru, Japan, Euskadi, Palestine, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Australia, US, Indonesia, Bangladesh.

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 6 Oct 2003 10:50:57 +0200 (CEST)

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Iraq isn’t working
Hundreds of Iraqis staged a demonstration outside the
headquarters of the US-led coalition in Baghdad. Not the first or
the last such demonstration, you may surmise. However, the
world’s media have generally focused on religious, factional
and tribal gatherings of people opposing the US-British
occupation. This time, carrying banners which read “We need
work!”, and chanting similar demands, the protestors were
unemployed workers.

Unemployment in Iraq, already at precarious levels before the
war, skyrocketed in the wake of the US-led invasion. New jobs for
the Iraqi workforce is an oft-repeated pledge of the occupation
forces, but little has been done to ease the unemployment burden.

So, jobless Iraqis are becoming desperate. By the end of July, the
demonstrations were turning violent and deadly. In one incident,
over 100 heavily armed US troops formed a cordon at the palace
gates as the crowd refused to disperse, instead staging a sit-in
and urging other unemployed Iraqis to join the protest. The ever
trigger-happy US troops immediately started getting jumpy and
started firing “warning shots”, leaving two demonstrators
dead. Every US soldier that gets killed warrants global media
coverage, and usually an opportunity to point the
“terrorists” finger (again), whereas dead Iraqis are just
ten-a-penny and not worthy of western news.

A recently set up unemployed workers group staged a sit-in which
lasted several days before US troops arrested 55 of them. They
released a statement proclaiming; “Our union will do its best
to expose the practices of the US as an occupying force in Iraq
and its indifference to the agony of the masses”.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced
the Iraq
Reconstruction and Employment Programme (IREP) back in May,
with the words; “The programme is necessary to bring Iraqi
people to work, as unemployment has reached 60%”.
However, little has happened.

Of course, when a country has been bombed and looted to
oblivion, even if they did consider it a high priority, it would not be
easy for the occupation forces to provide jobs (except, clearly, in
reconstruction). The main media and information industry was
contained within the information ministry, which has been
completely destroyed. One former cartographer summed it up;
“We thought our life would be easier after the war, since we
would have the freedom of expression, but now we are stripped of
our jobs and have no choice but to go begging.”


Back in February 2002, in Tomares (a small town outside Seville)
a group of cleaning workers decided enough was enough. The
street cleaners and rubbish collectors went on strike, demanding
permanent contracts and various improvements in working
conditions. After 20 days on strike, the bosses at the company,
Ferrovial Servicios S.A. caved in. Both parties signed an
agreement, the contracts became permanent, and all demands to
improve working conditions were accepted by the company.

A year later, the company broke the agreement, and the CNT (the
largest union in the workplace), initiated another strike on 17th
March. This time, it got bitter, and six of the striking workers
started a hunger strike. The demands were clear, among others;
reinstatement of permanent contracts; improvements in working
conditions as regards duration of shifts, increase of wages and
basic rights related to holiday allowance and sick pay, and
recognition of the workers assembly – any new rules and
conditions introduced by the company would have to be approved
by the workers assembly first.

Seventeen workers were sacked during the strike, as the company
hired workers from a neighbouring province (Huelva) in an
attempt to break the workers’ will. The workers started legal
action against the company for breach of fundamental rights, i.e.
recognition of union affiliation and the right to strike. Protest
actions took place every day, with a noisy wake-up call every
morning outside the City Council, followed by a
demonstration/blockade with loudspeakers every afternoon. Also,
protests were held at the gates of the company building,
especially at the times when trucks driven by scabs left for work,
etc. Additional actions included weekly marches to Seville, and
performance of the Full Monty show by the striking workers
outside the City Council buildings.
After 134 days of action, protest, and mounting pressure on the
company, the strike finally came to an end on 28th July, with the
workers and Ferrovial Servicios, S.A. signing another agreement,
this time binding the company to the following conditions, among

- Reinstatement of the sacked workers and cancellation of all
displicinary actions filed during the strike.
- Annual salary rise, and increased pay for night shifts.
- Extra pay for handling of toxic substances.
- Recognition of union affiliation and the workers assembly.
- An end to compulsory transfers.
- Full pay during work-related accidents and illness, as well as
any other cases of accidents and illness requiring hospitalisation
or surgery.
- Reduction and re-evaluation of shift working hours.
- In the event of a driver losing his licence, an alternative position
within the company will be granted.
- One extra day holiday allowance.

Needless to say, the workers and the CNT will be keeping a keen
eye out for any more signs of funny business from the bosses.
However, the general feeling is that now they have proved what
they are capable of, the bosses will steer clear of them in the
foreseeable future. The workers told the IWA Secretariat they
couldn’t have done it without the solidarity received from all
the people in Tomares, all other CNT locals in Spain and IWA
sections around the world.
For more info, pics, posters, etc., visit www.cnt.es


The Camisea Gas Project is one of the world’s most
destructive current developments. It extracts gas from the
pristine Amazon rainforest, an area of extreme biodiversity where
indigenous people have lived for centuries. Some of them live in
voluntary isolation from the rest of society, which makes them
much more vulnerable to outside interference. They have no
immunity to diseases like the common cold, and, although a
reserve was established for their protection, three-quarters of the
project is located inside this reserve. Over its 40-year life, the
Camisea project will have irreparable impacts on the lives of
those who live in and around the reserve.

In addition to its social impacts, the Camisea project has already
caused massive erosion, sedimentation, and biodiversity loss.
Long-term impacts also include open access to a region
previously protected by natural barriers, and the project threatens
one of Latin America’s most important marine reserves on the
Ramsar protected Bay of Paracas.

In August, under intense pressure from environmental and human
rights groups, banks backing the project delayed scheduled votes
on the controversial $2.6 billion loans.

There is still time to tell them not to support destructive activities
like the Camisea project. A sample letter plus contact information
can be found at


In common with many other pro-US governments, new legislation
has been hitting the Japanese statute books outlawing
people’s rights to gather innocently in the street, etc.
Apparently, stopping us from moving around is all in the name of
giving us our freedom (from terrorism). Getting into the spirit of
this irony, 300 people took to the Osaka streets to protest against
the anti-protest legislation.

50 police turned up to the Reclaim the Streets street party protest
against the war. Many people were there to assert their individual
right to be on the street, although eventually the police
successfully asserted their control of the street in an overtly
aggressive way. Ravers, anti-war, anti-Bush and anti-Brand
America protesters, as well as other political activists were led
by a truck loaded with speakers and a DJ. They were followed by
drummers, an electric guitarist, flag-wavers, and a team projecting
onto buildings images of dead and injured Iraqi children as well as
messages against American Imperialism.

More at


Itoiz dam – The landslides begin despite 18 years of protest
from the local population (see DA21), the destruction of 3 nature
reserves, and warnings by geologists that the dam could
destabilise the foundations of the nuclear power plant further
down the river, the Spanish and Navarran governments closed the
flood gates of the Itoiz dam earlier this year.

Already, the first landslides have begun around the dam’s
base and bordering zones. People living in Itoiz village and their
cattle had to be evacuated for three days. As it fills, there will be
a permanent risk of flooding cutting off the roads leading to and
from the village.

In Agoitz, a town of 3,000 people located downstream of the dam,
locals took part in a two week sit-in in the town hall to draw
attention to their demands for an independent study of the
dam’s safety. The protest ended with a 3,000-strong

Afterwards, four protesters got into the reservoir in a boat, and
chained themselves to a tree on a small island in the middle.

Meanwhile, the European Tribunal of Human Rights in Strasbourg
has decided to proceed with a complaint denouncing the dodgy
legal footwork by the Navarran government in 2000, which it used
to avoid the earlier 1995 ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court,
which had declared the dam’s construction illegal.

The Itoiz dam will not produce much electricity, and there are no
serious plans for irrigation. However, there must be some reason
for all this persistence. You don’t have to look far for the
motive, judging by the fact that one former minister of Navarra
and a former minister of public works have already been jailed for
fraud relating to the funding of the project. The Navarran
government is prepared to risk an environmental catastrophe for
this monument to corruption and bribery.

To get in touch, or for more info and updates, email


On 5th August, more than 40 Palestinian, Israeli, and international
human rights activists were detained while attempting to block
the demolition of part of a Palestinian family home, near the
village of Mas’ha. The building was to be demolished by the
Israeli Military because it lay in the path of the Apartheid Wall
that Israel is constructing on occupied Palestinian land.

The official reason for building the ‘security fence’, which
is three times higher and longer than the Berlin wall, is to prevent
the unauthorised passage of Palestinians out of the West Bank.
However, the route of the wall is not following the internationally
recognised pre-1967 borders of the State of Israel, and the Israeli
authorities have refused to publish any details. Research carried
out by the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, shows that
the fence will isolate a number of Palestinian villages and rob a
great many more of their farmland, enabling the acquisition of
even more Palestinian land.

For info, visit www.palsolidarity.org

Dominican Republic

In August, police raided the office of a local trade union, and
opened fire on those inside in order to prevent them from carrying
out a planned protest in the capital, Santo Domingo.

At least three trade unionists were said to have been injured, and
up to six others were detained by police on unspecified charges.
At the time, they were organising an alternative version of the
march which had opened the 14th PanAmerican Games in Santo
Domingo on 1st August.

The alternative march, entitled ‘Antorcha contra el
Hambre’ (Torch against Hunger), featuring a flaming cookpot
on a dustbin as a mock ‘torch’, was organised in the
context of months of repeated protests around the country against
cost of living increases, price hikes for fuel and other
commodities, power shortages, recent banking scandals, and the
impact of economic measures undertaken by the government of
the Dominican Republic, in order to meet the conditions required
for a proposed agreement with the International Monetary Fund.


For nine days in July, Nigeria came to a complete halt, as a
general strike broke out in protest at the government’s
decision to raise petrol prices by 54%. Roads leading into the
country’s major cities were reported to be unusually quiet, as
thousands of commuter buses and taxis stayed off the road. Many
people who did try to get to work were prevented by the absence
of public transport.

There were plenty of chaotic scenes in front of federal
government buildings, as people used cars to block access to
offices. According to the BBC, Lagos, the country’s
commercial capital, was “completely shut down”, as banks
and businesses were also closed.

The government declared the strike “unwarranted, illegal and
unfortunate”, and said the union had not given the government
the statutory 15-days’ notice. It also threatened legal action
against attempts to barricade factory gates and set up pickets,
and generally warned strikers to remain peaceful and not interfere
with people carrying out their normal duties. It then promptly
deployed riot police against demonstrators in various parts of
Lagos. However, the unions were undeterred: “Nothing on
earth is going to stop the strike action,” said Owei Lakemfa, a
spokesman for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), rather

There has been a general build-up of discontent since President
Olusegun Obasanjo’s disputed re-election in April. The
decision to raise petrol prices is also pretty controversial in the
oil-rich nation of Nigeria, where poor people have received almost
no share in the valuable oil exports. Ironically, Africa’s largest
oil producer faces chronic fuel shortages as almost all of its own
oil is tied into long-term contracts and shipped abroad to be
wasted on gas guzzling family trucks in the US.

The government claims that the extra revenue from the fuel price
rises will be spent on improving health and education services.
However, whatever happens to it, the fact remains that the rich
will still be driving around, while the poor will no longer be able to
afford to get to work.

The strike held solid despite such problems as food shortages,
day labourers being unable to work, numerous ethnic and religious
tensions, and the shooting dead by police of at least five
protestors. The NLC ended the strike after negotiating a halving
of the proposed rise, stopping short of rolling back the entire
increase – and stopping short of really challenging the right of
the elite to rule. Of course, the NLC leadership is every bit as
frightened as the ruling class of the power unleashed when the
whole of the working class acts in unison.

While the strike ended with compromise, just as past attempts to
raise fuel prices have been met by solid street resistance, this is
unlikely to be the last time Nigerians leave work and take to the


Last year, an independent report commissioned by the Tasmanian
government highlighted the clear link between excessive working
hours in Tasmanian mining and danger to occupational health and
safety. Now, Tasmanian mine operators have been ordered to
reduce working hours on safety grounds, in the first legally binding
instruction of its kind in Australian history.

Workplace Standards Tasmania has served notice on Barminco, a
contractor to Copper Mines of Australia, ordering it to replace
excessively long shift patterns with ones that don’t generate
dangerous levels of fatigue. Ian Wakefield, the Tasmania
secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), hailed
the orders as a “huge victory that will flow on to every other
state and territory.” He added: “We had the support of
whole communities down here.

These companies run 56-hour a week rosters. They are killing our
members, and they are killing their communities as well.” The
new rules will prevent anyone working an average of more than 48
hours a week over a year.

US - Justice will be served

A group of Chinese restaurant workers in New York have been on
strike since May of this year. The workers at David’s Jade
Palace, in Hartsdale, were fired by owner David Eng after
demanding payment of stolen tips, union recognition, and the end
of sweatshop conditions.

The workers began to organise in the self-managed independent
Restaurant Workers Union (IWW 318), and took legal action to
recoup lost tips money. Since the strike started, the waiters and
supporters (including anarcho-syndicalists) have been
maintaining pickets and putting pressure on the owner to
recognise their demands.

Needless to say, the public are being dissuaded from eating at the
restaurant; however, it looks like the struggle could be a long one,
and the waiters are now in need of financial solidarity. Money is
needed to help pay the strikers’ transportation and other
expenses directly related to strike activities.
Cheques and money orders (US dollars only) should be made out
to the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops or NMASS,
marked for the “Justice Will Be Served Campaign”, and
mailed to; NMASS, POB 130293, New York, NY 10013-0995.

Any donators who cannot make US dollar payments can send
sterling cheques made out to Solidarity Federation, PO Box 1095,
Sheffield S2 4YR, and we will convert and forward all monies.

To read more about the waiters’ struggle, see “Boycott
David’s Jade Palace Restaurant” leaflet at

Bangladesh – Thailand - Indonesia

Bangladesh relies on the garment sector and chain stores such as
‘New Look’ for over 75% of its foreign earnings. Most
garment workers are forced to work 13-hour shifts 7 days a week
for poverty wages. This is a new industry – it employed 5,000
people in 1981, and now it employs 1.3 million in over 3,000
factories (80% are women). However, judging by the conditions
they have to work and live in, export-led industrialisation has
produced very little benefit for them and a lot of profit for the likes
of New Look.

The National Garment Workers’ Federation (NGWF – see
previous DAs) has been struggling for years against the explicit
ban the Bangladeshi government places on the garment sector.
This year they successfully campaigned for greater health and
safety measures, as well as holiday entitlements for workers.
Meanwhile, in Thailand, collective bargaining rights were won by
the Gina Relations Worker Union (GRWU) in an agreement with
Gina Form Bra management, after a long struggle which has been
going on since last year. Almost all the key issues that the union
wanted have been achieved, and the agreement marks a rare
victory for workers’ rights in Thailand.

As DA goes to press, there is an illegal lock-out of 537 workers at
the PT Kahatex Sweater factory in Bandung, Indonesia. The
workers refused to accept the sub-minimum wages that the
factory was paying and, although management agreed in May to
begin paying the legal minimum wage, workers’ pay was never
increased. They walked out in a spontaneous protest strike, and
the company responded by refusing to allow any of these workers
back to their jobs. The company has engaged in brutal tactics
during the lock-out, bribing workers and hiring thugs to force
workers to accept severance or resignation instead of their legally
due reinstatement and back wages.

You can take action on this alert by going to

More information on Bangladesh; www.waronwant.org

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