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(en) DA #29 - Social Democracy & Other Myths - International News: India, Uganda, Belize, US, US/Scotland, Bangladesh, Australia, France, Nigeria

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 23 Feb 2004 09:18:49 +0100 (CET)


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India
The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program estimated that in India,
a quarter of people in urban areas and three quarters of the people in
rural areas do not use soap every day. The immediate corporate response
was two international aid projects in as many years, telling them to use soap.
First came the Kerala ‘Health in Your Hands’ project,
launched by Hindustan Lever Limited, subsidiary of multinational
giant Unilever (the world’s largest soaps and detergents company),
along with the World Bank, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine (LSHTM), and the Kerala Government.
The whole idea was more about selling soap than improving
sanitation, and the blatant soap marketing led to angry protests
until the Kerala Government opted out of the project. Then came
the WASH project, launched in summer 2003 – another public
private ‘partnership’ which is more about corporates
selling soap than actually improving sanitation conditions.

At any one time, more than half the poor of the developing world
are ill from causes related to poor hygiene, sanitation and water
supply. Diarrheal disease
alone kills 6,000 children every day. The majority of illnesses in the
world are caused by faecal matter. One gram of faecal matter can
contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite
cysts, and 100 worm eggs. In most developing countries, only
about 1-2% of the government spending goes to low cost water and
sanitation.

Had the Kerala project gone as planned, extending the initiative to
four states over three years would have cost an estimated US$41
million. But why Kerala for a pilot program on washing hands for
hygiene? With the lowest childhood mortality, highest female
literacy, hygiene standards and access to safe water, Kerala is a
role model, not an ailing test ground. It is simply a ploy by the
multinational soap companies to market their products and snuff
out competition from local soap companies. There are already
several Indian soap manufacturers competing for the same market,
including small scale and cottage industries, soap production
schemes initiated by women’s micro-credit groups and
village-level home industries.

The market for soap products is largely mature in developed
markets, but the growth potential in developing countries is huge.
A study by the Kerala Sashtra Sahitya Parishad (People’s
Science Forum) says the annual profit of Hindustan Lever Ltd
alone for a tiny state like Kerala is about Rs12000 million (US
$250 million). Their aggressive marketing strategy has
systematically destroyed a vibrant and locally self-sufficient
small-scale detergent and soap industry that had come about after
independence and was meeting the needs of the local populace in
many parts of the country.

The real reason for the sanitation gap is basic inequality. One flush
of the toilet uses more water than an average person in the
developing world uses for the whole day’s washing, cleaning,
cooking and drinking. An average person in the developing world
uses 10 litres of water a day, while an average person in the
United Kingdom uses 135 litres of water every day.

Uganda

The future of a World Bank-sponsored dam scheme at Bujagali
Falls on the Victoria Nile in eastern Uganda has been thrown into
question with the withdrawal of energy giant AES Corporation
from the project. Virginia-based AES, the world’s largest
independent energy producer, is currently under investigation by
the Ugandan Inspectorate of Government and the US Justice
Department for alleged bribery. The company, which owns and
operates power generation and distribution facilities in 28
countries, is currently pulling out of a number of its operations
world-wide and plans to write off the $75 million it invested in the
AES Nile Power Bujagali project.

The $530 million Bujagali dam project has been overshadowed by
controversy from its inception in the mid-1990s, when AES won
the contract from the Ugandan government without a competitive
bidding process, and the agreement between the two parties
remained secret. AES maintained that Bujagali Dam would help
pull Uganda out of poverty, but, in reality, it is a costly white
elephant that would increase the nation’s debt load, and
produce electricity that few Ugandans could afford.

The World Bank in particular has drawn heavy fire for its backing
of the Bujagali hydropower project. The dam has been the
centrepiece of the Bank’s plan for privatising Uganda’s
energy sector and is part of a broad agenda by the World Bank to
promote massive hydroelectric projects as a means of shifting
energy production into the private sector in developing countries.

US/Scotland

Attorneys in a major Silicon Valley cancer cluster lawsuit against
IBM have uncovered a “corporate mortality file” in which
IBM tracked the deaths of more than 30,000 workers - and the
lawyers claim the company knew its electronics workers were
dying of cancer more often than normal. The IBM death records
were reviewed by a medical expert hired by former IBM workers
ahead of a court case starting this week. The analysis by Boston

University epidemiologist Richard Clapp concludes: ‘By 1975,
IBM must have known their manufacturing employees had
significantly increased death rates due to cancer and must have
known that through the next two decades.’ He says data
suggest that IBM workers were much more likely to die from
cancers of the breast, blood and lymph than the general population.

The case is being followed closely by campaigners in
Scotland’s Silicon Glen, where there has also been concern
about cancer and other risks. The HSE launched a special
investigation of the semiconductor industry after it found raised
cancer rates among women who worked at the National
Semiconductor plant at Greenock. It served 12 legal notices
forcing other companies in Scotland to remedy breaches found by
inspectors.

For more information on safety campaigns in Silicon Glen, visit
http://www.hazards.org/haz76/natsemi.htm

Bangladesh

One garment worker named Kamal was killed and more than 200
injured in clashes between police and workers at BSCIC industrial
park in Fatulla, Narayangoang, near Dhaka city in November. More
than a dozen police were also injured, and several garment
factories, their vehicles and offices were damaged.

The trouble flared after months of non-payments and withholding of
wages by sweatshop factory bosses. When talks between union
and bosses failed, the police arrested a labour activist, and the
workers had had enough.

The National Garment Workers’ Federation (NGWF) has
subsequently demanded compensation for the murdered
workers’ families, better treatment of all injured workers,
unconditional release of 20 arrested workers, and fulfilment of the
factory workers’ demands. It also co-ordinated garment
workers’ demonstrations across all garment industrial areas in
the country.

Belize

Plans for a devastating dam in the Macal River Valley in Belize are
moving ahead. A little over a year after environmentalists managed
to block construction, Fortis, Inc., of Canada has contracted a
Chinese construction company to begin building.
Non-governmental organisations working to prevent construction
of the Chalillo Dam are now increasing pressure on Fortis by
readying another legal challenge. They are also pressing AMEC,
the giant engineering company brokering the deal between Fortis
and the Chinese builder, to end its involvement in the project.

UK-based AMEC presents itself as ‘green’; keeping a low
profile about its support for the nuclear industry, and emphasising
its support for wind energy. It conducted what it said was an
independent environmental assessment of the dam, which many
consider to be flawed. The dam would flood the upper Macal River
Valley, erasing 57 square kilometres of the last intact rainforest in
northern Central America. It would destroy a habitat for rare
jaguars, tapirs, crocodiles and a subspecies of the scarlet macaw,
of which only 1,000 remain in the wild, 200 of them in Belize.

Sign the petition to stop Fortis: http://petition.stopfortis.org and tell
AMEC what you think:
AMEC Plc, Northwich, Cheshire 65, Carter Lane, London CW8
2YA.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7574 3999 / 75395800 Fax: +44 (0)20 7574 3199
Website: www.amec.co.uk
Email: AmecLondon@amec.com

US

Levi-Strauss, that all-American brand, has announced the closure
of its remaining factories in the US and Canada. Almost 2,000 jobs
will be lost as the company transfers its manufacturing operations
offshore.

In Costa Rica, Levi workers earn in a day what their US
counterparts earn in an hour. Levi’s claim that it “is
committed to ensuring that individuals making its products
anywhere in the world do so in safe and healthy working conditions
and are treated with dignity and respect” is a marked contrast
to CEO and President, Philip Marineau’s surprisingly candid
acknowledgement that “the apparel industry is chasing
low-cost labour.”

It is such “low-cost labour” that led to immigrant workers
in Saipan’s garment industry to file a lawsuit in 1999 alleging
that they were falsely lured to the US territory by promises of high
pay. On arrival, they were forced to endure the country’s
minimum wage of $3.05, “donate” time after their shift was
over and live with the threat of being fired and deported. As a US
Commonwealth, Saipan is exempt from American labour,
immigration and customs laws, thus allowing clothing to be
stamped with “Made in the USA” tags and avoiding the
complex system of quotas that limits US imports from foreign
nations. Twenty-six companies agreed to a settlement involving
the establishment of an independent monitoring system to prevent
future abuses and the creation of a $20 million fund to pay for back
wages. The twenty-seventh company, Levi’s, is still refusing.

Australia

Pressure is mounting on the New South Wales state government
to introduce industrial manslaughter legislation. An estimated
10,000 workers chanted “Jail bosses that kill” as they
marched through Sydney and rallied in from Parliament House to
protest at workplace deaths.

The secretary of the NSW Labour Council, John Robertson, said
the state’s labour government was re-elected on a policy of
being tough on crime. “The biggest crime in this state is
industrial manslaughter,” he said. The minister for industrial
relations, John Della Bosca, insisted the law is already sufficient,
but the state government was willing to add an offence dealing
with “breach of duty resulting in death” that would include
a maximum penalty of imprisonment. Della Bosca said the
government would introduce ‘fine tuning’ legislation early
next year.

Deaths are just not treated seriously by the courts - no employer
has ever been jailed to date for safety crimes, and 75% of
workplace deaths attract less than 20 per cent of the maximum
fine.

For more on industrial manslaughter campaigns world-wide, visit
http://www.hazards.org/deadlybusiness

France

McDonalds employees in Paris have been on strike for 6 months
and counting. Not only are they on strike, they’re also
occupying the restaurant 24/7, shutting it down and turning it into a
giant banner for their cause. Check out:
http://advaloreminternational.com/videos/mcdo.html

Nigeria

74 child slaves, some as young as 4 and none older than 15, have
been rescued after being forced to smash granite in a Nigerian
quarry for a year.

The youngsters are receiving food, clothes and medical care in
Benin after being rescued by Nigerian police from the traffickers
who sold them into heavy labour. The children have told their
rescuers that at least 13 of their young companions had died in the
past three months, worn out by smashing and carrying rocks, and
sleeping in the open without adequate food. Child labour and
cross-border labour-trafficking is common across west Africa,
while such mass operations to recover child labourers are
extremely rare.

==============================================
Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British section
of the International Workers’ Association
* DA is the Solidarity Federation magazine which is about getting
real change with anarcho-syndicalism.

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