THE WORLD OF LABOR — October 1, 2011

By Harry Kelber

Fifteen Colombian Union Leaders Have Been Murdered Since April

Fifteen union leaders have been murdered since the Labor Action Plan between the United States and Colombia went into effect in April 2011, said the largest U.S.-based trade union federation in a letter to President Barack Obama

The President of the American Federation and Congress of Industrial Organizations AFL-CIO) urged Obama not to send the Colombian –U.S. Free Trade Agreement to Congress for approval until the Colombian government addresses human rights violations against unionists in their own country. Twenty-two unionists, including the 15, have been killed in Colombia this year. In addition, six Catholic priests were killed.

Both Columbian President Santos and President Obama have expressed confidence that the U.S. Colombia FTA will be approved by Congress before the end of this year.

European Union Welcomes Transaction Tax to Be Introduced by 2014

Jack O’Connor, general president of SIPTU, a global union of service and industrial workers, has welcomed the introduction of an EU transaction tax which could raise up to 55 billion euros a year (US $73 billion). The tax was proposed in the European Parliament by the President of the European Commission,

O’Connor said that the trade union movement across Europe had been calling for a transaction tax for several years and he welcomed the fact that it would now be put in place by 2014 rather than 2018, as earlier envisioned by the Commission.

“It means that those who contributed most to the collapse of the financial and banking system by their reckless gambling will now have to bear some of the cost of its rescue. It will also release badly needed funds for job creation across the EU,” he said.

Bolivian Leader Asks for Pardon after a Nationwide Strike

Following a nationwide strike by Bolivia’s largest union, President Evo Morales asked for forgiveness from indigenous demonstrators for a violent crackdown earlier this week. The strike and protests had been called by the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) , a powerful labor federation, in support of indigenous activists who had been marching toward La Paz to protest a planned road in the Amazon.

Thousands marched from the suburb of El Alto into the capital, chanting “Evo is a lackey of Brazilian companies,” that are expected to build the road, as miners set off sticks of dynamite. Morales, the country’s first elected indigenous president, apologized for the violence, in which the police fired tear gas at the marchers. “”Forgive me. Pardon me,” Morales appealed to the strikers.

Authorities had originally called the strike unnecessary as Morales had suspended plans to build the road. However, he had said that a 180 mile highway is vital for economic development in South America’s poorest country. He promised a “dialogue” with the Bolivian people on this issue.

Greek Public Sector Workers Lock Out International Finance Inspectors

International experts with the task of compiling a crucial review of Greece’s fiscal progress ran into trouble before they could even start the job, as public sector workers , protesting against wage cuts, layoffs and higher taxes, locked them out of office.

Inspectors from the European Union (EU) , the International Monetary (IMF) and Central Bank were greeted on Sept. 29 with banners deploring the “barbaric measures” the so-called “troika” had meted out in exchange for propping up the Greek moribund economy.

”We are sending a loud message to the government and the European Union that we have reached our limits, that is the workers in our country and especially workers in the public domain, who have carried the burden [of cost –cutting policies] “,said Costas Tsikrikas, president of Adedy, the union of civil servants. The total drop in purchasing power for public sector employees would exceed 50 percent, he added.

Kenya’s Contract Teachers Put on Permanent Terms

All Kenya’s 18,000 teachers currently serving on contract will be moved to permanent and pensionable terms on October 1, 2011, according to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC). Their salaries will be increased and be paid at the end of October.

However, TSC secretary Gabriel Longoiboni said on Sept. 30 that they were assessing the documents of the teachers to find out if all of them were suitable for the permanent jobs. Longoiboni said the vetting would ensure that all new teachers met the criteria set for enlisting permanent and pensionable staff.

According to the guidelines, all secondary school teachers must have obtained a C+ on their two teaching subjects, based on the Kenya Certificate of Education examination. In primary schools, teachers are allowed to teach any of the subjects offered, including mathematics, English, Kiswahili, social studies and Christian religious education.

Hungarian Metalworkers Fight Against Anti-Worker Bill

The Hungarian Metalworkers Federation, VASAS, has denounced a proposed new labor code the Hungarian government is currently drawing up.

The proposed bill includes serious rollbacks in worker’s rights , making it easier for employers to terminate workers, cuts down on the number of vacation days and allows employers to vary work schedules between 36 and 44 per week.. The government wants the state to withdraw from the regulation of the labor market.

On Sept. 12, thousands of union protesters took to the streets around the Hungarian Parliament to express their opposition to the proposed amendment to the Labor Code. A petition signed by four national union leaders warned of serious consequences if Congress enacted the austerity bill.

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