Workers' news round-up

Submitted by Anon on 10 December, 2005 - 12:19

Bolivia

The Bolivian elections on 18 December are being hailed as the end of 20 years of neoliberalism. Evo Morales, from the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party, who came second in the 2002 presidential election, is the leading candidate in the polls, with over 30% of the vote. The elections were called after the uprising in May-June this year, which forced out sitting president Carlos Mesa.

The left in Bolivia do not believe the election or Morales will solve the problems facing Bolivian workers.

Oscar Olivera, leader of the Coordinator of the Defence of Water and Life in Bolivia, the coalition that led the water revolt of 2000, was interviewed recently by the Australian socialist paper Green Left Weekly.

Olivera said: “These elections cannot result in the return of the right. If it returns, the scenario will be one of imposing the demands of the people by force and not via the constitutional road that many want now. As an alternative, most of the left have chosen to support Morales’ bid, but with varying positions.”

“When the social movements of May and June decided on the demands of nationalisation of hydrocarbons and the constituent assembly, we… allowing [them] to call early elections, something that the social movements never demanded or wanted. The elections are a space that the right — the political parties, the transnationals — has put forward as a way of putting the brakes on the advancement of the people.” 

But Olivera does not advocate a boycott of the vote: “[The elections] are a space which has presented itself and which we, as autonomous social movements, are taking up in order to accumulate forces so as to permit us to pass over this bridge, which the elections are, towards these two grand demands [of nationalisation of gas resources and a constituent assembly].

“Obviously, it interests us, within the rules of this game established by the bourgeoisie, that Evo Morales enters into government, because this would make it less difficult to transit towards the two objectives that the people have put forward, but we are also conscious of the fact that it does not depend on the capacity of manoeuvring, nor does it depend on the political capacity of the government, whoever it might be, to take us to our objective. It depends fundamentally on continuing to develop and better the capacity of unity, of organisation and of mobilisations of the social movements.”

Argentina

Striking workers from Aerolineas Argentinas blocked the road to the country's main international airport last week after the company sacked 168 pilots and mechanics.

The Aeronautical Technicians Association (APTA) and the Association of Airline Pilots both want a 45% pay rise for their members, but the company is only offering 5%. They are also calling for better working conditions as well as the reinstatement of sacked workers. Aerolineas Argentinas is owned by the Spanish consortium Marsans.

Indonesia

US-based Halliburton, the giant construction and oil services company closely linked to the Bush government, is intent on supplanting a national union at its Indonesian operations in oil-rich Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

The company is challenging the certification of Chemical Energy, Mines, Oil & Gas and General Workers’ Union (FSP KEP) at a regional labour agency, claiming a plant union is in place. FSP KEP has been the registered union at Halliburton’s energy services base in Balikpapan since 2001.

Halliburton systematically has attempted to weaken FSP KEP’s representation status by refusing to recognise the union’s shop-floor leaders, and then threatening to discharge FSP KEP leaders who take up union responsibilities.

Halliburton got a foothold in Indonesia’s oil and energy industries 30 years ago under the Suharto regime.

Korea

Tens of thousands of South Korean workers defied a government ban to launch a nine-day strike in a bid to improve conditions for temporary workers last week.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) said some 60,000 workers at 140 workplaces were taking part in the strike.

The government has ruled the strike “illegal”, saying it has nothing to do with wages or working conditions, the only legitimate grounds for launching industrial action.

The KCTU said the strike was legitimate because it confronted the growing problem of temporary workers, who work the same hours as regular employees but receive no job security and far lower wages – sometimes 50% less than permanent staff.

South Korean companies have resorted to hiring temporary workers to cut costs since the Asian financial crisis in late 1997. The number of temporary workers currently stands at 8.5 million, more than half of the country's 15 million workers, KCTU said.

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