A wave of protests — including on May Day — by Indonesian workers has forced the government to put off its draft labour law.
According to union leader Dita Sari, the stakes are high because the labour law “will become a normative regulation that will be binding on workers for years and years into the future”.
However the overall situation for workers is not great. One danger is the government’s emphasis on copying China and Vietnam, which have lower wages than Indonesia and no independent trade unions. Sari said: “The president’s reference to Chinese and Vietnamese models of labour flexibility should not be touted as a justification on the part of the government to cut into the remaining rights of workers.”
The National Union of Workers (UNT), the new independent union federation in Venezuela, is to hold its first national congress on 25-27 May.
The UNT was founded in 2003 in direct opposition to the old union federation, the Central Union of Workers (CTV), which supported the failed coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002.
UNT national coordinator Marcela Maspero, from the National Federation of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Industrial Workers, told the Australian newspaper Green Left Weekly (3 May): “Our congress will formulate a program and ideology because we want to define the UNT and strengthen the program, and also define the type of workers’ movement we want at this stage of the revolution.”
Some members of the UNT want to organise elections for leadership positions quickly, while others such as Maspero seem more anxious to concentrate on getting Chavez re-elected in December. The current UNT co-ordinators were appointed not elected three years ago.
Even “the Marxists” seem more interested in perpetuating Chavez’s rule than in workers’ democracy. Luis Primo, a UNT national coordinator and a member of the Grantite Revolutionary Marxist Current (CMR), told GLW: “The UNT must contribute to the electoral campaign for 10 million votes for Hugo Chavez. For us, within this electoral process, we must fight for the development of a revolutionary socialist program. We are going to fight for the 10 million votes for Chavez.”
Strikes in major Mexican mining and steeling companies continue, despite police repression and government intervention.
A strike at Grupo Mexico, the world’s seventh-largest copper producer, began on 24 March. The dispute is mainly over wages.
The strike at the Lázaro Cárdenas steel plant started last month after the government removed Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the leader of the Miners and Steel Workers Union and replaced him with their own stooge, Elias Morales. The government accused Gómez Urrutia of embezzling union funds amounting to $55 million.
According to Mexican journalist Gonzalo Olvera, writing in the El Financiero newspaper:
“With their leader at large, union members at the Lázaro Cárdenas steel plant went on strike and took over a whole section of the facility. To end the walkout, workers demanded that Gómez Urrutia formally return to the local. Authorities responded otherwise; city, state and Federal police forces were deployed to catch the strikers off guard and eject them from the premises.
“A full-fledged battle ensued. Foreseeing this kind of move, strikers had built their own war chest. They stockpiled steel balls of all sizes which, in well-timed salvoes, they hurled and fired with slingshots at the intruders. The battle ended several hours later when police troops backed off, leaving two workers and one policeman dead and quite a few fighters wounded.”
Palestinian government workers have threatened to launch an open-ended strike to protest against non-payment of salaries, and in a direct challenge to the Hamas-led government.
The Syndicate of Employees of the Public Sector said it would hold the strike on 10 May (as we went to press). There are 165,000 government employees in the Palestinian Authority, though it is not clear how many belong to the union, which is linked to the Fatah Party.
In a statement issued on Fatah-linked websites, the union said they demanded that the government find a quick solution to the growing financial crisis.