By Pablo Velasco
- Support Egyptian asbestos workers
- Release imprisoned Chinese workers
- British hypocrisy over the Chagos islands
Support Egyptian asbestos workers
Workers at the Aura-Misr (Aura-Egypt) Company, a manufacturer of asbestos products, have been on strike since 6 June, in protest over deadly working conditions and their employer's anti-worker policies.
In April it was discovered that 46 of the company's 90 shop floor workers had contracted asbestos-related cancer. A decree issued by the Ministry of Manpower in 2002 ordering the company to close the plant pending remedial measures was enforced only in January 2004.
The owner is already attempting to re-open the factor without meeting preconditions specified in the decree. He has also refused to pay the salaries of his employees for April, May and June or to provide them with health insurance to cover the costs of the medical treatment they urgently need. The health care system does not recognize asbestos-related cancer as an occupational disease and so the cancer-stricken workers cannot get social insurance benefits to cover the costs of medical treatment.
Workers struck for:
- Payment of all wages owing since April 2004;
- Implementation of recommended safety measures;
- Access to fair compensation and comprehensive health insurance;
- Full compliance with health and safety law for asbestos workers.
Release imprisoned Chinese workers
Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang led mass demonstrations of 30,000 workers against unemployment and corruption in Liaoyang city in China in 2002. They were imprisoned last year for their role in the protests, and are now in extremely poor health.
In May this year Xiao's family discovered that in addition to his blindness, his face was swollen, his eyes and lips were abnormally reddish and his stomach swollen to the extent that it was rigid to the touch - symptomatic of kidney or liver disease. He now has difficulty in sleeping, breathing and eating.
In June, after many months of requests for improved medical care, Xiao was sent to hospital. Doctors found that he had hardening of the arteries, liver and gallbladder stones and chronic gastritis. No medicine was given and examinations of his kidney and lungs were refused.
Yao remains in a life-threatening condition. He suffers from intermittent heart failure and given previous heart problems and high blood pressure, another heart attack is highly likely. He continues to lose consciousness regularly because of the high blood pressure and has lost much of the use of his right leg, which has now begun to turn black. He has also lost hearing in his right ear due to an injury sustained during his detention in 2002.
The China Labour Bulletin (CLB) is calling on the international trade union movement to support the two workers and urge the authorities to release them on medical parole. Send messages via the CLB website.
British hypocrisy over the Chagos islands
Back in the 1960s Mauritius was a British colony. In 1965 the Labour government decided to detach a piece of Mauritius before granting independence in 1968. The Chagos islands, whose largest island is Diego Garcia, became a new colony, known as the 'British Indian Ocean Territories' (BIOT).
From 1965 to 1973 thousands of Mauritians living on Chagos were forcibly removed, mainly to the main island of Mauritius. This was done so that the United States government could build a military base there during the Cold War.
The Chagossian people won a High Court case in 2000, awarding them the right to return to Chagos and ordering the Foreign Office to arrange for their return. However, on 16 June an obscure committee of government known as the Privy Council overturned that judgment and rejected the right of return. According to the Guardian (17 June), US 'defence needs' since 9/11 made it 'unfeasible' for the islanders to go back.
So much for the British government's respect for self-determination and freedom!
Lalit, a socialist organisation in Mauritius, has been organising for the right of return for years. Lalit is currently organising a flotilla to Diego Garcia to take the expelled islanders back.
Lalit says: "It becomes more important than ever that we all call for the closure of this military base. The Mauritian government should give the USA and Britain notice to close down the military base, and return the whole of Chagos to the people of the islands. This way we can move towards the reunification of Mauritius."
Lalit points out that Diego Garcia has been one of the 'unspecified locations' used by the US military for the detention and torture of prisoners from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.