Workers's news round-up

Submitted by Anon on 16 July, 2006 - 11:01

Indonesia

Trade union rights may be curbed in new special economic zones (SEZs) in Indonesia’s Riau Islands, according to press reports.

The plans include restricting the right to organise in the SEZs and allowing firms to sack workers without having to pay compensation. Under existing labour legislation, workers have the right to freely set up one or more trade unions in their workplaces.

Indonesia has plans for more SEZs. It recently signed an agreement with Singapore to transform Batam, Bintan and Karimun into SEZs, because Singapore is running out of space for manufacturing.

The Indonesian government wants to make the islands more investor friendly, by relaxing the regulations on finance and banking, taxation, and customs and excise. But undermining trade union rights is at the heart of its approach.

• For more information visit TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, http://tapol.gn.apc.org

Venezuela

The UNT trade union federation in Venezuela will hold elections in September as agreed at its Congress in May, according to the leaders of the C-CURA class struggle current that has been pressing for them.

Several hundred militants met on 27 June to agree to go ahead with the elections. The issue caused a split at the Congress, with a minority of delegates led by Chavista trade union leader Marcela Maspero walking out. They argued that the priority was to campaign for 10 million votes for Chávez in the presidential elections in December.

The C-CURA leaders rightly insisted that trade union democracy and independence comes first. The UNT leadership has not been elected since it was formed three years ago. However Chirino’s group are also mostly in favour of voting for Chávez – though not everyone in their political organisation, the PRS agrees. For example the Juventud de Izquierda Revolucionaria (JIR) argue that it’s a contradiction to advocate trade union democracy and independence in the UNT while not putting up a workers’ candidate in the elections.

The conditions for a workers’ candidate are very good. Chávez has 60-70% support and is in little danger of losing. The opposition is in disarray, unable to unite behind a single candidate. Venezuelanalysis website has reported attempts by right wing oppositionists to hold primaries to select a candidate, without being able to agree even on the process.

In these circumstances, a workers’ candidate would plant a flag for working class political independence. A socialist candidate would propose a workers’ government, genuine workers’ control of industry – including the oil industry, land redistribution, a democratic foreign policy etc. S/he would agitate against the anti-union laws in Venezuela, for a living wage and other emergency welfare measures.

All this should be ABC for Marxists in Venezuela. Some PRS militants favour such an approach – but most around Chirino do not. The strangest role is played by the Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria (CMR), linked to Socialist Appeal in Britain. It argued that trade union elections are not the main issue in the UNT and instead makes abstract propaganda for workers’ control. It is gung-ho for Chávez in December, believing that he might just introduce socialism – no doubt with an enabling act and 200 nationalised monopolies. Its perspective is plainly reformist in Venezuela, much like it was as the Militant in Britain in the 1970s.

See (in Spanish) the JIR website www.jir.org.ve, Aporrea, www.aporrea.org, and www.venezuelanalysis.com for reports.

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