World workers' news round-up

Submitted by Janine on 14 May, 2005 - 9:58


Last month a judged ordered that a public notice of ownership be posted at the ceramics Zanon factory in Argentina.

The notice would have allowed a venture capitalist or the previous owner to buy Zanon Ceramics for pennies.

More than 470 jobs and the workers’ administration of Zanon could have been in danger, as a new owner could have immediately requested their eviction of the factory. However as no “interested parties” registered, the judge had to close the registry and it cannot be re-opened.

Zanon workers and their supporters are now lobbying the courts to declare the factory bankrupt and recognise the workers’ administration as a cooperative.


The Migrant Workers Trade Union (MTU) was established as part of the independent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) on 24 April. The unions stated aim is to “Improve working conditions of migrant workers, to attain rights and legalisation, so as to be able to work freely”.

Since 2002, migrant workers have been active through the Migrant Workers Branch of the Equality Trade Union (ETU). The ETU Migrant Workers Branch led the 381 day sit-in protest in Myeongdong Cathedral in 2003. The MTU is the fruit of the Myeongdong Cathedral struggle.

The government has cracked down on non-documented migrant workers through the Employment Permit System, which has seen the number of non-documented migrant workers rise to more than 200,000. Migrant workers face low wages, delayed wages, deterioration of working conditions and constant lay-offs.

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Around 13,000 members of the Brazilian Movement of Landless Workers (MST), set out on a 210 km march to Brasilia on 2 May to demand that the government makes good on its promises for agrarian reform.

The marchers are expecting to be joined by 90,000 others, including workers from occupied factories, indigenous people and others.

In November 2003 the government of President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva and the Brazilian Workers Party (PT) pledged to settle 430,000 families during their three-year mandate. To date, the Lula government has settled significantly fewer families than its conservative predecessor —just 55,000 in the last two years. Yet, according to the MST, if every family that needed land was settled on 15 hectares, they would still only occupy half of the land currently unused.

A minority of MST, union and other activists have begun to argue that the PT is not worth working within. In June last year the Party for Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) was formed, following the expulsion of three PT parliamentarians for their public opposition to the PT government’s cuts to public sector pensions.

More than 100 PT militants signed a “Time for a Break” statement at the World Social Forum (WSF) in January this year, calling for a split. At the same WSF, more than 350 activists declared themselves to be a public faction of PT “dissidents”. The PT national congress in December is likely to involve more fissures.


Zely Ariane, international affairs representative of the Indonesian People’s Democratic Party (PRD), spoke at the Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference held in Sydney at Easter. These excerpts are from Green Left Weekly 11 May 2005.

“The people now know that the president [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] has lied and has lied many times. The first lie relates to Aceh. Since November 19, Yudhoyono has placed Aceh under a state of emergency. Then he continued the policy of sending more troops to Aceh.

“Then on the issue of corruption, he promised within three months that there would be a major crackdown ... but no-one has been charged or jailed. The cronies and corrupt business leaders, especially those linked to the family of ex-president Suharto, knew that they would not be jailed.

“The day after the tsunami, the head of the military lied when he said 40,000 troops would be sent to Aceh and the troops would be divided equally between humanitarian help and operations seeking GAM. In fact, they only mobilised 10,000 troops to help the people and 30,000 to chase GAM in the mountains.

“SEGERA [a coalition of Aceh solidarity organisations] recorded the TNI [Indonesian army] activities in Aceh after the tsunami until the end of February... it is clear that TNI forces are the ones that are starting the conflict.

“The negotiations and ceasefire issue was accepted by the government after the international troops arrived in Aceh. The Indonesian government was under pressure to open Aceh. But there was not a united voice to solve the situation in Aceh peacefully.

“The TNI hasn’t changed... the way they acted in East Timor, the way they behaved under Suharto has not changed. Their activity in Aceh and the secret war in Papua reveal the genuine character of the TNI.”


In January 2005 the Committee for the Creation of Free Labour Organisations in Iran was set up.
Iran's labour law does not recognise the right to organise freely and strike. The only formal organisations that claim to be representing workers in Iran are instruments of the Iranian government such as the government-sponsored “Workers’ House”, “Islamic Labour Councils” and also some so-called “guild associations” like the Association of Iranian Journalists and the Association of Truck Drivers, which were basically formed by newspaper owners and truck companies. These associations are under the control of different factions of the government.

According to reports from the Committee, 4000 workers have signed their call for the right to form free labour organisations. Activists have met in Tehran.

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