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Archive for June, 2009

How workers of Ford in Europe are fighting back

1 July: Luton
2 July: Birmingham
3 July: Oxford
4 July: London

The crisis in the car industry is hitting hard.  

Union leaders have been responsible for negotiating shorter weeks and pay cuts.
But where workers have taken decisive action important victories have been
won. By striking and occupying plants, and the threat of international
solidarity action, Visteon workers blew aside the myth that it was a separate
company.  They won their battle for the same redundancy and pension conditions
as other Ford workers.

In France, Ford workers in Bordeaux are campaigning against closure of the
plant with a consequent loss of 10,000 jobs. After demonstrations, strikes, and
the invasion of the Paris motor show, the plant was taken over by HZ, a German
holding company, with the promise that jobs were safe. Is this a victory or
another management trick? 

	    What strategy do we need to save our jobs? How can we develop shop
floor international organisation? Can the skills and experience of car workers
be used to develop alternative, socially useful jobs in car plants’ to
support public services and fight climate change?

	    Come and join the discussion to learn from the past and the present
and take control of our futures.

Meetings with Ford Bordeaux CGT members

Wednesday 1 July, Luton
6.30pm, The Balti Nights, Wellington Street, Meeting hosted by Luton Trades
Council.

Thursday 2 July, Birmingham

7.30pm, in the Council House, Victoria Square . Meeting organized by Birmingham
Trades Council

Friday 3rd July, Oxford

7pm, East Oxford Community Centre, Princes St , off Cowley Road , 

Meeting called by Oxford & District Trades Union Council and sponsored by Unite
Branch 5/625 South East Region

Saturday 4th July, London

2.30pm, Friends House, Euston and with speakers from Visteon and Ford Dagenham,
sponsored by TGWU (Unite) 1/1107 Ford Central Brach

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A farcical curtain of steel descended on Calais, and the massive campaign of demonisation of the camp by the local authorities continued in the press. The camp gradually grew to around 1000 people from all over Europe. Many local people visited the site, a group of around 100 mostly Kurdish and Afghani migrants participated at a daily basis and a lot of local kids and young adults hanged out in the Camp.

It run alongside the main motorway from the port out of town and it was just a few minutes from the “Jungle”, the makeshift camps where migrants are living. Migrants report that currently the controls at the border are very tight and that no one has been getting through for few weeks, consequently the number of migrants in Calais are at their highest in several years.

On Sunday 21st of July, people from the camp went to the festival in the town centre of Calais, with a sound system, to give out leaflets that explain the aim and nature of the camp, in an attempt to communicate directly with the locals beyond the media lies. After the prohibition to distribute any kind of literature that was issued the following Monday, giving out leaflets became an action in itself where people got arrested. Issues of the daily produced newspaper “Nomad” were also confiscated.

Assisting the migrants seems to be a criminal offence, which granted an arrest on Wednesday 24th June, but people have been thinking about some paractical ideas you can do this summer to help the hundreds of migrants stranded in Calais.

On Friday 26th morning, a man demanded showers for migrants when he glued himself to the entrance of La Mairie de Calais – one died trying to have one in the dangerous place where they are forced to wash themselves. In the afternoon, the local motorway was blocked to highlight the hypocrisy of allowing freedom of movement for goods and animals but not of people.

On Saturday 27th, the campers left the Camp at 10am to go to the transnational demonstration.

Back in the UK, a demonstration was called in solidariy with the detainees in hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

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The mass unrest in the garment industry continued on Monday (29 June) for a third day…

On the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital city, in the industrial zone; workers’ rioting and demonstrations yesterday escalated to new heights. As thousands of workers gathered in the morning, at 10am a group set off towards the nearby Dhaka Export Processing Zone where many garment factories are located. Police blocked their way and fierce fighting began – in the pitched battle police teargas and rubber bullets left 100 workers injured.

Other workers soon joined the protesters and informed them that work was continuing as normal at the Hamim Group factory complex. Twenty thousand workers began to march towards the complex. As the numbers of protesters in the area swelled to 50,000 the security forces were simply overwhelmed; the Dhaka District Superintendent of Police said; “An additional 400 policemen stood guard in front of the major factories. We tried our best to disperse the crowd, but they were too many and too fierce.

There are reports that some workers at the Hamim complex tried to defend the factory and clashed with the demonstrators as they approached (presumably reluctant to sacrifice their workplace to the greater cause – though whether these workers were garment workers or factory security and/or management personnel is unknown). The approaching protesters were said to be angry that these workers had failed to join the weekend protests over the killing of two garment workers shot by cops – and that the factory owners had, unlike other bosses, continued operating since the shootings.

The workers split into smaller groups and stormed the complex at around 10.15am. They sprinkled the buildings with petrol; a sweater factory, three garment factories, two washing factories, two fabric storehouses … over 8,000 machines, a huge quantity of readymade garments, fabrics, three buses, two pickup vans, two microbuses and one motorbike were all reduced to ashes.

The crowd was thinking strategically. Once the buildings were ablaze some workers returned to the highway and blockaded the road; consequently, the fire services were unable to reach the blaze for several hours until 3.30pm – by which time the buildings were burnt to the ground.

Meanwhile, groups drawn from some of the other 50,000 workers and participants (undoubtably other sympathetic non-garment workers and slum dwellers would have been drawn in) roamed the area and attacked and vandalised another 50 factories and 20 vehicles. Thick black smoke could be seen across the city.

Though in public statements the garment bosses have been attempting to maintain international confidence by playing up the continued economic health of the industry it seems that some companies are beginning to feel the pinch of the economic crisis. One report suggests that

The current global meltdown had a background part to play in the whole thing as scores of factories turned sick due to reduced orders.
Low and delayed wage payments following the recession also helped trigger the unrest… Many factory owners had truncated their workforce to be more competitive against their international competitors, industry insiders said.
(Daily Star – 30 June 09)

The factory in Ashulia’s S. Suhi Industrial Park, where the dispute that sparked this unrest began(1), laid off most of its workers and sold to a new owner in February due to a decline in orders from international buyers. Laid off workers had apparently been regularly agitating for re-employment at the unused factory at a higher wage rate;

The closure of the units of S Suhi Industrial Park Ltd was mainly responsible for the latest labour unrest in garment factories in Ashulia and Savar areas, a number of garment workers claimed.
Pretty Group in March started production only with the sweater-manufacturing unit and kept the five other units of the former S Suhi Industrial Park closed. Around 1,000 out-of-work workers of the five units were mounting pressure on the new management to restart those units soon, said garment workers.
The workers of the closed units along with other ill-paid workers of some nearby factories, which are not doing so well, started a movement to reopen the units and raise salary of workers, they said.
Failing to get their jobs back, they started to unite and threaten to halt production in other factories unless the former S Suhi units are reopened, a worker of Ha-Meem Group said requesting anonymity.
(Daily Star – 30 June 09)

But the new owners denied this, none too convincingly;

Manjur Rahman, manager and company secretary of Pretty Group, claimed that this labour unrest had neither anything to do with his factory nor was it triggered from his factory.

In fact, the truth is probably a little more subtle – the Pretty Group dispute was the spark that set off an explosion waiting to happen. The global economic crisis increases already pressured working conditions, decline in real wages/purchasing power due to inflation and actual or threatened unemployment; in Bangladesh a decline in income is a short step away from hunger and starvation; many garment workers are already permanently malnourished (as described here; http://libcom.org/news/bangladesh-militarized-factory-visions-devouring-demons-capital-15092008).

Where this workers’ movement goes from here is anybody’s guess. But the ruling class is worried it may spread to the south-eastern port city of Chittagong, another smaller center of the garment industry, with 700 factories.

Security has been beefed up with special surveillance over the Chittagong city’s apparel sectors as tension brewed here against the backdrop of violence in the garment factories in Dhaka, police officials and garments association leaders said on Monday.

Nothing is resolved. Watch this space…

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The entire press and media world goes on 24h strike across Greece in response to the closing down of a major daily and radio station, in a context of rising repression and urban guerrilla warfare.

On the 24th of June 2009, the entire press and media apparatus of Greece came to a standstill due to a 24h strike of press and media workers in response to the surprise shutting down of Eleftheros Typos, one of the country’s oldest right-wing newspapers, and the popular City Radio, both owned by the tycoon and president of the 2004 Olympic Games, Mrs Angelopoulou. The closing down of the daily and radio station came with no previous warning and are considered to be the first major effect of the global economic crisis in the country. The industrial solidarity action that took place on the 24th and deprived the entire country of newspapers and news broadcasts on both radio, TV and the Internet is a first response to the sacking of 450 workers of the joint business. At the same time workers occupied the offices of the newspaper and the radio station.

The press-media crisis and labour struggle come at a time of renewed tension across the country despite the summer holiday season. Social polarisation, which is seen by many as a result of the December Uprising, peaked again last week with yet another urban guerrilla attack by the Sect of Revolutionaries, a group that had attacked a police department and a TV station with automatic weapons last winter. This time the country came to a standstill as guerrillas executed an officer of the elite and secretive anti-terrorist bureau who was guarding the only accusation witness in the so-called Revolutionary People’s Struggle (ELA) trial. The trial, which is going through the appeal court, has been accused by the vast majority of the legal world as a sham (the accusation witness is in fact the ex-wife of the chief accused), putting innocent people through a long and painful ordeal on non-existent evidence regarding their involvement in the urban guerrilla group that disbanded in 1995 after 20 years of action. In their much-publicised communiqué, the Sect of Revolutionaries promised to make Greece bleed, targeting journalists, politicians and fascist leaders, while putting forward a new class theory positing at its epicentre as an archenemy what the guerrillas call the Lumpen Petty-Bourgeois Class. The assassination and the communiqué have created havoc in the government, which has been trying to introduce a series of tough ‘Law and Order’ laws of disputable constitutional validity and judicial applicability.

The new police-state legislation introduced by the frail 1-MP majority right-wing government, which secured the backing of the tiny fascist party (LAOS), include: a) immediate extradition of any ‘foreigner’ (non-greek citizen, including EU citizens) who is accused (not convicted) for a crime that can receive a penalty of more than 3 months; b) up to 10 years imprisonment for any greek citizen who ‘helps or harbours’ ‘illegal immigrants’, doctors included; c) up to 10 years imprisonment of committing any crime or felony (from spitting on the street to murder) wearing a hood, or otherwise ‘disclosing one’s characteristics’, including heavy make-up; d) compulsory DNA sampling of anyone convicted to three months of prison or more; e) free and unlimited use of blast flash grenades by the police in dispersing crowds. The new dictatorial measures have been met with hostility of all the political world, fascists excluded, and by the Lawyer’s Union who has pledged to challenge their validity both in national and international courts.

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Fire Your Boss

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