International unions

Hong Kong: “Resist tyranny, join a union”

Published on: Wed, 12/02/2020 - 12:28
Author

Chen Ying

A notable feature so far of the eight-month political protest in Hong Kong has been the absence of industrial action. However, the five day strike by health workers at the start of February promises to dramatically change that perception.

The strike was not about wages or job cuts. At first glance it appeared to be xenophobic, as its main demand was shutting Hong Kong’s borders with China to keep out carriers of the new coronavirus from the mainland.

Strikers however saw themselves as trying to protect their working conditions and to save Hong Kong and its under-resourced health service from

Solidarity with the strikes in France

Published on: Thu, 09/01/2020 - 10:44
Author

Martin Thomas

Labour for a Socialist Europe organised a demonstration at the French Embassy in London on 8 January in solidarity with the strikes against pension cuts in France.

“No retreat, no truce!” say French strikers

Published on: Wed, 08/01/2020 - 12:48
Author

Sacha Ismail

As we go to press, 7 January, the French government is sitting down with the various union federations to discuss the ongoing dispute over its pension “reforms”.

The government hopes that a few limited or even cosmetic concessions will be enough to peel away some unions and begin to the mass strikes and protests that have swept France since early December.

It is standing firm on its central policy of changing how the level of public-sector pensions is calculated and introducing disadvantages for those who won’t retire later (64, as against 62 now). Many private sector pensions are also tied

Tackling the union bureaucracies

Published on: Wed, 08/01/2020 - 11:22
Author

Bob Carnegie

Trade union organisation has always tended to centre in the better-off sections of the working class. But that tendency has been sharpened in the neoliberal era by increased inequality within the working class, and union organisation receding into more limited “bastions”.

In Australia — and in general — trade unions have been able to hold on to a degree in some strongholds, but in my working life, 45 years now, the influence of trade unions in society has markedly decreased.

Unions have become much more bureaucratic.

Most union leaders put the trends down to the anti-union laws which have been

Bob Carnegie made honorary member of ETU

Published on: Mon, 09/12/2019 - 09:38
Author

Bob Carnegie

On Friday 6 December 2019, I was awarded honorary life membership of the Queensland and Northern Territory Electrical Trades Union (ETU) for a working life which has at several critical moments intersected with supporting the ETU, its members, and their families.

It is the first time in the branch’s 104 year history it has awarded honorary membership to anyone other than an ETU member.

In 1985, I was arrested nine times for supporting the ETU after 1,007 members working in the state owned electrical distribution network were sacked by a reactionary state government and replaced by scabs.

I

Regrouping the far left in Italy

Published on: Wed, 20/11/2019 - 13:58
Author

Roberto Luzzi, Justine Canady

What is SI Cobas? How was it created?

SI Cobas is an Italian militant workers’ union. It was established in 2010, by about a hundred workers who left SLAI Cobas, another union.

Now it has about 20,000 members in most of Italy’s regions, and it is still growing. It organises mainly immigrant workers, in the logistics sector, where it has become the strongest union, but also increasingly in other sectors: transport, food and meatpacking, engineering, hotels, cleaners, carers and others.

It is organising most of the strikes occurring in Italy, winning better wages and conditions for workers,

Bakhshi and Gholian freed from jail

Published on: Wed, 06/11/2019 - 10:36

Esmail Bakhshi, a leader of the Haft Tappeh sugar cane workers in Iran, and Sepideh Gholian, an activist who supported the workers’ dispute, have been released from jail.

They were sentenced in September – to 14 years and 18 years respectively — on all sorts of trumped up charges, including endangering “national security” and “the Islamic system”.

Because they put up resistance while in jail, Sepideh’s brother was arrested in January and Esmail’s mother in February! Then in August Sepideh’s defence lawyer was threatened with arrest.

Now they have temporary releases on the basis of eye-watering

RATP

French metro workers strike

Published on: Mon, 16/09/2019 - 13:57

This report on the Paris metro workers’ strike appeared in the newspaper of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) on 18 September and was translated from the French by Luke Neal.

A strike on RATP (the Paris metro) has got the the ball rolling in the fight against pension reforms in France. After 12 years of lethargy - at least on the surface - the strike has made a smashing comeback in Parisian transport: 100% of strikers on the metro, 60% on buses and in maintenance workshops. The capital was paralysed on Friday 13 September. Well dug, you old mole!

Two days earlier, the traffic forecasts announced by the management had had the effect of a bomb, triggering the media comedy: RATP agents would be privileged, retiring on average with 3700 euros!

“3700 euros? I earn 2000 euros by working staggered hours and public holidays with work periods of 6 days in a row!” corrects a striking driver interviewed during the rally in front of the company headquarters. “Retirement at age 50? A legend. Many leave at 58. Not to mention the stories of the reductions, ” confirms another.

The work regime is no longer so special, except for the lower starting age. Leaving early, but with what? Since the contribution period is the same as for all employees, the reduction works to penalise earlier retirement through a lower pension for the same contribution. The pension is calculated over the last 6 months – a ‘speciality’ that still concerns more than 5.5 million civil servants.

“Isn't it fair, the six-month calculation? But everyone should have the last six months!” “If they want to make a unique retirement, let them do it to those at the top: they can lower their own benefits. Working? Alright, but not to death!” These are the words of strikers, who had only one thing in mind on Friday 13: what further action should the movement take?

Strikers said: “It is up to the base to decide what to do next. I agree to be led, but the unions must not sign anything without consulting us.”

“In 2007 we felt betrayed by the unions. I am a CGT union member but I am still bitter. We want our decisions to be taken up. Anyway, we're going to converge [struggles]. In 1995, we were converging – that’s what made us strong. There's no secret, we can't fight off the pension reforms alone.”

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Hong Kong moves to student boycott

Published on: Thu, 05/09/2019 - 11:01
Author

Chen Ying

As Hong Kong citizens seek to recover from a horrific weekend of escalated police violence against tenacious protesters, 2 September marked the start of the academic year, with a two-week boycott of lectures declared by student unions in all major universities, widely supported by secondary students boycotting lessons in dozens of schools.

Organisers of the successful city-wide strike on 5 August are planning their next strike to link up with the students.

31 August is the fifth anniversary of the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s decision to deny Hong Kong the right to

The Bolsheviks and international trade union work

Published on: Tue, 03/09/2019 - 08:43
Author

Paul Vernadsky

Review: Reiner Tosstorff, The Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) 1920-1937. Haymarket (2018)


In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks sought to advance the international socialist revolution through the formation of the Communist International (the Comintern). The first five years of the Comintern are replete with lessons for socialists, including crucial conceptions such as transitional demands, the united front and the workers’ government. One crucial sphere of the Comintern’s work concerned the trade unions, crystallised in the foundation of the Red

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