International workers’ news round up: Iran, China, Palestine

Submitted by cathy n on 14 August, 2007 - 11:03

Iran

Free Salehi and Ossanlou Now!

A demonstration to secure the freedom of imprisoned worker activists and support the independent labour movement in Iran was about to take place as we went to press.

The protest was due to take place on 9 August outside the Iranian embassy in London and at other embassies around the world. It is part of a week of solidarity with workers in Iran, called by exiled Iranian workers’ organisations and the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

Salehi was imprisoned in April this year and Ossanlou arrested in July. Many other workers were arrested on May Day this year.

China

Two big strikes have taken place in China in recent weeks, according to reports on the China Labour Bulletin website.

More than 3,000 bus drivers in the northeastern city of Jinzhou went out on strike on 19 July, demanding higher wages and protesting at the municipal bus company's privatisation plans.

All bus routes were cancelled and hundreds of drivers staged a protest outside the Jinzhou Municipal Party building. The city-wide strike caused serious disruption and prevented many commuters from getting to and from work, and according to many blogs from Jinzhou in the early stages of the strike, most people were sympathetic to the bus drivers' cause.

By 23 July, most of the drivers had returned to work but over one thousand remained out on strike. The current status of the strike is unclear.

Some weeks earlier, on 29 June more than 3,000 workers at the giant Shuangma Cement Plant in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, downed tools and went on strike to protest against the company's proposed severance package.

Shuangma, a former state-owned enterprise, was in the process of restructuring after being acquired in May by the world's leading building materials company, Lafarge. Shuangma's proposed severance package of 1,380 yuan for each year of employment was the equivalent of the average monthly wage in Mianyang and included a clause which meant workers agreed to forgo all other retirement, medical and welfare benefits. When this package was presented to the workers on 27 June as the company's final offer, it was immediately rejected. The strike has now ended but it is still unclear as to whether or not the workers have agreed to management's terms.

The response by management and the local authorities and police to both strikes was to seal the town off from the outside world to prevent news leaking out. However, in the early stages of the strikes at least, internet postings and blogs provided a valuable insight into the day to day developments of these significant protests.
Chinese workers may be using the run up to the Olympics in Beijing next year to press their demands.

More information:

http://www.china-labour.org.hk

Palestine

On 17 July Hamas gangs raided the Gaza and Khan Younis offices of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, as part of their attempt to clamp down on democratic rights and impose an Islamist mini-state. Seizing property from the PGFTU, Hamas interrogated trade unionists and have maintained an occupation of the union's offices, paralysing their activities.

This came as a result of the union's refusal to subordinate themselves to Hamas's rule, which has also included a wave of attacks on Fatah and the free press. But this is nothing new – early this year three assassination attempts were made by Hamas on Rasem Al Bayari, the union's deputy general secretary, which included a rocket attack on his home in January and the bombing of his office in February.

Palestinian labour movement organisations are not only under attack from Hamas.

On 7 July the Israeli army had occupied the PGFTU's Ramallah base, smashed up the offices and arrested two people. Just one week later, the PGFTU's long-time leader Shaher Saed, himself a Fatah sympathiser, was forcibly taken from a Nablus restaurant by Fatah militiamen in masks.

Saed said the men threatened him with violence if he did not resign from his trade union position. He was released after around half an hour, but quickly resigned his role in order to protect his life.

In the face of these sectarian militias, the Palestinian labour movement badly needs our solidarity.

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