Wednesday, October 28, 2009

John Pilger on British Postal Strike

The postal strike is our strike

John Pilger

Published 22 October 2009

New Labour has done its best to destroy the Post Office as a public institution. Postal workers deserve our solidarity

The postal workers' struggle is as vital for democracy as any national event in recent years. The campaign against them is part of a historic shift from the last vestiges of political democracy in Britain to a corporate world of insecurity and war. If the privateers running the Post Office are allowed to win, the regression that now touches all lives bar the wealthy will quicken its pace. A third of British children now live in low-income or impoverished families. One in five young people is denied hope of a decent job or education.

And now the Brown government is to mount a "fire sale" of public assets and services worth £16bn. Unmatched since Margaret Thatcher's transfer of public wealth to a new gross elite, the sale, or theft, will include the Channel Tunnel rail link, bridges, the student loan bank, school playing fields, libraries and public housing estates. The plunder of the National Health Service and public education is already under way.

The common thread is adherence to the demands of an opulent, sub-criminal minority exposed by the 2008 collapse of Wall Street and of the City of London, now rescued with hundreds of billions in public money and still unregulated with a single stringent condition imposed by the government. Goldman Sachs, which enjoys a personal connection with the Prime Minister, is to give employees record average individual pay and bonus packages of £500,000. The Financial Times now offers a service called How to Spend It.
Best of Britain

None of this is accountable to the public, whose view was expressed at the last election in 2005: New Labour won with the support of barely a fifth of the British adult population. For every five people who voted Labour, eight did not vote at all. This was not apathy, as the media pretend, but a strike by the public - like the postal workers are today on strike. The issues are broadly the same: the bullying and hypocrisy of contagious, undemocratic power.

Since coming to office, New Labour has done its best to destroy the Post Office as a highly productive public institution valued with affection by the British people. Not long ago, you posted a letter anywhere in the country and it reached its destination the following morning. There were two deliveries a day, and collections on Sundays. The best of Britain, which is ordinary life premised on a sense of community, could be found at a local post office, from the Highlands to the Pennines to the inner cities, where pensions, income support, child benefit and incapacity benefit were drawn, and the elderly, the awkward, the inarticulate and the harried were treated humanely.

At my local post office in south London, if an elderly person failed to turn up on pension day, he or she would get a visit from the postmistress, Smita Patel, often with groceries. She did this for almost 20 years until the government closed down this "lifeline of human contact", as the local Labour MP called it, along with more than 150 other local London branches. The Post Office executives who faced the anger of our community at a local church - unknown to us, the decision had already been taken - were not even aware that the Patels made a profit. What mattered was ideology; the branch had to go. Mention of public service brought puzzlement to their faces.

The postal workers, having this year doubled annual profits to £321m, have had to listen to specious lectures from Peter Mandelson, a twice-disgraced figure risen from the murk of New Labour, about "urgent modernisation". The truth is, the Royal Mail offers a quality service at half the price of its privatised rivals Deutsche Post and TNT. In dealing with new technology, postal workers have sought only consultation about their working lives and the right not to be abused - like the postal worker who was spat upon by her manager, then sacked while he was promoted; and the postman with 17 years' service and not a single complaint to his name who was sacked on the spot for failing to wear his cycle helmet. Watch the near frenzy with which your postie now delivers. A middle-aged man has to run much of his route in order to keep to a preordained and unrealistic time. If he fails, he is disciplined and kept in his place by the fear that thousands of jobs are at the whim of managers.
Subversive forces

Communication Workers Union negotiators describe intransigent executives with a hidden agenda - just as the National Coal Board masked Thatcher's strictly political goal of destroying the miners' union. The collaborative journalists' role is unchanged, too. Mark Lawson, who pontificates about middlebrow cultural matters for the BBC and the Guardian and receives many times the remuneration of a postal worker, dispensed a Sun-style diatribe on 10 October. Waffling about the triumph of email and how the postal service was a "bystander" to the internet when, in fact, it has proven itself a commercial beneficiary, Lawson wrote: "The outcome [of the strike] will decide whether Billy Hayes of the CWU will, like [Arthur] Scargill, be remembered as someone who presided over the destruction of the industry he was meant to represent."

The record is clear that Scargill and the miners were fighting against the wholesale destruction of an industry that was long planned for ideological reasons. The miners' enemies included the most subversive, brutal and sinister forces of the British state, aided by journalists - as Lawson's Guardian colleague Seumas Milne documents in his landmark work, The Enemy Within. Postal workers deserve the support of all honest, decent people, who are reminded that they may be next on the list if they remain silent.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Solidaires Appeal for National Demonstration in Paris on October 22

October 22: national demonstration in Paris for employment and against dismissal
Solidaires’ Appeal

Every day, those responsible for the crisis want employees to pay the price: layoffs, partial unemployment, deteriorating working conditions, wage freezes ... _

Meanwhile, the large industrial groups and banks are arrogant with their financial results. The directions of firms benefit from crisis by being able to cheaply restructure and with the wholesale destruction of jobs.

They benefit from public subsidies paid to them without any control or requirement to recompensate.

Given this, it is urgent to demand the employers and the Government to implement alternative policies that prioritize employment and guarantees employees’ purchasing power and improved working conditions ... rather than dividends for shareholders and capital gains for financial markets.

For several months, important struggles have occurred in companies to resist these attacks, particularly in the chemical, pharmaceutical and metal industries.

The Trade Union Solidaires supports those who struggle daily in their companies: Michelin, Rohm and Haas, Goodyear Dunlop, Freescale, Chaffoteaux, Continental, Molex ... and so many others trying to maintain employment or obtain allowances to enable them and their families to survive.

The Trade Union Solidaires fully supports and participates in all initiatives that promote convergence, coordination and development of the mobilizations.

In this sense, with its unions in the chemical pharmaceutical industry, Solidaires calls for mass demonstrations in Paris October 22, as a positive response to the proposal of the CGT (Confédération générale du travail – General Confederation of Labour)for a national demonstration on that day. Already, at several companies, union branches of the CGT and SUD (Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques – Solidarity Unity Democracy) have decided to call together October 22. Solidarity proposes to prepare in as many companies as possible to ensure that October 22 is as united as possible, so that this day is an important step in building a relationship of forces generally.

All Together Thursday, October 22 in Paris.
Meet: 1 pm Place Denfert Rochereau


International Metal Federation report on International Union Federation meeting on Climate Change

Cut emissions and transform jobs
Oct 20, 2009
Anita Gardner

The transition to a low-carbon economy must guarantee employment and result in the development of new, decent jobs, say participants at global industrial unions' meeting on climate change.

GERMANY: On October 14 and 15, the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) and the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation (EMCEF) organised a conference in Bad Orb, Germany entitled "Cutting Emissions, Transforming Jobs".

The goal of the meeting was to discuss how industrial workers might present a common position at the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Copenhagen Denmark. The UNFCCC COP-15 conference, as it is called, is expected to propose a new set of agreements on greenhouse gas emissions targets to renew or replace those contained within the Kyoto Accord.

Speaking at the meeting, IMF General Secretary Jyrki Raina said, "Our industrial sectors are frequently seen as contributors to the current environmental crisis. Yet it is within these very industries that solutions already exist or are being developed. We want to reduce emissions, while at the same time increasing employment and protecting the environment."

The industrial workers' unions prepared a background discussion document taking into account work that had already been done, such as ICEM's recently-adopted policy on Sustainability. The meeting was structured around five panel discussions: environmental protection, sustainable development, sectoral concerns, sustainable job creation, and just transition.

The lively discussion covered a vast territory, some of the points made include:

* the environmental crisis is as much a failure of global capitalism as the recent and ongoing economic crisis
* good jobs and a clean environment go hand in hand, we will have both; or we will have neither
* developing countries must have their chance to develop. However, their development need not follow the same harmful paths as it did in developed countries that caused the environmental crisis in the first place. International institutions for capital and finance, resurgent protectionism, and restrictions on technology transfer, can create a new era of colonialism if we do not prevent it
* trade unions must hold governments and employers to account, particularly regarding the social dimension of sustainability

The delegates from all four organizations welcomed the opportunity to discuss the social and economic consequences of trying to solve the present environmental crisis. Overall, there was a consensus that industrial sector unions need to make our voices heard in Copenhagen, and particularly to be the champions of the social dimension of sustainable development. While there are certainly concerns within specific industries and regions, and therefore a need for strong Just Transition programs, there are also many opportunities for sustainable job creation.

The ICEM, IMF, EMF and EMCEF will be reviewing the discussion document and comments received over the next couple of weeks. Following this review, we will finalize the materials we will bring to COP-15 in Copenhagen to make our points with the country representatives negotiating the new agreement.

Following the meeting, Manfred Warda, ICEM General Secretary said, "For industrial workers and their unions an important question for changing to a low-carbon economy is who pays for it and who benefits from the transition. We only have one planet and we all have an interest in protecting our future."

Copies of the background paper and presentations delivered at the meeting are published on the IMF website.

Additional information about climate change and the position of industrial workers can be found on the following web links:


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

French popular referendum rejects postal privatisaion

Lisbeth Latham

French people have sent a strong message to the government of Nicolas Sarkozy with 90% of respondents in a poll rejecting its moves to convert the national postal service, La Poste, into a publicly company. The poll result has highlighted public opposition to Sarkozy’s neo-liberal assault on public services.

While France, like other capitalist countries, has been undergoing restricting under both centre left and centre right governments since the 1980s, however these reforms have been to an extent blunted by working class resistance, most spectacularly during the 1995 strike wave against attacks on the public sector and the student led movement that defeated the First Employment Contract (CPE) legislation in 2005. Since his election Sarkozy has made clear that he intended to continue to push through further neo-liberal reform of the French economy with assaults on social services including deregulation of university education, increased costs for patients in the health system. On July 29, the council of ministers adopted a bill, to be taken to parliament in November, for the partial privatisation of La Poste.

The push to convert La Poste into a public company has been met with opposition from French unions who argue that it is an attempt at privatisation by stealth. French postal unions called unlimited strike action, beginning September 21, i n Paris post offices where 140 workers have been sacked already this year. In addition unions and other progressive organisations have demanded that the government conduct a referendum on its proposal, which the government refused to do (public referendums can be initiated if supported one fifth of MPs and 10% of registered voters – around 4.5 million people).

Opponents of the privatisation, organised through the National Committee Against the Privatisation of the Post (CNPP) which brings together 62 union, political and social organisations, initiated their own referendum on the question which closed on October 3. People were asked “the government wants to change the status of La Poste (the postal service) to private, do you agree with the project?". Across France more than 2.1 million people participated in the vote with more than 90 percent opposing privatisation. On October 5, the CNPP issued statement that called on “the president and his government to hear the verdict and permanently renounce this Act” and reminded the public that “La Poste is for you all, no change in the status can be made without a referendum”.

In response to the outcome government spokespeople have attempted to pour cold water on the outcome and undermine the legitimacy of the vote. Christian Estrosi, Minister of Industry, dismissed the vote on October 3, telling Radio France International “No doubt, there will be 99% per cent against it”.

As part of its October 5 statement, the CNPP called on its local committees to begin meet immediately with the senators and members of their department and district government to demand the withdrawal of the Bill. On October 13, the CNPP issued a new statement outlining the expansion of it campaign against the privatisation. This included:

  • Launching a petition card to send to the President of the Republic, this postcard will be posted on the website will demanding respect the vote of October 3; withdrawal of the bill on the agenda of the Senate and National Assembly; an open public debate; the holding of a referendum on the future of public postal service.
  • Calls a week of mobilization against privatization, development of public postal service and the organization of a referendum from October 31 to November 7.
  • On October 31 the National Committee calls for further initiatives underway, such as organizing rallies at post offices involving population, politicians and postal workers.
  • On 2 November the national committee decides on a rally outside the Senate in the presence of representatives of local committees and elected officials.
The CNPP statements indicated that if the opposition to the privatisation of La Poste is ignored and the law is approved in the Senate and the government the campaign will be further escalated. The CNPP plans to organize satellite events on the same day in November and will initiate a discussion at the local level a national mobilisation in Paris in December.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fench video of March 19 protests and edorsement of General Strike

I just found this video. (G)rêve Generale is the slogan of the radical wing of the Left and Labour movement. It is a play on words, as Rêve Generale would mean General Dream where as Grêve Generale is General Strike.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian General Strike

October 1, 2009

In the long tradition of Jewish working class involvement in and support for liberation struggles, IJAN-Labor stands in solidarity with the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Local Authorities, and all parties, movements and institutions of Palestinian civil society in Israel, who have called a general strike for today, October 1, 2009.

This strike marks the ninth anniversary of the Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Day in October 2000 when Israeli authorities massacred 13 Palestinian protesters.

The killers have never been brought to justice.

IJAN-Labor also welcomes the Trades Union Congress (U.K.) resolution of 17 September, which endorses the growing movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, and calls for reconsideration of the TUC's relationship with the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation whose latest crime was to support Israel's attacks on Gaza.

The BDS campaign has been endorsed by a growing number of labor bodies, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Solidaires Industrie (France), UNISON (UK), Transport and General Workers’ Union (UK), Western Australia Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario, six Norwegian trade unions, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Scottish Trades Union Congress, and Intersindical Alternativa de Catalunya.

In the United States, despite growing support from labor organizations and populations across the globe, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win fail to recognize what their British counterpart has now acknowledged: that Israel is a state built on defeating the aspirations and solidarity of working families not only in Israel but internationally.

Often without the knowledge or consent of union members, US Labor officialdom remains a leading accomplice of Israeli apartheid and the Zionist colonialism of which it is part. For more than sixty years, it has closely collaborated with the Histadrut, which has spearheaded — and whitewashed — apartheid, dispossession, ethnic cleansing and exploitation of the Palestinians since the 1920s.

Indeed, the Histadrut (as both employer and union) provided lethal weapons which the South African apartheid government used against Black workers, while at home it either excluded or segregated Arab workers.

Today, in solidarity with the general strike of Palestinian workers in Israel and growing international labor support for BDS, we call on US labor organizations to divest their estimated $5 billion investment in State of Israel Bonds, and to end all relations with the Histadrut.

For more information IJAN Labor, please see our website:
If you are interested in participating in IJAN Labor, please email us at:


Join Our General Strike on October 1, 2009

by the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel

We would like to bring to your attention the decision of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Local Authorities, all parties, movements and institutions of civil society of the Palestinian minority in Israel, to declare a general strike on October 1, 2009 to mark the 9th anniversary of the Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Day (October 2000) when 13 of Palestinian Arab citizens were killed, and their case is still waiting for justice.

This year we decided to commemorate the memory with a strike. The strike is part of the struggle of the Palestinian minority inside Israel for equal rights as we continue to face home demolitions in the Triangle and the Naqab (Negev); changing of the demography through Judaization of the Galilee and the Triangle; an increase in racial incitement; discrimination against our local authorities; new racist laws, such as the new Nakba law; hebraicizing the Arabic names of our towns and villages, with ultimate disregard of the common and historical Arabic names of these places; selling of Palestinian refugees' properties; and an intensification of the intimidation campaigns and distortion of our national consciousness.

As representatives of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel, we want to stress our opposition to racism, incitement and discrimination . . . and we want to affirm our desire to live in our homeland in dignity.

With our declaration for a general strike, we want to emphasize our stand against the escalating racism and fascist incitement against our Arab population; we want to defend our existence, our rights and our dignity in our homeland which we have no other. We want to make a stand against the denial of our national and historical rights, while calling for the realization of our national and civil rights, our right to remain steadfast and rooted in the land of our forefathers. We call for an end to the policy of expropriation, privatization of land and demolition of our homes.

We assert our need for fundamental equality for the Palestinian Arab minority and equal allocation for the Arab local authorities. We remain resolute against the arrests and investigation campaign of our young people and the systematic attempts to intimidate them and distort their national identity.

The declaration of the general strike also comes to affirm our position regarding the continuing occupation of the Palestinian people in the Palestinian Territory; in support of the Palestinian national cause, an end to occupation including the siege on the Gaza Strip and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

The one day general strike will be highlighted with a main public national march in Arabbeh, which will commence from the Mahmoud Darwish roundabout in Arabbeh (the western roundabout -- in the direction of Sakhnin) at two in the afternoon (14:00) towards the municipal market square (Wadi Salameh Road).

We want to take this opportunity to invite you to join us or send a representative and participate in the march. Your presence is of utmost importance; with the current atmosphere of increased racism and the various statements made by government officials, there is a great fear of a repetition of the scenario of October 2000. We want to avoid this situation, but at the same time, it is time to raise our united voice against racism and discrimination. We ask you to join us in making our just cause known, in order to achieve equality, civil and human rights. Our men were killed and we will not relent and will not rest until justice is served and the truth is revealed and those responsible are punished.

With our sincere hope that you will join us in this important event,

Yours respectfully,

Muhammad Zidan
High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel
Contact: Email: ; Tel: 04 601 3323; Fax: 04 601 3322
[Originally posted at MR Zine]


Friday, October 2, 2009

Solidaires statement declaring support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign

The following is a rough translation of the statement was issued by Solidaires on October 1. The original statement in French is available on the Solidaires website.

Solidarity enters the international BDS campaign
The National Bureau, convened on September 3, 2009, agreed that the Trade Union Solidaires answer the call of Palestinian civil society and committed to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to pressure Israel to respect international law, end the occupation and its colonization ... The Trade Union Solidaires joins many unions in the world already engaged in this campaign.

By refusing to recognize the right to a state for the Palestinian people, pursuing the colonization of the occupied territories, continuing the construction of a wall that has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, the Israeli Government refuses to obey the law International.

Given this, to achieve a political solution that guarantees the application of international law for both peoples, Palestinian and Israeli within the 1967 borders, requires ethical citizens to conduct a campaign of of nonviolent sanctions.


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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