Saturday, June 12, 2010

Palestinian Trade Union Movement Calls on International Dockworkers Unions to Block Loading/Offloading Israeli Ships Until Israel Complies Fully with

June 7, 2010- The Palestinian trade union movement, as a key constituent member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on dockworkers' unions worldwide to block Israeli maritime trade in response to Israel’s massacre of humanitarian relief workers and activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, until Israel complies with international law and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza. Drunk with power and impunity, Israel has ignored recent appeals by the UN Secretary General as well as a near consensus among world governments to end its siege, putting the onus on international civil society to shoulder the moral responsibility of holding Israel accountable to international law and ending its criminal impunity. Dockworkers around the world have historically contributed to the struggle against injustice, most notably against the apartheid regime in South Africa, when port workers unions refused to load/offload cargo on/from South African ships as a most effective way of protesting the apartheid regime.

Today, we ask you to join the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), who resolved [1] not to offload Israeli ships in Durban in February 2009 in protest of Israel’s war of aggression on Gaza, and the Swedish Dockworkers Union [2] who resolved to blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel in protest of Israel's attack against the Freedom Flotilla and the ongoing deadly Israeli siege of the occupied Gaza Strip.

Israel’s ongoing blockade of essential food, health, educational and construction supplies is not only immoral; it is a severe form of collective punishment, a war crime that is strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, that is inducing mass poverty, water contamination, environmental collapse, chronic diseases, economic devastation and hundreds of deaths. This three-year old medieval siege against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, has been squarely condemned by leading legal experts, including UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Prof. Richard Falk, who described it as constituting "slow genocide."

Israel's deplorable attacks on the unarmed ships are a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes." Under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process. As prominent international law scholars have recently confirmed, there is absolutely no legal justification for Israel's act of aggression against international civilian ships carrying humanitarian and developmental aid to civilians suffering under occupation and a patently illegal blockade, which has created a man-made and deliberately sustained humanitarian catastrophe. Our response must be commensurate with this crisis.

Gaza today has become the test of our universal morality and our common humanity. During the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the world was inspired by the brave and principled actions of dockworkers unions who refused to handle South African cargo, contributing significantly to the ultimate fall of apartheid. Today, we call on you, dockworkers unions of the world, to do the same against Israel's occupation and apartheid. This is the most effective form of solidarity to end injustice and uphold universal human rights.


- Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)

- General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW)

- Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU)

- Palestinian Professionals Association **

- Youth Workers Movement (Fatah)

- Central Office for the Workers Movement (Fatah)

- Progressive Workers Block

- Workers Unity Block

- Workers Struggle Block

- Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) –part of IFU

- Workers Liberation Front

- Labor Front Block

- Workers Solidarity Organization

- Workers Struggle Organization

** Includes the national syndicates of engineers, agricultural engineers, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, lawyers and veterinarians.




Saturday, June 5, 2010

French workers mobilise to defend pensions

Lisbeth Latham

Thousands of workers across France protested on May 27 against the President Nicholas Sarkozy’s planned attacked on the French pension system. The protests were called by a inter-union coalition including the General Confederation of Labour (CGT); French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT); United Union Federation (FSU); National Union of Autonomous Unions and Solidaires. They follow the failure of the government to withdraw or modify the planned changes to the pension system following mobilisations on March 23 and May 1.

The Sarkozy government is pushing for the age that workers can receive their pensions, currently set at 60, by two or three years. The plan will also require that the period that a person must work to qualify for a full pension from 40 to 41 years. These increases are being motivated based on the aging French population, however unions believe that the changes will have significant impact on working people. This push has been given additional impetus with the ongoing budgetry crisis in Europe. With the government and business claiming that workers should accept the changes in the pension system as they are not as severe as the reduction in social spending that has occurred in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The government has also sort to undermine public anger by indicating that the draft legislation that will made available on June 20 would exclude workers in both the energy and transport industries.

Unions have rejected government and employer arguments in support of changes to the pension system. Agence France on May 27, reported Bernard Thibault, CGT Secretary, as saying “only a show of force on the streets can defend the 60-year retirement age and the social achievements that Nicolas Sarkozy is methodically attacking”. A statement issued by Solidaires, Unitaire et Democratic Rail (Solidarity, Unity and Democracy Rail – Solidaires affiliate in France’s rail system) on May 27 said that like the governments of Greece, Spain, Italy and Britain, the French government is trying to make the people and employees pay for the crisis of capitalism but “it is not our crisis to pay”.

According to the CGT, the unions’ call for mobilisation drew more than a million workers into the streets in 176 protests, an increase a significant increase from the 600-800, 000 estimated for the March protests. Both the police and conservative media have attempted to down play the size of the mobilisations, with the police estimating the numbers at 395, 000. The impact of strikes was varied across different sectors of the economy. All trains to Spain were cancelled, along with about half of high speed trains between provincial cities. A May 28 joint statement from unions estimated that 30% of workers in France Telecom participated in the protests.

Despite the growth in the movement in defence of pensions, the Sarkozy government is moving forward with its attacks. In response the Inter-Union coalition on met on May 31 to discuss the campaign in defence of pensions, and issued a joint statement. This statement argued that the government had failed to take any action to secure the economic situation, beyond targeting workers, ignoring the demands that had been made by unions, the government had treated unions with contempt ignoring the protests and refusing a genuine debate of its policies – which was “unacceptable!” The statement called for another day of action for June 24, which will coincide with debate on legislation in parliament.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Electrical Trades Union Bans Members from Working in Nuclear Industry

Lisbeth Latham

The Queensland and Northern Territory Branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) announced on May 31 that its state council had placed a ban on its members’ working in uranium mines, nuclear power plants or any part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The ban reflects both the ETU’s concern regarding the threat to the health and safety to workers engaged in the industry and its view that nuclear power should not be a source of power generation. In a statement issued on May 21 Peter Simpson, ETU state secretary, said “we are sending a clear message to the industry and the wider community that vested interests in the uranium and nuclear industries are trying to hoodwink us about this dangerous product and industry. Corporate interests, and their political supporters in the Labor and Coalition parties, are also trying to buy working families off with high wages, while denying the true short-term and long-term health risks of such jobs”. The ETU statement went on to note that the union’s decision to intensify its campaign against uranium mining comes at the same time as there is a push by both major parties, the media and mining companies to expand uranium mining in Australia and for nuclear power to be considered as an energy option. The union views its ban and expanded campaign as a change to this push.

Under the ETU’s rules all members bound to abide the unions policies, members that fail to do so face the potential of having disciplinary proceedings taken against, which include expulsion from the union. Two ETU members, Neil Roberts and Jason O’Brien, who are also both ALP members of the Queensland parliament, were expelled from the ETU in February of this year for their continuing support for the Bligh Governments’ privatisation plans in violation of the ETU’s policy against the sale of public assets.

As part of its campaign the ETU has also launched a new DVD which it commissioned When the Dust Settles, which features long time anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott and directed by progressive film maker David Bradbury. The film outlines the dangers of uranium mining, the nuclear fuel cycle and the use of nuclear materials in weapons production. The film has been sent to all 14, 000 of the Branch’s members. An aim of the film, according to Simpson, is to make members “fully aware of the dangers and health risks, if they decide to take a job in a uranium mine or other nuclear facility”.

The campaign against the nuclear industry is an important renewal of support for the Australian anti-uranium movement by the Australian unions. During the 1970s and 1980s Australian unions were heavily involved actions against uranium mining including the refusal by Australian Railways Union (now the Rail, Tram and Bus Union), Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation (now the Maritime Union of Australia) to place bans on the movement of uranium ore. However this campaign was undermined by the decision by the Hawke Labor government to not implement the ALP’s policy to oppose uranium mining combined changes in the legislation have sharply increased the penalties for unions engaging in industrial activities around social issues. In this context the ETU’s move to ban members working in the uranium industry is both a significant strengthening of the movement and an innovative approach to taking action to support a social movement.

Copies of When the Dust Settles are available from the ETU.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Canadian Union of Postal Workers' letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding Israeli attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Canadian Union of Postal Workers' letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding Israeli attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla

May 31, 2010 - 11:00

Human Rights / Letter

By email and mail

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I am writing to you on behalf of the 54,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. You will be aware that the Israeli navy, in an act of piracy in international waters, has hijacked the international flotilla of ships which was attempting to deliver essential humanitarian aid to Gaza. The aid includes construction materials which would enable the people of Gaza to rebuild the homes destroyed by Israel in Operation Cast Lead in 2009.

There are nearly 700 people on board the boats, all of whom are civilians from around the world, including Members of Parliament from a number of nations, eminent writers and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. They have undertaken this mission out of concern for the people of Gaza, who are now entering their fourth year under siege, without access to basic necessities. They pose no threat to Israel, and are completely unarmed.

Despite this, the Israeli navy has attacked the flotilla outside of international waters this morning resulting in fatalities estimated by the Israeli military itself as 10 and by news sources at possibly in excess of 20 with another large number injured. Israeli news sources say that hospitals around Ashdod have been told to prepare for many injured people arriving.

I urge you to act swiftly to condemn this attack on the peace flotilla, which was breaking no international laws, and, that you demand to know the fate of those on board the vessels and to ensure that Israel releases the vessels immediately to allow this vital aid to reach its destination. Since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Canada and has profusely praised you for maintaining strong relations with Israel, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers believes that you have an obligation to condemn this brutal attack.

Israel's occupation of Gaza is illegal under international law, and it has been accused in a UN report of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Your obligation must be towards a group of citizens peacefully attempting to deliver humanitarian aid, than to a country which repeatedly violates international treaties. CUPW calls on you to end the government's silence over Israel's aggressive actions against the flotilla, and intervene now to demand its safe passage to Gaza.

CUPW is calling on you to condemn this wanton act of piracy against the peaceful flotilla taking aid to the people of Gaza. Finally, CUPW is calling upon you to take every step possible to bring about an end to the inhuman treatment of the people of Gaza by acting to end the siege and blockade that is taking place against them by the Israeli Government.

Yours sincerely,

Denis Lemelin
National President
Canadian Union of Postal Workers


National Executive Board
Regional Executive Cttee
Israeli Embassy to Canada


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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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