October fast news
Anyuon Mabior was sacked from the Lilydale chicken factory in Adelaide after making a complaint to management about a racist email. Mabior was told by management the matter would be investigated but was later asked to sign a statement dismissing his initial claim and saying he had no issues with racism. “After I refused to sign, they said I was fabricating stories” Anyuon commented.
The National Union of Workers (NUW) is currently campaigning to get Anyuon his job back. The union claims that the company employs many poultry processing workers on dodgy sub-contracting arrangements. The site employs around 300 mostly migrant workers, 200 of whom are casual and which the NUW suspects are paid below award wages.
Manufacturing workers strike for better pay
Workers at MegaBolt’s factory in Campbellfield, Victoria went on strike for two weeks last month for better pay. The roof-support manufacturer’s employees picketed the factory, taking shifts and maintaining a twenty-four hour presence outside the site.
The manager of MegaBolt Tim Hutchins said rates of pay ranged from $17 to $33 an hour but the picketing workers said they were only paid $16 an hour. In response to the strike the employer was forced to give the workers a 10 per cent pay rise this year, with a 4.5 per cent increase to follow in 2011 and 2012. The workers also secured a collective agreement – the first in the company’s history.
Telstra plans to close regional centre
Telstra plans to close a call centre in Grafton, Clarence Valley, NSW, moving the jobs to Melbourne and Brisbane. The closure will result in 108 regional job losses. The workers were told that Telstra had been planning the cuts for some time, but it is suspected that the company had deliberately withheld the announcement until after the election.
Reports in the local media quoted a Telstra spokesman as saying that the Grafton centre was being closed because it was one of the most highly unionised. The local community rallied in support of the workers on September 24 calling for the proposal to be scrapped.
Chinese owned company, National Electric Equipment Corporation has signed a contract with Melbourne coal technology Company HRL to build a new $750 million power station in the ‘brown coal rich’ Latrobe Valley. The company has submitted an application to the Environment Protection Authority for approval and is receiving $150 million from the Federal and State government.
The new project clearly undermines the ability for Victorian to cut its emissions by 20% by 2020. Standards set for new power stations in Victoria are 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of energy generated. The company plans to just meet this target by incorporating duel gas technology, which will see the plant churning out roughly the same emissions as a black coal power plant.
Sri Lanka’s president Mahinda Rajapakse now enjoys dictatorial powers following the national parliaments rubber-stamping of the 18th amendment to the 1978 constitution last month. This change scraps a two-term limit on the presidency and gives sweeping new powers to the president. In particular the law allows Rajapakse to appoint officials to key posts in the judiciary, police and election commission.
Since Rajapakse’s armed forces crushed the separatist Tamil Tigers’ insurgency in May 2009 (killing an estimated 10,000 civilians in the final stages of the conflict), his clique has tightened its grip on power, unleashing sectarian forces to intimidate the media and opposition politicians, and further marginalising Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.
Torture in Kazakh jails
Over 100 Kazakh prisoners have committed gruesome acts of self-mutilation in a desperate attempt to protest against widespread beatings and rapes at a number of prisons across the Central Asian republic. The scandal over prison conditions could threaten the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit this year in Astana, the Kazakh capital.
Kazakhstan was controversially granted the rotating OSCE chairmanship for 2010 in a move that sought to highlight how democratic and open the country has become. Human rights activists say a failure by the OSCE to address prison torture would raise questions about whether European nations are more interested in human rights in Kazakhstan – or the country’s huge reserves of oil and gas.
Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins visited Kazakhstan last month and is continuing to campaign for the rights of prisoners.
US arms sales in the Middle East
Barack Obama plans to push ahead with a deal to sell advanced aircraft and other weapons worth over $52 billion US dollars to Saudi Arabia, which has been under secret negotiation since 2007. The US is also in talks with Saudi Arabia about possible naval and missile-defense upgrades.
The package is the biggest arms deal in US history and reflects the growing tensions between America and its allies in the Middle East, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to counter the perceived threat of Iran pursuing nuclear ambitions and influence in the region.
General strike in France
In an enthusiastic response to the call by the major French trade union organisations, three million workers took to the streets of France on September 7 for a day of massive strikes and demonstrations in protest against the Sarkozy government’s attack on the country’s pension system.
The rejection of president Sarkozy’s pension ‘reform’ is only part of the wider reasons which brought people massively onto the streets. “People are sick of seeing the rich allowed to get away with everything while we are expected to give up the rights we have won over many years,” said a car industry middle manager.
Workers throughout Europe took further action against their respective governments’ austerity budgets on September 29, including a general strike in Spain.