Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the September 11, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper


Leaders of the Collective Transport Federation of Nicaragua spent the weekend of Aug. 30 meeting with unionists around Nicaragua to build solidarity for their two-week strike. Bus drivers stopped work Aug. 21 after the right-wing government imposed 72 new bus routes without any studies showing that this would improve service.

The strike is centered in northern and central Nicaragua. But buses have blocked roads in the capital city of Managua for days. Government officials say the strike is costing businesses $1 million every day.

On Aug. 31, Transport Federation leader Antonio Betanco warned that the drivers would step up actions. "The civic way will end if in a determined moment the government does not respond," he said.

Negotiations broke down on Aug. 26 when the government insisted on allowing scab drivers to attend talks.


Nine unions representing 1.5 million bank workers launched a two-day strike on Aug. 28 to demand an end to bank privatizations. The bank workers are also demanding better pensions. Sixty thousand bank branches across India were shut for the two days. The strike paralyzed all banking activity, including the foreign-exchange markets. Unions estimate that $16.6 billion of transactions were stopped.

The Indian government is planning to set up private banks across the country, including privatizing banks in rural areas. "We do not need any more banks in the country," said All India Bank Employees Association General Secretary S. S. Dhopeshwarkar.

The strike provoked rage from the business elite. "Such strikes are uncalled for," quipped Ram Gandhi, president of the Indian Merchants Chamber. "With the advent of globalization we cannot afford so many bank holidays and bank strikes." The IMC is calling for the government to declare bank strikes illegal.

India's government opened banking to privatization as part of its International-Monetary-Fund-backed "free market reforms" in 1991. The union has threatened further actions if its demands are not met.


The Egyptian government arrested militant tenant farmer leader Kamal Khalil on Aug. 29 on charges of "spreading ideas that are hostile to the government and inciting farmers to resist the authorities," according to the Egyptian Land Center for Human Rights. Khalil's arrest brings the total number of farmer activists arrested to 822.

Protests have erupted over a land-reform law that allows landlords to raise rents and evict tenants for the first time since the 1950s. The law was passed in 1992, but only goes into effect in October.

On Aug. 21, opposition to the law broke into open rebellion when hundreds of people in the Delta village of Harbit burned an Agriculture Ministry building to the ground. Two hundred people were arrested after that action.

In June, state security forces arrested four opponents of the land reform for "promoting ideas intended to incite a social class to use violence against other classes." Those activists, including the director of the Al-Watan Al-Arabi Information Center in Cairo, remain in prison.


The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is preparing to strike in September unless Canada Postal Corp. hires more full-time workers and turn over a greater share of its increasing profits to workers. The CUPW represents 45,000 postal workers.

The union's demands include an end to overtime for part- time workers and a commitment to turn 1,500 part-time jobs to full-time. They are pushing for wage hikes of 9 percent over the life of an 18-month contract.

On the other side, postal bosses want to cut $200 million from operating costs, amounting to thousands of full-time job cuts, the CUPW says.


Workers in France face the task of holding elected officials to their promises. Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was elected in May on the heels of a year-long campaign of strikes and demonstrations against austerity. Now he is convening a national conference on reducing the work week to 35 hours.

The Socialist Party won elections largely by echoing demands raised by unionists in the streets during scores of militant street and job actions. But a month after the elections, Jospin said he would phase in the shorter work week over the course of his term, which ends in 2002.

The General Workers' Confederation pledged that workers would mobilize in October to fight for the shorter work week and pay raises. CGT leader Louis Viannet called for "united action" with other unions to keep up the pressure.

The fight won't be easy. Bosses are panicky at the prospect of paying overtime and taxes for employees working more than 35 hours. They plan to hold their own organizing meeting--a national conference of business owners--in September.


Forty African immigrants launched a hunger strike in Melun, France, on Aug. 26 to protest their pending deportation. The hunger strike took place in a detention center near the Paris regional airport of Roissy.

Amadou Dieye, from Mauritania, told reporters many of the hunger strikers had family living in France. Hundreds of immigrants have staged hunger strikes to protest harsh anti- immigrant legislation passed in 1993. Those laws have been the target of protests and strikes in both France and Africa.


Tens of thousands of teachers and health-care workers stayed home Aug. 27 in a bid to hold the government to promises it made last fall. Public clinics and hospitals suspended all non-emergency treatment. Schools in the capital city of Bogota were empty.

The unions say the government failed to live up to its side of a pact made last fall, after hundreds of thousands of state workers went on strike. Union leader Saul Pe=A4a says health workers are the only public-sector employees who still have not received their 20-percent raise. "We reached the accord, but instead of payment people tell us that the case is being studied," he said.

The strikes were part of a series that have battered the government. A six-day truckers' strike paralyzed the Pacific port city of Buenaventura in mid-August. And on Aug. 28, telecommunications workers walked off the job to protest privatization.


Over 100 activists from 15 Western European countries and South Africa traveled from Brussels, Belgium, to the Kurdish town of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey. The delegation arrived in Diyarbakir on Sept. 1 to mark World Peace Day by calling for a peaceful settlement to Turkey's genocidal war against the Kurdish population.

Over 300 delegates originally were to travel from Brussels to Turkey by train. Among the delegates were Bishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa and French human-rights activist Danielle Mitterand.

But just days before the caravan was scheduled to leave, the German government banned the train trip--saying it would not allow "foreign passengers" through German territory. Interior Minister Manfred Kanther said the activists of the Peace Train were supporters of the Kurdish Workers Party, regarded by the German ruling class as a terrorist organization.

On Aug. 28, one-third of the original delegation flew to Ankara on the renamed "Peace Flight." Turkish police vowed to repress any demonstrations on World Peace Day. Dozens of Kurdish activists were arrested in Diyarbakir in the days before the Peace Train's arrival.

The Peace Train was organized by the German human-rights group Hanover Appeal.


By a vote of 49 to nine, the Haitian parliament rejected Ericq Pierre as prime minister in late August. The previous prime minister, Rosny Smarth, had resigned after a withering barrage of public criticism, general strikes and all sorts of protests.

The Haitian people had made it clear that they firmly totally oppose the imperialists' plan to "restructure'' the Haitian economy, privatize the profitable state-owned sectors like the telephone company and abandon any service that isn't profitable.

Smarth was the government official most associated with this plan, which the popular organizations in Haiti called a "plan of death.''

Ericq Pierre was a senior official in the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington for years. One of this bank's specialties is to develop restructuring plans.

Pierre lived in Washington so long that he didn't even satisfy the Haitian constitutional requirement that a prime minister reside in Haiti for five continuous years before assuming the post.

U.S. imperialism might feel its power could overcome any puny obstacles put up by the Haitian constitution. But Haitian politicians know they have to fear the wrath of the people. Accepting Pierre as prime minister could have set off an eruption.

G. Dunkel

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10 Sep 1997

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