World Notes: August 2

United Kingdom: Unions pressure Labor Party

Union general secretaries winnowed through some 4,000 proposals before submitting 120 demands to government ministers at the Labor Party’s National Policy Forum held July 25-26 at Warwick University. Voting as a block, the unions achieved passage of a short list of proposals to be submitted to the next Labor Party convention.

The Forum was receptive because unions currently pay 90 percent of Labor Party expenses. Among the demands were scrapping National Health Service prescription charges, applying the minimum wage to younger workers and inserting fair employment clauses in procurement contracts.

Grim words from Prime Minister Gordon Brown as to excessive militancy suggested to the UK Guardian that many proposals may not be incorporated into the party’s final electoral program.



South Korea: Labor actions sweep country

Labor actions swept across South Korea during July. Hospital workers protesting U.S. beef used in hospitals carried out a one-day strike July 23. The next day the police announced the imminent arrest of officials of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions for their part in organizing recent strikes, marches and demonstrations against beef imported from the United States.

The Korea Times said hundreds of police received awards for what unions regard as police repression. Unionized Hyundai auto workers carried out a six-hour strike on July 18, their fourth work stoppage during July, this one causing losses of $87 million. Their union is demanding salary increases and a seat on the Hyundai board.



South Africa: Unions look at safety, wages & prices

The National Union of Mineworkers announced in July that if arbitration fails, disputes with three mining corporations: DeBeers (diamonds), Exxaro (coal) and Kumba Resources (iron) would lead to strike actions.

With no prosecutions for 87 mine deaths so far this year and 1,500 deaths over five years, safety is at issue, especially for miners at Gold Fields set to strike in August.

LabourStart said rising prices over two months — electricity, 27.5 percent; food, 16.8 percent and fuel, 37 percent — triggered nationwide demonstrations in many cities, called by the COSATU labor federation. The tens of thousands who took to the streets on July 9 are aiming for a national strike on Aug. 6.



Occupied West Bank: New settlement coming

In late July an Israeli planning committee authorized a settlement in the occupied West Bank that, if approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, would be the first there in 10 years. Construction would violate Israeli promises made last year during peace talks.

The Al Jazeera report notes that some Israelis removed from Gaza in 2005 are already living at the site.

The decision came in the wake of West Bank demonstrations in July against the Israeli “separation wall,” condemned as a violation of international law four years ago by the International Court of Justice. Ten percent of West Bank land now lies on the Israeli side of the wall.



Mexico: Monopoly has advantages

Monsanto Corporation, purveyor of 90 percent of the world’s genetically modified (GM) seeds, announced in July its readiness to begin trials of GM seed corn. Under its as yet unpublished “Regimen for the Special Protection of Corn,” Monsanto bears no responsibility for adverse effects of GM crops.

Silvia Ribiero, writing in rebelion.org, notes studies demonstrating the mediocre productivity of GM varieties. Their advantage stems from likely contamination of native crops by GM varieties and farmers being forced to pay royalties to the corporation.

Reassurances from Mexican agricultural and environmental officials as to GM safety testify to corporate pressures, according to Greenpeace Mexico. At risk are small farmers and native strains of corn. Greenpeace called for bio-monitoring of GM seeds.



Cuba: U.S. stonewalls prisoners’ wives

Supporters of the five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in U.S. jails have denounced U.S. refusal over eight years for Olga Salanueva and over nine years for Adriana Perez to visit husbands Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez in jail.

On July 16, U.S. officials in Havana spurned Salanueva’s ninth application for a visa; now she is “permanently ineligible.” Perez’ ninth application is pending.

Antiterroristas, a Cuban web site, reported on a recent wave of worldwide demonstrations in support for the women, joined by Nobel Prize winners, parliamentarians and intellectuals.

In Washington, retired Army colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, associated with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, said, “Why are we frightened of two women who want to see their husbands?”



World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @roadrunner.com)