World Notes: Palestine, China, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Cuba and global union report

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Palestine: Unity gov’t talks recess

Talks in Cairo among 14 Palestinian factions seeking to form a unified transitional government recessed March 14, leaving the Higher Committee made up of heads of the five working committees to continue discussions. Miftah.org said Egyptian sources noted the break in talks was planned and did not signal a breakdown.

While progress was reported on some issues, the two main protagonists, Fatah and Hamas, continued to differ over how and by whom a unity government should be formed, Miftah said.

Meanwhile, U.S. peace activist Tristan Anderson was critically injured when Israeli police shot a teargas canister at his head during a protest against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bilin. Eyewitnesses said Anderson was not near the protesters when he was shot.



China: Pledge better migrant worker policies

Meeting with migrant workers during the National People’s Congress earlier this month, leading Human Resources official Zhang Xiaojian said migrant workers from the countryside will receive the same unemployment benefits available to urban residents, china.com reported.

Migrant workers — mostly assembly-line workers in regions where the economy grew rapidly during boom times — have been hit hardest by the current economic downturn. Xinhua said government figures show some 20 million migrant workers — about 15 percent — have lost their urban jobs and returned home.

The Ministry of Education says it will boost vocational school enrollment by nearly 6 percent to serve 8.6 million students this year, with emphasis on training jobless migrant workers in new skills.



Zimbabwe: Humanitarian crisis continues

The World Health Organization (WHO) said March 6 that some 88,000 Zimbabweans have come down with cholera since August, and nearly 4,000 have died. Observers say many more have undoubtedly gone unreported. While WHO said reported cases and deaths are dropping, it warned that the coming rainy season could trigger an upsurge.

Meanwhile, UNICEF’s food distributor said food security “remains particularly precarious.”

The main religious denominations have joined in urging an end to a “resurgence of politically-motivated acts of violence” that followed formation of the national unity government headed by President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai.



Global: Unions = more pay for women

A new International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report says that while the global pay gap between men and women may reach 22 percent, union membership and inclusion of women in collective bargaining agreements lessens the gap and improves everyone’s income.

“This report clearly confirms the advantage which men and women workers gain from union membership, which is all the more important in the current global economic crisis when jobs and living standards for millions of workers are under severe threat,” said ITUC general secretary Guy Ryder.

The report also found that the global economic crisis is hitting women especially hard, with millions of women domestic and migrant workers losing their jobs, and with cuts in government spending for social programs specially impacting women.

Ireland: Foreign workers hit hardest

As unemployment soars, foreign workers are hit hardest, the Independent reported. The number of foreign workers applying for welfare has grown by 140 percent, compared to a 77 percent rise among native Irish workers. The Immigrant Council of Ireland thinks the picture is even worse, with foreign workers failing to apply for welfare because they fear doing so could hurt their chances to stay in the country.

Unemployment is now the highest since 1999, and economists predict it will worsen this year, possibly reaching 230,000. “The republic used to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, but now has a bigger unemployment problem than 11 other European Union countries,” according to parliamentary deputy Leo Varadkar.



Cuba: Int’l conference highlights regional efforts

Some 1,500 delegates from 45 countries gathered in Havana earlier this month for the 11th International Meeting on Globalization and Development Problems.

Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya highlighted the growing importance of Latin American and Caribbean integration. “Our economies are virtually isolated in the context of the international discussion by groups that monopolize trade,” Zelaya said. “But when we are integrated we can find alternative answers.”

After his country joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) six months ago, Zelaya said, “they began to implement large joint cooperation projects that aim to eliminate illiteracy, rural poverty, and boost the agrarian process of small producers in the countryside.”

ALBA also includes Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. Venezuela originally proposed ALBA as an alternative to the failed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is on vacation. This week’s World Notes compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel @pww.org).