President Nicolas Sarkozy enacted a new law on November 10 that increases the retirement age of French workers. The move came just days after more than a million workers and students mobilised across France against the law. The November 6 protests were the eighth national strike and protests since September 7 against the bill — although it was the easily the smallest of the mobilisations.
Workers & Unions
More than 5000 workers from across Venezuela marched to the Venezuelan National Assembly in Caracas on November 9. The rally was organised by the National Workers’ Union (UNT). The central demand of the rally was that a radical new labour law currently tabled in parliament, which would greatly benefit Venezuelan workers, be passed. The September 26 election resulted in the pro-revolutionary forces losing the required two-thirds majority required in parliament to pass entirely new (organic) laws, although they still have an overall majority.
British rail unions branded Transport for London (TfL) “barefaced liars" after its management attempted to claim minimum disruption during a 24-hour strike on November 3. London Underground services were crippled by strike action called by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) over safety-critical job cuts. All 11 of the London’s Tube lines were hit by the walkout. The action was the latest in a series of strikes over plans to axe up to 2000 jobs, including 800 station staff.
Construction workers marched through the Sydney CBD on November 3 to call on the state government to protect pay entitlements and safety standards on the $6 billion Barangaroo development on Sydney’s former wharves. Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) state secretary Mal Tulloch told the rally that the development could play a critical role in turning around the NSW building industry’s race to the bottom in safety standards and decent working conditions.
Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan called the proposed labour law review by the human resources Ministry was “draconian”, klick4Malaysia.com said on October 1. Arutchelvan said it would destroy the few rights workers have left. “This is the worse amendment in 40 years”, Arutchelvan told a press conference on October 1. He was joined by representatives from the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, the Bar Council, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas and Suara Rakyat Malaysia, klick4malaysia.com said.
Thirty-three miners trapped 700 metres underground in northern Chile have been told they will not be paid in coming months, despite the fact it is expected to take close to two-and-a-half months to pull them out. Representatives of the San Esteban mining company told the workers’ union that no guarantees can be given that the wages of those miners stuck underground since August 5 will be paid. The company insists it is bankrupt.
One year after workers occupied the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight in protest at the company’s decision to cease production, a new organisation, Sureblades set up by former Vestas employees has risen from the ashes. It is due to start making blades within two months just yards from the closed factory. Sureblades has been driven by Sean McDonagh, a National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) member. He was one of the sacked Vestas workers involved in the occupation, during which he ran operations from outside the gates.
Trade unionists from more than 30 countries met in Caracas for the Third Union Encounter of Our Americas also expressed their support for Venezuela and willingness to mobilise to stop any possible aggression. “In the face of any attempt by Colombia or any other country, to obstruct the revolution [in Venezuela], the working class will come out bravely to defend the process and the country”, said Marcela Maspero, a national coordinator of National Union of Workers (UNT) in Venezuela.