Monday, November 9, 2009

Unionism of Resistance - France's SUD

Unionism of resistance

SUD-Solidaires and radical labor action in France

By Alain BARON
1 July 2009
International Socialist Review

IN JANUARY 2009, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy launched a vicious attack against the railway workers’ union SUD (Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques in French), accusing them of having completely paralyzed one of the main train stations in Paris and, by extension, rail transport into and out of other parts of France. Since this time, the national union “Solidaires,” of which SUD union locals are a part, is periodically accused by various journalists, politicians, and union bureaucrats of being the source of radical forms of struggle developing in France.


Actually, activists belonging to a number of different unions, as well as non-unionized activists, are participating in these actions. If radical forms of struggle are developing in France, it’s primarily due to the fact that workers are facing large-scale attacks, including plant closings, job cuts, wage freezes or cuts, unraveling of the social safety net, etc. And this at a time when the heads of corporations are pocketing huge sums of money.

The permanence of a class struggle tradition

These radical struggles stem in part from the fact that every French person has experienced, at least once in his life, strikes that have partially or totally paralyzed the country. The collective memory of the general strikes of 1936 and 1968 has been preserved through long strikes in particular sectors such as those in 1974, 1995, 2003, and 2007, as well as by periodic mobilizations by youth. For part of the population, these struggles contribute to keeping the idea alive that another world was possible, free from exploitation and oppression.

In the face of this radicalism, the bourgeoisie was forced to agree to not only a series of social rights, but also to write into the constitution a recognition of the right to strike to any group of workers, whether or not they are represented by a union. Of course, this does not prevent the layoffs of strikers for other reasons, especially in small workplaces. But from a strictly legal point of view, it is possible for workers to go on strike at any time.1 This situation has facilitated the construction of radical trade-union currents in France, which have in turn maintained the tradition of class struggle.

The birth of an alternative trade unionism

The union opposition current out of which the SUD unions formed was for a long time most prominent in the national union CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail in French).2 In 1988, during a massive strike in the postal sector, in which decisions were being made in general assemblies, the national leadership of the CFDT suspended its Paris affiliate. Few of the suspended unionists were ready to join another parent union. To continue to develop a fighting trade unionism, they decided to create a new union organization in the postal and telecommunications sectors. The acronym SUD reflected three of the principal values that workers aim to promote:

“S,” as in “solidarity,” to indicate that workers want to build a unionism that doesn’t limit itself to a particular profession, but to organize with workers from other sectors too. A unionism that seeks alliances with other unions and social movements: the rights of women, immigrants, the homeless, the unemployed, etc.

“U,” as in “unified,” to indicate workers’ desire to end sectarianism between organizations, and to seek to work together. This desire for unity is not limited to other union organizations, but is extended to other coalitions and political parties, which, for example, was evident in the 2005 mobilization against the European Treaty.

“D,” as in “democratic,” to leave control over the struggle to the workers themselves, and to fight all forms of bureaucracy inside the union. Necessary to this process is the absence of material advantages for union leaders and limits on their time in office. Different opinions must be able to be expressed in the organization, in an attempt to find the points at which at least partial consensus can be reached.

These three values can only be put into practice by building a unionism rigorously independent of the state. For the same reason, SUD refuses to be subordinate to any political party.3

Not long after its creation, this initial SUD union has became the second most important union in the postal and telecommunications sectors.

Solidaires: a new national union

With the same model used in the postal service and telecommunications, SUD unions were soon constituted in other sectors like health care and the railways. In 1998, the various SUD union locals joined with other unions who were not affiliated with a national union, notably including the tax collectors’ union. This resulted in the creation of Solidaires as a parent union. Today forty-four national unions, in the public and private sectors, are grouped under its umbrella—each with locals cooperating at citywide and regional levels. Solidaires organizes more than 90,000 workers today, and is in fact the fifth most important union in France.4 Part of Solidaire’s strength comes from its position in strategic sectors like the post, telecommunications, railways, tax collection, and health care, as well as its links with numerous social movements.

Solidaires’ general orientation

In addition to struggles around wages and employment, one of Solidaires’ main concerns is the defense and improvement of public services, which traditionally plays an important role in France in the redistribution of wealth. It also goes on the offensive against cuts to social welfare and old-age pensions, which undermine principles of solidarity, create insecurity, and limit access to services for certain groups.

Solidaires plays a significant role in coalitions struggling for the rights of women, immigrant workers, those with inadequate housing, etc. The unionism of Solidaires seeks to combine the daily struggles, with their short-term objectives, to broader struggles aiming to affect the global balance of class forces. During the great strikes over the defense of old-age pensions, we systematically sought to coordinate the struggle at a national level. In effect, the combined experience of the workers’ movement demonstrates that only mass mobilizations are able to simultaneously win reforms and open the way to a world free from capitalism.

“Workers of all countries…”

In the same way that our activity does not stop at the doors of the individual workplace, it is not limited by national borders. Facing a globalized capitalism, the struggle for sharing the wealth must necessarily be built at the European and worldwide levels. Soldaires is without doubt the French union that is most involved in the global justice movement and the social forums. Naturally, we seek to establish relationships with unions and social movements in other countries, particularly where we are fighting the same multinational corporations.

An activist in the LCR (Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire), and now the NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste), Alain Baron participated in the creation of SUD-PTT. He is a member of the international outreach committee of Solidaires.

1 A legal restriction was actually instituted in public services and administration, requiring unionists to submit written notice of plans to participate in a strike action several days in advance. But when the balance of forces is sufficient, this limitation of the right to strike is not always respected.

2 In France, in a single workplace, a worker can can choose which union to join.

3 A certain number of Solidaires activists are are members or former members of various left political currents (libertarians, revolutionary socialists, ex-Maoists, Trotskyists, New Anticapitalist Party members, environmental activists, etc.). But they only represent these currents as individuals and cannot speak on behalf of their parties if they hold positions in the union.

4 The two main national unions are the CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail in French) and the CFDT which have about eight times more members than Solidaires.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

BHP and South Australian Govenment Agree to Establish a Prison “Work Release” Program at Olympic Dam

Lisbeth Latham

On October 6, BHP and the South Australian Department of Corrections announced a new agreement allowing BHP to employ prisoners from Port Augusta Prison. The move to allow BHP to employ prisoners raises important questions regarding both the rights of prisoners and the broader rights of workers in Australia. The move also raises questions regarding the character of Australian prisons particularly as there continues to be pushes for prison privatisation in a number of states.


Under the agreement, a small group of prisoners who are close to completing their prison terms would be given the opportunity to work in the BHP refurbishment projects at its Olympic Dam mine site. Aimed primarily at Aboriginal prisoners, the program is an extension of the work camp scheme that has been running from Port Augusta Prison since 1996. As part of the project prisoners would be provided with job training which is nationally recognised. In addition workers could potentially be offered further employment with BHP following their release from prison.
Such “work release” programs already exist in many states, however the program with BHP is the first systematic program with a large employer. According to Brett Collins, from prisoners rights organisation Justice Action, what normally occurs with such programs is that prisoners or their families suggest a possible employer, and the departments of corrections will then determine whether a “work release” is possible.

In response to the announcement elected officials from the Australian Workers Union (AWU), have made a number of critical statement regarding the agreement. Paul Howes, AWU National Secretary, said in a media release on October 7 "any work experience and training opportunities available at Olympic Dam should give first preference to young Australians desperate for a job - and not in prison”. Howes continued "Prison work programs are too often used as a technique by big multinationals to undermine the rights of working people to good well-paid jobs.

Howes is correct in identifying that prison work programs can be used as a mechanism to undermine working conditions. In the US and other countries, the use of prison labour has been used to drive down labour costs and put a down pressure on the wages and conditions of other workers. Such pushes have a significant impact on the use of prison sentences. According to Collins incarceration costs approximately $75, 000 per person per year and about three times that for juveniles. Using prisoners as a labour force would potentially provide a mechanism to offset this cost and indeed function as an incentive to increase sentences to maximise the availability of prison labour.

However by attempting to vilify prisoners as being less worthy than “law abiding” citizens the AWU makes it more difficult to defend the rights of either the prisoners being vilified or the broader section of workers whose rights prisoners are seen as undermining as it makes it even more difficult for them to obtain employment upon release and makes them more likely to have to accept work wherever they are able to obtain it – which will be in non-unionised lower paid sections of the economy.

Despite the potential for prison work programs to be used to increase the control of the state over lives of prisoners, Collins is not opposed to a program that allows some prisoners to engage in the workforce. However Collins says that “prisoners should be given the chance to train in new areas, gain basic education and skills that will enable them to enter the workforce. Many have health problems; drug addictions etc and haven’t worked or completed any education which would assist them later”.

According to Collins such a program, which focuses on handling prisoners’ problems in the community, building capacity and self esteem would have the potential to dramatically reduce the rates of reoffending by tackling the some of the causes. Collins said “we feel that it is important to preserve and support it [work release programs]. It means they can create a nest egg and start supporting their family again”.

BHP’s “work release” program is being used to paint BHP as a good corporate citizen. However a motivation for the program is to find workers for jobs that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to fill, reflecting its potential to undermine wages. However, rather than vilify prisoners, a far more effective approach to defending workers rights is to fight to ensure that prisoners employed on “work release” programs are employed at the prevailing wage rate and conditions of the sector and to ensure that there is no move to attempt to use the programs as additional revenue earners for prisons.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

John Pilger on British Postal Strike

The postal strike is our strike

John Pilger

Published 22 October 2009
Newstatesman

New Labour has done its best to destroy the Post Office as a public institution. Postal workers deserve our solidarity

The postal workers' struggle is as vital for democracy as any national event in recent years. The campaign against them is part of a historic shift from the last vestiges of political democracy in Britain to a corporate world of insecurity and war. If the privateers running the Post Office are allowed to win, the regression that now touches all lives bar the wealthy will quicken its pace. A third of British children now live in low-income or impoverished families. One in five young people is denied hope of a decent job or education.

And now the Brown government is to mount a "fire sale" of public assets and services worth £16bn. Unmatched since Margaret Thatcher's transfer of public wealth to a new gross elite, the sale, or theft, will include the Channel Tunnel rail link, bridges, the student loan bank, school playing fields, libraries and public housing estates. The plunder of the National Health Service and public education is already under way.


The common thread is adherence to the demands of an opulent, sub-criminal minority exposed by the 2008 collapse of Wall Street and of the City of London, now rescued with hundreds of billions in public money and still unregulated with a single stringent condition imposed by the government. Goldman Sachs, which enjoys a personal connection with the Prime Minister, is to give employees record average individual pay and bonus packages of £500,000. The Financial Times now offers a service called How to Spend It.
Best of Britain

None of this is accountable to the public, whose view was expressed at the last election in 2005: New Labour won with the support of barely a fifth of the British adult population. For every five people who voted Labour, eight did not vote at all. This was not apathy, as the media pretend, but a strike by the public - like the postal workers are today on strike. The issues are broadly the same: the bullying and hypocrisy of contagious, undemocratic power.

Since coming to office, New Labour has done its best to destroy the Post Office as a highly productive public institution valued with affection by the British people. Not long ago, you posted a letter anywhere in the country and it reached its destination the following morning. There were two deliveries a day, and collections on Sundays. The best of Britain, which is ordinary life premised on a sense of community, could be found at a local post office, from the Highlands to the Pennines to the inner cities, where pensions, income support, child benefit and incapacity benefit were drawn, and the elderly, the awkward, the inarticulate and the harried were treated humanely.

At my local post office in south London, if an elderly person failed to turn up on pension day, he or she would get a visit from the postmistress, Smita Patel, often with groceries. She did this for almost 20 years until the government closed down this "lifeline of human contact", as the local Labour MP called it, along with more than 150 other local London branches. The Post Office executives who faced the anger of our community at a local church - unknown to us, the decision had already been taken - were not even aware that the Patels made a profit. What mattered was ideology; the branch had to go. Mention of public service brought puzzlement to their faces.

The postal workers, having this year doubled annual profits to £321m, have had to listen to specious lectures from Peter Mandelson, a twice-disgraced figure risen from the murk of New Labour, about "urgent modernisation". The truth is, the Royal Mail offers a quality service at half the price of its privatised rivals Deutsche Post and TNT. In dealing with new technology, postal workers have sought only consultation about their working lives and the right not to be abused - like the postal worker who was spat upon by her manager, then sacked while he was promoted; and the postman with 17 years' service and not a single complaint to his name who was sacked on the spot for failing to wear his cycle helmet. Watch the near frenzy with which your postie now delivers. A middle-aged man has to run much of his route in order to keep to a preordained and unrealistic time. If he fails, he is disciplined and kept in his place by the fear that thousands of jobs are at the whim of managers.
Subversive forces

Communication Workers Union negotiators describe intransigent executives with a hidden agenda - just as the National Coal Board masked Thatcher's strictly political goal of destroying the miners' union. The collaborative journalists' role is unchanged, too. Mark Lawson, who pontificates about middlebrow cultural matters for the BBC and the Guardian and receives many times the remuneration of a postal worker, dispensed a Sun-style diatribe on 10 October. Waffling about the triumph of email and how the postal service was a "bystander" to the internet when, in fact, it has proven itself a commercial beneficiary, Lawson wrote: "The outcome [of the strike] will decide whether Billy Hayes of the CWU will, like [Arthur] Scargill, be remembered as someone who presided over the destruction of the industry he was meant to represent."

The record is clear that Scargill and the miners were fighting against the wholesale destruction of an industry that was long planned for ideological reasons. The miners' enemies included the most subversive, brutal and sinister forces of the British state, aided by journalists - as Lawson's Guardian colleague Seumas Milne documents in his landmark work, The Enemy Within. Postal workers deserve the support of all honest, decent people, who are reminded that they may be next on the list if they remain silent.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Solidaires Appeal for National Demonstration in Paris on October 22

October 22: national demonstration in Paris for employment and against dismissal
Solidaires’ Appeal

Every day, those responsible for the crisis want employees to pay the price: layoffs, partial unemployment, deteriorating working conditions, wage freezes ... _

Meanwhile, the large industrial groups and banks are arrogant with their financial results. The directions of firms benefit from crisis by being able to cheaply restructure and with the wholesale destruction of jobs.


They benefit from public subsidies paid to them without any control or requirement to recompensate.

Given this, it is urgent to demand the employers and the Government to implement alternative policies that prioritize employment and guarantees employees’ purchasing power and improved working conditions ... rather than dividends for shareholders and capital gains for financial markets.

For several months, important struggles have occurred in companies to resist these attacks, particularly in the chemical, pharmaceutical and metal industries.

The Trade Union Solidaires supports those who struggle daily in their companies: Michelin, Rohm and Haas, Goodyear Dunlop, Freescale, Chaffoteaux, Continental, Molex ... and so many others trying to maintain employment or obtain allowances to enable them and their families to survive.

The Trade Union Solidaires fully supports and participates in all initiatives that promote convergence, coordination and development of the mobilizations.

In this sense, with its unions in the chemical pharmaceutical industry, Solidaires calls for mass demonstrations in Paris October 22, as a positive response to the proposal of the CGT (Confédération générale du travail – General Confederation of Labour)for a national demonstration on that day. Already, at several companies, union branches of the CGT and SUD (Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques – Solidarity Unity Democracy) have decided to call together October 22. Solidarity proposes to prepare in as many companies as possible to ensure that October 22 is as united as possible, so that this day is an important step in building a relationship of forces generally.

All Together Thursday, October 22 in Paris.
Meet: 1 pm Place Denfert Rochereau


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International Metal Federation report on International Union Federation meeting on Climate Change

Cut emissions and transform jobs
Oct 20, 2009
Anita Gardner

The transition to a low-carbon economy must guarantee employment and result in the development of new, decent jobs, say participants at global industrial unions' meeting on climate change.

GERMANY: On October 14 and 15, the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) and the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation (EMCEF) organised a conference in Bad Orb, Germany entitled "Cutting Emissions, Transforming Jobs".


The goal of the meeting was to discuss how industrial workers might present a common position at the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Copenhagen Denmark. The UNFCCC COP-15 conference, as it is called, is expected to propose a new set of agreements on greenhouse gas emissions targets to renew or replace those contained within the Kyoto Accord.

Speaking at the meeting, IMF General Secretary Jyrki Raina said, "Our industrial sectors are frequently seen as contributors to the current environmental crisis. Yet it is within these very industries that solutions already exist or are being developed. We want to reduce emissions, while at the same time increasing employment and protecting the environment."

The industrial workers' unions prepared a background discussion document taking into account work that had already been done, such as ICEM's recently-adopted policy on Sustainability. The meeting was structured around five panel discussions: environmental protection, sustainable development, sectoral concerns, sustainable job creation, and just transition.

The lively discussion covered a vast territory, some of the points made include:

* the environmental crisis is as much a failure of global capitalism as the recent and ongoing economic crisis
* good jobs and a clean environment go hand in hand, we will have both; or we will have neither
* developing countries must have their chance to develop. However, their development need not follow the same harmful paths as it did in developed countries that caused the environmental crisis in the first place. International institutions for capital and finance, resurgent protectionism, and restrictions on technology transfer, can create a new era of colonialism if we do not prevent it
* trade unions must hold governments and employers to account, particularly regarding the social dimension of sustainability

The delegates from all four organizations welcomed the opportunity to discuss the social and economic consequences of trying to solve the present environmental crisis. Overall, there was a consensus that industrial sector unions need to make our voices heard in Copenhagen, and particularly to be the champions of the social dimension of sustainable development. While there are certainly concerns within specific industries and regions, and therefore a need for strong Just Transition programs, there are also many opportunities for sustainable job creation.

The ICEM, IMF, EMF and EMCEF will be reviewing the discussion document and comments received over the next couple of weeks. Following this review, we will finalize the materials we will bring to COP-15 in Copenhagen to make our points with the country representatives negotiating the new agreement.

Following the meeting, Manfred Warda, ICEM General Secretary said, "For industrial workers and their unions an important question for changing to a low-carbon economy is who pays for it and who benefits from the transition. We only have one planet and we all have an interest in protecting our future."

Copies of the background paper and presentations delivered at the meeting are published on the IMF website.

Additional information about climate change and the position of industrial workers can be found on the following web links:

www.imfmetal.org/climatechange


http://www.icem.org/en/97-Sustainable-Development-Health-and-Safety

http://www.industrialpolicy.eu/COP15

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fench video of March 19 protests and edorsement of General Strike

I just found this video. (G)rêve Generale is the slogan of the radical wing of the Left and Labour movement. It is a play on words, as Rêve Generale would mean General Dream where as Grêve Generale is General Strike.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian General Strike

October 1, 2009

In the long tradition of Jewish working class involvement in and support for liberation struggles, IJAN-Labor stands in solidarity with the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Local Authorities, and all parties, movements and institutions of Palestinian civil society in Israel, who have called a general strike for today, October 1, 2009.


This strike marks the ninth anniversary of the Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Day in October 2000 when Israeli authorities massacred 13 Palestinian protesters.

The killers have never been brought to justice.

IJAN-Labor also welcomes the Trades Union Congress (U.K.) resolution of 17 September, which endorses the growing movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, and calls for reconsideration of the TUC's relationship with the Histadrut, the Zionist labor federation whose latest crime was to support Israel's attacks on Gaza.

The BDS campaign has been endorsed by a growing number of labor bodies, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Solidaires Industrie (France), UNISON (UK), Transport and General Workers’ Union (UK), Western Australia Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario, six Norwegian trade unions, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Scottish Trades Union Congress, and Intersindical Alternativa de Catalunya.

In the United States, despite growing support from labor organizations and populations across the globe, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win fail to recognize what their British counterpart has now acknowledged: that Israel is a state built on defeating the aspirations and solidarity of working families not only in Israel but internationally.

Often without the knowledge or consent of union members, US Labor officialdom remains a leading accomplice of Israeli apartheid and the Zionist colonialism of which it is part. For more than sixty years, it has closely collaborated with the Histadrut, which has spearheaded — and whitewashed — apartheid, dispossession, ethnic cleansing and exploitation of the Palestinians since the 1920s.

Indeed, the Histadrut (as both employer and union) provided lethal weapons which the South African apartheid government used against Black workers, while at home it either excluded or segregated Arab workers.

Today, in solidarity with the general strike of Palestinian workers in Israel and growing international labor support for BDS, we call on US labor organizations to divest their estimated $5 billion investment in State of Israel Bonds, and to end all relations with the Histadrut.

For more information IJAN Labor, please see our website:
http://www.ijsn.net/C91
If you are interested in participating in IJAN Labor, please email us at:
Labor-IJAN@ijsn.net

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Join Our General Strike on October 1, 2009

by the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel

We would like to bring to your attention the decision of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Local Authorities, all parties, movements and institutions of civil society of the Palestinian minority in Israel, to declare a general strike on October 1, 2009 to mark the 9th anniversary of the Jerusalem and Al Aqsa Day (October 2000) when 13 of Palestinian Arab citizens were killed, and their case is still waiting for justice.


This year we decided to commemorate the memory with a strike. The strike is part of the struggle of the Palestinian minority inside Israel for equal rights as we continue to face home demolitions in the Triangle and the Naqab (Negev); changing of the demography through Judaization of the Galilee and the Triangle; an increase in racial incitement; discrimination against our local authorities; new racist laws, such as the new Nakba law; hebraicizing the Arabic names of our towns and villages, with ultimate disregard of the common and historical Arabic names of these places; selling of Palestinian refugees' properties; and an intensification of the intimidation campaigns and distortion of our national consciousness.

As representatives of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel, we want to stress our opposition to racism, incitement and discrimination . . . and we want to affirm our desire to live in our homeland in dignity.

With our declaration for a general strike, we want to emphasize our stand against the escalating racism and fascist incitement against our Arab population; we want to defend our existence, our rights and our dignity in our homeland which we have no other. We want to make a stand against the denial of our national and historical rights, while calling for the realization of our national and civil rights, our right to remain steadfast and rooted in the land of our forefathers. We call for an end to the policy of expropriation, privatization of land and demolition of our homes.

We assert our need for fundamental equality for the Palestinian Arab minority and equal allocation for the Arab local authorities. We remain resolute against the arrests and investigation campaign of our young people and the systematic attempts to intimidate them and distort their national identity.

The declaration of the general strike also comes to affirm our position regarding the continuing occupation of the Palestinian people in the Palestinian Territory; in support of the Palestinian national cause, an end to occupation including the siege on the Gaza Strip and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

The one day general strike will be highlighted with a main public national march in Arabbeh, which will commence from the Mahmoud Darwish roundabout in Arabbeh (the western roundabout -- in the direction of Sakhnin) at two in the afternoon (14:00) towards the municipal market square (Wadi Salameh Road).

We want to take this opportunity to invite you to join us or send a representative and participate in the march. Your presence is of utmost importance; with the current atmosphere of increased racism and the various statements made by government officials, there is a great fear of a repetition of the scenario of October 2000. We want to avoid this situation, but at the same time, it is time to raise our united voice against racism and discrimination. We ask you to join us in making our just cause known, in order to achieve equality, civil and human rights. Our men were killed and we will not relent and will not rest until justice is served and the truth is revealed and those responsible are punished.

With our sincere hope that you will join us in this important event,

Yours respectfully,

Muhammad Zidan
Chairperson
High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel
Contact: Email: ; Tel: 04 601 3323; Fax: 04 601 3322
[Originally posted at MR Zine]

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Solidaires statement declaring support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign

The following is a rough translation of the statement was issued by Solidaires on October 1. The original statement in French is available on the Solidaires website.

Solidarity enters the international BDS campaign
The National Bureau, convened on September 3, 2009, agreed that the Trade Union Solidaires answer the call of Palestinian civil society and committed to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to pressure Israel to respect international law, end the occupation and its colonization ... The Trade Union Solidaires joins many unions in the world already engaged in this campaign.

By refusing to recognize the right to a state for the Palestinian people, pursuing the colonization of the occupied territories, continuing the construction of a wall that has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, the Israeli Government refuses to obey the law International.

Given this, to achieve a political solution that guarantees the application of international law for both peoples, Palestinian and Israeli within the 1967 borders, requires ethical citizens to conduct a campaign of of nonviolent sanctions.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Solidaires on Crisis and Recovery

The text below is a rough translation of the leaflet issued by the French trade union Solidaires. The original text can be read on the Solidaires' website.

A return under the signs of the crisis

Extreme Reaction!
The opening began with a powerful act, sentencing, on 1 September, of employees at Continental to suspended prison sentences. We are reassured, employers will not be able to transfer production after pocketing state subsidies for years, but they have not been brought to justice!

A few days later we learned that the bank had provisioned billions of euros to pay bonuses to its traders to reward them for their speculation. The banks, which have been saved by public money, that is to say ours, all to the good. The Stock Exchange along with the 10% richest households who own half of the total assets of the French were therefore do not have to worry. But For the 400, 000 people who have been dismissed since the start of the year are right to worry because despite the rhetoric, the crisis is not over for them and the job losses will continue.


The government attacks too. The summer was conducive to mischief, such as changing the legislation on Sunday working. The proposed change of status of La Poste – establishing it as a public-limited company, the first stage of privatization, the announcement of an increase in cost of hospital treatment, reductions in medicine reimbursement, attacks against pensions, excluding losses jobs in the civil service.

The question is whether all this will still continue or if we will be able to bring a halt and force a change in policy. From this point of view, the unity between unions built over the past six months is a considerable asset. However, decisions taken after the great day of 19 March, which saw more than three million people in the street, were not up to the situation and failed to engage in the arm wrestle necessary to make the government yield.

It is the responsibility of the union movement to make proposals for action that enable effective mobilization of employees: supporting the national struggle in progress, to coordinate and prepare an inter-union general strike.
________________________________________
The crisis is not over!
Unsurprisingly, the slightest tremor of the economic situation is presented as the beginning of the end of the crisis. Beyond the indecency of speaking of an end to the crisis while layoffs continue, unemployment explodes and purchasing power decreases, some take their desires for reality.

Financial System has not been cleaned up
The financial crisis seems over. The banks were bailed out with public money and were able to restore their profits without changing their usual behavior. However, nothing has fundamentally solved. Firstly, the problem of "toxic assets" from the subprime crisis is not yet resolved whether in the United States or in Europe. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported in April that there remains 750 billion dollars to depreciate in European banks!

In addition, a number of bombs remain hidden in the financial system. First, the leveraged buyout (LBO), takeovers through debt. In France alone, LBOs accounted for 60 billion Euros, of which half are non-refundable because of the crisis. More generally, banks may suffer the backlash of insolvent companies that cannot honour their debts. On the other hand, banks in countries of Central and Eastern Europe are on the verge of bankruptcy. But these banks belong to large western banks. Finally, the risk of new bubbles is possible because banks have revived in speculative operations, hence the increase in share prices.

Risk of recessionary spiral
The economic crisis is in full swing with the explosion of unemployment (9.4% in France) while the effects of the stimuluses, which in Europe and particularly France, were of low magnitude, are depleted. Governments, in view of budget deficits, are likely to limit government spending, which will inevitably have effects on economic activity. Household debt could no longer play its role of training, because, even beyond the fact that banks are reluctant to lend money in the current situation, households are already heavily indebted and for those who can are instead making precautionary savings.

There is therefore a strong risk that the recession will be fueled by two factors: first household demand will decline because of falling employment and purchasing power and secondly public expenditure cannot substitute for private demand.

In the best case, we will see a generally stagnant economy with mass unemployment for an extended period ... except with the adoption of a radical change in economic policy.

Therefore, the Trade Union Solidaires is fighting for a redistribution of the wealth produced which is favorable to employees with the objective of meeting the social needs and to meet environmental requirements.
________________________________________
Citizen voting on Post Saturday, October 3
The future of public service for all users. Is to translate this idea into reality as the National Committee against the privatization of La Poste has asked the president to hold a referendum on the future of La Poste.

The president decided to ignore this request and moved to have to have the Council of Ministers adopt the bill by July 29, with the intention of having parliament pass it before the end of the year. In this situation, the postal workers have begun a process of mobilization and the National Committee decided to appeal directly to our citizens and organize a referendum October 3 throughout France.

The aim is to force the government to reconsider its position to start a real public debate on the future of public postal service. Many contacts were made, especially with associations of elected officials, and mayors' s engage one after the other to hold consultations on the territory of their municipality.

Pour tous renseignements : http://www.appelpourlaposte.fr For information: http://www.appelpourlaposte.fr
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Carbon tax: inefficient and unfair
For an environmental levy to be effective, it requires both that the amount be a deterrent to encourage people to change their behaviour, and for people to actually have the opportunity to change their behaviour, otherwise this fee is completely unfair. It is clear that the carbon tax that the government wants to build does not meet either of these conditions.

All experts indicate that the amount must be at least € 32 per tonne to be effective. Now we face reality of the government action, who only decided to charge a 17 €. The idea of a green tax is trampled, emptied of its contents and lack inevitable result he will lose all credibility.

Moreover, the fact that this tax does not touch electricity will encourage increased consumption of electricity instead of imposing new building standards and more broadly encouraging restraint in energy consumption. The example of transport which remains the largest emitter of CO2, illustrates the government’s incoherence.

Everyone says it is transferring traffic from road to rail. But the government recently lowered the axle tax and announced additional tax offsets to help businesses on the road. Meanwhile, the SNCF does not recover all its business tax and announced the removal of its 60% least profitable freight wagons.

Consumer behavior will not change if alternatives are not available. To encourage less car use requires the improvement of the quality and speed of mass transport. Lower consumption of energy for heating requires a policy of massive renovation of buildings. Offering a choice for an alternative consumption requires a policy of transferring traffic from the road to more environmentally friendly modes of transport, redirecting investment to renewable energy and environmentally sustainable projects, protection and collective financing of global public goods such as energy, forests, land and water ...

The carbon tax will not stop the rich continuing to behave as before and the other being struck blind for behaviour they have in most cases have not selected and they will often be unable to change.
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Solidaires supports the International Day of mobilization for decent work at the call of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on 7 October
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Retirements the heavy blows are being prepared
François Fillon makes no secret the government wants to postpone the age of retirement to 67 years to the delight of the MEDEF. The Council Directing Retirements (COR) is preparing for the beginning of 2010 a new report discussing its projects in order to end the current pension system. The reforms, or rather counterreforms of Balladur in 1993 and 2003 and by Fillon through the special schemes of 2007 and measures taken for the supplementary pensions in the private sector, have already led to a decrease in the level of pensions.

And yet government and MEDEF want to continue.

The argument is always the same: we should work longer as life expectancy increases. Yet the fact that it increased for several centuries did not previously prevent the reduction of working time or the age of retirement. It is however possible to balance the pension system by increasing slightly the contributions employers. The competitiveness of firms, which we are always hearing of, could at the same time be saved if we lowered the dividends to shareholders, which have increased considerably in recent years, by the same amount.

Obviously the MEDEF and the government deny that they are committed to raising the age of retirement by seven years! More pernicious still is the project discussed the COR, which seeks to overturn the current system to establish a system by points based on "actuarial neutrality”. Each employee would accumulate during his career a number of points whose value is determined by the agency following the retirement needs of the moment. Not only the pension would depend on the entire career and not of the best years, or six months in the public service, but the employee in this system is not guaranteed the amount they will receive. This is now implemented with private sector supplementary pensions.

The introduction of actuarial neutrality, whereby the money collected during the period of retirement must match those paid during working life, involves the introduction of life expectancy at the time of retirement as a variable for calculating pension.

As life expectancy increases, the pension would drop ... requiring workers to work longer. Moreover, such a system would be particularly disadvantageous to women whose life expectancy is higher than men and as they are also victims of discontinuous and precarious careers, could potentially have their pensions amputated.
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Retirement for women: the sham of government communications

Currently, women working in the private sector women receive a two year benefit when they have a child. The government, after trying to challenge this provision, has announced its support.

In fact, it has decided to make the benefit for one year and leave the choice of another year to be taken by either the man or woman.

While women have already a much lower pension than men - 44% of women validate a full pension against 86% of men - such action would further exacerbate inequalities. Moreover, rejecting in the private sphere that which is a public policy is unacceptable.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

French Call for Action to Address the Climate Crisis with Social Justice

This is a rough translation of the call for action in the lead up to Copenhagen posted onto the French trade union Solidaire's website on September 19.

Social Justice and the Climate Emergency – Copenhagen in December 2009
We are at a crossroads. A product of human activity in a model of agricultural production and industrial and industrial societies have developed and spread throughout the planet, global warming threatens the livelihoods and the lives of billions of human beings, and threatens the extinction of millions of species. Already, entire populations are affected, particularly women, indigenous peoples, peasants and, the most disadvantaged in general.

Given this ecological and social crisis, social movements, environmental organizations, politicians and scientists around the world call for urgent and radical action. From December 7 to 12, the UN Conference on Climate Change will be held in Copenhagen. It must set objectives and solutions for implementation internationally to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. To limit temperature increases to 2 ° C temperature over the level of the preindustrial era, beyond this, the runaway climate change will occur and it would not be possible to maintain a liveable temperature on Earth. It is imperative to reduce emissions. According to climatologists, to achieve this limit on temperature increase would require the industrialized countries, primarily responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), reduce their emissions by 25 to 40% by 2020 and 80 to 95% by 2050 (from 1990).


Current policies are deadlocked
So far, the measures implemented and planned by the different states are totally inadequate. The measures advocated in particular by the European Union, which aims to reduce its emissions by only 20% in 2020, fall far short of the challenge. And while their GHG emissions per capita are the first in the world, the proposal of the United States (5% reduction in emissions over the same period) is, in turn, a real provocation vis-à-vis other nations. The solutions being proposed are not credible. Because they rely mainly on market mechanisms, while the economic and financial crisis has once again shown their inability to substitute for public action and collective. The policy of "lead market" international pollution rights is clearly inadequate, and the projects of the European Union and the United States in this regard are the ideological mirage. The technological solutions being put forward are also false solutions. Nuclear power, in addition to being a technology that carries major risks, can be in any case in providing minor contribution to the solution: even an ambitious expansion of nuclear power would result in a marginal reduction in the emission of greenhouse gas. The bio-fuels industry presents many environmental problems and will exacerbate the food crisis, without contributing to lower emissions.

Alternative measures are truly necessary

  • Democratization of the economy, which must be oriented to the satisfaction of social needs and respect for ecological limits, not by profit at any cost, by the dictates of consumerism and high productivity, such an approach implies support for short circuits in the social economy and the cooperative sector;
  • Reorienting investments (including research) to renewable energy, cogeneration, energy efficiency and environmentally sustainable projects, including energy recovery and reductions in energy use;
  • Recognition and protection of global public goods such as energy, the climate, forests, land and water. Stop deforestation, protection of primary forests and oceans, and, in general, protect biodiversity and wild seed;
  • Relocation of economic activities, bring places of residence and labour closer together - use planning, public transport development, limitation of air transport; fair and progressive taxation, national and international energy and transport the most polluting;
  • Back in the regulation of international trade , including ensuring food sovereignty and the massive development of peasant agriculture, North and South;
  • Promotion of a model food alternative to the model of industrialized countries (mainly based on animal protein) in order to reduce the acreage feed, thus reducing GHG emissions in the agricultural sector; remodelling massive buildings and promoting green building.

The climate and social justice must be central to policies implemented
The historical responsibility for this global crisis of the countries of the North and the productivist mode of development must be recognized. Justice and fairness require that the North repays its ecological debt, at a minimum by cancelling the debts of the Third World. The transfer of environmentally friendly technology to the South must be funded and the official development assistance must be increased, although this does not exempt the North’s own targets for reducing emissions. Climate refugees must be recognized and welcomed. Within each country, accompanying measures and social justice are essential so that everyone can cope with changes to be made, in the knowledge that efforts will be shared by all. We must ensure a fair and equitable access to essential goods and services such as energy, distribution should not be left to the market, but by society.


Alternative distribution of wealth should allow a transition to joint ecological economies, North and South. Therefore, a decent job with a decent income must be secured for all. Financial income and wealth should be taxed heavily to generate the resources necessary to transform economies. The management of funds must be democratic and ensure participation of local people. The huge sums invested in rescuing the banking system show that funds exist. Such bold public policy steps must be democratically debated, ignoring the interests of big lobbyists - including hydrocarbons, and establishing industrial production based on need and not profit and fairer distribution of natural wealth. In France, we call associations of environmental protection, trade unions, international solidarity, political organizations, local communities, and more generally every citizen to join the international mobilization and organization of joint initiatives to influence decisions of the Copenhagen summit in December 2009.

Now let us rally for the climate and social justice.

First Signatories:
Acme France (Association pour le Contrat Mondial de l'Eau - Association for the World Contract of Water); AC! (Action Consommation - Consumer Action); Agir ensemble contre le chômage (To Act Together Against Unemployment); AE2D (Agir pour un Environnement et un Développement Durables - To Act for A Durable Environment and Development); Aitec – IPAM (Association Internationale de Techniciens, Experts et Chercheurs – Initiatives Pour un Autre Monde - International association Technicians, Experts and Researchers - Initiatives For another World); Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth); ATTAC France; Avenir Climat (Future Climate); Bizi!; CADTM France (Comité pour l'annulation de la dette du Tiers Monde - Committee for l' cancellation of the debt of the Third world), Cniid (Centre national d'information indépendante sur les déchets - National Centre of Independent Information on Waste); Comité Pérou (Peru Committee), Compagnie NAJE (Nous n'Abandonnerons Jamais l'Espoir – We Will Never Give Up Hope); Confédération Paysanne (Peasant Confederation); Ecorev; Europe solidaire sans frontières (Europe Solidarity without Frontiers); Fac Verte ( ); Fondation Copernic (Copernicus Foundation); Fondation Sciences Citoyennes (Citizens Science Foundation); France Amérique Latine (France Latin America); FSU (Fédération Syndicale Unitaire – United Trade Union Federation); IDD (Immigration Développement Démocratie - Immigration Development Democracy); IERPE (Institut Européen de Recherche sur la Politique de l'Eau - Institute European of Research on Water Policy); LDH (Ligue des Droits de l'Homme - League for Human Rights); Mouvement de la Paix (Peace Movement); MRAP (Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples - Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples); MRJC (Mouvement Rural de Jeunesse Chrétienne – Rural Movement of Christian Youth); RAC-F (Réseau Action Climat – Climate Action Network); Réseau Féministe “Ruptures” (“Ruptures” Feminist Network); Réseau Sortir du Nucléaire (Network to End Nuclear Power); Union Syndicale Solidaires (Trade Union Solidarity); Vélorution Paris Ile-de-France; ZEP (Zone d'Ecologie Populaire – Popular Ecology Area)

Supported by:
Alter Ekolo (Ecologists for Another Europe), FASE (Fédération pour une Alternative Sociale et Ecologique – Federation for a Social and Ecological Alternative), Jeunes Verts (Young Greens), Les Alternatifs (The Alternives), Les Verts (The Greens), Parti de Gauche (Left Party), NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste – New Anti-Capitalist Party), Utopia


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French Union and Social Movement Call for Sanctions Against Israel

Below is the call issued by French Organisations in support of the BDS campaign against Israel. This rough translation is taken from Solidaire's website. it was posted on September 16.

Supporting the call for sanctions against Israel

The National Press Collective for a Just and Lasting Peace between Palestinians and Israelis

The National Collective for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians support the call for sanctions against Israel until it implements international law and universal principles of human rights

The National Collective for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis has focused since its foundation to organize united mobilization for compliance with international law and solidarity with the Palestinian people, relaying in France the voices of actors committed to peace and justice. Our group was also committed to the Palestinian campaign against the Israeli Annexation Wall and to the suspension of the Association Agreements between European Union and Israel.


Four years after the opinion of the International Court of Justice, which declared the illegality of the Wall and settlement, it is clear that our governments have not taken the necessary measures to compel Israel to comply international law. By refusing to recognize the right to a state for the Palestinian people and increasing the colonization of territories illegally occupied by building a wall beyond the green line recognized internationally, with the effect of annexing new territories belonging to Palestine, maintaining barriers that severely limit the right of movement of Palestinians by refusing to recognize the right of return for Palestinian refugees, by discriminating seriously the democratic rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, by prohibiting any economic development, visiting guilty Gaza war crimes against a civilian population already besieged, impoverished and starving for months by an illegal blockade, Israel is sinking ever deeper into denial of all rights to the Palestinian people with impunity.

Therefore, the National Collective for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, as many organizations around the world, supports the demand of civil society and Palestinian politics that sanctions be applied to Israel as part of initiated non-violent boycott, divestment, sanctions, until it respects international law and universal principles of human rights.

The National Collective for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis committed to intensify its efforts to relay the initiative taken by the Palestinian civil society and give a translation into concrete actions. The National Collective calls on all organizations committed to the observance of international law and peace to join and take over his claims, as international law is violated:

  • Boycott Israeli products because they do not meet standards of traceability to distinguish products from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories;
  • Divestitures of foreign companies profiting from the occupation and colonization;
  • Sanctions against Israel, especially suspension of agreements between the European Union and - Israel until human rights violations are ended, stop military cooperation between France and Israel and an embargo on arms sales to Israel

The National Collective calls on all organizations to conduct educational campaigns to mobilize citizens maintaining a non-violent character.

First signatories:
Agir Contre Le Colonialisme Aujourd'hui (Acting Against Colonialism Today ); Alliance For Freedom and Dignity- France (AFD-France); ARAC (Association Republicaine des Anciens Combattants - Republican Association of War Veterans); ATMF (Association des travailleurs maghrébins de France – Association of the Maghrebian Workers of France); ATF (Association des Tunisiens en France – Association of the Tunisians in France); AFPS (Association France Palestine Solidarité – Association France Palestine Solidarity); ANECR (Association nationale des élus communistes et républicains – National Association of Republican and Communist Elected Officials); AJPF (Association pour les jumelages entre les camps de réfugies palestiniens et les villes françaises – Association for Twinning between Palestinian Refugee Camps and French Cities); CCIPPP (Campagne Civile de Protection du Peuple Palestinien – Campaign for the Civil Protection of Palestinian People); CICUP CPPI Saint-Denis (Collectif Paix Palestine Israël – Israel Palestine Peace Collective); FTCR (Droit-Solidarité Fédération des Tunisiens pour une citoyenneté des deux Rives – Right Solidarity Federation of Tunisiens for Citizenship of Tow Banks); FASE (Fédération pour une Alternative Sociale et Ecologique - Federation for a Social and Ecological Alternative); FSU (Fédération Syndicale Unitaire – United Trade Union Federation) GP (Génération Palestine – Palestine Generation) GUPS (Union Générale des Etudiants de Palestine – General Union of the Students of Palestine Courneuve Palestine); La Courneuve-Palestine (); PAOR (Le Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Paix – The Collective of Judeo Arab Citizens for Peace); Les Alternatifs (Alternatives); Les femmes en Noir (Women in Black); Les Verts (The Greens); LDH (Ligue des Droits de l'Homme – League of Human Rights); MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples – Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples); NPA (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste – New Anti-Capitalist Party); Organisation de Femmes Egalité (Organisation for Women’s Equality) PCF (Parti Communiste Français – French Communist Party); PCOF (Parti Communiste des Ouvriers de France - Workers Communist Party of France); Solidarité Palestine 18°; UTIT (Union des Travailleurs Immigres Tunisiens – Union of Tunisian Immigrant Workers); UJFP (Union Juive Française Pour la Paix – French Jewish Union for Peace); Union syndicale Solidaires (Trade Union Solidarity)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Histadrut attempts to reduce international isolation with the adoption of a resolution on "peace" and "cooperation"

Lisbeth Latham

Israel’s main union centre, Histadrut, issued a new resolution on peace and co-operation with Palestine on September 12. The statement comes at a time when both Histadrut and the state of Israel are facing increasing isolation in the international community. The statement reaffirms Histadrut’s previously stated support for a two state solution at the same continuing the union’s ongoing support for the Israeli states occupation and domination of Palestine.


The Histadrut statement addresses four issues:
• Histadrut and the peace process
• Working with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
• Working for Palestinian Rights
• Opposition to Boycott Campaigns

In addition to supporting a two-state solution the Histadrut statement calls for negotiations to be restarted. The statement however fails to address why the negotiations have broken down, while the Histadrut statement calls for the closure of illegal outposts – it makes no reference to Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements or the need to close the existing settlements which continues to be a major obstacle to peace. The Histadrut statement also makes reference to the need for “the PA to show true willingness to negotiate, encourage peace and do its utmost to fight terrorism”. No mention is made of the Israeli war on Gaza earlier this year, which Histadrut supported, or the need engage with Hamas.

The Histadrut statement goes into considerable length to discuss its engagement with Palestinian trade unions, primarily through cooperation with the PGFTU. This relates primarily to the agreement between Histadrut and the PGFTU to split the union fees that Palestinian workers employed inside Israel have been compulsory levied since 1979. This agreement was first signed in 1993 following the Oslo Accords however Histadrut had not made any payments following the start of the second intifada in late 2000, Histadrut and the PGFTU and only began to make payments again following the signing of a new agreement in June 2008. Other collaboration includes join training programs for drivers and carpenters being conducted under the auspices of international union federations.

The statement points to examples Histadrut has acted in the interests of Palestinian workers, such its lobbying the Israeli government to not levy Palestinian workers working inside Israel with a $330 tax and arrangements that Histadrut has secured to provide Palestinian truck drivers with a telephone “hotline” with which facilitate communicate between Isreali military checkpoints within the West Bank, truck drivers and the PGFTU.

Boycott Campaign
The Histadrut statement finally takes aim at the global boycott campaign arguing that the conflict will be resolved by negotiations and dialogue rather than a boycott. The statement argues that the effect of a boycott would be felt first by Palestinian workers and the “West Bank economy”, you might ask, “but what about the impact of a boycott on Gaza?” Well the answer is that it would have zero effect as Gaza has been suffering under a massive sanctions regime since 2007. This is the ultimate irony of Histadrut’s position, it opposes hypothetical sanctions campaigns due to the “possible impact on Palestinian workers” and more importantly on the Israeli economy, but is silent on the very real sanctions implemented by the Isreali state on the people of Gaza.

International Union Responses to Histadrut and its statement
Histadrut’s statement does not signal a shift in its actions within the state of Israel and will not bring any pressure to bare on the Israeli state, but this was never its intented target. The statement is aimed at the global labour movement where growing horror at the actions of the Israeli state against Palestinians has this year alone seen the peak union organisations in Britain, Ireland, Norway, Scotland and South Africa passing motions supporting boycotts and sanctions at some level as well as a growing number of individual unions. In this context Histadrut and its allies in the labour movement has sort to undermine this growing support for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and to help provide ammunition to pro-Zionist section of the labour movement in arguing against the Palestinian solidarity movement. This is the intent of the resolution, immediately after its release it welcomed by the International Trade Union Confederation, and noted positively in the resolution adopted by the British Trade Union Congress in support of sanctions and boycotts against Israel. Histadrut’s need to find more appropriate clothes for its working in protecting the Israeli state from condemnation from union internationally, demonstrates the effectiveness of the BDS campaign as a tactic and that with increased pressure Histadrut may be forced to begin taking action to place pressure on Israeli state to the end the occupation, laying the basis for ongoing unity between Israeli and Palestinian workers to defend their collective interests.

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French Unions Call for a Joint Mobilisation Against the Crisis on October 7

The following declaration was issued on September 8 by six of the 8 confederations that compose the inter-union. It is taken from the Solidaires Website.

Joint Declaration CFDT, CFE-CGC, CGT, FSU, Solidaires, UNSA
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The trade unions CFDT, CFE-CGC, CGT, FSU, Solidaires, UNSA met September 8, 2009 in the continuation of the inter-union initiated in October 2008 and on the basis of the joint statement of January 5, 2009 and the joint communiqué of May 25, 2009.

Despite the omens of an end to the crisis, the economic and social damage worsens, which makes more urgent the fight for employment and against inequality as an alternative to the current employer and government responses.

This is why the unions agreed to continue to act together, especially among employees to initiate and support actions in business, services, professional sectors and territories.

The unions met to agree to continue the joint work undertaken over the past year, in relation to development of analysis, proposals and actions. The unions decided to meet September 28 at the premises of the UNSA and want the 8 unions to be present.

October 7 is the World Day to mobilize workers for decent work as called by the International Trade Union Confederation. The trade unions call on employees to participate massively in the planned protests.


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Monday, September 21, 2009

PFLP salutes British Trades Union Congress for resolution to boycott the occupation state

The statement below was issued by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in response to the British TUC's call on September 17 for Sanctions and Boycotts against Israel.

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine expressed its solidarity and greetings to British workers and the Trades Union Congress of Britain after the annual congress passed a resolution committing to participate in and campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli occupier.


The motion was passed on September 17, 2009 at the annual conference of the TUC, which is comprised of 60 trade unions representing 6.5 million workers in Britain. It condemned the massacres in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 and called for an end to the blockade and siege of Gaza, and demanded a ban on the importation of goods produced in the illegal Israeli occupation settlements in the West Bank, as well as for suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a recent agreement increasing economic ties between the European Union and the occupation state.

In addition, the motion condemned the Histadrut, the Zionist trade union, for supporting the massacre in Gaza and called for a 'review' of the TUC's relationship with Histadrut. The motion was brought by the Fire Brigades Union, which represents 85% of British firefighters and support staff.

This comes following the endorsement of two other national labor federations, COSATU (The Congress of South African Trade Unions) in South Africa and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Ireland.

A spokesperson for the PFLP commended this action by the British TUC and emphasized the importance of working-class solidarity to confront the Zionist occupation and stand alongside Palestinian workers. Palestinian workers and popular classes have always paid the highest price of occupation and oppression, said the spokesperson, and have been the constant source of steadfastness and strength in the Palestinian revolution.

The PFLP spokesperson called upon all trade unions to immediately cut their relations with the Histadrut, noting that the Histadrut is part and parcel of the Zionist state and was formed as part of the colonization of Palestine and is thoroughly integrated into the occupation state. The spokesperson said further that the Histadrut is openly complicit in discrimination against and repression of Palestinian workers and has been throughout its history.

The spokesperson further called upon trade unions around the world to take up this example and build full international isolation of Israel, including full economic, academic, cultural boycott of Israel, divestment of pension funds from Israeli companies, refusing to move Israeli cargo or unload Israeli products, and political pressure to impose sanctions upon the occupation state.

The PFLP spokesperson concluded by expressing the Front's solidarity with these British workers and its commitment to international working class solidarity, noting that the liberation of Palestine is part and parcel of confronting our common enemies of capitalism and imperialism and securing victory for all workers.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

British Trade Union Congress Votes to Support Israel Boycott

The following statement was adopted at the TUC's Congress. The final adopted resolution is a watered down version of the resolution put forward by the Fire Brigades Union which had called for a full consumer boycott.

General Council statement on the Middle East

TUC Congress, Thursday 17 September 2009.

The TUC reiterates its belief that only when a sovereign, independent, democratic contiguous and viable Palestinian state is created, living side by side with a secure Israel will there be a chance for peace and stability in the Middle East. We remain committed to a two-state solution to the crisis in the Middle East and support for the Road Map. We recognize the enormous suffering of the Palestinian people, and we call upon the British Government to make appropriate representations to the international community to secure lasting peace through a negotiated settlement based on mutual respect and self-determination, on justice for the Palestinians and on security for Israel.


The TUC reiterates its condemnation of the Government of Israel's offensive in Gaza which resulted in 1,450 Palestinian deaths and 5,000 injured, as well as the massive, systematic destruction of infrastructure. We also reiterate our condemnation of the rocket attacks from inside Gaza against Israeli civilians. We welcome the findings of the UN investigation which highlighted possible war crimes on both sides of the conflict. The TUC remains concerned about the situation in Gaza and reiterates its opposition to the Israeli blockade, which is in contravention of international law and prevents vital supplies from reaching the people of Gaza. We welcome the contributions unions made earlier this year to the TUC Aid appeal for Gaza.

As a result of the Gaza offensive, the TUC calls on the British Government to:

(a) condemn the Israeli military aggression and the continuing blockade of Gaza;

(b) end arms sales to Israel which reached a value of £18.8 million in 2008, up from £7.7 million in 2007;

(c) seek EU agreement to impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the illegal settlements; and

(d) support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement which provides preferential trade facilities to Israel.

The TUC reiterates our pledge to work in solidarity with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and urges unions to support financially the TUC/PGFTU projects funded through TUC Aid as well as the joint Histadrut-PGFTU projects being developed in several sectors under the auspices of Global Union Federations. We welcome the resolution last year of the longstanding dispute over the remittance of membership subscriptions from the Histadrut to the PGFTU, which was brokered by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and support any stronger relations between the Histadrut and the PGFTU that they wish to develop.

The TUC condemns the Histadrut statement of 13 January 2009 which backed the attacks on Gaza and showed insufficient concern for the level of civilian casualties. At the same time, we recognize the recent Histadrut resolution on peace and co-operation, welcomed by the ITUC, which calls on the Israeli government 'to make concessions and take courageous and concrete steps towards attaining peace.' We will continue to press Histadrut to take a firmer line on these issues. The General Council will raise Congress' concerns with the Histadrut and report back to Congress on future relationships.

To increase the pressure for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, and the removal of the separation wall and the illegal settlements, we will support a boycott (where trade union members should not put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with such products) of those goods and agricultural products that originate in illegal settlements - through developing an effective, targeted consumer-led boycott campaign working closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign - and campaign for disinvestment by companies associated with the occupation as well as engaged in building the separation wall. In undertaking these actions each affiliate will operate within its own aims and objectives and within the law.

We reiterate our encouragement to unions to affiliate to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and to raise greater awareness of the issues.

Minutes and agendas (700 words) issued 17 Sep 2009

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Solidaires Assessment of French Movement in Response to Financial Crisis

The document is an extracts of the text adopted by the National Bureau of Solidaires on July 2. It is an incomplete translation of the text published by Solidaires on September 1.

Together Let Us Make the Assessment - To Be Stronger Tomorrow

This text was adopted at a meeting of the Bureau of National Trade Union Solidaires and all national member organizations. The text is result of both the discussions at the July 2 meeting, and of the discussions of the officers and the National Committees over the past year.

A special year

Two new elements have marked this year 2008/2009 namely:

* The open crisis of the capitalist system. For Solidaires, we do not ask others to accept every detail of our analysis we simply insist on the fact that it is indeed a crisis of economic and political system, not simply a bad period.

* Faced with the consequences of this crisis, the establishment of an national inter-union coordinating committee involving the Confédération Générale du Travail (General Confederation of Labour), Confédération française démocratique du travail (French Democratic Federation of Labour, Force Ouvrière (Workers’ Force), Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (French Confederation of Christian Workers), Confédération générale des cadres (General Confederation of Executives), Union nationale des syndicats autonomes (National Union of Autonomous Unions), Union Syndicale Solidaires (Trade Union Solidaires), Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (United Trade Union Federation), (the Confedration Nationale du Travail – National Confederation of Workers - asked to join the inter-union, but only Solidaires responded positively).


They are obviously not the only highlights of the social events of recent months, others are more traditional: a government that increases the handouts to the bosses and the rich; employers leading class struggle without interruption and reaping benefits, and employee-resistance – many mobilizations, company by company, sector by sector, but do not extend beyond national days of action, largely for lack of direction offered by the union movement.

And the employers? They are fine, thank you.

* 360 billion made available in a few days for bankers
* 32 billion "aid to employment, each year for employers who dismiss:
* 14 billion tax package that benefits the rich
* 8 billion in business taxes that will no longer be paid,

In France, according to the National Institute of Economics and Statistics Studies, the richest 10% of households hold nearly half the total wealth. In enterprises, pay practices have increased the ratio between the bottom and highest paid, from 1 to 20 in 1960-1970 in most countries, they now frequently pass 1 to 300. Financial decision favor the concentration of wealth: the highest paid have had the greatest benefits from tax breaks.

These elements are proof that the class struggle exists, and some are the leading it very effectively themselves. The Government plays an active role, particularly in the public services, all these measures are pro-employer.
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What action for Employees, unemployed, Retirees, and the young?

The situation is mixed.

* There are strikes, so many in the private sector, which calls into question the hazy discussions of the “machine”.
* There is too little commitment to coordination of individual struggles.
* Some of these movements take a more radical turn than usual (struggle is more extended, the pattern of negotiation more heated)
* Most of these actions aim to obtain better compensation, not to deny the layoffs, reflecting a deterioration in the balance of power in terms of alternative responses.
These local strikes are animated by the militants of the various unions.
________________________________________
Strikes sectoral and local

Education / Research, Health / Social, are among the sectors experiencing the most massive long term struggles. We have argued for a convergence in vain.
Within the sectors, there is a strong movement trade union unity – but the limits of this unity are also set within the framework of the of inter-union at the national level, the member organizations of Solidaires involvement in these movements has combined unitary practice and specific proposals in terms of claims strategy and action. This effort has been met with the same difficulties and the same dissatisfaction...

The Strikes of Undocumented workers continue. More than a year after the beginning of this movement, and despite the collective efforts of several trade union, the union movement collectively has not been equal to the challenge: by failing to afford to meet the demands, instead choosing to focus on other areas of our business association, we in fact chose to not sufficiently support this movement led by the most precarious workers.

In Energy, the movement of the spring is new: in its duration, its forms, by the strong involvement of young people. Confusion has been created by the five federations "representative" (which still reject SUD Energy) and in particular the CGT ...

The Chemical Industry is among the sectors most affected by the growth in layoffs. There have been many Strikes (Caterpillar, Continental, Lear, Goodyear, Michelin, etc..)

In the departments, there have been many unit meetings throughout the year. Often designed as mere variations of national calls, but they showed enough in many cases, a willingness to fight, explicitly affirmed by the local organizations of the CGT, FSU, FO and CFDT.

In some cases they have forced the action of the structures of the national inter-union structures. Even if this method returns a pyramidal shape of unionism, a method that we do not want to practice, and even if we are astonished by the policy choices of other unions, we must point out the positions and proposals expressed by Solidaires for months ... despite our support for the jointly formulated demands.
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Appeals Unit

We have not advanced in the construction ... as there has not space for debate between units that would be likely to build momentum. Starting with Businesses on strike, we can try similar approaches to those adopted in other sectors (calling for coordination nationally those units in struggle...). The decline in the practice that encourage the self-organization of struggles does not help. We need to relaunch the debate on this subject, recalling the experience, highlighting everything that goes in that direction ...
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The national inter-union ... and us.

Since the beginning, we have sort to build solidarity for the joint decisionsbelow. Bringing together the unions together was the key to to the success of January 29 and March 19. The failure to turn the pressure up a notch after March 19 marks the unwillingness of the Confederations to attempt a social confrontation with the government and MEDEF (Employers Federation).

May 26 was a non-event, and we cannot overlook because we were among the few organizations that had pushed for an event to also occur in mid-June, an event that was not expected to be called, there was something in May. The prospect of "decentralized initiatives" was not perceived as credible by activist groups, and the day passed unnoticed by the workers. The events of June 13 are obviously also a failure, compared with the relative strengths of which they were drawn from.

But never give up much to say our proposals and demands. The two are inseparable, unity to be effective and pose the united action we believe to be in the right direction.

This does not exclude taking stock of this period, a balance that leaves things simple will the strategy of action chosen be likely to permit victory? Certainly not. That's why we have during those months been proposing to build a nationwide inter-union cross sectoral strike; a proposal that flowed from our thinking on the current situation, the balance of power, but also the experiences of recent years.

We put forward our perspectives for Inter-Union, who departed on a different basis: national support each fight against each company or public service that was to be closed, along with commitment to prepare for an ongoing general strike to take the offensive around unifying demands.
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Demands

Since late 2008, the question of the platform for unity has been a thorny issue. They were reworked in May with the merit of being shorter. But they remain too vague to be an inclusive point to rally support. Many friends say "it would be like in Guadeloupe." Certainly, ... but remember that the united platform consisted of 146 points. It erases the fact that the collective LKP was the culmination of years of “invisible” work and the result of a local situation where the class struggle unions were clearly in the majority ... because this has developed over the years (through the joint organization and development of struggles and battles ... )

We highlight five themes claim:

* Prohibition of layoffs in companies that make profits and establish a new employment guaranteeing salary, seniority and qualifications, with 100% compensation for partial unemployment paid exclusively by employers fund, no job cuts and reduction of working time, as employees should not pay for the crisis while companies earn profits.
* General increase in salaries, pensions, the minimum wage and minimum social, 300 € for everyone immediately, because the employees do not have to pay for the crisis, while management and shareholders reap dividends and still receive exorbitant pay. Increasing wages share of wealth.
* Stop the job cuts in public services and increase funding allocation. Confronting the General Revision of Public Policy and false reforms, we want new guidelines for public services, that the fundamental rights of employment, health, education, transportation, communication are available to all people.
* No further deterioration of our social protection (pension, health, ...), when the financial resources are available to improve them.
* Ending the tax that favors the wealthy deletion of tax shield, the tax package, the tax exemption of overtime, the VAT on basic commodities, instead we need a more progressive tax income and higher taxes for the richest households.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

French Workers Sentenced over Redundancy Protests

Lisbeth Latham

On September 1, French courts sentenced six workers to suspended sentences of between three and six months as a consequence of union protests in April against Continental’s decision to close its tyre plant in Clairox. More than 1,100 workers had been employed at the plant and the closure announcement sparked protests by workers. The six workers, along with a seventh who was acquitted, had all played a leading role in workers resistance to the closure, and had been charged with “destruction of property to influence the state” over the damage to occupied local government offices.


The charges emerged from a protest on April 21, where 200 Continental workers stormed the sub-prefecture office of Compiegne. It is estimated that some €50, 000 in damage was caused during the protest which was part of a four month campaign against the plant closure, which had included 30 different protest actions. The campaign was successful in securing payouts of €50, 000 per worker.

At a court hearing on July 17, General Confederation of Workers (CGT) delegate Xavier Mathieu, who received the longest sentence, had admitted the action was a “slippage” but that it “was not premeditated”.

The sentences have drawn widespread condemnation from across the French Labour movement and the far-left. Following the sentencing, an impromptu protest was held in the town centre by 250 workers and supporters with shouting “we are not thugs”. AFP reported that Mathieu told the crowd that the sentence was “a prime example of the assault of a state that would deny the working class a voice”, he continued “it’s disgusting, there is no justice in this country. I’m angry, they fought with dignity and the government has decided to make an example”.

The protest was also addressed by Olivier Besancenot, Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste spokesperson, who said he was “outraged” at the “provocation” of the sentences. Lutte Ouvrière’s spokesperson Arlette Laguiller said it was unacceptable that workers pay while the company’s leaders brought ruin to the region.

French unions have been unanimous in their opposition to the sentences. The CGT have described the trial as “profoundly unfair” and that while the government is “criminalising those who fight against the unilateral decisions of the shareholders” it is “lenient, even colluding with management who impose their strategic decisions sacrificing plants and employees”. AFP reported Force Ouvriere Secretary General Jean-Claude Mailly’s statement warning against litigiousness in resolving social issues. The Union Solidaires in a statement condemned the sentences, arguing that it was “revenge against activists who had led weeks of struggle” and it was an attempt to “make an example to deter others facing redundancy from fighting”.

The convicted workers have been informed that they will also now face civil proceedings in November to determine whether they will have to pay damages.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lucas Aerospace -- When workers said `no' to military production, `yes' to green jobs

By Rob Marsden

August 22, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance -- Today, the twin drivers of economic recession and the possibility of catastrophic climate change are beginning to push working people towards action. A series of small-scale but high-profile occupations of threatened factories, not just at Vestas wind turbine plant but also at Visteon car plant, where 600 workers took on the might of Ford and won a greatly enhanced redundancy package, show what is possible. In the 1970s workers at Britain's Lucas Aerospace went even further. We look back at the lessons of Lucas Aerospace.



It is clear that if we are to avert catastrophic climate change by moving rapidly to a low-carbon economy, certain industries will have to be wound down or drastically scaled back, for example, the power generation, aviation and car industries. However, rather than this leading to a net loss of jobs, efforts must be put into creating new green jobs or ``converting'' old jobs.

Whereas the priorities of global capitalism dictate the closure of the Isle of Wight’s Vestas wind turbine factory, we ought to be opening or converting hundreds of factories to produce the hardware for harnessing renewable wind and solar energy, and employing tens of thousands of skilled engineers from other industries and training new engineers for the future.

Socially useful production

We had a brief glimpse of how such a transformation might be achieved at Lucas Aerospace in the 1970s, when workers, faced with job losses, drew up their own alternative plan for how they could run the company and turn it over to producing socially useful and environmentally friendly products. Whilst the Lucas Plan never came to fruition, it has important lessons for future struggles to place the working class and the trades unions at the heart of the fight to save the planet.

The Lucas Aerospace conglomerate was one of Europe’s largest designers and manufacturers of military aircraft systems and hardware, with more than 18,000 workers and 15 factories across the UK, centred on Birmingham. Half of its business was in the production of combat aircraft and missile systems for NATO.

Formed in the early 1970s, through a series of takeovers and mergers, it enjoyed government sponsorship to create a strong and efficient aerospace company.

When Lucas management put forward plans to ``rationalise'' the company by sacking up to 20 per cent of the workforce and closing a number of factories, in order to compete on the European market for lucrative NATO contracts, the principal opposition came from the powerful Shop Stewards Combine Committee (SSCC).

The SSCC had grown in importance through the rank and file wage militancy of the early 1970s. Crucial to its success was its ability to call solidarity actions across the whole of Lucas in support of local disputes, such as in 1972 when a three-month strike over pay by workers at the Burnley plant was supported by workplace collections and stoppages across the combine. Management capitulated with a greatly increased wage settlement for the Burnley engineers sparking a round of action for increased pay across the whole of Lucas Aerospace.

Beyond militant unionism

The response of the SSCC to the proposed job losses was to go far beyond the norms of militant trades unionism as, in 1976, it put forward an alternative corporate plan for production across the company. The plan, which had been drawn up by workers on the shopfloor, argued that Lucas should shift from a concentration on military hardware production to the making of socially useful goods. It was two years in the making and drew on the technical expertise and detailed knowledge of the production process of the workforce.

Altogether it contained more than 150 ideas with detailed plans, filling more than 1000 pages. Lucas Aerospace already had a small stake in high-tech medical equipment and the plan sought to develop this as an alternative to weapons systems.

Some of the key elements of the alternative plan in the medical field were:

•Expanded production of kidney dialysis machines, which Lucas already built, together with research into more portable models.
•Manufacture of a life-support system for use in ambulances, based on a design by a former Lucas engineer turned medical doctor.
•Development of a mobility aid for children with Spina Bifida. The ``Hobcart'', as it was called, was actually designed and built by Lucas workers and advance orders for several thousand units were received.
Mike Cooley, a senior designer at Lucas Aerospace and local chair of the technical union TASS, wrote:

“Lucas would not agree to manufacture [the Hobcart] because, they said, it was incompatible with their product range… Mike Parry Evans, its designer, said that it was one of the most enriching experiences of his life when he delivered the Hobcart to a child and saw the pleasure on the child’s face. For the first time in his career he saw the person who was going to benefit from the product he had designed, and he was intimately in contact with a social human problem.” [1]

While the issue of climate change and environmental degradation did not occupy nearly so importance a place in the popular consciousness as it does today, the problem of oil supply was a live issue (following the so-called “oil-crisis” of 1973) and the Lucas workers' plan focused extensively on the development of alternative, renewable energy.

Plans included:

•Efficient wind turbines, drawing on existing expertise in aerodynamics.
•Solar cells and heat pumps.
•The “Power Pack”, which coupled a small internal combustion engine to a stack of batteries to create cars with 80% less emissions and 50% greater fuel economy.
•An efficient method for small-scale electricity generation for use in the developing world.
•A vehicle like a train but with pneumatic tyres allowing it also to travel on roads. Such a vehicle could navigate inclines of 1 in 6, compared with 1 in 80 for a conventional train, offering a huge potential saving against the need to build tunnels or make deep cuttings to lay rails. A prototype was successfully tested on a railway line in East Kent.
Bosses reject needs before profits

However, the importance of the Lucas Plan is not just in the specific technologies and products it proposed but in the questions it raised about production under capitalism and the vision it offered of a new society in which human needs come before the blind pursuit of profit.

Predictably, Lucas Aerospace management opposed the plan. The new product ranges did not fit with the company's existing portfolio. Furthermore, the very idea of the workers collectively articulating their views about company policy in this way, challenging management’s right to manage at a fundamental level, was anathema to the Lucas' bosses.

Whilst significant sections of the labour movement paid lip-service to the concept, the Lucas Plan was to remain a dead letter. The Labour government lauded the plan in public -- indeed, the initial idea for the plan had arisen from a meeting between the Lucas shop stewards and industry minister Tony Benn [2] --- but Labour failed to put its money where its mouth was. It had its own priorities which did not include socially useful production but did require strong military and aerospace industries as part of its fulfilment of NATO obligations.

Long months of negotiations over the plan, meetings with ministers and union officials to win concrete backing for it, gradually sapped the militancy of the Lucas workers. SSCC leaders became increasingly detached from the workforce and workplace organisation began to wither.

With the plan effectively kicked into the long grass, and the influence of the SSCC on the shopfloor in decline, management was determined to break its influence. Lucas Aerospace pushed forward with the job cuts, and activists, including many of the most prominent members of the SSCC and those most associated with the alternative plan, were victimised and sacked.

Climate change

Today, the twin drivers of economic recession and the possibility of catastrophic climate change are beginning to push working people towards action. A series of small-scale but high-profile occupations of threatened factories, not just at Vestas but also at Visteon where 600 workers took on the might of Ford and won a greatly enhanced redundancy package, show what is possible.

It is the role of socialists to participate in these movements, drawing the links between the economic crisis of capitalism and the environmental crisis, and using the lessons of past struggles to offer ideas and leadership to take the struggle forward.

[This article first appeared at the website of Socialist Resistance, a British socialist group and newspaper.]

References

1. Cooley, Michael: Architect or Bee? The Human/Technology Relationship, South End Press, 1982.

2. Coates, Ken: Work-ins, Sit-ins and Industrial Democracy, Spokesman Books, 1981.


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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