The Guardian 2 February, 2005

Global briefs

GERMANY: An unemployed 25-year-old woman has been threatened with cuts to her unemployment benefit for turning down a job as a sex-worker. The brothel owner had requested an interview with the woman after seeing her resumé on the government's jobseeker database and under Germany's new "mutual obligation" laws you are penalised for refusing to attend.

BOLIVIA: Strikes and roadblocks tied up two major cities last month as residents protested against a government decision to cut fuel subsidies — a move that would raise gas prices by up to 23 percent. Hundreds of thousands of residents joined the protests in the country's economic capital, Santa Cruz, where workers halted public and private transport. In El Alto, demonstrators were also demanding cancellation of the contract with a French firm operating their water system, accusing the company of over-charging and failing to provide service to poor neighbourhoods since it started to operate in Bolivia in 1997. In La Paz, members of the country's largest labour federation, the Bolivian Workers Central, held several peaceful marches. The federation is demanding the resignation of President Carlos Mesa. Mesa became president in October 2003 after Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada resigned in the wake of mass street protests.

GUINEA: Teachers in Guinea began an indefinite strike in January to demand a 40 percent pay raise, the United Nations' IRIN news agency said. Bamba Camara, secretary-general of the Guinean Teachers' Federation, said the strike was also called for full implementation of a 2000 protocol with the government, which set a formula for raising teachers' pay. The average Guinean teacher earns about US$70 a month, but Camara said this is no longer enough to live on, in view of steep increases last year in the price of food and transportation. "Teachers' salaries are laughable, yet they face tough living conditions. Transportation alone eats over half of their salaries, while there are other obligations like rent, electricity and water bills, and you know the price of a bag of rice nowadays is anything between $US17 and $US22 per bag", he said. Soaring food prices, rising electricity costs and unpaid state salaries have resulted in strikes and demonstrations by railway workers, students, mineworkers and others in recent months.

MOLDOVA: A recent poll has found the Communist Party of Moldova (CPRM) is the top political organisation in the former Soviet republic. In a poll by the Moldovan Institute of Public Policy, nearly 40 per cent of respondents in the country said they would vote for the CPRM — which leads the current government — in the next parliamentary election, set down for March 6. The opposition, the Our Moldova alliance, is second with 9.5 percent, followed by the Christian-Democratic People's Party with 7.5 per cent. Others are below 5 percent. In the parliamentary election held in February 2001, Moldova became the first former Soviet republic to re-elect a communist administration. The PCRM won 49.9 per cent of the vote and 71 seats in parliament. Following the election, parliament picked PCRM leader Vladimir Voronin as president.

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