The Guardian 27 July, 2005

Global briefs

FINLAND: The national council of the Paper Workers’ Union said the collective agreement it won with the paper industry late last month fulfils its goal of meeting the income standard set by other industries in Finland. The agreement brings to an end a seven-week strike and lockout that has cost the Finnish paper industry over US$33 million. The union said the worst employer demands were defeated: unpaid sick leave, split holidays, 12-hour working days with no overtime pay, and easier layoffs. The union will have more of a say in decisions on outsourcing, a key issue in the dispute.

COLOMBIA: The Colombian attorney general’s office earlier this month ordered six soldiers arrested and charged with homicide in the killing of five civilians in the village of Potosi, in Tolima department, in April 2004. The army claimed the villagers were killed in crossfire during dense foggy conditions, while a military patrol was pursuing left-wing guerrillas. The soldiers claimed the fog prevented them from distinguishing the victims as civilians. But an autopsy showed 17-year-old campesino Albeiro Mendoza was shot at virtually point-blank range. Among the other victims were Mendoza’s wife and six-month-old son. The family was taking the baby to the doctor for an ear infection when they were killed.

SOUTH AFRICA: The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is poised to launch a new union to organise workers in the informal economy. The move was decided at a national workshop in February that brought together COSATU affiliates, former members of the now-disbanded Self-Employed Women’s Union (SEWU), the new union Skhula Sonke, representing seasonal agricultural workers in the Western Cape, and StreetNet, a non-governmental organisation for street vendors. The new union is to represent street vendors and home-based industries. Informal workers in other sectors will join COSATU affiliates in those industries, COSATU national organiser Mncedisi Nontsele said. An estimated 2.3 million South Africans out of a total population of around 43 million work in the informal sector, contributing up to 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

VIETNAM: Economic growth and strengthening the party’s leadership were major topics at the Communist Party of Vietnam’s recently completed Central Committee conference, the Party’s newspaper Nhan Dan reported. The conference emphasised bringing the country out of underdevelopment as quickly as possible, through achieving an annual growth rate of 7.5 percent to 8 percent or more; further developing the productive forces; finalising a legal system to control markets based on socialist guidelines; and speeding national industrialisation and modernisation. The conference called for greater efforts to integrate into the global economy and to develop education, training, sciences and technology. The gathering also emphasised strengthening national unity and the exercise of democracy, as well as strengthening the party’s leadership capabilities.

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