The Guardian 31 August, 2005

Global briefs

BRITAIN: The High Court ruled last week that Gate Gourmet workers can continue to picket on the side of the road leading to the factory, but said pickets at the factory gate would be limited to six. Gate Gourmet, caterer to British Airways, summarily fired 670 workers, mostly Asian women, after they struck spontaneously to protest against the firm’s hiring 130 lower-paid casual workers without informing the union. The company alleged the daily protests outside its Heathrow Airport headquarters were intimidating its staff. A spontaneous strike by other airline workers in support of the catering employees grounded hundreds of British Airways flights. While pointing out that the spontaneous actions were not legal under British labour law, Transport and General Workers Union General Secretary Tony Woodley called in an August 16 London Guardian column for banning "crude union-busting techniques" like those of Gate Gourmet’s bosses. He also urged that workers’ solidarity actions be legalised, consistent with ILO conventions.

COLOMBIA: In an August 9 communiqué marking International Indigenous People’s Day, the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC) reported that so far this year, 66 members of the country’s indigenous communities have been murdered, 16 have disappeared, 111 were wounded, 124 arbitrarily detained, 9250 threatened and 18,602 forcibly displaced. The ONIC communiqué said the food crops of at least 10 indigenous communities had been sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate — used by the government in the US-sponsored campaign against drug cultivation — causing the deaths of two children. ONIC said the majority of abuses against indigenous people were carried out by right-wing paramilitaries or Colombian government forces.

MALI: In an effort to feed 175,000 more children in the most economically distressed parts of Mali, the UN World Food Program last week nearly doubled its emergency appeal for the West African country to $US13.6 million. "The international community must respond now to avoid a humanitarian crisis", said WFP Mali Country Director Pablo Recalde. "This cyclical food shortage in an already burdened country will only further weaken the livelihoods of rural families unless we act immediately."

USA: In a victory for free speech on the Internet, a New York man ordered to transfer the domain name to the Reverend Jerry Falwell will be allowed to keep the web site, the US Court of Appeals has ruled. The man, Christopher Lamparello, runs a site that criticises the extreme right-wing Falwell’s reactionary views on homosexuality. Lamparello sued in the federal court in Virginia to keep the domain name after a Domain Dispute Resolution panel ruled in Falwell’s favour. "Lamparello’s website looks nothing like Falwell’s", the court ruled last week. "This is a victory for First Amendments rights on the Internet", said Lamparello’s lawyer Paul Levy from the Public Citizen organisation. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Intellectual Property Law Faculty among other organisations defended Lamarello’s site with pro bono "friends of the court" briefs.

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