The Guardian 16 February, 2005

Global briefs

SOUTH AFRICA: A community of 400 people who were evicted as labour tenants in Mpumalanga (east of Pretoria) will get their land back this month. The land claims commission in Mpumalanga will hand over land at Blaauwbank farm in Stoffberg to the Kwasibange community on February 19. Fifty-two families will get back portions of the farm. "They had occupied the land as labour tenants on different portions of the farm before being evicted between 1972 and 1975", said Frank Lesenyego, spokesperson for the regional land claims commission. The community had first moved onto the land in 1943 and for more than 10 years had raised farm animals and crops and engaged in hunting and fishing, before the evictions started.

CHINA: At the Beijing Municipal People's Congress last week, 22 local legislators called on the Beijing city government to improve conditions for poverty-stricken retired workers, farmers, and farmers-turned-workers. "Retired workers at previous community-owned factories, some 150,000 in Beijing, received less than $48 a month in pensions", said congress deputy Fei Wenyong. "Their retirement pay was lower than the minimum living guarantee in Beijing, which is $60." Fei pointed out that retirees who began working in the 1950s and 1960s did not even have medical insurance, and unlike workers in state-owned factories, they were not covered by any kind of social security system. Other deputies called for lessening the gap between the pensions of retired production workers and those of retired government employees, as well as better compensation and re-training for farmers who have lost their land.

CANADA: Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) President Buzz Hargrove is calling on Prime Minister Paul Martin to continue to press for same-sex marriage legislation. Canadians are counting on their politicians to do the right thing, Hargrove said in a letter to the Prime Minister. "And that means protecting the rights of all Canadians." The CAW leader said he is proud that Canada is seen as a world leader for equal rights. "Same sex marriage is an important step in the struggle for equality", he added. "It's time to take it."

GERMANY: The German Federal Labor Agency said that unemployment topped the 5 million mark, or 12.1 per cent, last month — a level not reached since before Hitler took power in the 1930s. In the formerly socialist eastern Germany, the rate was 20.5 per cent, while in the west it was just under 10 per cent. The government said part of the rise was due to including among the unemployed 230,000 able-bodied recipients of social welfare benefits who are not currently working. Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder made cutting unemployment a campaign plank in his 1998 election campaign. But following his 2003 re-election, he spearheaded sharp social benefit cuts and instituted compulsory municipal work programs for recipients.

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