Archive for October 2010
One of my regular readers has reminded me that I don’t cover trade unions enough.
I thought I would have a look at trade union rights in the Middle East, as it’s not a topic covered much in the Western media.
In the West, we take for granted what we have, and what others fought for, 8 hour working day, holidays, etc, the basics, so the Middle East, with its untold wealth and resources is a good starting place.
Despite a massive population, maybe as much as 300 million, we hear little news of the situation of ordinary people and workers in the Middle East.
Not unsurprisingly trade unions and trade unionists have many difficulties in the Middle East, their legal rights are often nonexistent, they are persecuted, attacked and even assassinated.
Attitudes towards trade unions and the treatment of workers is always a good indicator of the health of a society and we find a rather mixed picture when we consider the Middle East.
More often than not ordinary people in the Middle East don’t even have the basic right to join a free trade union, defend their working conditions, let alone strike.
In the end, the picture of workers’ rights in the Middle East is frequently bleak, as the International Trade Union Confederation 2009 survey relates:
“In Lebanon, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, the political tensions and violence are having a negative impact on trade union activities. The offices of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, and some of the houses of its members, were destroyed by bombardments. In Lebanon, the government called on the army after a general strike was called in May that coincided with the aggravation of internal political tensions.
Changes in legislation have continued, but rather slowly. The effective exercise of union rights has accordingly been restricted or non-existent. In Iran, a new law enabling the establishment of free trade unions is being discussed. Promises of new laws guaranteeing increased trade union freedom have still not been kept in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. In Iraq, the new labour code has not been presented to the Parliament; as a result, laws dating back to the former regime that severely restrict trade union activities remain in force. As a general rule throughout the region, migrant workers have no trade union rights. In Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, the governments have brought in measures or proposed reforms aimed at improving the lot of migrant workers, however.
Trade unions are still banned in Saudi Arabia (where only the national workers’ committees are allowed to be set up in companies with over 100 workers), Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Despite the fact that trade union rights are enshrined in constitutions, restrictions remain and trade union pluralism and collective bargaining are virtually non-existent in the region. In Bahrain, for instance, although the government committed itself in 2007 to adopting a law allowing collective bargaining, the law has still not been adopted.
The right to strike remains limited in Oman, Qatar, Syria and Yemen, whilst it is totally banned in Saudi Arabia and banned in the public sector in the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Kuwait and Qatar. In addition, in many cases the list of essential services in which strikes are banned goes beyond the ILO definition.”
More later on.
I have a soft spot for Bob Crow, he’s a very dedicated trade unionist and speaks his mind.
So The Sun’s statement is all the more enjoyable:
“An article on 15 September reported RMT General Secretary Bob Crow had a union-subsidised home and luxury car.
In fact, Mr Crow’s home has never been subsidised by the union and he does not own a car, union or otherwise, and champions public transport.
We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Mr Crow. “
News is just filtering out from Nigeria that some 13 containers of weapons, more than likely destined for Gaza, have just been intercepted.
Update 1: Now some pearls of wisdom from the ‘moderate’ Hamas leader, Mahmoud Al-Zahar.
Mr. Al-Zahar gives Reuters his views:
“”We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular,” said Zahar, who is one of the group’s most influential and respected voices.
“You do not live like human beings. You do not (even) live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticise us?” he said earlier this week, speaking from his apartment building in the densely populated, Mediterranean city.”
This is definitely not a round up, but some of the things I have read and what others say.
A Very Public Sociologist has a critical guest post from Lawrence Shaw of the NUJ, on Where Now for Trade Union Friends of Israel?
Else where Phil is a solid Labourite and covers the election of Tristram Hunt.
Richard Bartholomew on the English Defence League Rally at Israeli Embassy.
Bob argues for Anti-fascism in a new era.
Café Turco ponders Serbia.
Contested Terrain examines Tea Parties – Racism, Anti-Semitism And The Militia Impulse.
Comrade Osler is a bit pessimistic in Socialism in the sober decade.
Edmund finds Christine O’Donnell somewhat embarrassing.
Engage has a positive potpourri of intelligent and informative posts but here are just two: “As a Jew” logic is not appropriate in public debate – David Hirsh responds to Ran Greenstein and US antizionist academic embraces Holocaust denial.
Eric Reeves has two pieces in Dissent, Darkness Visible: The UN Looks at Darfur but Refuses to See and Arming Khartoum: China’s Complicity in the Darfur Genocide. Here’s an extract:
“Where else do weapons from China and other countries end up? Many of the Janjaweed have been recycled into various paramilitary forces in Darfur, including the Popular Defense Force, the Border Guards, and the Central Police. These are often the vicious enforcers within the camps for displaced persons, and in the urban areas of Darfur—and have recently been implicated in targeted killings of camp leaders. Khartoum makes sure they are never short of weapons or ammunition.
Despite overwhelming evidence, going back five years, China refuses to take responsibility for the conspicuous violations of the Darfur arms embargo, even as Chinese weapons and ammunition—clearly dated after 2005—have continued to flow steadily into the region. This has been established beyond any doubt. Similarly, the UN Security Council and its Darfur Sanctions Committee have done nothing about Khartoum’s five-year violation of the complete ban on offensive military overflights in Darfur. Sensing that UN diplomatic attention—as well as that of the United States, Canada, and the EU—is now focused on the referenda for South Sudan and Abyei, China is brazenly defying multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and doing so by challenging the integrity of an independent UN investigating body—on no factual basis.”
Charlie on SureStart: A Marxist Approach.
Flesh Is Grass has a lovely post, I am not antisemitic because I don’t feel antisemitic and she reminds us of the MacPherson report’s 6.17.
Greens Engage on Gaza’s religious hardliners.
Emily Butselaar at the Index on Censorship considers Wikileaks:
“It’s easy to forget just how many stories WikiLeaks has broken. Its tremendous success has meant the site has often struggled under the volume of users. It has faced down corrupt governments, investment banks and the famously litigious Church of Scientology, made public top-secret internet censorship lists and broken injunctions — as in the case of the press gag granted to UK solicitors Carter Ruck in the interests of their client, Trafigura.”
Judeosphere wonders Does the Internet Undermine Holocaust Denial?
The Guardian has two interesting articles, Secrecy deal with Switzerland could let Britons avoid £40bn in taxes:
“Wealthy Britons could dodge £40bn in tax payments after the UK agreed ahead of negotiations on a tax deal with Switzerland that the country could maintain its traditional banking secrecy.
Thousands of higher rate taxpayers, who pay 50% tax on their income in the UK, will be allowed to keep their secret accounts in Zurich and Geneva and pay a low tax rate after the Treasury failed to secure agreement on sharing bank details.”
“The information commissioner is to meet the Home Office to clarify his concerns over the potential privacy risks involved in a revived Whitehall project to track the email, internet and mobile phone use of everyone in Britain.
Home Office sources say details of the “interception modernisation scheme” are to be published within weeks and will build on Labour’s proposal to require mobile phone and internet service providers to collect and store the “traffic details” of all internet and mobile phone use.
The decision to push ahead with the “Big Brother” surveillance scheme follows pressure from the security services, including MI5 and GCHQ, as well as Scotland Yard, who have argued that it is essential to bring phone-tapping into the internet age.
The Home Office stresses that the scheme would not give the police and security services access to the content of emails or text messages but case-by-case access to the traffic details of who contacted whom at what time and from what location.”
So the current crop of Tories in power are for greater surveillance and letting tax dodgers off with billions.
Hmm, that’s just the start, these lot are seriously trying to out-Tory Maggie Thatcher, not good.
Yet another neofascist gets off scot free:
“Today the District Court in Písek, Czech Republic sentenced Jiří Gaudin, the author of a study entitled “The Final Solution to the Gypsy Question”, to a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. Gaudin had faced up to three years in prison for inciting racial hatred.
Until this year, Gaudin had been a member of the leadership of the ultra-nationalist National Party. The release of his study on “The Final Solution to the Gypsy Question” was celebrated last April by 20 members and promoters of the National Party at Lety, the site of a Nazi concentration camp for Roma during the Second World War.
The publication, which court experts said refers in its title to the Nazi plan to murder European Jews, was adopted as official National Party material last year. At the time, Gaudin said his study was a solid piece of work: “This is not a provocation, it’s a serious scholarly work including contributions from experts who are currently publishing.” The other experts’ names are not listed in the publication; Gaudin said this was because they did not want to encounter problems in their other work as a result of their participation in the project.
The extreme-right National Party entered the Czech political scene in 2002, agitating against the European Union and immigrants for several years before falling apart last autumn.”
Update 1: Jiří Gaudin has form, when he’s not attacking the Roma he likes to bait Muslims too.
Violence and the English Defence League are never far apart, the JC has more:
“Three English Defence League demonstrators have been charged with affray and public order offences after a scuffle with Muslim hecklers at Speakers Corner.
Shortly after their demonstration on Sunday outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, EDL supporters made their way to Hyde Park where Rabbi Nachum Shifren, the so-called “surfing rabbi” from California , gave a short speech.
The rabbi had earlier called Muslims “dogs” and told the EDL “We will never surrender to the sword of Islam.”
Rabbi Shifren was heckled by passers-by and scuffles allegedly broke out with EDL members.”
Update 1: Jennifer Lipman’s blog has an insight into the EDL:
“Hours later, as I watched 300 EDL members march up to the high street, banners in hand, chants of “no surrender” and “death to Allah” deafening, I felt my earlier apprehension to be justified.
To anyone who says the EDL are moderates, not racist, defenders of a way of life not obstructers of another, I’d challenge you to listen to a massive throng of angry men and women shouting “Death to Allah” and other obscenities.
Make no mistake. These people are not moderates, they are extremists. One I spoke to denied being from a violent organisation, but admitted to me that he would be willing to fight “if that’s what it takes”. Looking at the EDL yesterday, I have no doubt.
Outside the Israeli Embassy, they came to hijack a cause – support of Israel and the Jewish community – for their own ends. Yesterday their hatred was for Islam, but tomorrow, who knows.
One member of the counter-demonstration, an Israeli called Yossi Bartel, told me he was there to show that “the EDL are not speaking for Israel and the Jews”.
He’s right, and more of the Jewish community must acknowledge and advertise that point.