From Socialist Voice, June 2011

The world of workers

Guatemala

Violence against trade unions that organise workers in the banana industry is increasing. On 26 May, Idar Joel Hernández Godoy, finance secretary of the banana workers’ union, SITRABI, was assassinated by a gunman on a motorcycle while driving through the village of Cristina to the union office in the town of Morales.
     This follows the murder on 10 April of a SITRABI official, Oscar Humberto González Vásquez, killed by two men on a motorcycle in Nueva Chiriqui, Morales. A member of the SITRABI leadership, Marco Tulio Ramírez, was murdered in September 2007.

Ivory Coast

On 26 April, Basil Mahan Gahé, general secretary of the national trade union centre Dignité, was arrested at his home in Abidjan and taken into detention. The union office was sacked, and many union officers have gone into hiding.
     Since then the International Union of Food Workers and other international and national trade union centres, including the Ivory Coast national centre UGTCI as well as the director-general of the ILO, have contacted the government authorities to demand his release and guarantees of his physical well-being.
     The government of the Ivory Coast has refused to respond, or even to disclose the charges on which he is being held. Basil Mahan Gahé’s only contact with the outside world has been a brief visit from the Red Cross.

Turkey

Repression against workers and their trade unions is nothing new in Turkey. Last month 111 trade union leaders and members, including the president of Tek Gıda-İş (the Turkish food workers’ union), along with four other national officers of the union and twelve branch presidents, and present and former officers of the national centres DİSK (confederation of revolutionary trade unions) and KESK (confederation of public workers’ unions), have been indicted on criminal charges in connection with a demonstration in Ankara on 1 April in support of twelve thousand tobacco workers whose jobs and hard-won rights were eliminated overnight.
     The charges carry prison terms of up to five years. The trials, which began on 3 June, are a massive attack on trade union rights and the rights of all workers.

United States

Workers at Roquette America’s corn-milling plant in Keokuk, Iowa, represented by the BCTGM, have been locked out of their jobs since 28 September for rejecting sweeping management concessions that would permanently roll back their pay and conditions and those of future Roquette workers.
     When the members rejected these proposals, the workers were given a 24-hour ultimatum to approve the company’s final offer—and were then locked out.
     The parent company, the French firm Roquette Frères, is the fourth-largest global manufacturer of starch and sugar derivatives. The company has won numerous awards for “responsibility,” “sustainability,” and the other empty slogans of business jargon. The Keokuk workers have maintained a round-the-clock picket in search of these commitments.

Iraq

The Northern Oil Company of Iraq has forcibly transferred the president of the Kirkuk Oil and Gas Workers’ Union, Jamal Abdul-Jabbar, to a remote site. Jamal recently led a walk-out in support of better rights for contract workers and for a better, safer working environment.
     This forced move is a common tactic of the oil industry in Iraq, in the hope of removing union activists from their positions in the union and deterring other workers from taking action; but international pressure from unions often prevents such management bullying.

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