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Iran rises up after police kill young woman

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 11:00pm in

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Latest News, Iran

The protests in Iran following the police killing of Mahsa Amini have produced the biggest challenge to the regime in years. Protesters have raised the slogan “Unity, fight back, triumph”, one of the left’s slogans during the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Iran has been boiling with unrest since a wave of mass protests in November 2019, which involved more than 70 cities. In response the regime brutally cracked down on protesters, killing more than 1600 and imprisoning thousands of mostly young activists.

Western sanctions, and the impact of privatisation and government corruption, have led to surging inflation and severe economic hardship. But the outbreak of COVID-19 postponed further revolts.

Then on Tuesday 13 September, a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini was arrested by morality police (Ghasht-e Ershad) while coming out of a metro station in Tehran. Her family, from the western city of Saghez in Kurdistan, were visiting her uncle for a short holiday.

For more than 20 years the regime has terrorised young people, especially women, for the clothes they wear, how they behave, and their make up. Mahsa was arrested because part of her hair was visible outside her hijab.

After the arrest, police forced her into a police van and took her to Vozara police headquarters, which is infamous for its brutal handling of arrestees. This police station was one of the killing and torture centres during the years of terror against the left in the 1980s.

According to police, after Mahsa was brought to the police station, she had a heart attack and collapsed. They took her to the Kasra hospital nearby where doctors declared her brain dead. Some reports say that CT scans indicated she suffered a brain injury following a severe beating.

As news spread, people started gathering in front of the hospital to protest. The authorities kept her alive with machines and ventilators until Friday (part of Iran’s weekend) in order to buy time, hoping the situation might cool down.

Mahsa’s family refused to accept the police explanation and publicly denied she had any history of medical problems. They took her for burial in her home city of Saghez in the western province of Kurdistan 600 kilometres west of Tehran.

Thousands attended her funeral, which turned into a protest where hundreds of women took off their hijabs and burnt them, marching towards the city centre. Protests then erupted in cities across Kurdistan and throughout the country, shouting slogans such as: “Woman, life, freedom”, “Death to the dictator”, “Bread, housing, freedom”, “We are all Mahsa”, “We don’t want the Islamic Republic” and “No hijab, no misogyny, equality, freedom”, “No King, no supreme leader, death to tyrants’’, and many others that show the secular and left-wing nature of the protests.

The protests have since spread to more than 150 Iranian cities. Women are taking the lead, removing their hijabs and standing up to attacks from the police.

Every day, mostly in the evening, people gather and start protesting. They have fought back against attacks from the riot police with anything they can find and freed arrestees from police. But more importantly they are posting footage of the protests to social media for the world to see. Predictably, the regime banned the internet to try to disrupt this.

So far, thousands of young activists have been arrested in the streets or in their homes. The police are even using data from electronic transactions—from buying items by bank card to or using metro or buses—to find the protesters. At least 83 people have been killed since the protests began.

In contrast with the October 2019 uprising, the middle class, who have lost out economically but still see themselves as middle class, are now participating in this revolt. Previously many of them supported the reformists running in elections. Now they see the need to side with the working class because they share their problems with the cost of living.

Economic misery

Iran is a rich country with major oil reserves. But Western sanctions, as well as government corruption and fraud, have caused a severe economic crisis. Just a few weeks before the uprising a massive $4.6 billion fraud was reported at the Mobarekeh steel plant.

Unemployment has grown and the cost of living is spiralling. Official inflation is at 48 per cent and 55 per cent of the population now live below the poverty line.

The public welfare system has almost disappeared. Free school education which existed for the last 60 years is now hard to find and the universal healthcare system no longer works unless you pay for health insurance.

Yet in 2020 the number of millionaires rose by over 20 per cent. Privatisation has seen government officials and their friends buy up many state assets and companies.

The morality police are also nowhere to be seen in the rich areas of Tehran, with their luxury cafés and restaurants, despite just as many women defying the rules on hijab wearing. The wealthy can always use their government connections to avoid arrest or police harassment, unlike the working class people of the city.

Looting and corruption saw thousands of workers lose their jobs at companies including the Haft Tape sugar plant, Hepco heavy machinery plant, Petro-chemical refineries, and the Ahvaz massive steel plant. Workers and their families fought back through long-running strikes and protests.

Many groups of workers have staged courageous strikes in the last year despite fierce repression, including teachers and nurses. Thousands of casual and short term contract workers in the massive oil and petrochemical complex in Asaluyeh on the Persian Gulf coast organised several weeks of strikes in June last year.

On Wednesday, the oil workers’ council that organised last year’s strikes threatened a general strike in the oil industry across Iran, unless the government ends its crackdown on protests. Teachers also unofficially called for a boycott on attending classes and for all of last week, students stayed away from primary schools and high schools.

Workers played a crucial role in the revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979, before Ayatollah Khomeini brutally suppressed the revolution to restabilise Iranian capitalism under the mullahs’ rule. Workers’ strike action has the power to shut down the economy and topple the current regime.

After years of repression, poverty and humiliation, Iran is ready to explode.

By Rouzbeh Abadan

The post Iran rises up after police kill young woman appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Posties pile on the pressure: CWU’s new strike days - News from the Frontline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/09/2022 - 8:58pm in

Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles

Arriva London North: All-out strike! - News from the Frontline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/09/2022 - 4:37am in

Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles

Chris Kaba: no slowing down in the fight for justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/09/2022 - 1:47am in

Oscar Cousins reports from the protest outside New Scotland Yard against the killing by police of Chris Kaba

Felixstowe and Liverpool: the struggle resumes with a vengeance - News from the Frontline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/09/2022 - 1:24am in

Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles

The Queen’s obscene hoard of stolen wealth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 11:10am in

Queen Elizabeth II was a parasite born into a life of privilege, with a household of more than 400 staff and tens of billions in assets.

The Crown Estate controls a $26 billion property portfolio including prime real estate in London, Buckingham Palace, the royal art collection and the seabed out to 19 kilometres from the coast, including the right to lease it to offshore wind or mining projects. While the British government now takes revenue from the estate, it pays the Crown an annual payment in return, currently set at $172 million a year.

That doesn’t include the cost of royal visits or special events, such as the $47 million spent on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier this year in Britain. Her last visit to Australia in 2011 cost taxpayers $1.74 million.

A separate financial empire, called the Duchy of Lancaster and held since 1399, is valued at $1.1 billion and covers 18,000 hectares of farmland and property including the Savoy Estate buildings in central London. Last year it earnt the Queen $40 million. In 1990 the Queen graciously agreed to pay tax on the proceeds, but negotiated a deal with the British government allowing the Duchy to be inherited by her successors untaxed.

A third fortune is held in the Duchy of Cornwall, valued at $1.7 billion and managed by the eldest son of the Monarch.

On top of all this the Queen privately owned the palaces of Balmoral in Scotland and Sandringham in Norfolk. Then there are the Crown Jewels, including the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, one of world’s largest diamonds, stolen in India under the British empire. It’s about time all of the Royals’ filthy loot was taken back.

Royals encouraged Whitlam sacking

Despite her supposedly completely symbolic role, Queen Elizabeth II helped encourage the undemocratic sacking of Australia’s Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

The “Palace Letters”, released to academic Jenny Hocking in 2020 and sent by the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris, reveal that Governor-General John Kerr discussed his options with the Palace in elaborate detail.

The Liberals under Malcolm Fraser had blocked supply in the Senate, ruthlessly disregarding convention in an effort to force Whitlam out. The Palace told Kerr in a letter on 24 September 1975, that “if supply is refused this always makes it constitutionally proper to grant a dissolution”, helping encourage him to act.

Our new King Charles also spoke to Kerr about his options prior to the Dismissal and wrote to him afterwards praising his actions, telling him, “What you did last year was right and the courageous thing to do”. What outrageous contempt for democracy.

The post The Queen’s obscene hoard of stolen wealth appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Can industry-wide bargaining make a difference?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 10:38am in

For decades, industry-wide bargaining was the bedrock of Australia’s industrial relations system.

The system of industry-wide Awards that set wages and conditions allowed unions to stage co-ordinated strikes and industrial campaigns on an industry-wide basis. There were strikes that shut down the entire metal working industry, the whole public transport system, and national port strikes.

Unions were able to use their membership strength at large workplaces to push up wages and conditions across smaller workplaces in the same industry.

It was industry-wide action that won some of the major gains for workers of previous decades, like weekend penalty rates, the five day working week and annual leave.

In 1946-47, six month of industrial action by 20,000 Victorian metalworkers, alongside industrial action in other states, forced the Arbitration Court to reduce working hours to a 40 hours a week, as well as deliver a major wage increase in the nationwide Award.

This set a benchmark that soon flowed on to workers in other industries.

Similarly, in the early 1960s left unions staged rolling industrial action that pushed the Arbitration Commission to deliver workers three week’s annual leave in 1964.

Unions were still able to organise industrial action in pursuit of industry-wide conditions until the 1980s. In 1981 a national strike saw 500,000 metalworkers stop work for 48 hours at around 7000 factories, as part of a campaign that eventually won a shorter 38 hour week.

Current industrial rules ban industry-wide “pattern bargaining”, where unions stage industrial action to demand common wages and conditions across an industry.

The proposal for multi-employer or sector bargaining may loosen this, but likely only for some industries not currently part of enterprise bargaining, like childcare, aged care or other low paid workers.

To seriously improve wages, unions need to bargain industry-wide across every industry—backed with a campaign of militant, defiant strike action.

The post Can industry-wide bargaining make a difference? appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Labor’s delays leave refugees in limbo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 1:14pm in

More than 1500 refugees and asylum-seekers rallied from across the country at Parliament house, Canberra, on 8 September to demand permanent visas for all refugees and asylum-seekers still in limbo on temporary protection, safe haven and bridging visas.

Labor has long promised that all those on TPVs and SHEVs will be granted permanent visas but there is no timeline from the Albanese government. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles repeated Labor’s promise from inside Parliament house as the rally became more restless and increasingly angry.

But Giles still offered no timeline, simply a pledge to “meet our commitment as soon as possible”.

It took the Rudd Labor government five months to announce permanent visas to all those on TPVs in 2008. It should have been easier this time. But Albanese’s five months is up in October.

Predictably, the Opposition immigration spokesperson, Karen Andrews, has accused the Labor government of “removing a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders”. It’s the argument that the Coalition has trotted out since Abbott was elected in 2013.

Labor should have smashed that idea but they are held back by their own timidity, and by their commitment to the fundamental deterrence policies of Operation Sovereign Borders.

Border politics

Labor is delaying the announcement because they are paranoid that more asylum boats will arrive after they dump TPVs and the Coalition will once again go on the offensive about boats and border security.

In 2008, after boats started arriving the Rudd government began the demonisation of people smugglers and went on to re-open the Howard-built detention centre on Christmas Island, which at the time was a designated “excised offshore place” that allowed it to be operated as an offshore detention facility just like Manus Island and Nauru. (The Gillard Labor government re-opened Manus and Nauru in 2012.)

Labor’s fear of boat arrivals is why it has turned boats back with gusto. It’s why new Home Affairs Minister, Clare O’Neil, ignored the social upheaval that had toppled a Sri Lankan dictator and visited Sri Lanka immediately after Labor was elected to provide $5 million to the government to place 4200 GPS trackers on fishing boats.

And it is why the new Labor government is providing scarce fuel, sourced in India, to the Sri Lankan navy patrol boats.

It’s why Labor is going ahead with a multi-million dollar contract with MTC, a private US prison and detention centre operator with an appalling record of human rights abuses, to run refugee matters on Nauru.

Albanese’s pre-election media grab that “You can be strong on borders without being weak on humanity” is an increasingly empty phrase. Labor’s grand compassionate post-election gesture was providing permanent visas to the high-profile Nadesalingam family from Biloela. But for hundreds of other families already in Australia, there is no such compassion.

Despite the promise to grant permanent visas, TPVs holders are still being denied permission to travel. Many have their futures on hold as they have been left waiting for months, and in some cases years, while their temporary visa reapplications are being considered.

Compare the treatment of refugees eking out an existence in the community with Labor’s Job Summit announcement on 2 September that it will “tackle the skills crisis” by increasing permanent migration by 35,000 places. It’s one more measure of Labor’s compassion and one more indication of Labor’s real priorities.

There are 10,000 asylum-seekers who have been rejected under the Coalition’s “fast track” assessment system, living even more precariously on bridging visas or unlawfully on expired bridging visas. Another Labor promise is the fast track system will be scrapped.

However, while Labor recognises the injustice of the fast-track system there has been no commitment to re-assess the rejected 10,000 cases. Labor’s “compassion” is not going to deliver justice for refugees.

Adding to the concerns is the possibility that the bureaucracy of the Home Affairs and immigration departments are resisting any change in policy. The fact the Labor has left Mike Pezzullo, Morrison’s hard man, as secretary of Home Affairs department was always an indication that Labor did not want to rock the immigration boat.

Meanwhile, the machinery of detention grinds on. Electric fences are being erected between compounds in the Christmas Island detention centre. Refugees and asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG are still in offshore detention limbo.

Labor’s compassion is strictly subordinated to its commitment to Operation Sovereign Borders. That’s what was important about the rally in Canberra on 8 September. It is the struggle outside Parliament that is needed to free the refugees.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Labor’s delays leave refugees in limbo appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Strike days up: now fan the flames of resistance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 1:05pm in

The number of strike days between April and June increased sharply, with 73,700 workers on strike for a total of 128,100 working days “lost”—the highest number of strike days since 2004.

Over the year to the end of June, there were 154 disputes, 54 more than in the previous year.

In total, there were 234,600 strike days, 176,900 more than the previous year.

The increase comes off a low base—strike figures have been meagre since the introduction of anti-strike laws and enterprise bargaining by Labor in the early 1990s (see graph).

But it’s an indication that rising inflation is pushing more workers to fight back.

The end of COVID-19 lockdowns has also opened the way for unions to move on a backlog of deals as well as making it easier to organise for many workers previously working from home.

The bulk of the strike days (91 per cent) were racked up by education and health workers, with a major factor being mass strikes by nurses, teachers and public servants in NSW revolting against a 3 per cent wage cap.

University of Sydney labour law professor Shae McCrystal told the Financial Review: “What we’re seeing there is the impact of public sector wage policies from state governments, which systemically suppressed wages to the extent they’ve all had enough, and the chronic understaffing through the pandemic.

“Is anyone surprised at a time when these frontline workers have copped years of difficulty that they’re doing the only thing within their power to challenge their conditions?”

The fightback hasn’t stopped. Since the end of June there’s been a public service strike in WA, a nationwide walk-out by early educators, rail stoppages in Sydney and another 24-hour strike by NSW nurses. NTEU members are taking action across a number of NSW and Queensland campuses.

Anger is bubbling in Tasmania, too. The ABC reported: “The list of public servants taking strike action seems to be swelling by the day and encompasses some of the state’s most crucial front-line workers: teachers, paramedics, nurses, child protection officers and firefighters.”

The big exception is Victoria, where union officials with a close relationship to the Andrews Labor government have overseen derisory increases.

The Australian Education Union rammed through a 1.7 per cent agreement for teachers in March, when inflation was already at 3.5 per cent. There was unprecedented pushback from members, with 39 per cent rejecting the deal.

Now the rank-and-file group MESEJ is campaigning for the union to fight for an additional rise.

Mixed picture

Strikes in the private sector have been fewer but there are some encouraging signs there, too. At Lactalis in Perth, workers finally got rid of a “zombie” deal and won 12 per cent over two years, plus a raft of improvements to penalty rates and so on.

Airport baggage handlers employed by dnata have taken advantage of extreme staffing shortages to win 12 per cent upfront and 4.5 per cent next year.

Member of the manufacturing union AMWU at Crown Equipment in Victoria and Tasmania won 13.5 per cent over three years, frontloaded with an inflation-busting 7.6 per cent. Also in Victoria, AMWU members have won strikes at two Downer sites, although the win on pay fell just short of inflation.

But the picture is mixed, with big contingents of workers continuing to fall behind. At Telstra, a new agreement concedes just 2.5 per cent now and 3 per cent next year.

The MEAA has just settled for 4 per cent and 3.5 per cent next year at Nine Publishing.

Private sector wages rose in the June quarter by the highest seasonally adjusted rate since September 2013, but the average increase still amounted to just 2.7 per cent on an annual basis.

This is not surprising given the low level of struggle that has characterised the workers’ movement for a generation.

Recovery is unlikely to be immediate and it will be uneven. But inflation is creating pressures that can crack open business as usual.

Workers need to be arguing for a serious fight for wage outcomes higher than inflation and shorter deals to avoid being locked into future wage cuts.

Union officials are under some pressure—the NSW nurses’ vote to stick with their 7 per cent claim despite the union’s backsliding is a sign of growing discontent from below.

That pressure can result in more mobilisations, which in turn raise workers’ confidence and give them the experience of taking action that has been missing for so long.

The latest strike figures are promising. Now the task is to widen and deepen that spirit of resistance.

By David Glanz

The post Strike days up: now fan the flames of resistance appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Bookshop workers write next chapter of struggle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/09/2022 - 9:54am in

Workers at the Readings bookshop chain in Melbourne are closing in on an inaugural enterprise agreement.

Sally, a union delegate at the Hawthorn branch, told Solidarity that by standing firm they had won a series of concessions from management including improved sick leave, domestic violence leave, better casual conversion, dispute resolution procedures and more.

But management has still not met the workers’ claim for a minimum rate of $26 an hour—offering 67 cents an hour less.

Sally spoke to a vibrant solidarity rally outside the Carlton store on Saturday: “I want a wage that pays my rent and let’s me support my family.”

Workers, members of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), have balloted on 21 forms of industrial action, with the result to be declared in the coming week.

But management have walked away from negotiations and have put the sub-standard deal to an all-staff (non-union) vote.

The rally was also addressed by Bruce, a warehouse worker and United Workers Union delegate, who told the crowd about their victory in the western suburbs last year.

“Keep fighting, hold the line and show Readings what union power is about,” he said.

Ender, a delegate at the Carlton store, and Clare, a delegate at the Readings warehouse, also spoke.

The priority now is to get the biggest No vote in the all-staff ballot and gear up to start using tougher industrial tactics to bring management to heel.

By David Glanz

The post Bookshop workers write next chapter of struggle appeared first on Solidarity Online.

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