cwi: International workers’ struggles

Strikes in Iran, Denmark and Norway

Iran: Haft Tapeh sugar factory on strike again

Workers demand unpaid wages and independent unions status

A strike by 5,000 workers at the sugar cane plantation and factory in Haft Tapeh, southern Iran, continues. For three weeks, 5,000 workers have been on strike, demanding payment of three months wages the company owes them, improved working conditions, the right to form their own organisation and end of repression of workers’ representatives.

The workers at Haft Tapeh also demand that part of the management, including the security boss and its staff, should be sacked.

The strikers have also organised mass protests with their families in Shosh city centre, outside the governors’ office.

The sugar workers have been fighting for their rights, for some years now. Despite harassment and their actions been declared "illegal", the workers formed independent organisations, so as to be able to put forward their demands.

Many Iranian left wing activists in exile have launched solidarity actions in support of Iranian workers. They need international support – do not let them fight alone!

Denmark: Health strike enters seventh week

Members could turn down deal in one union

Per Olsson

Teachers in childcare are on their second week of strike, while a health strike has entered its seventh week.

One union in the health sector, FOA, that is part of the biggest trade union federation, however, has signed a deal with the employers and ended their strike. According to the union, the deal gives 13.4 % in wage increases over three years (13.2 % according to the employers – the regional health authorities). This was less than FOA achieved for their council workers (13.9 %).

There is big criticism against the union leadership giving in too easy against the health employers. The FOA regional unions in the three main cities Copenhagen, Arhus and Odense, all voted no to the deal and appeal to members to vote no in the upcoming membership vote.

Many point towards members voting no, as did the childcare teachers in the BUPL union. The no vote was followed by a strike.

By reaching a deal with the FOA, the employers hoped to undermine the entire health strike the started on 16 April. But, so far, nothing indicates falling off in the fighting mood in Sundhetskartellet, a coordinating body for 11 health unions, including nurses.

Sundhetskartellet demands a 15 % wage rise and there is growing anger against the employers (regional politicians) and against the threat from the Danish parliament to intervene and declare the strike illegal.

There is strong support for the strike and, last week, Sundhetskartellet lobbied the finance minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, with a petition signed by 130,000 people in support of the strikers and their demands.

Norway: Teachers and public sector workers strike

Strikes’ demands oil funds to stimulate economy

From Offensiv, weekly paper of the CWI in Sweden

Since Saturday 24 May, 3,500 public sector workers in Norway have been on strike for higher wages. The strikers – mainly teachers but also nurses and childcare teachers – have strong support in opinion polls, just like health sector strikes in Denmark and Sweden.

"The strike mood is strong", the local strike leader in Tromsö, Kari-Anne Gimse, reported in the first issue of the trade union Unio’s strike paper. In this far-north city (350 kilometers/217 miles north of the Arctic Circle) 500 workers are on strike. In total 3,500 Unio members are taking industrial action- 500 of them in the capital, Oslo.

Similar to the health strike in Sweden, the strikers are higher educated public sector workers in a trade union with a weak bureaucracy and less connections to political parties, i.e. the social democracy that traditionally controls many unions in the Nordic countries. In Sweden and Denmark, the nurses’ unions also have a more democratic structure than most other unions, allowing members or delegates to vote on wage deals.

Apart from demanding a 7 % wage increase, Unio has a list of 10 demands, including that the Norwegian state should use some of its huge oil income funds (sovereign wealth funds) to stimulate the economy, now that economic growth is slowing. Unio also demands an extra one billion Norwegian Crowns (over 10 bn euros) for councils, for increased numbers of teachers and for childcare, according to needs.

The union notified another 4,800 workers to walk out on Friday 30 May and solidarity demonstrations will be held on Wednesday 28 May.

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June 2008