North Sea workers ready to switch to renewables, survey shows

September 29, 2020

Most UK oil workers would consider switching to another industry – and, if given the option to retrain, more than half would choose to work on renewable energy, a survey published today shows.

The survey blasts a hole in the argument by trade union leaders that every last drop of oil must be produced, supposedly to preserve jobs. Actually, workers are

Let’s go! Wind turbines, with an electricity sub-station, in the North Sea (German sector). Photo: SteKrueBe / Creative Commons

ready to move away from fossil fuel production – as long as they can work and their families don’t suffer.

The 1383 offshore workers who responded to the survey crave job security, above all. Nearly half of them had been laid off or furloughed since oil prices crashed in March.

Many complained about precarious employment and the contract labour now rife on the North Sea.

The survey, Offshore: oil and gas workers’ views on industry conditions and the energy transition, was put together by Platform London, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace.

The survey’s authors seem to be the first people who have actually asked workers what they think.

The Scottish government has a comfortably-funded Just Transition Commission, including trade union chiefs, that recently ran a consultation on its interim report.

But it was campaign groups, working with activists on the ground, who bothered to talk to offshore workers.

The survey, distributed via social media and targeted advertising, garnered 1546 responses. The results excluded replies by 163 people who work in midstream or Read the rest of this entry »


South Africa: ‘climate change intensifies gender-based violence’

September 1, 2020

This guest post is by ORTHALIA KUNENE, a South African writer and grass-roots activist in her community with Extinction Rebellion (XR) South Africa. It is based on a talk she gave at a zoom session last month, organised by Extinction Rebellion Greenwich (UK).

Global warming isn’t simply going to destroy our communities – it is also going to be a serious intensifier of violence against women and girls.

I am a feminist, an African feminist to be exact. African feminism acknowledges Africa’s historical colonial realities. Hence, our battle is twofold: to dismantle patriarchal capitalism and to dismantle neoliberalism.

I grew up in an environment that normalised the oppression of women, and I only realised later in life that I, like so many black women in my country, fell into the demographic that

A climate policy protest in South Africa

unfortunately suffers the most – because the reality is that global capitalism has placed women, especially black women, at the bottom of the economic system.

Climate change is a direct product of the patriarchal capitalist economic model, which is built on the destruction and exploitation of human and natural resources. The oppression of women through control of women’s bodies, minds, and labour is part and parcel of this system.

As Africa still bears the horrifying scars of gender-based violence, alongside Covid-19, climate change has placed African women in the eye of the storm. Gender-based violence Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus: ‘what counts is workplace organisation’

August 19, 2020

The confrontation in Belarus between the Lukashenko regime and the mass movement continues. Strike committees are being formed at state-owned enterprises, and the strike at Belaruskali, one of the country’s strategic conglomerates, has begun. At the giant Minsk Tractor Factory, demonstrators who tried to talk to workers were stopped by police. In Grodno, Belarusian media report that the local authorities have begun a dialogue with the opposition. I am trying to follow the situation, and tell English-language readers about independent socialist and working-class trends in the movement. Here are an interview with an independent trade union activist, and, below, a political statement supported by the largest independent trade union federation. Many thanks to P for help with translations. GL.

“Until workers in the factories begin to organise, this will be so much hot air”  

An interview with Sergey Antusevich, deputy chair of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU), published by the Russian magazine Snob on 18 August.

Q: Strikes have started in Belarus. Clearly, they are linked with the post-election protests, but they certainly didn’t start straightaway. What has the decision-making process and why did it take time?

SA: I think that people had waited for the outcome of the elections, in the hope that their vote against Lukashenko could influence the situation in the country. But when it turned out that their votes were simply thrown in the bin, the conversation changed. On 10 August people came into work, talked with colleagues and discovered that none of them

Striking workers at Belaruskali, Soligorsk, 17 August. Photo: EPA-EFE

had voted for Lukashenko. They ended up feeling that something needed to be done. From different factories, activists from trade unions affiliated to BCDTU called us with questions and ideas. We replied that centralised trade union structures could, of course, condemn electoral fraud and demand a vote recount, but that this would be of little use without being supported by action from the workplaces. I said, and I can say it again now, that until workers in the factories begin to organise, begin to oppose the lies, the lack of rights and the degrading treatment, when the authorities have just spat on them and wiped them on the pavement, this will all be just so much hot air.

Q: Did you co-ordinate the workers’ actions

SA: At first we had no means of full-scale coordination: the Internet was cut off nationwide. I spent two days with no connection, basically; I could not set up a working Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus: potash workers strike to support victims of police violence

August 17, 2020

This statement by striking workers at Belaruskali, a giant potash fertiliser production complex, has been released today by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union. The Russian original is here. Belaruskali, based at Salihorsk, 120 kilometres south of Minsk, is one of the largest producers of potash fertilisers in the world, employing about 12,000 workers. Each of its four production units consists of one or two potash ore mines, and a processing unit.

This morning at Belaruskali there were meetings of all production units with management, who were informed that an indefinite strike is to begin. Strike committees have been formed at all production units. They are formulating demands to the employer and guarantees of safety for the strikers and their families. Later on, around two p.m., these demands will be presented to Belaruskali management. At present, production has not been stopped. Workers are conserving equipment and preparing for cessation of operations, so as not to damage the enterprise or its employees.

The strike is expected to start at midnight on 18 August. From eight a.m., the production process will be stopped.

The strikers’ demands:

What was done to the peaceful Belarusian people on 9-11 August 2020 showed the true face of the Belarusian authorities, and the real attitude of the power of the wealthy towards citizens. Hundreds of men and women of all ages, including young boys and girls,

A meeting at Belaruskali this morning

became the helpless hostages of monsters in uniform, and were subjected to unprecedented torture, humiliation and the most vicious beatings. And this lawlessness was conducted with the approval, and the direct participation, of officers of the district department of internal affairs and judges of the Salihorsk district court.

No-one will forget what has happened; no-one will pardon your crimes. Thousands of people in Salihorsk, whole enterprises, have joined the national peaceful solidarity STRIKE. The people are against violence and brutality, against the falsification of election results, and against lawlessness and recklessness in our city.

The following demands by citizens are being expressed through peaceful mass actions in the city of Salihorsk:

1. Take measures to declare the results of the presidential election null and void. To this end we call on the Salihorsk Regional Electoral Commission to make public the real results Read the rest of this entry »


Belarus: ‘without organisation, without struggle, the oppressive unfreedom will never disappear’

August 14, 2020

The revolt against the authoritarian regime in Belarus has spread from the city streets, where thousands of protesters have been battling with police, to the workplaces. On Thursday 13 August workers at large enterprises – including chemical and food factories, and construction and transport companies – downed tools in protest at the monstrous surge of police violence and arrests. People are quitting the state-supported trade unions. Films and photographs of workers’ meetings, at which participants denounced police violence and the fraudulent election results, are spreading like wildfire across social media. Womens’ organisations are taking to the streets – against a president whose fury was provoked, especially, by the support for Svetlana Tikhonovskaya, the woman who dared to stand against him for election. Here are two appeals by independent trade union organisations that were published yesterday. Please share and re-post. GL.

Open Appeal by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union to workers

Dear Belarusians,

The authorities’ actions – in falsifying the election results, breaching human rights, instigating mass arrests and beatings of peaceful protesters and passers-by across the whole country – could all lead to irreversible consequences for Belarus. We are hearing ever-louder

A factory meeting in Minsk earlier this week

announcements from the European Union and the United States, that they are ready to impose various sanctions, including economic ones, on Belarus as a state that is trampling cynically on the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Closure of the western markets for our products and services would be a catastrophe for our enterprises. The impact of this would be borne first of all by ordinary workers, who are in a bad enough situation already.

To defend ourselves and our freedom of action at the workplace, we propose the following pattern of simple collective actions:

1. Quit the state’s social organisations, such as the [government-supported] Federation of Belarusian Trade Unions, [the pro-presidential civic-political association] Belaya Rus and the Read the rest of this entry »


Viktor Filinkov, political prisoner: “An idealist who takes on responsibility for the big picture”

July 3, 2020

While Black Lives Matter demonstrators fill the streets of cities around the world, opening a new chapter in the history of anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle, the Russian anti-fascists Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov are starting long jail sentences.

A St Petersburg court sentenced Filinkov to seven years, and Boyarshinov to five-and-a-half, on 22 June, on trumped-up charges of involvement in a “terrorist grouping” – the “Network”. In February, seven other defendants were jailed by a court in Penza for between six and 18 years, and last year another in St Petersburg for three-and-a-half years.

Detailed evidence that the “network” case defendants were subjected to horrific tortures after their arrest

Viktor Filinkov in court. Photo by David Frenkel, Mediazona

has been published and submitted to state bodies. President Vladimir Putin last year cynically promised to look into it. Nevertheless, the defendants have been railroaded to penal colonies.

This portrait of Viktor Filinkov – who refused to admit guilt and received one of the heaviest sentences – is by Yevgeny Antonov. It was first published in Russian by the Petersburg news outlet Bumaga.

==

On Monday 22 June, the 2nd Western District Military Court [in St Petersburg] announced the sentences on the Petersburg defendants in the “Network” case, Viktor Filinkov and Yuli Boyarshinov. They were found guilty of involvement in a terrorist grouping (article 205.4, part 2 of the criminal code). Filinkov was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony (standard regime). Boyarshinov got five and a half years (Yuli was also convicted of the illegal possession of explosive materials (article 222.1, part 1)).

Four days before the sentencing, Filinkov addressed the court. The 25-year old computer programmer set out the inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s case, and used diagrams to show why the PGP [Pretty Good Privacy encryption] programme would not be used by a conspiratorial terrorist group, as the prosecution had claimed.

In his closing statement, Filinkov stated that the internal affairs ministry, the prosecutor, the federal prison service, the Investigative Committee, the federal security service [FSB], the court and the Read the rest of this entry »


Black and white protesters have changed the political landscape

June 12, 2020

These comments on the Black Lives Matter protests were published by Let’s Get Rooted, a group looking to focus on workers’ self-organisation at work and beyond.

Hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the world marched in defiance of their governments and police to show their solidarity with the protest in the US against the police murder of George Floyd.

His murder by the police was just one more in the long list of such killings in the US, in the UK

London, 7 June. Photo by Steve Eason

and around the world. But the response to this latest outrage has been a storm of protest which is inspiring. Black and white protesters, mostly young, have changed the political landscape.

A killing, which in previous times might have led to local black protests in the US, lit a spark of multiple frustrations and discontent. The world is in lockdown with the coronavirus epidemic which has highlighted and deepened all the social inequalities. The virus is a killer but its victims, medically and financially, are overwhelmingly the most deprived sections of society.

In the UK, a government which came to power on its nationalistic, flag-waving Brexit campaign has shown its incompetence and indifference to ordinary people’s lives, trying to push people back to work, push children to school – all to try to get the profit making machine going again.

The protesters in Bristol who pulled down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston will be cheered by millions of people. The footage of the mass murderer, who has been worshipped by the Bristol elite for decades, being rolled and dropped in the river will be watched over and over again.

It is hilarious watching British politicians, academics, civic dignitaries and other worthies all now trying to play catch-up with their learned debate about whether to remove other statues. Sir Read the rest of this entry »


Lugansk miners occupy pit and defy security forces

June 9, 2020

Mineworkers are staging an underground occupation in defiance of the authorities in the Lugansk separatist “republic” in eastern Ukraine – who have responded with a campaign of intimidation and arrests.

There were 123 mineworkers underground at the Komsomolskaya pit, in the mining town of Antratsit, for the third day running on Sunday (7 June), the News.ru site reported yesterday. One who had fallen ill was brought to the surface.

The protesters are demanding that their wages for March and April be paid in full. A similar underground protest on 21 April resulted in some money being handed over by Vostok-ugol’,

An earlier protest, in Zorinsk in the Lugansk “republic”, on 4 May, against the closure of the local pit. Photo from Dialog.ua

a new company set up in the “republic” and charged with closing pits and cutting the labour force.

The Lugansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” were set up by separatist military forces, supported by the Russian government, who clashed with the Ukrainian army in the military conflict of 2014.

The militarised regimes have clamped down on labour and social movement activists, and made independent journalism impossible in the “republics” – meaning that protest has been rare, and news of it does not travel easily. But this week mineworkers and their supporters have taken action nonetheless.

On Sunday the Lugansk “republic” police blockaded the Komsomolskaya mine and stopped food and drink being passed in to the occupiers. Galina Dmitrieva, a local trade union activist, received a a message saying that state security ministry (MGB) officials were on their way to the mine.

After that, mobile phone reception was blocked and the popular “Vkontakte” social media (similar to facebook) was blocked. News.ru published text exchanges with local residents who Read the rest of this entry »


Moscow couriers strike: “no limit to the indignation”

June 8, 2020

Couriers at Delivery Club, a food delivery company in Moscow, staged a strike on Friday to protest at fines and impossible work demands. Their ranks have swelled five times over during the coronavirus lockdown. These two reports were translated and published by the Russian Reader.

Report by RTV1, 5 June:

Couriers at the food delivery service Delivery Club in Moscow held a strike on 5 June. According to them, working conditions at the company have recently taken a turn for the worse. For example, the company has started giving couriers long-distance orders, as well as

Striking food couriers at Delivery Club, Moscow on Friday. Photo by Mitya Lyalin, courtesy of RTV1

frequently fining them. The workers walked out in protest. Our correspondent followed the industrial action and listened to the protesters’ demands.

Around forty couriers, nearly all of them wearing the company’s bright green raincoats, came to Delivery Club’s offices this afternoon. The couriers did not chant slogans. They wanted to speak with company management. Although they were not deterred by heavy rain and waited for over two hours, no one from Delivery Club management came out to speak with them.

In a conversation with RTVI, one of the protesters expressed his dismay.

“We have gathered here to get them to cancel the excessive fines against us. Take me: I deliver on foot. I used to get orders within a three-kilometer range, but now they’ve been sending me Read the rest of this entry »


Public health: workers and communities organise, Tory ministers undermine

May 29, 2020

In Downing Street, the prime minister has trashed the UK public health strategy, with his repulsive defence of his senior adviser making up his own rules. Elsewhere, health workers, teachers and communities are organising to protect people from the coronavirus more effectively. Here PHIL EDWARDS, Joint Secretary of Newham Save Our NHS, writing in a personal capacity, reflects on how the virus is changing the politics of health.

The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, has announced that along with the London boroughs of Camden, Barnet and Hackney, our borough will be part of a local test and track (or trace) initiative.

The government in turn announced that local areas were to submit plans for carrying out local test track initiatives across the country. The Newham initiative, on 22 May, was the result of

Newham Save Our NHS on a national demonstration against cuts, July 2018

weeks of pressure nationally from public health experts, local authorities, medical practitioners, and of campaigns like our own.

This came days after the release of evidence that the national test and track scheme launched by the health secretary Matt Hancock’s friends in Serco, the private contractor, and recruitment agencies sub-contracted to contact people using the government-approved mobile app, was collapsing in disarray.

As the Newham Health and Wellbeing Board met this week, to respond to questions on the local test trace scheme from local residents, it was pointed out that the government would finally launch its app this week after several false starts.

We have to approach this “victory” with some careful qualifications. It is not yet clear what the relationship is between these “local” tests and the national effort run by Serco. The scheme in Sheffield (see “Testing times” below) is run and operated by local health professionals. In Read the rest of this entry »


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