Workers' Struggles

A line has been drawn in the sand. Finally, a union is defying unjust laws. The 760 workers of Unifor Local 594 and Unifor national president Jerry Dias are holding their ground in the dispute with Co-op Refinery in Regina and are saying that they will not obey a court injunction against hard pickets. This is a decisive turning point in the class struggle in Canada. It is beholden on the entire labour movement to rally to the support of Unifor in this struggle, and spread the movement to defeat this brazen attack.

The mobilisation that began on 5 December is now at a crossroads. The indefinite strike called by French rail workers is at an ebb, after over 40 days of exemplary struggle. This ebb fits perfectly into the government’s scheme. Since the month of November we have emphasised that: “If the rail workers’ strike remains isolated, the government will have one of two options: either it can make concessions contained to the isolated sections of workers on strike, or it can count on their exhaustion. In either case, the masses in general would lose.”

140,000 Turkish metal workers, including those in the important automotive and white goods manufacturers, are set to strike in early February after negotiations with the bosses’ organisation broke down.

The Lebanese Revolution has resurged after a period of relative inactivity, with protesters declaring a “week of rage" amid a continuing economic and political crisis. The struggling Lebanese pound and capital controls on foreign cash have provoked a new wave of indignation that has sharpened the stances of both the demonstrators and the state. The last two days have seen hundreds injured and arrested.

The battle in France over Macron’s reactionary pension reform passed its 40th day on 13 January. A fourth interprofessional strike last Thursday and follow-up protests on the weekend brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets yet again, and further days of action have been declared up until 16 January.

The movement that has shaken Hong Kong to its foundations shows few signs of losing steam. It has entered 2020 with a mass protest of up to 1 million people on New Year’s day, proving that it has retained the support of the majority of the population despite all the storm and stress of the past six months.

The November protest movement in Iran was drowned in blood, but the fight isn’t over. Anger is ripe on the streets, and for the first time ever, a serious, organised attempt at protest is being led by nine organisations representing workers and the poor. We publish their joint statement and call to protest on 23 December (tomorrow). We do not know what will transpire, but this is an important development and a sign of where things are headed.

The "sardines" took to the squares of Emilia in big numbers, and in the wake of their success, became a national movement in a matter of days. The first mobilisation was triggered in the capital of Bologna on 14 November, due to the presence of Salvini, who is doing a rally tour of the region with an eye on the 26 January elections.

For the third consecutive week, French workers from dozens of professions (train drivers, teachers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, factory workers – even opera singers!) downed tools and hit the streets, alongside hundreds of thousands of supporters, to oppose the reactionary Macron regime. While the government has been downplaying the turnout, claiming only 600,000 took part, the protests were at least as big as on 5 December. The CGT union federation claims they were even bigger, citing a figure of 1,800,000 demonstrators, which would be hands down the biggest mobilisation since 1995.

Yesterday’s presidential election in Algeria was marked by a massive boycott campaign called for by the Hirak movement, which is now 43 weeks old. The boycott had been preceded by a four-day general strike and was particularly strong in the Kabylie region. Tens of thousands came onto the streets across the country defying a police ban on demonstrations. Whoever the generals decide will be the country’s president, they will not have any real legitimacy.

The speech delivered by Edouard Philippe (the Prime Minister) yesterday concluded over 18 months of “talks” and “consultations” with the leaders of the trade unions. Hundreds of hours of negotiation meetings culminated in this enlightening result: the government presented exactly the same reform that they would have put forward if none of the “talks” and “consultations” had taken place.

Yesterday’s interprofessional strike against Macron’s pension reform brought between 800,000 and 1,000,000 workers and youth onto the streets of France, according to the CGT. While this is a drop from the mobilisation last Thursday (which was possibly the biggest since 1995), the turnout was still high, with strong participation by transport workers, teachers, health workers and students.

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