Thursday, April 10, 2008

London news roundup

Big changes in Pakistan

A WAVE of big changes in favour of popular democracy is sweeping Pakistan after a year of desperate efforts to suppress change by military dictator General Musharraf, culminating in the assassination of Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto, Taimur Rahman of the Communist Workers’ and Peasants’ Party told a meeting organised by the London District of the New Communist Party.
He explained the history of Pakistan, created as a land of landowners and indebted peasants with a powerful military clique, in contrast to the popular democratic traditions of India.
But the people of Pakistan want democracy, progress and prosperity. Taimur gave a brief history of popular democratic and working class movements in Pakistan and the formidable obstacles they have faced. Then he gave an eye-witness account of the recent elections there and the mood of the people. Now big advances are possible, and though this is not a socialist revolution, the unprecedented popular unity against Musharraf and his United States backers has created a mood of optimism.
Many had feared that Musharraf would rig elections earlier this year, with the lawyers and supreme chief of justice arrested and unable to supervise the polling process. But the vote against his party was so great after the death of Benazir Bhutto – which many suspect he had a hand in – that he could not hold back the tide of popular indignation. The religious right-wing also suffered heavy losses in the poll. The Communist Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, though it did not stand in the elections, has made many recruits and built important alliances with other progressive and trade union bodies.

European Court threat to London Olympics?

THE GIANT general union Unite warned that a judgement made last week by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) could mean that London’s Olympics will either be built on poverty wages or not at all as industrial unrest spreads.
Unite is warning that the ECJs decision that a Polish subcontractor operating in Germany can lawfully pay construction workers less than half the German construction industry’s agreed wage could have a devastating affect on the building of London’s Olympic infrastructure.
Unite says the ECJs judgement could mean that foreign companies employing people in Britain can ignore employees’ collective agreements and legally pay workers below agreed wage levels.
The ECJ judgement on the Dirk Rüffert v. Land Niedersachsen case concerned a Polish subcontractor of the company Objekt und Bauregie, which paid employees working on a prison building site only 46.5 per cent of the prescribed industry minimum wage.
The ECJ decision found in favour of the company on the grounds of freedom of movement and the provision of services across the European Union.
Unite is now calling for the powers of the ECJ to be curbed to allow national governments and national courts to have sovereignty on collective agreements and collective action.
Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said: “The European Court of Justice has made a number of decisions that we believe threaten EU countries with being forced to use cheaper agency labour, the undercutting our industry agreements and the ability of trade unions to defend them. Today’s judgement is by far the most damaging.
“This decision effectively means that foreign companies working here in the UK, or in any other European country, can flout domestic laws and collective agreements with regard to pay.
“This is a recipe for disaster and, if applied here in the UK, will cause massive industrial unrest and threaten the delivery of major infrastructure projects including the Olympics site.
“We are calling on the UK government and the European Parliament to act to ensure that minimum industry standards are upheld and we want the role of the ECJ, which has greater powers with regard to these vital issues, to be revisited.”

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