Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

Striking workers picket Dunnes Stores at Cornelscourt, south Dublin; photo by Eric Luke, the Irish Times

Striking workers picket Dunnes Stores at Cornelscourt, south Dublin; photo by Eric Luke, the Irish Times

by Philip Ferguson

Last week, I reported on the strike by 6,000 Dunnes Stores workers across the south of Ireland for guaranteed hours they can actually live on, union recognition, a pay rise and improved job security (see here). The company did all it could to pressure workers not to go on strike but their efforts failed.  Moreover, the workers won wide support for their action.


The questions asked by the great Irish workers leader James Connolly need asking today by Irish workers and unions

Company vents displeasure

In the week since the strike, the company has vented its displeasure at what they regard as the insubordination of their much put-upon workers.  Across the south of Ireland there have been reports from union members of changes in shift patterns, making it harder to manage family commitments.  Workers’ roles have been altered too.  For instance, some workers who have been doing the same job for 20 years found themselves reassigned after the strike to other departments in the stores where they work; this can mean a loss in hours and disruption of their long-established work and life schedules.

Another tactic used by management to punish workers and discourage future industrial action is (more…)

The secular-progressive PKK has played a critical role in fighting the IS ultra-reactionaries and yet the NZ government has it on their 'terrorist' list and bans people here from supporting it

The secular-progressive PKK has played a critical role in fighting the IS ultra-reactionaries and yet the NZ government has it on their ‘terrorist’ list and bans people here from supporting it; above, PKK guerrilla fighters.

Faced with the armed forces of Islamic State (IS), the Iraqi army has tended to run away.  The forces that have been able to take on IS and, in several places, beat them back, have been the Kurdish armed forces associated with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party).  PKK-aligned guerrillas helped save the lives of thousands of Yazidis and other facing death at the hands of IS.  Yet the PKK is on the list of designated ‘terrorist’ groups in a number of western powers, including the United States and New Zealand.  (For a full list of the groups on the NZ list, see here.)

The PKK, of course, is not a ‘terrorist’ organisation – it is a movement for the national liberation of the Kurdish people.  It has an armed wing because the governments which deny the Kurds their national rights do so through military repression and have tended to be vicious dictatorships.  Even where the dicatorships have been replaced with elected civilian governments, these governments have continued to use murderous violence against the Kurds, as in Turkey for instance.

The fact that the PKK is on the NZ government’s ‘terrorist’ list is one of the things giving the lie to John Key’s claim that his government cares about democracy and human rights in the Middle East and that’s why NZ armed forces are again being involved in Iraq.  His government is actually trying to prevent people here supporting the PKK’s defence of secular and progressive values against IS.  And, of course, it’s not that long ago that Washington was supporting – indeed, playing an instrumental role in creating – Islamic fundamentalist outfits as a counter to secular, progressive, national liberation movements in the region.

People opposed to imperialist intervention in the region, including the involvement of NZ armed forces, need to demand that we be able to build support for the PKK’s resistance to IS and their fight for the emancipation of the Kurds, including publicising and raising funds to assist their efforts.  The PKK should be allowed to have an office and operate legally in New Zealand.  Any and all restrictions on them should be removed.

The article below was written in November 2014, so is a little bit dated as events in Iraq and Syria have moved quite fast.  Nevertheless we think it is a valuable article to put up on Redline as it covers much more than just the precise situation at a moment in time.

by Florian Wilde

The West has suddenly begun supporting various Kurdish organisations in its fight against the Islamic State. So why is the largest Kurdish organisation of all, the PKK, still outlawed? This article discusses current developments in Kurdistan and gives a brief overview of the history of the Kurdish liberation movement and the PKK’s illegal status in Germany. It argues for a radical left strategy focused on defeating the ban on the PKK.

“It wasn’t the Americans who saved us. It was God and the PKK.”

August 2014: Terrorist militias under the leadership of the Islamic State (IS) storm a region in northern Iraq near the Syrian border inhabited by the Yazidis, a millennia-old monotheistic ethno-religious Kurdish minority. Divisions of the Peshmerga, the region’s armed forces, flee from the advancing IS troops without firing a shot. The Yazidis beg the Peshmerga to at least leave them their weapons so as to give them a chance at defending themselves, but the Peshmerga refuse. Tens of thousands of Yazidis are forced to flee into the nearby mountains. Those who stay behind are subjected to brutal, genocidal acts: thousands killed, hundreds buried alive, and countless acts of rape, kidnapping and enslavement are perpetuated against Yazidi women. To add insult to injury, IS fighters ransack and destroy ancient Yazidi holy sites.

But even those who were able to flee faced the possibility of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. The fleeing Yazidis were surrounded by the IS and trapped in the mountains with little food or water under conditions of extreme heat. Abandoned by the rest of the world, it seemed as if they had little choice but to wait for death – that is, until unexpected reinforcements arrived: divisions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (PYG) break through IS lines in northern Syria, while guerrilla fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) advance from the north and fighters from their Iranian sister organisation, the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), from the east.

The Kurdish fighters manage to establish an escape corridor, through which tens of thousands pass into liberated Kurdish areas of northern Syria. It is only days after their escape that the US bombing campaign and accompanying Peshmerga offensive begins. Surviving Yazidis repeatedly insisted to western journalists that “it wasn’t the Americans who saved us. It was God and the PKK.”

The northern Syrian Kurds came to the Yazidis’ assistance despite having to defend themselves from the IS on their home territory as well. The north Syrian Kurds in question are (more…)

stopadIn the piece posted earlier today on the snatching of Khalida Jarrar by Israeli occupation forces on the West Bank, we mentioned the use of ‘administrative detention’, effectively a form of internment without trial (or, often, even charges).  We also put a link to an article we ran a couple of years ago about prisoners in Palestine and Ireland, which looked at administrative detention in more detail.

Below is more up-to-date information on the use of administrative detention since the earlier article was written.  Thanks to Joseph Catron for this:

“319 orders for administrative detention without charge or trial have been issued by Israeli occupation military courts since the beginning of 2015, reported Riyad al-Ashqar, spokesperson of the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies.

“This is an increase of 500% over the same period in 2014, when 51 orders were issued, and is linked to the wide-scale mass arrests in the West Bank in June 2014 and after; hundreds of those arrested were not charged or tried but instead ordered to administrative detention …”

Note that there have been strong critiques of an excessive focus on administrative detention, like this one by ’48 Palestinian political prisoner Ameer Makhoul, who was sentenced on political charges by an Israeli civilian court:

“During the Adnan campaign, a number of Palestinian political leaders, human rights activists and media outlets used the argument that if Israel had any evidence against Adnan, it should have brought him before (more…)

khalidacampaign (1)by Susanne Kemp

Khalida Jarrar, a leader of the struggle for Palestinian national liberation and member of the politbureau (central leadership) of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was snatched in the early hours of Thursday morning (April 2).  Dozens of soldiers from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank kicked in the door of her home in Ramallah, held her husband in another room and arrested comrade Jarrar.

She was initially held in Ofer Prison, an Israeli detention facility on the West Bank, where she refused to eat or drink.  She was subsequently moved to HaSharon prison in Israel.

In part this was payback for her successful resistance to an attempt by the illegal Israeli occupation to expel her for six months from the city last August-September and in part because of her effective political work as part of the PFLP in resisting the occupation itself and fighting for the complete emancipation of the Palestinian people.  She has been particularly associated with (more…)


by Allegra Kirkland/Alternet

On any given night in New York City, while most of us are sleeping, an entire workforce is moving through the streets. They’re taking the elevated 7 train out to Elmhurst, Queens on their way home from late shifts, cleaning midtown office buildings and delivering boxes of fresh produce to cavernous restaurant basements.

Immigration activists like to use rhetoric about “living in the shadows” to describe the status of the undocumented, but for many without papers, life literally is conducted in shadows, as they work through the night to support themselves and send remittances home. In New York, these undocumented laborers work in construction, childcare, and above all else, in the food service industry.

In The Hand That Feeds, a powerful documentary opening in theaters on April 3, film-makers Robin Blotnick and Rachel Lears chronicle the plight of workers at one Upper East Side deli. At the 63rd Street location of Hot & Crusty, employees—many of whom are undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Ecuador and elsewhere—toil seven days a week for less than minimum wage, with no overtime pay or sick leave. They receive a constant stream of verbal abuse and threats from their manager, who frequently reminds them that at any moment they could be fired and deported. In one of the opening scenes, a worker shows (more…)

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 16.56.35by Philip Ferguson

Six thousand workers employed in 109 Dunnes Stores in the south of Ireland staged a 24-hour strike yesterday (Thursday, April 2).  (The business sells food, clothing, home furnishings; they’re roughly similar to a chain like Woolworths in NZ.)

Low-hours contracts

Whereas in New Zealand, there is currently a campaign against zero-hours contracts, in the Dunnes Stores case the  most pressing issue is low-hours contracts.  About 80 percent of Dunnes workers have only 15 hours guaranteed work a week, so the effect is still that they cannot plan their finances beyond any one week, if even that.  The strike is also for pay improvements, job security and the guarantee of union representation.

Picketing Dunnes Stores in Waterford; photo: RTE
Picketing Dunnes Stores in Waterford; photo: RTE

The striking workers are members of Mandate union, to which 67 percent of the Dunnes Stores workers belong, while some other workers employed by the company are members of SIPTU union.  (Mandate is roughly equivalent to First Union in NZ; SIPTU is roughly equivalent to the EPMU.)

Muireann Dalton, a Dunnes worker in Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow, summed up the feelings of many of the workers when she said: “Nobody  (more…)

An encouraging aspect of the struggle was solidarity from Cotton On distribution centre workers in Australia

An encouraging aspect of the struggle was solidarity from Cotton On distribution workers in Australia; pictured above, workers at the company’s Brisbane distribution centre show support

by Phil Duncan

Workers employed in the distribution centre for retail chain Cotton On, which has 80 stores across New Zealand, have beaten back an attempt to mess with their tea-breaks and won some significant gains in pay and conditions.

After the government passed legislation allowing employers to make inroads into workers’ right to tea breaks, Cotton On became a test case in late March. Prime minister John Key stated at the time of the legislation, “will you all of a sudden find thousands of workers who are denied having a tea break? The answer is absolutely not.” Yet this was exactly what employees of the retail chain faced last week when the company proposed to remove tea and meal breaks in its distribution centre in Auckland.

The company’s proposal was not part of its original negotiating position last July but was added after the legislation was passed.

In a statement issued in response to the company’s new demand, Robert Reid, the general-secretary of FIRST union, which represents Cotton On workers, pointed out, (more…)