SOME 800 workers in Colombia were this week entering the third week of an occupation against privatisation. The workers in the city of Cali are protesting at the threat to privatise the Emcali public utilities corporation.
Armed paramilitaries and police have repeatedly threatened the occupation. These are not idle threats in Colombia. Thousands of activists have been assassinated by paramilitaries in the country's long-running civil war. Several leaders of the Sintraemcali union have been killed, and the union's current leader, Alexander Lopez, has survived repeated assassination attempts. Alexander visited Britain last year and spoke at the public sector workers' UNISON union conference.
'We are calling on solidarity from the international community to help us gain victory for a working class that resists misery and oppression,' writes Alexander from the Cali occupation.
FIRST THERE was famine, now there's a feast-and working people are paying the price in both cases! California in the US faced blackouts resulting from severe electricity shortages last year, because the system is run by big companies which compete without any overall plan. These companies include Enron, the failed multinational.
Now the inevitable has happened, and companies have rushed to produce as much electricity as possible to grab profits. California will have a huge surplus of energy for the next nine years, according to a report from a state department. But this will not lead to price cuts.
The power has already been bought in advance at grossly inflated prices. The report estimates that consumers will end up paying $3.9 billion more than they should. This is because of the madness of the market. This is in addition to the $11.7 billion that the state spent last year to plug the energy gap.
STRIKES brought India's banking system to a halt for a day last week. Around 600,000 bank workers, some 70 percent of the workforce, struck after Standard Chartered Bank decided to relocate 30 administrative staff. Lalit Ngada, secretary of the Indian bank workers' union, reported that the strike was a total success: 'Clerical workers were not turning up for work in most of the key banks across the country.'
There are fears that other banks may try to force workers to move thousands of miles. 'The bank is saving money at the cost of the employees by resorting to unfair labour practices,' said Tarakeswar Chakraborty, an official of the All India Bank Employees Association.
MORE THAN 1,000 workers were occupying banks this week in Belgrade in Yugoslavia. They were protesting against the closure of four big banks. It is estimated that some 8,500 people could lose their jobs if the banks shut. Unemployment is around 50 percent.
A trade union representative, Gordana Djukelic, said: 'We will stay here until they reverse their decision to shut down the banks.' The government has decided to force the four banks to close as part of a World Bank sponsored 'reform'.