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Corporations on defensive

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Issue 1739

Corporations on defensive

Drug giants feel pressure

INTERNATIONAL drug companies are being forced to account for their actions-for once. At Yale University, one of the most elite colleges in the US, students are putting college authorities on the spot. They want an AIDS drug invented in college laboratories to be made affordable to those who need it-millions of AIDS victims in the developing world, and in Africa in particular.

Yale has licensed production of the anti-AIDS drug to a firm called Bristol-Myers Squibb. But now an Indian drug producer has offered to make it and sell it at one 34th of the price. Bristol-Myers Squibb is refusing permission to produce the drug cheaply, and Yale claims its hands are tied. The Yale students’ campaign comes after protests in South Africa last week to mark a major court case.

The drug companies are taking the South African government to court to protect their patents and their profits. They want to stop the South African government buying cheap copies of their drugs.

The court case has now been adjourned for six weeks after the judge ordered the drug companies to reveal their pricing policies. This is the first time that information will have been made public. Already these campaigns and protests have got results. Merck, a leading pharmaceutical company, has dropped the price of two of its AIDS drugs in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that poor countries such as the Ivory Coast can buy the three-drug combination to combat AIDS for $1,200 a year. Just one of the three drugs, Crixivan, costs $6,000 a year in the US. But we must all keep up the pressure. Charging the earth for medicines kills. Of the 34 million people who suffer from HIV/AIDS across the world, 25 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. The prices of drugs in Africa are still at killer levels. More protests can get these drug companies on the run.

Globalise Resistance counter conferences University College London. Wednesday 21 March, 3pm. Swansea University. Saturday 24 March, 2pm. University of Kent. Wednesday 28 March, 3pm. Phone 07968 681 328 for more information

Gap gets it!

THE CLOTHES shop Gap took a hit last week as hundreds of people protested against its exploitation of women workers in sweatshops across the globe. Around 30 protests, organised by Globalise Resistance, took place outside Gap stores to celebrate International Women’s Day.

At the 450-strong Glasgow picket protesters made a giant sewing machine to represent the backbreaking work of thousands. Students performed a dance in a jibe at Gap’s television adverts. The dance ended with the military shooting them down, to commemorate the young women who were shot down in Guatemala last year outside a Gap store when they struck for better conditions.

This all took place alongside singing, guitar playing and trampoline jumping. Karen Daly and Stephanie Corrigan said, “We didn’t know about this protest, but when we went over to find out what was going on we heard about the child labourers. We thought it was so awful we decided to join in. Around 20 of us went in to ask for a job. We said we were prepared to work for 10p an hour, the same wage as child labourers in other countries get. They said that if we did not get out immediately they would phone the police!”

Gill Hubbard, coordinator of the protest, said, “It is great when people can show their creativity and joy of life in this way. It is the complete opposite of the reality for the women who work in the Gap sweatshops.” One hundred people protested in Manchester and set up their own sweatshop using four old sewing machines.

In Bristol 150 people blockaded Gap, in London 250 people demonstrated, in Edinburgh 150, in Leeds 120, and in Liverpool 100.

Gap even prepared a leaflet for the day, claiming it does not use sweatshops to produce its clothes, and that it treats its workers fairly. But that didn’t convince the hundreds of people who know it puts its $1.1 billion profit over the conditions, safety and rights of its workers.

  • The next big target for Globalise Resistance is the G8 summit of the world’s most powerful countries in Genoa, Italy, from 20 to 22 July.

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