Posts Tagged ‘occupation’

American influence? By Rodrigo Acuña 15 July 2009

July 24, 2009

American influence?
By Rodrigo Acuña
15 July 2009
http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2619530.htm
Last week’s military coup in Honduras highlights the limits of democracy in Latin America.
The coup’s leaders complained that the country’s president, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was attempting to extend his presidency with a referendum on the constitution which if passed, would have facilitated his potential re-election.
Much of the mainstream media have repeated this view but it is simply false.

As Latin American experts Pablo Navarrete and Victor Figueroa-Clark recently pointed out in the New Statesman, the referendum, which was “non-binding”, even if won by Zelaya, would have only paved the way for another vote that would have taken place after Zelaya stepped down from office in January 2010.

The current Honduran constitution was written in the early 1980s, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and shortly after 16 years of military dictatorships. Like other constitutions in Latin America, which were created during or briefly after the generals stepped down, Honduran’s has countless restrictions, loop holes and flaws. The same could be said about the country’s other institutions.
Commenting on the Central American state, Greg Grandin – professor of history at New York University – recently said:

“The Honduran military is effectively a subsidiary of the United States government. Honduras, as a whole, if any Latin American country is fully owned by the United States, it’s Honduras. Its economy is wholly based on trade, foreign aid and remittances.”

During the 1980s, with heavy backing from the Reagan administration, Honduras was used as a permanent base for the right-wing Contras against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. Currently, the country hosts one of the largest US military bases in Central America and receives $US 1.4 million per year in education and exchange programs.
It is precisely because of the nature of the relationship between the United States and Honduras that the role of the Obama administration in recent developments needs to be scrutinized. Did Washington give the Honduran military the green light to remove Zelaya? While for now that question cannot be answered in full, we do know the following.

Both the head of the Honduran military, General Romero Vasquez and airforce General Luis Suazo, who led the coup against Zelaya, are graduates of the notorious US School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), where key Latin American dictators and tortures during the Cold War were trained.
According to lawyer Eva Golinger, who has been crucial in uncovering Washington’s role in the 2002 coup in Venezuela, the US has been providing up to $US 50 million to organisations in Honduras which look favourably on US interests.
In a recent report in the Washington Post on June 29, it was claimed US diplomats had been negotiating privately to stop the coup. An official quoted in the paper said events had “been brewing a long time”.
Also, while after some hesitation, US President Barack Obama did call events in Honduras an illegal coup, the British newsagency Reuters reported that “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration was not formally designating the ouster as a military coup for now, a step that would force a cut-off of most US aid to Honduras”.

For those familiar with US-Latin American relations, the above pattern is all too common: a coup takes place against a leader not adhering to Washington’s interest, the US at the time denies involvement and then 20 years later archival evidence confirms the White House did in fact support a military take over.
Zelaya’s own political trajectory fits the scrip neatly.
Elected to the presidency in 2005 on a conservative law and order ticket, once in office Zelaya soon moved to the political left.
Criticising the practises of local and international business, he increased the minimum wage by 60 per cent. Justifying his actions, Zelaya claimed he had the support of the country’s unions and that his decision would “force the business oligarchy to start paying what is fair”.

On other fronts, the president increased teachers’ wages and invited Cuban doctors into the slums. In a country where 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, Zelaya’s actions did not go unnoticed by most Hondurans.
Then he crossed another boundary. The president travelled to Cuba and Venezuela and signed Honduras to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) – a fair trade agreement between nine Latin American countries which stands in sharp contrast to free market doctrines.

In late 2008, it was reported that Zelaya sent Obama a personal letter harshly criticising Washington’s history of “interventionism” in the region, and demanded a new approach to fighting the drug trade.
Earlier this year, at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the ALBA countries declined to sign the final statement of the conference which was heavily promoted by the Obama administration. It claimed the declaration did not “respond to the global economic crisis” and “unjustly excludes Cuba, without mentioning the general regional consensus that condemns the embargo”.
As numerous experts on Latin America are aware, the region is now clearly divided between those which want to remake the status quo (ie the ALBA camp through agreements such as a regional currency), and those which want to reposition it – eg Brazil or Chile.

While the Obama administration may make all the appropriate diplomatic statements about the coup in Honduras, it is doubtful it is really lamenting the removal of Zelaya.
In past Unleashed articles I have argued that the US has not taken kindly to the ALBA alliance, or any country which has joined the Venezuela-Cuba alliance.
Whatever one may think of these countries, they are pushing for a regional alliance which questions US hegemony in the region.
Organisations like the Union of South American Countries (UNASUR) and the Bank of the South stand in direct contrast to the aims of the US-led Organsiation of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Bank in the way they do business.
Also, various countries (again led by the Venezuela alliance) have been moving to have US military bases removed from their countries.
Honduras may have eventually moved in that direction and this is why Washington is not pushing for sanctions on the new military government.

Even if Zelaya did not move in that direction, the fact that he joined the Venezuela-Cuba alliance was enough to upset the local political right and again, the United States and its pro-free market organisations.
Back in Honduras, developments still look bleak despite recent talks in Costa Rica to end the crisis. Zelaya’s attempt last week to return home failed after his aeroplane was denied entry into Tegucigalpa’s main airport. Awaiting supporters were gunned down by police in front of the international press.
Throughout the country, military repression has cost the lives of several of the Zelaya’s supporters. Dozens others have been arrested and beaten after protesting against the coup. A media black out has occurred with Amnesty International reporting that:
“Many broadcasters appear to have closed for fear for their safety. Others, such as
Canal 36, have been closed by the security forces and members of the military are
reported to be patrolling their premises.”

Despite almost universal condemnation, the new Micheletti regime is confident it will hang on to power claiming credits from the US and the European Union will continue to flow into the country.
And with a US-trained military, Honduran ‘democracy’ should be more than safe.

Abolish the ABBC: Demolish the framework of fear! Review Framework of Flesh: Builder’s Labourers Battle for Health and Safety, Humphrey McQueen, Ginninderra press, 2009.

July 19, 2009

This review was written by Peter Curtis for and published by The Freedom Socialist Party, Australia. http://www.socialism.com/activities/melbourne.html

— Review —

Abolish the ABBC: Demolish the framework of fear!

Review Framework of Flesh: Builder’s Labourers Battle for Health and Safety, Humphrey McQueen, Ginninderra press, 2009.

Will they jail him? Hundreds of unionists in South Australia cheered Ark Tribe as he entered court on 10 March 2009. Tribe is the latest construction worker to be threatened with six months jail for standing up for his right to make the workplace safe and objecting to the flagrant injustice of the Australian Building Construction Commission (ABCC) star-chamber by refusing to answer when questioned. But, will they jail him? The State forces failed to convict Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organiser Noel Washington last year. With all the penal powers, the police, the ABCCs special powers, and all the law courts of the land, the power of the unions stopped them dead. Despite all the encouragement, belligerence and arrogance of this anti-labour federal government, despite the coercive forces available to the State they failed to follow through their threats. Legal means are no match for the collective response of workers. Solidarity grows from the social and industrial strength that workers build by organising and unifying their unions to better fight for their rights at work.

“In 1890, The Victorian Master Builders demanded the sacking of the colony’s coroner because he believed that his duties went beyond establishing the cause of ‘accidental’ death to preventing its recurrence. The coroner had attributed the death of a bricklayer to the vice-president of the Builders’ and Contractors’ Association.” In 2009, Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Workplace Relations, declared to the union movement that she and her government are unashamedly acting for these same business interests. Gillard, at the behest of her corporate masters, has made her choice and it is as bad as the other ‘choices’ we have got rid of. The Government is doing what ever has to be done to create economic and industrial conditions suited to maximising the corporations’ profits. Gillard and her ABCC are clear — woe betides any workers who demand, agitate, and enforce their rights to make a workplace safe.

Humphrey McQueen’s latest book, Framework of Flesh: Builder’s Labourers Battle for Health and Safety is an essential tool for the job of building our strength and organising our response to the bastardry of corporate bosses and their political minions within the labour movement. We are provided with a critical eye to workers’ activity on the job. The stories of labourers’ battles with their bosses as they respond to the logic of a system that drives capitalists’ to exploit, maim and kill, are insightful. Drawing on 130 years of evidence, McQueen resurrects the voices of the labourers themselves and allows them the opportunity to testify to the exploitation, the deaths, and the abuses committed by Messrs Construction Capital. Voices like Charlie Sullivan’s live on from the 1920s when he wrote that history was made by “the great and humble army whose sweat and blood are mingled in the concrete and bricks as surely as if the walls were built over a framework of human flesh.”

Such sentiment is a sobering reminder to those of us who are fortunate enough to avoid nursing a lifetimes of muscle strains, crushed bones and collapsed lungs through to retirement at age 67 — yet another of the federal government’s propositions for improving the quality of old age! McQueen asks his reader to consider the evidence, admissions and arguments that the bosses’ knowingly and actively enforce the neglect of health and safety at work. The historical evidence advises that ours is not a ‘brave new world’ but one where old objectives are still pursued today but in new ways: “In 1855 factory owners in Manchester, England organised and collected 50 thousand pounds to meet the costs of defending members who had been prosecuted by the factory inspectors. The object was to prove ‘killing is not murder’ if done for the sake of profit.”

Diminishing the labourers’ efforts by trivialising their struggles and sacrificing lives is an essential part of ruling class propaganda that is absorbed and disseminated by the corporate mass-media and perpetuated by too many of their journalists. Framework of Flesh is an antidote to the world of their creation. Few know what takes place on construction sites and they lack the experience and imagination of the Director of Construction for the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s, “who acknowledged the emotional strain: ‘Every day those men went on the bridge, they went in the same way as a soldier goes into battle, not knowing wether they would come down alive’.”

Yet despite a construction worker being killed every week between 1996 and 2005 and 41 deaths in 2003 alone, the Cole Commission presumed the innocence of the construction bosses. “From mid 2001, the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry repackaged the accusation that labourers threw themselves off buildings to get compensation. … to allege that unions provoked disputes over health and safety to win industrial demands such as Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) … According to Commissioner Cole, this ‘widespread exploitation’ of bosses had trivialised safety. In truth, workers on EBAs were as half as likely to be injured as those outside them. Pressing for an EBA was, therefore, a safety matter.”

The words of Ben Mulvogue, Secretary of the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation, should resonate today. In 1915, he reminded and reassured his members that: “the union does antagonise, and strives to abolish many things that are, and advocates and tries to inaugurate changes which should, and will, be made in the future. … The object and aims of the union movement and the realisation thereof have been the dream of the sages and seers, and the prophets of the past ages. Every new demand for better physical protection of the workers ensures a great ideal development for future generations.” Rights are not privileges to be handed out by the master to be taken back when they choose. Fighting for our rights at work and health and safety go hand in hand, they are only won and defended through struggle. Even if we could vote for our rights, this act would not prevent deaths and injuries at work. To absorb and act on this knowledge is ‘responsible unionism’ — the agitation and organisation for workers’ rights.

The West Gate Bridge towering over the Melbourne docks is an ever present memorial to those workers and their families who lost a life in the “most murderous of all incidents on Australian construction sites.” Workers recently contracted by Leightons to carry out repairs on the overloaded bridge only to be duped of their wages and conditions, and see their health and safety representative and union delegates sacked, are now being represented in the media as the “violent thugs that are threatening to undermine every principle of human decency.” In recent weeks Leightons’ corporate leaders, are carrying on Hollands’ legacy: while recognising that the lack of health and safety on sites could not be ignored, in practice the pursuit of profits came first for both.

Frameworks of Flesh makes an outstanding contribution to the continual struggle to make construction sites fit for workers to work on. It is much more than that however, because the research is so thorough. McQueen provides both the evidence and the analysis necessary to make sense of why builders, and capitalists generally, do what they do. Understanding developments by interrogating our history are necessary if unionists are to prepare themselves for the inevitable struggles ahead. The proposed national standards for Occupational Health and Safety will fall a long way short of where we need them to be unless unionists get organised and demand something better. Both unfettered right of entry for union officials and the ability of unions to collectively bargain and organise across an industry are essential steps toward safer workplaces. The ABCC may finally be abolished but this government’s intention is to maintain it and merely re-badge it. Our best form of defence is to strengthen both our individual understanding and our collective capacity to resist by learning from the combined wisdom that is accrued from our own experience and that of working people yesterday and today. Framework of Flesh is one exemplar from which we all can benefit.

Peter Curtis

Peter Curtis is a socialist and campaigner for the equitable provision of education. He is a teacher and a member of the Australian Education Union. Framework of Flesh is available for $30 from Solidarity Salon. http://www.framework-of-flesh.com.au

Demolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Defense of Ark Tribe.

July 19, 2009

Speakers’ notes for the Demolition of the
Australian Building and Construction Commission and the
Defense of Ark Tribe.


It is very important that the word is passed around to as many people as we can get to. This includes addressing youth groups, book groups, church groups, and any collective of concerned citizens.
Following is a selection of speaking points for anyone who is addressing a group to inform them of these real threats to getting home safely from a day at work. It is important for fellow workers and citizens to understand that the battle against the ABCC is in defense of our civil liberties and democratic rights. The ‘Spirit of Eureka’ could be invoked here.
Use them and please adapt these points according to your audience.
Other additions, thoughts and examples are welcomed. For example a few lines of the song ‘Solidarity for Ever’ could be included to sing at the end of a meeting.

Outline
A) Speakers Notes.
1. The Construction Commission is an issue For All Working Australians Who Value A ‘Fair Go’.
2. Federal ALP And The “Tough Cop On The Beat”
3. What kind of democracy? – Exercising Our Rights to Participate – Making our Communities and Unions matter.
4. Everyday on site building workers are menaced by the absence of health and safety … Young apprentices and training, and safety at work.
B) Statement of defiance
C) Model motion
D) Personal message to Ark Tribe
E) Appendix including other useful contacts and web sites.

The CFMEU’s Construction Division’s Campaign
to defeat the unjust laws of ABCC

1. This is an issue for all working Australians who value a fair go.
At the ACTU Congress in June, every union in this country indicated its opposition to these unjust laws being used against workers.

You have all seen the Work Safe ads on television – “talk it, act it, get home alive”

http://www.workcover.vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/WorkSafe/SiteTools/About+WorkSafe/Campaigns

Real Threats – to lives of workers, and livelihoods of whole families

Did you know? In this fair and democratic country, Australia, values that we care about are being violated by the fact that an working man faces being sent to jail for 6 months for alerting government health and safety authorities to unsafe working conditions that threatened the lives of his and fellow workers.

Occupational Health and Safety laws breaches by employers, like those that Ark and his work mates identified, are, in effect, being imposed on workers by the Construction Commission because any action taken to protect safety and conditions is deemed unlawful.

The Construction Commission is the biggest threat to workers health and safety
http://www.rightsonsite.org.au provides footage of the circumstances of the dispute that leaves Ark facing the ABCC, the courts and gaol. Ark also explains why he is taking the action he is taking.
The questions – Why has nothing fundamentally changed under an ALP government?
• A government put in to power by the combined activity of tens of thousands of workers under the banner of YOUR RIGHTS AT WORK.
• Why is this government – that was put in to power to get rid of the Howard laws – now breaking its promise to get rid of those laws?
• Why is Working safe and “talking it and acting on it so get home alive” illegal if you are a construction worker?

2. Federal ALP and the “Tough cop on the beat”
Gillard’s proof? – Speech in parliament
“high levels of unlawfulness as evidenced by allegations, investigations, prosecutions, audits AND THE LIKE” !!?? … but … NO CONVICTIONS!

Why we need to DEFEND THE ACTIONS of Ark Tribe.
We CANNOT TOLERATE going to work and LEAVING OUR RIGHTS AT HOME.

Ark Tribe – Will they jail him? How do we Demolish this framework of fear?

Will they jail him? Hundreds of unionists in South Australia cheered Ark Tribe as he entered court on the 10th March 2009. Ark is the latest construction worker to be threatened with six months jail for standing up for his right to make a workplace safe and objecting to the flagrant injustice of the Australian Building and Construction Commission’s (ABCC) star-chamber by refusing to answer when questioned.
But, will they jail him? The State forces failed to convict CFMEU organiser Noel Washington late last year. With all the penal powers, the police, the special powers, and all the law courts of the land, the power of the unions stopped them dead. Despite the belligerence and arrogance of this anti-labour federal government and the coercive powers and forces available to them the enforcers failed to follow through their threats.
Legal means are no match for workers’ organised collective response from on the job. Solidarity grows from the social and industrial strength that workers build by organising and unifying themselves. Solidarity is vital to better fight for our rights at work.
While there is an ABCC there will never be Rights at Work in a Fair Work Australia.

The reason CFMEU is being targeted is because it has over decades persistently campaigned for better Health and Safety on building sites and demolition sites.
• Asbestos from 1970’s on
• Public Housing
• Environmental green bans
• Air and water pollution

3. WHAT KIND OF DEMOCRACY IS IT WHEN WE CANNOT EXERCISE OUR RIGHTS AND PARTICIPATE?
It is these kind of actions – practically demonstrate what it means to exercising our rights and participation means – THAT IS HOW WE MAKE AND DEFEND A DEMOCRACY.

Taking a stand on defending our rights at work, to express our collective opinion, and putting words into action is the BEST WAY TO UNDERSTAND AND PROTECT OUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS.

Making our Communities and Unions matter
What does a fair and democratic Australia mean? The best way to answer this question is by helping each other and showing people through collective actions.
Unions matter for making and keeping Australia a fairer and democratic society.

The Liberal Howard Legacy: Terror; Alert and Alarmed; Constructing Fear
• From 2000 to 2003 Liberal Government spent $60 million on the Cole Royal Commission into building workers
• $20 million dollars was spent on anti-terrorist measures!
WHY? To smash unions; exercising rights for safe conditions and protect lives; livelihoods.
• Workchoices was the end result.
• Your Rights at Work Campaign – Tens of thousands of workers organised to defeat Workchoices. We sacked the government and its leader Howard.
Why to STOP UNIONS connecting to larger social and environmental issues STOP taking on responsibilities beyond immediate industrial issues.
UNIONISTS are people who live in the community!

Gillard speech; where is the violence and where are the convictions?
NO EVIDENCE!
When was the last time a building worker menaced you?

• We have criminal laws to deal with workers who commit crimes on site.
• Why has labour law that is meant to improve and protect conditions for workers now become a sub-branch of the criminal code?
The Construction Commission is the greatest threat to safety
Why isn’t WorkSafe tackling the Commission?
4. EVERYDAY ON SITE BUILDING WORKERS ARE MENACED BY THE ABSENCE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY – BEFORE THE UNION CLEANED UP unsafe SITES WERE UNSAFE.
THE CURRENT UNION CAMPAIGN HAS HAD AN EFFECT
Gillard’s definition of violence does not extend to the tens of thousands of building and construction workers expected to die from asbestos-related diseases. No executive or director of James Hardie faces penal sanctions over that slaughter.

Gillard acknowledged that health and safety issues were ‘deliberately not included in Mr. Wilcox’s terms of reference’. That exclusion meant that Wilcox could not investigate one of the principal realms of illegalities by employers, or use that investigation to explain the levels of unlawfulness by workers defending themselves, as in the case of Ark Tribe. Under the review’s unbalanced terms of reference, would Tribe’s conscience have allowed him to accept Wilcox’s fee of $326, 974?

• WILCOX REVIEW – No OH&S – what sort of conscience accepts $315 K
• PM Kevin Rudd’s government is still funding the ABCC to the tune of $32 million a year. Murray Wilcox, a former federal court chief justice, was appointed to review the powers of the ABCC. He has also been asked to report on the integration of the ABCC into Labor’s proposed industrial relations umbrella, Fair Work Australia, by February 2010.
• Even though Wilcox said in an October 3 discussion paper that the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act was “discriminatory” against building workers, he did not call for its abolition far from it.
• Still bad laws though – band-aids don’t stop infections.
Young apprentices and training and safety at work – If there is any remaining doubts – REMEMBER OUR KIDS – LEST WE FORGET.
See E) Appendix for further information

B) Model motion
This meeting supports the actions of Ark Tribe to defend his democratic rights to free speech and speak out and act against laws that prevent construction workers working safely. Ensuring that employers meet their legal and statutory obligations in providing the necessary conditions for safe work practices requires the organising power and support of a union. We support and encourage actions of Ark Tribe in refusing to provide evidence to the ABCC or any other body that denies him his legal right of presumption of innocence, and to legal representation of his choice. We call on the federal government to disband the ABCC.

C) Statement of Defiance
Support Ark Tribe and his Right to a Safe Workplace.
We the undersigned welcome the refusal of Ark Tribe to provide evidence to the ABCC. We call on our fellow Australians to join Ark Tribe in breaking the laws. We accept that in signing this statement we make ourselves libel to prosecution for incitement to break the law.
Name Address email Organisation Signature

D) Personal support for Ark. Ark is standing up for all of us by defending our rights at work. While he has the support of the union and of many workers from around the country it is important to let him know. All said and done he is the one facing 6 months in a gaol.
See Ark Tribe on You Tube, and Send support to Ark on http://www.rightsonsite.org.au

E) Appendix and other useful websites
Adelaide woman Andrea Madeley has called for the national adoption of industrial manslaughter laws.
Her plea follows a $72,000 fine imposed by an Adelaide magistrate on local business Diemould Pty Ltd which had employed her teenage son Daniel until his death in their workplace on Saturday June 5, 2004.
Her call follows the state Labor government’s disgraceful attack on worker’s compensation laws last year, and the Federal Labor governments “lowest common denominator” approach to a standardised national set of worker’s compensation laws.
The teenager suffered fatal injuries when his dustcoat became caught in the unguarded spinning shaft of one of the company’s boring machines. He died the next day in the Flinders Medical Centre.
The boy suffered injuries to every part of his body – his brain bled severely, his spine was lacerated, his arms and legs were broken and both feet were severed – in the incident.
“I need to ask Daniel’s employer these questions now,” said Andrea Madeley. “We’re talking about a machine capable of tearing a human being apart – please tell me what the hell you were thinking having Daniel operating that thing alone in the factory in the middle of the night?
“It will be my life’s work to hound the conscience of shoddy operations – companies that believe the bottom line is more important than the lives of their workers and their loved ones. That is the promise I made to Danny. I aim to keep it.” http://www.void.org.au http://www.void.org.au/index.html

Ark Tribe on you tube and Send support to Ark on http://www.rightsonsite.org.au
http://www.rightsonsite.org.au provides footage of the circumstances of the dispute that leaves Ark facing the ABCC, the courts and gaol. Ark also explains why he is taking the action he is taking.
http://www.workcover.vic.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/WorkSafe/SiteTools/About+WorkSafe/Campaigns – provides the ads seen on TV
http://www.void.org.au Voice of Industrial Death. To keep her promise to her son, and to help the families of other victims of workplace death, Andrea established the organisation VOID (Victims Of Industrial Death) in May 2006. She is its foundation President, and maintains this website for the organisation.
chriswhiteonline.org/2009/06/arks-tribe
http://www.framework-of-flesh.com.au “I hope that Framework of Flesh is read by every building worker and by all those with an interest in occupational health and safety.” Linda Clarke. Framework of Flesh: Builders’ Labourers Battle for Health & Safety by Humphrey McQueen, published by Ginninderra Press, Adelaide, 2009


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