Uncertain Stakes Of Vodacom To Vodafone

The Communication Workers’ Union is seeking to stop Telkom South Africa Ltd. from disposing of its Vodacom Group Ltd. stake, saying workers weren’t consulted on the transaction.

The labor union has served notices to Telkom, Vodacom, Vodafone Group Plc and South Africa’s Department of Communications that it will file an urgent court application to halt the transaction, the Johannesburg-based union said in a statement dated April 17. The CWU, as its known, has 29,000 members in the telecommunications industry in South Africa, according to the e-mail.

“CWU’s main bone of contention is the fact that the organization was not properly consulted” in breach of an agreement between the union and Telkom, the CWU said. Telkom will oppose the application, the Pretoria-based company said in an e-mailed response today. Spokespeople at Vodacom, Vodafone and the communications ministry weren’t immediately able to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.

Telkom, Africa’s largest fixed line operator, is selling a 15 percent stake in Vodacom to Vodafone, which already holds 50 percent of the largest provider of mobile-phone services to South Africans. Telkom’s remaining 35 percent will be spun off to shareholders by way of a Vodacom listing on the Johannesburg stock exchange. The listing date was moved to May 18 from May 3, Telkom said April 17, without giving reasons for the delay.

Nicky Smith

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Truckers From South Africa To Raise Arms

The South African main transport union, SATAWU, has dimissed reports that it had suspended its strike following an agreement reached last night with the Road Freight Employers Association (RFEA) of and 11 percent across the board increase.

"We categorically state that there was no agreement reached or signed by SATAWU negotiators. We believe that the reports are intended to create confusion and mislead our members on the ground," said the union in an angry statement today, further saying any draft agreement be reached will be brought back to members for mandating purposes.

"Therefore the strike continues and SATAWU calls for maximum unity and discipline from all its members in pursuit of our legitimate demands," the union declared.

The strike which entered its thrid day today has already crippled some fuel stations across South Africa which reported to have ran dry, with trucks said to be standing still while the workers push for an increase.

SATAWU, South Africa's main truckers' union, went on strike over wages on Tuesday and with no agreement reached, there were already fears that the action could cost the Easter holidays in South Africa and some of its neibouring countries, with deliveries of goods and supplies most hit.

Apart from gasoline stations, other secotrs such as the medical supplies, small agriculture markets and food supply chains in general have been said to have been directly affected by the strike.


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Fewer Sick Leave From Sweedes

Fewer Swedes are claiming sick leave benefits than at any point since 1982, according to new figures from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency

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In January this year, the agency paid benefits to some 112,000 people who had spent at least the previous 30 days on sick leave. In December 2003 this figure was more than twice as high.

The sharp drop is reflected across all counties, both sexes and among both native Swedes and people born outside the country.

"The number of cases of people out sick for over 30 days is now at its lowest level since the early 1980s. It is our view that sick leave cases will settle at historically low levels in 2010," said the agency's director-general, Adriana Lender, in a statement.

The number of people on sickness-related early retirement schemes has also plummeted, with 35,000 people granted access to early retirement benefits in the last twelve months, the lowest level since the 1970s.

In total, 520,000 people in Sweden receive early retirement benefits, corresponding to one in every ten people between the ages of 19 and 64.

In the twelve months leading up to April 2009 the Social Insurance Agency paid out benefits amounting to an an average of 35.1 work days per person aged 19 to 64. In 2003 the corresponding figure soared to a record 43 work days per person.

The agency has introduced tighter checks on benefit recipients in recent years to combat a situation in which Sweden's sick leave statistics had strayed way beyond the European average.


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New Wages For Workers

Donor dependent budget and balancing between social services and minimum wage are among major constraints that hinder government to decide on minimum surviving wage for its workers.

Minister for Labour, Employment and Youth Development, Prof Juma Kapuya told reporters in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the government wishes to pay its workers living wage recommended by various stakeholders but it needs to work out on modalities to effect such payment.

"We have a problem here, we could decide that all taxes we collect from wananchi be used to pay our workers, but what about the social services that people need from the government?" asked the minister.

He said working on the donor dependent budget; the Government has to balance between paying its worker handsomely and its ability to provide social services to Tanzanians.

The minister said that the donor dependent budget denies and threatens the Government independence on many things including setting a sound minimum wage for its workers.

The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) recommended that the government should pay Sh318,000 as the minimum wage while the opposition parties recommended Sh210,000.

He was talking on International Labour Organisation's, (ILO) 90th anniversary to be celebrated on Monday.

He commended the organisation for various initiatives that led to the promotion of labour standards, employment creation, social protection and social dialogue.

The minister said ILO leads other United Nations (UN) organisations in implementing democracy in the country by incorporating the Government and other labour stakeholders before making decisions on any matter.

Speaking during the meeting the ILO director for East Africa and Somalia, Mr Alexio Musindo, said the organisation was dedicated to promoting social justice and decent work agenda through implementation of its four objectives.


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Canadians Holds Hands Together

Supporters of the Venezuelan revolution gathered in front of the Venezuelan consulate in Montreal on Sunday 15th of February at 11:00 am, in a demonstration called by Hands Off Venezuela/Société Bolivarienne du Québec. This was a cross-Canada event, as activists from Hands Off Venezuela Toronto, and the Mohawk community also traveled to increase the spirit of solidarity. All were united in solidarity with the revolution and the yes vote in the referendum abolishing term limits.

Morale was high despite bitter cold, and intimidation attempts by opposition supporters, who called Montreal police to have the demonstrators removed. The supporters of the oligarchy became aggressive, assaulted the demonstration to take away a megaphone, and themselves were pushed back by the police instead.

Alex Grant of HOV Toronto spoke to the demonstration and clearly pointed out the reason why the opposition supporters were so infuriated by our presence: the Venezuelan revolution is an example to the working class of the entire world, it shows that the capitalists and the oligarchs can be fought and overthrown by the mobilization of the toiling masses. Chavez has enraged the capitalists in Venezuela and internationally, as he has time and again come down on the side of the masses in their struggles against the few who previously concentrated enormous wealth and power in their hands.

The Venezuelan Revolution has become the focal point of the hopes of millions, not just in Venezuela, but in every country on earth. In all the demonstrations in the Arab world against the imperialist slaughter perpetrated by the Israeli ruling class, Chavez’s picture was held high. From the perspective of the bourgeoisie, the message is clear: the masses must not be allowed to elect Chavez again. This is why the oligarchy, and the bourgeois press across the world, mobilized to prevent the people of Venezuela from freely deciding who they want as their president without restriction. The oligarchy cannot defeat Chavez in elections, so they must prevent him from running again.

At noon, the demonstration marched to McGill University, where HOV/SBQ Montreal and visiting members of HOV Toronto held a public forum entitled “The Financial Crisis and the Bolivarian Revolution”. Joel Bergman, of HOV/SBQ Montreal, reminded the audience of the importance of the Venezuelan revolution, which has implemented massive social programs, raised living standards and nationalized whole industries. Joel emphasized the need to defend these gains against the attacks of the oligarchy.

Camilo Cahis from HOV Toronto also spoke and pointed to governorships and mayoralties where the opposition has recently taken power, only to turn around and use these institutions to launch attacks against the communal councils, the social missions and the working class. They have even used these bases of power to organize armed fascist gangs, which have been roaming the streets with impunity.

Both speakers underlined that this would pale in comparison to the bloody counter-revolution that would ensue if the opposition ever took hold of the presidency, and this is the practical reality which the masses took into account when voting yes for the referendum.

However, the speakers pointed out that the oil boom which made all these reforms possible for a period under capitalism is now over, and the global economic crisis will force a resolution of the struggle in Venezuela one way or the other. If the revolution falters, the Venezuelan people face the prospect of inflation, mass unemployment and widespread lockouts to remove hard-won gains for the workers. This will be fertile ground for fascist gangs, who will not hesitate to settle their score with the masses, as they did in the massacres in Chile in 1973.

There is another option. Comrades from Montreal and Toronto were united in calling for the revolution to move forward after the referendum, towards expropriating the oligarchs completely, taking away their power over the factories and the banks, and submitting them to the democratic control of the working class and the Venezuelan masses. So long as the oligarchs can still use these levers to attack the revolution, then the revolution is not irreversible.

Already, the example of the occupied factories movement in Venezuela, placing factories under the control of workers’ councils, has inspired the first factory occupation since the 1930’s in the USA. Across the world, the exploited and oppressed are facing towards the fires of revolutionary struggle that are burning in Venezuela, and across Latin America. The demonstration and this forum were yet more proof that the Venezuelan people can count on their example being paid back in solidarity the world over. We gathered together for one reason, to call out: HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!


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Chavez Absence In Summit

The much awaited arrival of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ended in disappointment for many when he failed to turn up yesterday, at the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGO’s (FITUN’s) hosting of the Fourth Summit of the People.

However, people from across the Americas and the Caribbean were present in numbers to show solidarity for the forum aimed at discussing issues affecting the hemisphere.

President Chavez, identified by his countrymen as a “president of the people,” was invited to the three-day People’s Summit, to bring solidarity to the movement.

Among the attendees, were Brazilian national Luis Bassegio and Puerto Ricans Linda Alonso Lebran and Fernando Quiles, who were reportedly detained for several hours on their arrival at the Piarco International Airport, last Wednesday.

In his address yesterday, at the University of the West Indies’ Spec Centre, Bassegio said they were greeted by Police moments after landing on the tarmac at the airport.

But while he and his entourage were dubbed by Police as “professional protestors”, Bassegio said they had gone only to discuss the crises facing the people of the region.

Interviewed afterwards, Lebran said “it was an awful experience.”

“We are just peaceful political activists,” she added.

And as she spoke, a group of Police officers who had been posted at the Centre stood watch behind.

The officers together with Army soldiers had reportedly set up camp at the Centre in anticipation of the event.

Lebran recalled that her colleague identified as “Tito” was also detained by Police, but was sent back to his homeland on the following morning.

The forum was chaired by FITUN head, David Abulah, in which labour activists from around the Caribbean spoke and identified the problems plaguing the region. Following discussions yesterday, a draft declaration is expected to be submitted to the heads attending the Fifth Summit of the Americas.


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Welsh Workers Goodwill

WELSH workers are the most flexible in the UK when it comes to accepting pay cuts to save their colleagues’ jobs.

That is the finding of a major survey of more than 2,500 people by the independent campaign Keep Britain Working.

The research found that 93% of workers in Wales would accept changes in their working conditions to help colleagues keep their jobs and 37% would accept a cut in pay.

It also found a staggering 61% would accept a reduction in hours.

All three figures are higher than any other part of Britain.

The poll is published in advance of Wednesday’s Budget statement, which Gordon Brown has acknowledged needs to be “a Budget for jobs”.

Yesterday veteran Corus blast furnace worker and former Neath Port Talbot mayor Tony Taylor said the poll’s findings came as no surprise.

He said: “We in Wales have undergone a dramatic shift from heavy industry to lighter industries and have had to accept wholesale change in a relatively short time period.

“The inward investment we have enjoyed in Wales in recent years, for instance, is partly a result of the fact employers know they have a flexible workforce in Wales, willing to change and willing to get on with the job.

“The changes in the steel industry, as just one example, have been really, really drastic in the past 10 years alone and changes over 30 to 40 years have been huge.

“But like in other industries in Wales where there have been big changes, Corus workers have got on with it.

“But we are used to changes here now, both demographically and in terms of working practice.

“And the stark truth is we have had to get on with things because the changes have been coming so thick and fast.”

Mr Taylor, of Aberavon, Port Talbot, who works at the town’s Corus steel plant, added: “I really think the attitude of the workforce here puts us at a big advantage when it comes to winning inward investment projects and new jobs.

“It’s still sad of course to see heavy industries steadily declining but that is something we have to come to terms with.”

The survey also found that, across the UK, 31% would agree to lose certain benefits to keep their jobs, 6% would accept a three-month unpaid sabbatical, and 19% would accept a sabbatical on 30% pay.

Three out of five would take on extra responsibilities, while 48% would change their role entirely if it kept their colleagues in work.

However, the survey found such measures needed to “feel fair” to retain support.

If employers asked for sacrifices without making any themselves, 49% of those polled in the UK said they would challenge their managers, while more than one in 10 would take more direct action.

And 3% would go slow at work, 4% would walk off the job or seek redundancy, and a further 3% would consider strike action.

Also, in a separate poll on the Keep Britain Working campaign’s website (www.keepbritainworking.com) more than two in five (46%) said they would consider following the recent Belfast example and occupy a factory rather than accept wholesale redundancies.

James Reed, founder of Keep Britain Working, said: “There seems to be a new altruism at work. If people believe that being flexible about their own employment conditions will help stem job losses, they will take on change and make personal sacrifices – especially if bosses do their bit.

“Indeed people are full of innovative and effective ways to help employers cope with the downturn other than by simply cutting jobs.”


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