Archive for May, 2012

The Samsung Galaxy Note after two months

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I think two months is long enough to decide whether buying a Samsung Galaxy Note was a good idea or not.

I should preface this by saying that though I’m an early adopter, I’m also an early dissatisfied customer as well. I’ve owned many gadgets I grew not to like. So there’s nothing certain about this — I may very well have decided that the Samsung Galaxy Note was a bad investment.

But it wasn’t. I’m still actually delighted with it. (more…)

British unions out of step on Histadrut

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

This article appears in Solidarity this week.

As PCS convenes this week in Brighton for their annual conference, delegates will be be expected to vote on a wide range of issues, including some international ones. Buried deep in the more than 200 pages of conference documents is this sentence: “Conference … instructs the NEC to … [c]all on trade unions around the world to review and sever all ties with the Histadrut.”

This the only reference to the Histadrut in the entire document – and there is no explanation to PCS delegates what the Histadrut actually is. Delegates presumably know that the Histadrut is something evil, and that unions in other countries would almost certainly welcome the PCS call for the them to “review and sever” ties with Israel’s national trade union centre.

There is no indication in the resolution that there is anything remotely controversial about this. (more…)

We are the 53

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Last week, rank-and-file members of Unite in one workplace raised £1,000 to support 53 Indonesian workers, sacked by Nestlé.

They were joined by trade unionists in Germany, the Nordic countries and elsewhere who in a matter of hours raised tens of thousands of pounds for the solidarity fund.

All told, unions have already raised enough money to support those sacked Indonesians and their families for at least six months.

So much for the idea that international trade solidarity is a thing of the past.

This was announced quite dramatically at the world congress of the International Union of Food workers (IUF), at which the “We are the 53” campaign was launched to demand that Nestlé reinstate the sacked workers.

Nestlé refuses to do so, though it prides itself on its record of “corporate social responsibility”. The company’s website says:

“For us, caring about the wellbeing of others and the environment is integral to our promise of improving the quality of life through good food and beverages everywhere. Our commitment to great tasting and trusted products has and always will be tied to our respect for the environment and the people we work with, including the farmers who supply us, our employees, our consumers and the communities where we operate.”

The story began last October when several dozen SBNIP members working at the Nescafé factory in Panjang, Indonesia walked out on strike over a bargaining deadlock.

The strike ended and both sides reached an agreement to return to work.

But when the workers came back to their shifts, they were met by riot police.

Nestlé managers began arbitrarily sacking them. Not all the strikers were sacked, but all those who were sacked were union members who had participated in the strike.

It was a clear message to others not to be “troublemakers”.

When the IUF raised the question with Nestlé bosses in Vevey, Switzerland — a short train ride away from the IUF headquarters in Geneva — they were given four different explanations of what had happened.

As the IUF put it, “Nestlé has a different explanation for this action, depending on who is asking the question. No one is told the real reason: the workers are being punished for attempting to assert their rights in a country where such efforts are not well received by company bosses and HR managers unaccustomed to challenges to their supreme authority.”

Full details are on the IUF website, http://www.iuf.org

Antiimperialistische Ahnungslosigkeit: Über Gewerkschaften und Diktatoren

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

This article appeared in Jungle World.

Die Woche vor dem 1. Mai wird jedes Jahr weltweit als »Nordkorea-Friedenswoche« begangen, obwohl man das innerhalb der Arbeiterbewegung kaum bemerken würde. Gewerkschaften in ganz Europa rühmen sich ihrer Solidaritätskampagnen für Arbeiterinnen und Arbeiter in Palästina, Kolumbien, Venezuela und Kuba, aber unterstützen nie öffentlich die Arbeiterinnen und Arbeiter in Nordkorea, einem Land, das eigentlich ein riesiges Gefängnis ist. (more…)

Britain’s Cooperative Group Embraces The Boycott Against Israel

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

This article appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

On 28 April, the fifth largest supermarket chain in Britain, the Co-operative Group, voted to stop trading with Israeli companies that source some of their products from Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It is the first British supermarket chain to do so. (more…)

The Co-op votes to demonise Israel

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Coop supermarket.

The co-operative - good with food. Just not Israeli food.

This article appears in Progress Online.

On 28 April, the Co-operative Group voted to stop trading with Israeli companies that source some of their products from Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. It is the first British supermarket chain to do so.

For those of us who support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine and who oppose the building of settlements in the occupied West Bank, it is easy to dismiss this as irrelevant. After all, it’s not like the Co-op voted to ban all Israeli products. In fact the Co-op went out of their way to say precisely that. They’re not boycotting Israel. They’re just boycotting companies that profit from the occupation.

But before dismissing the Co-op’s decision as being no big deal, it’s worth having a look at what supporters of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad here in the UK are saying. (more…)

North Korea: Why are unions silent?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

This article appears in this week’s issue of Solidarity.

Kim Jong-un.

Last of the Kim dynasty?

The week leading up to May Day is commemorated each year around the world as “North Korea Freedom Week”, though you’d hardly know that if you were active in the British labour movement. British unions pride themselves on their solidarity campaigns in support of workers in Palestine, Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, but never speak out in defense of those workers who live in North Korea, a country that is effectively a giant prison.

This year, there was a commemoration in the House of Commons and three North Korean refugees spoke, as well as someone from Amnesty International. Several people commented on the fact that while public opinion can lead to pressure on a number of countries that violate human rights, one hears very little about North Korea in spite of its abysmal record.

And this is particularly true in the labour movement. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) publishes an annual report on violations of trade union rights around the world. For each country, there’s a general description, a few words about the legal situation of workers, and a page about violations of rights. For a country like Israel, the ITUC publishes a long list of rights violations. But the page about North Korea is blank.

Following the same formula for all countries, the ITUC has this to say about North Korea:

“Report violations – 2011. Murders: none reported. Attempted murders: none reported. Threats: none reported. Injuries: none reported. Arrests: none reported. Imprisonments: none reported. Dismissals: none reported.” (more…)