Workers' conditions and struggles


The inflation gripping the country and constantly reducing wage levels is provoking a response from metal workers in different areas of the country. Inflation has risen in recent months and now runs over 6%. The workers of auto companies, well aware that the sector has been enlarged and how high profits have been in recent years, have taken to the streets to get real wage stability.

The workers of the production lines of Nissan, Renault and Volkswagen in the state of Parana in southern Brazil have been on strike since Aug. 29. The agitation involves more than 9 000 workers and is centred on an immediate increase in wages, 8, 5% ,plus a bonus of 800 reais that should at least partly offset the high inflation in the country. In the same state, Volvo employees (about 2000) will receive an increase of around 7% in November and a one-off bonus of about 620 euros. The strike has already caused the lost production of more than 6000 vehicles. In San Paolo employees of General Motors, Toyota and Honda also threaten to strike and are demanding a wage increase of 18%. It is obvious how tensions are also growing in those countries where relocation has led to a high rate of industrial development, but always based on wages so low as to be rendered unacceptable by an increase in inflation.


In many Argentinian provinces, including Buenos Aires, teachers are on strike, demanding salary increases due to growing inflation. The average increases required by workers are around 20%, and the authorities have offered 10%: that gives some idea of the harsh situation the country finds itself in following the dramatic crisis of a few years ago. The struggle began on 20th of August when thousands of teachers, under 24 union labels, marched in the centre of Cordoba to protest against the decision of the local authority to delay the payment of pensions above 5 000 pesos. The government quickly resorted to force to supress the various demonstrations that arose in the city, the police were called on to intervene several times under the pretext that the strikers were provoking chaos and were undermining public security. On the 27th and 28th of August the protests hit the school sector where the wage struggle has become ever more pressing. Here again the reaction of the public authorities has been very hard, the Mayor of Buenos Aires has accused the teachers of greed and has admitted the lack of public funds... at least those necessary to defend salaries from inflation.


On August 19 the employees of Hyundai went on strike in defence of their wages. More than 45,000 workers have implemented rolling strikes lasting four hours, this is the fifth action of the struggle in the last two months and is costing the company more than 233 million dollars in non-production. The goal of workers is a wage increase of 9%, the company has not yet yielded to the demands and strikes not only continue but also increase due to higher levels of participation.


August 17th. Police arrested several workers who were demonstrating for wage increases and better working conditions. They were immigrant workers of Bengali origin, who constitute the backbone of the working class of Kuwait. Never before have the countries of the Gulf witnessed such importation of cheap labour from neighbouring Asian countries with high birth rate. This helped to maintain low wages but demonstrations occur with increasing frequency (the last was suppressed in July). Often, immigrant workers are easily blackmailed and are not paid for whole months. The daily Arab Times report that as many as 6000 employees of two cleaning companies are on strike to obtain wage arrears. Some workers expelled by the authorities of Kuwait after the strikes denounce violence and torture.