This week: a rising wave of strike action across the world, homophobia in the Ukraine, the Tory Party Conference, tech companies avoid tax in the UK.
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- Rising wave of strike action and resistance to austerity across the world.
The reason we have a financial crisis is because the rich have creamed off all the profit, leaving working people with no spending power.
This leads to a drop in demand in the economy, because people can’t afford to buy things.
To make up for the drop in demand, more and more credit was extended, so people could keep buying enough to keep the economy turning over, even though they don’t earn enough.
Credit fuelled an unsustainable housing boom that collapsed, taking the banks that had funded it down with it.
And now we’re paying for the crisis a second time through austerity.
To make matters worse, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation has warned of rising food costs across the world. This is due partly to speculation on the financial markets, with financiers trading in wheat futures, but also due to terrible crop yields due to this years’ unpredictable weather. This most likely a result of climate change.
This is a perfect storm of crises and it looks like this wave of activism across the world is likely to continue. It is very necessary, as we need to work together to tackle climate change and build a sustainable future for every one.
Let’s look at some of those disputes:
The US supermarket giant is experiencing its first strike action in 50 years, with workers at both retail and distribution centres walking off the job in a growing number of states. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has tried to organise Walmart for a long time, but the company’s deep pockets and union-busting tactics have meant it has made little progress. This time, the union is working with community and campaign groups and has succeeded in running a very high profile campaign.
3. Palermo’s strike
Yesterday we had an interesting conversation with an organiser from the Palermo’s Pizza dispute. The company is using immigration law to attempt to break the union. It’s an interesting case study, and the union strategy of tackling the company’s distribution network is proving effective. Watch the web conference here.
4. Another General Strike in Greece on 18 October
This follows Angela Merkel’s recent visit which saw widespread protests.
5. Unrest in South Africa continues
There are as many as 100,000 workers in South Africa currently taking wildcat action, mostly in the mining sector. The gold mines AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields have 48,000 workers on strike; this week the workers rejected the latest pay offer. There is also ongoing action in the transport sector, and municipal workers are threatening strike action. The government seems paralysed and unable to respond.
For some analysis, see our web conference with Tahir Sema earlier this week.
6. Some good news:
last week reported about Algerian union activist Yacine Zaid – he has now been freed after a widely publicised campaign. Also, one of the members of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, as been freed, though two other members remain in prison.
7. Ukraine moves to outlaw “gay propaganda”
The Ukrainian parliament could give final approval next week to a bill that aims to outlaw “pro-homosexual propaganda” – which could be any “positive depiction” of gay people, gay pride marches, or even the screening of a film like Brokeback Mountain.
This archaic legislation imposes indeterminate fines and up to five years in prison for repeat offenders.
In some ways,Ukraine is an open and tolerant society. It was the first former Soviet republic to decriminalise homosexuality, in 1991, and has its own gay rights movement, but the wide support for this bill indicates there is a very different attitude in a large part of the population.
The first reading of the bill last week unleashed a deluge of condemnation from human rights organisations, both inside and outsideUkraine, who have christened it a “gay gag law”, and say it would be a gross violation of European and international conventions.
It may be no coincidence that a number of gay activists have been attacked in recent months.
The first ever Gay Pride march planned in Kiev was called off at the last minute in May after threats of violence from far-right groups.
Immediately after a news conference announcing the decision, masked assailants kicked and jumped on Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of Gay Forum ofUkraine, and there are some shocking images of this attack circulating online.
The new bill could even be so interpreted as to outlaw any public display of single-sex affection, such as kissing and hand-holding, which in this day and age is a huge backward step.
8. UK Tory Party conference
Attacks on abortion rights and union facility time
9. More bad Apples in teh Interwebz basket
You may have seen the headlines about the minimal amounts of UK tax paid by Facebook, but the social networking giant ain’t the only ones avoiding tax.
Amazon, the UK’s most popular shopping site, generated £3.2 million in UK profits last year yet managed to pay zero corporation tax as its European headquarters are registered in the tax haven of Luxembourg. That’s ZERO PERCENT TAX. Amazon is also well known for its questionable employment practises.
Google made £2.53 billion in the UK last year yet paid just £6 million in corporation tax. That’s 0.2 PERCENT TAX.
Figures for 2010 show that Apple, the biggest company in the world, payed £10 million on £1.3 billionUKrevenue – that’s 0.7 PERCENT TAX – and eBay paid £3.4 million on £180 millionUKrevenue – that’s 1.9 PERCENT TAX. Sign me up.
Interesting that none of the methods used by these companies for avoiding corporation tax are illegal.
The HMRC have said “So long as these companies are paying the full amount of tax on their revenues in the country that they are based they are doing nothing wrong.”
Surely questions have to be raised as to whether or not they should be paying their fair share of tax in the countries that generate their profits, especially at a time of austerity and cutbacks.
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