Archive | September 29, 2015

Negotiations Falter as Europe Balks at TTIP*

Negotiations Falter as Europe Balks at TTIP*

By Deirdre Fulton

While public opposition to the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—the massive proposed “trade” deal between the European Union and the United States—has grown steadily since negotiations started two years ago, new signs suggest that official government backing is also faltering across Europe.

In an interview with French regional newspaper Sud Ouest published Monday, Junior Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said TTIP negotiations were favouring American interests and “either weren’t advancing or were progressing in the wrong direction.”

“If nothing changes, it will show that there isn’t the will to achieve mutually beneficial negotiations,” he said, before adding: “France is considering all options including an outright termination of negotiations.”

Meanwhile, a group of more than 55 U.K. members of parliament (MPs) has signed onto a motion expressing major concerns about the mammoth trade pact, which civil society groups have dubbed a corporate giveaway. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, put forward the Commons motion, and it has now been signed by every member of the Scottish National Party group at Westminster, as well as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Politico‘s Paul Ames wrote of the “cooling ardour on both sides of the Atlantic” earlier this month, saying that since talks began in July 2013, the trade deal “has lost some of its shine.”

“Concern over the impact of TTIP has united disparate groups,” he wrote, “from French farmers to German constitutional lawyers and politicians on the left and right.”

Almost 3 million people across Europe have signed a petition calling on the Commission to scrap the agreement.

Last week, the Oxford-based group ‘We Own It,’ which deals with national issues surrounding public services, held a demonstration against the proposed TTIP, warning that it could lead to private businesses being too heavily involved in public services.

Cat Hobbs, an organizer with the group, told the Oxford Mail:

“The idea is that it would open up new markets to private companies and the reality here is that it’s going to open up public services to private companies. Multi-national corporations’ rights will become more important than ours.”

And a much larger action is being planned for October 10 in Berlin, when over 50,000 demonstrators are expected to gather in front of the city’s central train station to protest both the TTIP and a similar deal between the EU and Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). That event is part of the week-long International Days of Action against corporate-friendly trade deals.

Speaking to EurActiv about the planned demonstration, Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, head of the German progressive church coalition Brot für die Welt, called TTIP an “attempt to force the rules of rich industrialized countries upon global trade.”

Opposition to TTIP is particularly intense in Germany, where only 39 percent of the population backs the trade deal.

All of this backs up a thesis put forth earlier this month by American Prospect co-founder and editor Robert Kuttner, who wrote in an op-ed that both the TTIP and Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) could be “on the verge of collapse from their own contradictory goals and incoherent logic.”


Related Topics:

The Flames of the Doctrine of Discovery Burns within the NWO*

TPP Negotiators Meet this Week to Finalize Corporate Trade Deal*

TiSA: Uruguay Does Unthinkable, Rejects Global Corporatocracy*

More Subcontract Workers Go On Strike at West Coast Ports*

More Subcontract Workers Go On Strike at West Coast Ports*

By David Moberg

The nation’s largest port—spread across parts of both Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA—is a strangely varied workplace. And after years of tenacious effort, workers throughout the port may soon share one important tool their predecessors once had: a union and, therefore, a better job.

At one extreme of the state’s ports, there are longshore workers who belong to one of the most progressive unions in the U.S., the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. It has brought annual incomes of over $100,000 and higher skilled work to many of its members, once regarded as low-skilled.

At the other end, there are truck drivers (for “drayage companies,” that move goods from dock to warehouses), who are wrongly classified as “independent contractors”—as the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board recently determined—and who have unpredictable incomes, often below the minimum wage. And there are warehouse workers who typically earn $9 to $11 an hour but may work only part-time for a labour contractor or for the warehouse operator itself.

Once these jobs were unionized and paid reasonably decent “middle-class wages,”  but the unions—mainly Teamsters—lost their contracts and members. The employers vary, too, both in size and in organization—from parts of global corporations with sophisticated management to family-owned firms driven by personality (often a bit tyrannical or ideological).

After 10 years of trying, these low-wage workers are stepping up their game, raising the prospect of once again being unionized. And if that happens, it will be a testament to the workers’ willingness to take direct action, even at a risk to their jobs.

Thirty-eight drivers at a drayage company, Pacific-9, who have demonstrated at both state and local legal hearings that they have been misclassified as independent contractors and deprived of $6 million in back pay, are on their sixth strike in two years, an indefinite walkout that has already lasted ten weeks.

“They’ve shown resolve,” Teamster spokesperson Barb Maynard says.

“They’re not going back to work.”

A couple dozen warehouse workers at a facility owned by California Cartage, a large logistics firm, are on their first strike. They are leaders in a drive to improve work organized with the help of a worker centre, a partial, short-term walkout started Tuesday by a couple dozen leaders from a workforce that can range from 150 to 300, about half directly hired, half hired through a contractor.

The workers have received help from the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an independent operation at the port that grew out of a Change to Win project in the warehouses of the “inland empire” near San Bernadino. The strike is a protest against retaliation for organizing and other unfair labour practices as well as a call for higher wages and safer working conditions.

In a class action suit filed last December, workers contended that since the warehouse land belongs to the city of Los Angeles, California Cartage should have been paying the city’s living wage under the city’s living wage law. That would imply the company owes workers millions of dollars.

Change to Win’s Strategic Organizing Center started out helping the Teamsters to organize a union of the short-haul truckers, and the Teamsters have recently won three union representation elections. One newly unionized company has been created out of one of the first strike targets. The head of the hedge fund that bought its predecessor is now shifting assets to the new company, called Eco-Flo. He has promised to negotiate a contract with the firm’s employees—dropping the contractor ruse—and to install a zero-emissions fleet of new trucks.

“He was open to what was going on,” Maynard said,

“ and saw the law catching up to the industry.” But he was also pushed by workers and by public pension funds that provided some of the investment capital.

The Warehouse Workers Resource Center, also nurtured by Change to Win in its origins, is not presently organizing for a union, although it is not opposed to unions. It aims to help workers organize to improve working conditions and to defend themselves against management, using direct action and the law to protect workers’ legally obliged pay and other rights. California Cartage is another big company with big clients—Amazon, Sears, K-Mart, VF—that sees itself as the logistics company of the future, and Resource Center spokesperson Sheheryar Kasoosji says that they want workers from the start to help define that future.

“There’s clearly an opportunity for this place to do better,” he says.

“It’s just a matter of calling on the company to do the right thing.”

“This year has been a watershed year in terms of our effort to do the impossible,” says Nick Weiner, a long-time Change to Win staff person directing the decade-old ports organizing project. “No one thought that truck drivers could even be organized, and no employer would recognize them as employees or sit down with them to have labour peace.”


Related Topics:

Third Week of Strikes by U.S. Oil Workers*

Will Cameron do a Hollande with Britain’s Colonial Debt to Jamaica?*

Will Cameron do a Hollande with Britain’s Colonial Debt to Jamaica?*

One academic brought up David Cameron’s ancestral links to slavery, saying he has been ‘privileged and enriched by forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors’

By Adam Withnall

David Cameron will visit Jamaica this week amid growing calls from the Caribbean state for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery.

A statement from the Jamaican government announced Mr Cameron was due to make his first official visit to the country on Tuesday, when he will address the Jamaican government.

The Prime Minister will also hold talks with his Jamaican counterpart, Portia Simpson Miller, before he departs on Wednesday – but the issue of reparations threatens to overshadow his stay on the island.

Political leaders in Jamaica and other Caribbean nations want Britain, France and the Netherlands to pay for what they describe as the lingering ill effects of the Atlantic slave trade.

Mike Henry, a member of the Jamaican parliament, told the local Jamaica Gleaner newspaper that he and other colleagues would turn their backs on Mr Cameron during his address if the issue of reparations was not raised as part of the visit.

Professor Verene Shepherd, chair of the National Commission on Reparation, told the same newspaper that Mr Cameron should offer an unambiguous apology.

In an open letter to the Jamaica Observer, a leading academic on reparations referenced Mr Cameron’s own ancestral links to slavery in the 1700s though General Sir James Duff, his cousin six times removed.

Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, wrote:

“You are a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors.

“You owe it to us as you return here to communicate a commitment to reparatory justice that will enable your nation to play its part in cleaning up this monumental mess of Empire.”

In a statement, Downing Street described reparations for slavery as “a longstanding concern” of Jamaica.

An official told the Guardian:

“There is a longstanding U.K. position, true of successive governments in the U.K., that we don’t think reparations are the right approach.

“The PM’s point will be he wants to focus on the future. We are talking about issues that are centuries old and taken under a different government when he was not even born. He wants to look at the future and how can the U.K. play a part now in stronger growing economies in the Caribbean.”

Mr Cameron is also expected to visit Grenada this week, where he will meet Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and speak to the country’s cabinet.

Following immediately after Mr Cameron’s visit to Jamaica will be the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who will also meet with Ms Simpson Miller and lay a floral tribute to honour soldiers from the First and Second World Wars.

Source *

Related Topics:

Reality of British Empire should be taught in Schools – Corbyn*

Britain’s Secret Plan for the Invasion of Grenada*

France’s Debt to Haiti Remains Despite Hollande’s and Martelly’s Attempt to Rewrite History*

US Firms Claim Compensation for Nationalized Property in Cuba from Colonization*

The Flames of the Doctrine of Discovery Burns within the NWO*

Survivor says Soldiers Watched Pilgrims Die*

Survivor says Soldiers Watched Pilgrims Die*

As criticism against Riyadh continues to mount over a deadly crush near the holy city of Mecca, a survivor says a large number of Saudi Arabian soldiers looked on as hundreds died, Press TV reports.

An Iranian survivor of the September 24 incident in Mina, whose name was not revealed, said only a handful of Saudi soldiers assisted those being trampled in the crush.

“When I returned to the disaster point to help, Saudi soldiers prevented me from entering the area. This, as only a handful of Saudi soldiers were helping the victims, while a large number of them were standing by idly and looking,” the man told Press TV.

The crush occurred as a large crowd of pilgrims were on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat. Reports indicate that Saudi authorities had blocked a road to Jamarat, forcing another column of pilgrims who had completed the ritual to return on the same route.

A number of other survivors have also shared similar accounts, saying that mismanagement by the Saudi authorities and a poor rescue response complicated the situation.

Some accused Saudi soldiers of selectively rescuing suffocating pilgrims based on their nationalities.

According to accounts, some died after being trapped for up to four to five hours under bodies.

Some two million people were in Mecca for the annual pilgrimage at the time of the crush.

According to Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry, the death toll from the incident stands at about 770.

The head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, Saeed Ohadi, however, says the disaster has killed around 2,000 pilgrims, including some 170 Iranians. Tens of Iranians have also been wounded, while about 300 Iranian nationals are still missing.

The incident occurred just days after a crane collapse into the Grand Mosque, which killed more than 100 people.


Related Topics:

Catastrophe in Saudi Arabia, Pillar of Washington’s Middle East Policy*

Wahhabism on Trial? How Islam is challenging Al Saud’s Custodianship of Mecca*