Friday, March 28, 2014

Workers End Strikes in Kenya and Continues Actions in Tunisia, Egypt and South Africa
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, on African Agenda discussing the International Criminal Court.
Proletariat faces crises with industrial actions, protests

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A significant strike impacting the universities and colleges
throughout the East African state of Kenya has been settled.
Representatives of the Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) and the
Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) told their members to return
to work on March 20 after an agreement had been reached with

Workers were seeking the payment of a cash settlement agreed upon
during a previous labor struggle in 2012 which resulted in a
collective bargaining agreement. The government had sought legal
action to prevent the strike but the union told their members to
disregard the order and leave work that they had a constitutional
right to strike.

Charles Mukhwaya, Secretary General of KUSU, told the Kenyan press
that "We are happy to announce that the strike has been called off
following fruitful talks with the Vice Chancellors. We have reached an
amicable solution after a deal was struck that all the monies owed to
us will be paid to all our members. We would like to ask our workers
to go back to work at 8am tomorrow (Thursday, March 20)." (Capital FM,
Kenya, March 20)

He continued by saying "Yes, it is true that we have reached a deal.
All our members will be paid what is owed to them and measures should
be put in place to ensure that this incident never repeats itself
again. We have advised our lecturers to go back to class and continue

Earlier in March Kenya had been hit with a transport drivers' strike
which jammed traffic for miles in and around the capital of Nairobi.
Costs associated with driving buses and taxis, known as "Matatus,"
have tripled since 2013.

An agreement between the Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) and the
government to lower costs by 65 percent has not been implemented,
according to Dickson Mbugua the national chairman of the MWA. The
strike on March 4 was not officially organized by the MWA but an
informal group designed to shut down public transport.

Kenya is a close ally of the United States and often participates in
military operations initiated by the Pentagon in East Africa. At
present Nairobi has deployed at least 2,000 troops to neighboring
Somalia aimed at preventing the Al-Shabaab Islamic organization from
increasing its bases inside the country.

Although the current administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta was
not supported by the U.S. when it was elected during 2013, efforts to
prosecute both Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto before the
International Criminal Court (ICC) have not been opposed by the Obama

Tunisia and Egypt Workers Demand Jobs, Pay Increases

In Tunisia, the birthplace of the uprisings in North Africa and the
Middle East in 2010-2011, university graduates have formed a union and
are demanding jobs. A demonstration of the Union of Unemployed
Graduates (UDC) took place on March 17 in downtown Tunis.

High unemployment and poverty was a key element in the rebellions
which swept the country beginning in December 2010. Since the
overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011,
the three subsequent governments in Tunis have not been able to
stabilize the political and economic situation inside the country.

With the collapse of the previous government of Prime Minister Ali
Larayedh and the installation of a more "technocratic" cabinet under
Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, a freeze has been placed on hiring in the
public sector during the so-called transition period.

"Our demands are not political. We are protesting for jobs. We are
asking for bread, bread and bread," said Halima, an unemployed
graduate protester. (Press TV, March 17)

"This austerity budget will result in higher unemployment rates," said
Wafa Ben Slimane, the UDC spokesperson. Even though the dictatorial
regime of Ben Ali was removed, Tunisia remains firmly in the world
capitalist system where high unemployment, austerity and rising
poverty characterize the current period.

In Egypt where an uprising against the National Democratic Party (NDP)
of ousted President Hosni Mubarak erupted after Tunisia on January 25,
2011, strikes and other forms of unrest among workers has continued.
Since the beginning of 2014, union and independent workers' actions
have taken place partially causing a shake-up in the interim
military-backed regime that was installed after the coup against
former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013.

The resignation of interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Biblawi, a leader
in the Social Democratic Party of Egypt, and the replacement by
Ibrahim Mehleb, represented sharp disagreements over how to respond to
the current political crisis. Thousands of members and leaders of the
Muslim Brotherhood and its allied political party the Freedom and
Justice Party (FJP) have been killed, wounded and detained since July

Political repression has continued in Egypt with the March 24 mass
sentencing to death of 529 members and supporters of the Muslim
Brotherhood. Demonstrations by students and workers have been banned
since October with those arrested facing harsh prison sentences.

Simultaneously workers are demanding better wages and conditions of
employment in both the private and public sectors. Constant
disruptions in services and production are reflection of the
disenchantment with the present dispensation.

In a report published by Al-Monitor, "Meanwhile, protests have spread
outward from Mahalla, the spiritual home of the Egyptian workers'
movement, to the very heart of Cairo. Workers at Mahalla's state-owned
Misr Spinning and Weaving Company walked out on Feb. 10, demanding the
removal of holding company Chairman Fouad Abdel-Alim and the
application of the minimum wage. Workers at this factory first
demanded a minimum wage in 2006." (Feb. 26)

This same article goes on to note that "After a wave of solidarity
strikes and sit-ins at textile operations around Egypt, more public
sector workers have walked out. Strikes are currently being staged by
around 100,000 postal workers, bus drivers, government notary
employees, street cleaners, field surveyors and medical professionals,
according to Mada Masr."

The impact of the workers' actions on the transport sector are immense
as  Al-Monitor reports that "An ongoing public transportation strike
has halted buses in all 28 of the Greater Cairo Authority's garages,
costing the city an estimated 800,000 Egyptian pounds ($115,000) a
day, according to Cairo Gov. Galal al-Saeed." The Egyptian military
has attempted to appeal to patriotism in efforts to persuade employees
to return to work.

Nonetheless, these appeals have not taken root with the workers and
are nothing new in the ideological arsenal of the neo-colonial state.
According to Josh Stacer, a political scientist and analyst on
Egyptian affairs, "This is the same discourse used after the initial
18 days [of the January 25 Revolution] by [former Field Marshal
Mohamed] Tantawi and company. It's about demobilizing workers."
(Al-Monitor, Feb. 26)

South African Platinum Strike Continues Amid Election Campaigning

There is no end in sight to the two month-old strike led by the
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) taking place
in the North West province in the Republic of South Africa. AMCU is a
breakaway union from the parent National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)
which is affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions
(COSATU), a close ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Members of AMCU marched on the headquarters of Anglo American Platinum
(Amplats) in Johannesburg on March 18 to deliver a list of demands. As
of March 24 there had been no response from the bosses.

AMCU is striking during the period of the election campaigning for the
upcoming May 7 national poll. Although AMCU has taken a position
hostile to the ANC, the ruling party appears to be heading for another
huge margin of victory.

In a survey published by the Sunday Times, the ANC would win 66.1
percent of the vote, up from the 65.9 percent it gained during the
2009 national elections. With no electoral strategy AMCU has no
effective means of pressuring the government to end the strike.

An investigative commission looking into the upgrading of President
Jacob Zuma's home has issued its report saying that irregularities
took place in regard to cost allocations. The ANC was quick to respond
to the report and says that it will take the findings seriously.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which has the next largest
bloc within the National Assembly, approximately 17 percent, has
called for the impeachment of President Zuma. The so-called Nkandla
Report is not an indictment and its real impact may take some time to

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