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- A Stuijt
- Retired South African medical journalist, ex-Sunday Times of Johannesburg.
by Adriana Stuijt email@example.com
More than 4million European workers have been marching in protest against the slumping economies and job losses on the continent.
There were big rallies in Madrid and Bucharest on Thursday. Friday there were demonstrations in Brussels, Belgium. On Friday, marches were planned in the big German cities.
Most of these marches are being organised by the unions and the various left-wing political organisations. At least four-millon European workers took to the streets all across the continent this week alone. Protests and wild-cat strikes have also been steadily increasing over the past few months.
The European economy has thus far shrunk by some 2,7% in 2009, and experts are expecting it to shrink another 0,3% in 2010, according to the OECD.
Little Belgium has been particularly hard-hit, with hundreds of thousands of temporarily unemployed people forming a ‘growing army of unhappy people,’ reports the Belgian news media and its socialist party website. Belgium has a system under which workers who are forced to work less hours receive supplemental unemployment payouts for the lost days.
The Belgian socialists’ website notes that the number of unemployed had ‘shown a phenomenal increase in our country’, warning that soon, the country’s budget won’t be able to go on supporting them all with benefit payments any longer.
The Belgian government’s unemployment payouts’ budget has had to be doubled, but after two months 29% of this higher budget had already been spent. By February 2009, there were 2,5-million ‘temporary unemployment days’, costing the unemployment department to pay out Euro 143-million extra. In total, 289.381 of the country’s workers registered at least one day of economic unemployment thus far this year – a rise of 70% over the previous year’s statistics. The number of temporary unemployment days rose by 150%, they noted.
The Belgian socialists say that these are disastrous statistics which also indicate an additional problem due to the crisis: due to the system of economic unemployment, our social security system is slowly becoming unpayable, and a part of the cost of this crisis is being loaded onto the community. It’s fortunate for the workers that there is a system such as temporary unemployment benefits, but the system is being used so that the costs of this crisis do not have to be borne by the employers, the business owners. (the ‘patronaat).’
They point out that the number of fulltime unemployedwill increase steadily: “Belgium Dexia bank ‘s expectation is that some 40,000 unemployed will be added to the existing army of jobless people -- and the High Council for Employment (HRW) even presented a report which predicts an increase of 100,000 unemployed this year.
Belgian socialists believe that this statistic ‘could well be an underestimate, just like all the economic predictions are being readjusted downwards at the moment. A few weeks ago, the OESO was still talking about an economic shrinkage in the Eurozone by 1,9%.”
They write: “When the World Bank published its estimates of –2.7%, today, the OESA claimed that it was an under-estimate. (…) however, the fact remains, that a great many newly unemployed will be added, that’s not being questioned. Link to Flemish-language report: Read more here in Flemish
Fiat’s workshops in Brussels occupied by workers:
For the past week, also reports the Socialist Party’s website, workers at the French-owned Fiat company have also been occupying the buildings of its affiliate IAC in Brussels, protesting against the restructuring of the company. Fiat wants to only keep a showroom in Brussels and remove the Fiat garage facilities, ending several hundred jobs. for report in Flemish from Brussels
On Saturday German workers also will be marching against job losses in Berlin. And these protests in Europe have been going on for the past three months.
Pictures left: the Fiat facility in Brussels, occupied by workers. Right: Fiat wants to close down its large workshop in Brussels and only keep its showroom, causing several hundred job losses…
Tens of thousands of demonstrators also showed up in Madrid on May 15 and in the Rumanian capital city – with workers demanding job protection from lay-offs. In Rumania, 10,000 workers at the Dacia-Renault factory also had walked off their jobs twice this year for several hours to protest against their low pay.
Average wage of €283 a month at Renault factory in Romania…
80% of workers there joined the temporary strike, demanding a monthly increase of 550 lei (€150), a share of company profits, higher bonuses at Christmas and Easter and a discount on cars produced at the factory. Last year saw Dacia experience record sales.
- The average wage at Dacia-Renault stands at 1064 lei (€283), with monthly earnings for the lowest-paid employees at about 602 lei (€160), well below the national average. The increases demanded by workers amount to a nearly 100% wage increase for many. http://libcom.org/news/romania-workers-strike-dacia-renault-24032008 .
80,000 Railway workers in Romania
In April, thousands of Romanian railway workers also marched against cutbacks that will lead to the loss of 12,000 jobs. Up to 8,000 railway workers from across Romania marched from Bucharest's main railway station to the government headquarters and back again. They delivered a letter demanding the government retains jobs and increases their salaries.The transportation ministry announced the job cuts earlier this year, in line with government spending cuts. The Romanian railway network employs about 80,000 people.
- Currently trains run at low speed because of old and poor-quality rails. http://www.pr-inside.com/thousands-of-railway-workers-in-romania-r1216821.htm Picture: Wikipedia
3.6-million metals industry workers in Germany protest against lack of pay increases:
The trouble in Germany already started late last year. Saturday’s marches are a follow-up of last month’s metal-workers strikes, when tens of thousands of workers in Germany's engineering sector walked off their jobs for a week to stress their demands for an 8 percent pay raise.The strikes continued for a week after the IG Metall union rejected an offer of 2.1 percent increased income in 2009 and 0.8 percent rise of annual salaries for the months of Nov. and December last year.
- The union called it a "provocation" that the 3.6 million employees in the industry have not been offered raises to compensate for inflation.
Hundreds of companies were affected by the strike, especially in the states of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Thuringia and Saarland, Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia. The strikes came at a time when carmakers such as Daimler AG, Opel and BMW announced cost saving temporary closures of factories after a drop in orders triggered by the global credit crisis. http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/local_news/Over_thousands_of_German_workers_walk_off_jobs_47107.html
Video: background on reasons for job losses in Europe:
May 15 2009 Cape Town, South Africa. SAPA reports that at least four people were torched to death on Friday-night when a historic downtown building, the crowded Two Oceans' Backpackers hostel, on the corner of Loop- and Waterkant Street in downtown Cape Town, burnt down.
The police are investigating the deadly fire which erupted at about 5am - and which was only put out three hours later.
Shocked survivors told the Argus newspaper that they jumped from upper-stories to escape the flames, and had to leave screaming friends behind to save their own lives.
Standing on a pavement near the destroyed building, barefoot and wearing only shorts, resident Stephen Boisken told The Cape Argus journalists how he awoke to the smell of smoke.
"I opened the door and there was a wall of flames in front of me. I jumped out of the window, then I landed on the balcony of the first floor and climbed across the balcony (on to neighbouring premises)," the man explained.
Other survivors also had to jump out of windows and charge down the stairs to escape the flames.Many stood around discussing their injuries, lucky escapes and speculating over which of their neighbours were still missing.
A man, identified only as James, said he had lost everything in the fire and feared for the life of his neighbour.Emergency services were called to the scene shortly before 5am. Unconfirmed reports from residents were that the fire started on the top floor of the three-storey building.
When the first body was found at about 7am, two people were still unaccounted for. But the death toll rose as rescue efforts progressed.
Police spokesman Andre Traut said that in addition to the four people who died, another four were seriously injured. Three more suffered burns and smoke inhalation.Some were admitted to hospital while others were treated on the scene.
- One woman is believed to be among the dead , but authorities had no further information about those who had died in the blaze.
"The circumstances surrounding the deaths will be investigated. Based on information from the fire brigade and our forensic department, we will determine if an arson docket will be opened," Traut said.
Building ‘was a headache’ for police …
Some tenants have lived there for as long as three years, while for others it has been their home for just a few months.
Muneeb Hendricks, chairman of the Cape Town community police forum, said they were assessing how many people had been displaced and would help provide shelter for those left destitute.
- He acknowledged the building had been "a headache" for police who had conducted several raids there, adding that the lease was to expire soon.
Traut said the building was "one of a number of addresses" in central Cape Town where police regularly conducted raids. "That address has been a cause of concern for Cape Town police. It was not under investigation now, but we have effected arrests there from time to time," he said.
The fire resulted in road closures. Traffic spokesman Merle Lourens said Loop Street was closed at Strand Street. Waterkant was closed at Long and Bree streets. Traffic services were to consult the fire department before the roads would be opened. - Additional reporting by Bronwynne Jooste
Seventeen-year-old Brendon Nyoni of Zimbabwe told Sapa that it was 'my worst nightmare experience'. He had arrived from Harare to try and register as a medical student at the University of Cape Town three days earlier, and lived in the hostel. He woke up from the smoke. He still helped a man walking on crutches downstairs, but a friend who was screaming for him to help him, had to be left behind."He burnt to death,' said Nyoni.http://www.capeargus.co.za/?fSectionId=3571&fArticleId=vn20090515123919104C527507
Cape Town fire department: http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/Pages/CITYACQUIRESR23MILLION.aspx
FIFA World Cup 2010 facilities in Cape Town: http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/2010/Pages/default.aspx