Group 4 Securicor workers globalise resistance

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Workers employed by multinational giant Group 4 Securicor are strengthening their international links — and that is good news.

This giant corporation was formed in 2004 through the merger of Group 4 Falck and Securicor. The conglomerate also incorporates the Florida-based Wakenhut Corporation, which counts the United States government as a major customer. Group 4 Securicor, now headquartered in England, operates in over 100 countries, including Australia where it runs immigration detention centres.

Last year, security workers employed by Securicor in Indonesia declared victory after a hard fought 15-month strike. After the merger, 500 security guards went on strike, demanding an assurance that they would remain permanent employees with the same rights following the merger. The workers insisted that if they were being transferred to a new company with different entitlements, they must receive severance pay under Indonesian law. But rather than give the necessary assurances or pay up, Securicor sacked all the striking workers. The workers fought back, building local and international support. They won a ruling from the Jakarta Manpower Office and the National Tripartite Dispute Resolution Committee which ordered their reinstatement.

When Securicor refused to comply, the workers took militant action and held a two-month occupation of the company’s Jakarta headquarters. With the workers refusing to budge and global solidarity pouring in, Securicor agreed to a severance package of double what Indonesian law required them to pay, plus an additional 11 months’ salary for the workers it sacked illegally.

Securicor workers in Uganda also scored a win. In 2005, the majority decided to form a union, a decision management refused to recognise. On April 11 this year, management was finally forced to recognise the union. The Ugandan guards fought for more than two years. The solidarity they generated from allies around the world pressured the company to recognise their right to organise. The recognition agreement paved the way for Group 4 Securicor to join other security firms operating in Uganda in negotiating improved pay and conditions for security workers.

Group 4 Securicor employs more than 400,000 workers internationally. It was the solidarity of these workers who organised support actions for both their Ugandan and Indonesian comrades — drawing public attention to the company’s violation of workers’ rights — which helped secure the win. Since its recognition in Uganda, the union has won improved pay and an increase in paid leave, including maternity and paternity benefits.

In the 21st century the economy has been globalised, and Group 4 Securicor’s anti-unionism is not unusual. Neoliberalism has brought together, even more tightly, the various strands that make up the international web. This system has as its central pillars the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation as well as a range of regional trading blocs, and the role of all these institutions is to defend capitalism. As capital organises globally, it is important that workers also strengthen their organising capacity internationally. The Group 4 Securicor workers provide an inspirational model. The next step is to go beyond international solidarity, lobbying and educational campaigns and forge campaigns where workers coordinate action to withdraw their labour simultaneously. The largest corporations are in a global race to the bottom, forcing them to slash the cost of labour. This is the logic of the capitalist system. But this very trend has inherent contradictions. Cutting wages means reducing the spending power of the masses — the very markets the corporations rely on to sell their goods! Now, more than ever, it is time for working people to globalise the rebellion.

For more information about how you can support the global struggle of the Group 4 Securicor workers, go to: www.focusongroup4securicor.org/homeii

Iraqi Oil workers resist privatisation

Oil company executives can’t wait to get their hands on Iraq’s oil. The Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation, Ken Derr, said, “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas — reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to.” And his off-sider at Conoco Phillips,
Archie Dunham, said, “We know where the best [Iraqi] reserves are and we covet the opportunity to get those some day.”

Iraq’s new hydrocarbon law, a scheme to transfer the vast wealth from Iraq’s nationalised oil industry to U.S. and British companies, was drafted by a giant American oil company and then checked by the U.S government and the International Monetary Fund. The only role for the puppet Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki was to add its signature. But resistance from Iraqis — especially the country’s 28,000 oil workers — is on the rise. That’s good news, because mass rebellion against the law — which the U.S. is demanding be passed by July — is the only force still capable of stopping it.

Iraqi oil is second only to Saudi Arabia in proven reserves. Under the terms of the hydrocarbon law, which has been endorsed by the Iraqi parliament, giant oil companies would acquire 30-year leases over the oil fields and keep 75% of the profits until infrastructure investments are recouped. It would then fall to 20%. This amount is unprecedented — 10% is more typical for such arrangements in the Middle East.

In May, the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) announced plans to strike against the law. The action was postponed after Prime Minister al-Maliki agreed to meet and discuss their demands. But on June 4, in the early hours of the morning, members of IFOU struck pipe number 42. There had been weeks of negotiation over a range of demands, including terms and conditions of work, health and safety, and the future of the oil industry in Iraq, in the lead-up to the strike. The strike strengthened on 5 June when oil workers cut off the flow of oil from another pipeline. On June 11, Hassan Juma’a, president of the IFOU, declared that the strikers had achieved a “tactical victory” and thanked unionists from around the world for their solidarity.

It is essential that the antiwar movement support the struggles waged by women and workers in Iraq — they are the key progressive forces inside the country. For news about oil workers’ ongoing battle to improve living and working conditions, assert trade union rights and protect Iraq’s oil from the proposed oil law championed by the occupation governments, go to www.basraoilunion.org

Cleaners March on six continents

cleaners strike

Cleaners rally in Melbourne.

June 15 is International Justice for Cleaners Day. This year, cleaners took united action in 20 countries to demand decent treatment at work.

Countries where workers took action included Argentina, Australia, Congo, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Malawi, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom and the United States.

International Justice Day was first celebrated in 1990 in the U.S. as “Justice for Cleaners Day.” The catalyst for the protest was opposition to police brutality. Los Angeles cops beat up a group of cleaners protesting against their treatment by multinational cleaning company, ISS. This provoked a public outcry.

In Melbourne, cleaners, organised through the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, held a noisy march through the streets, chanting “Who Cleans this city? We do!” The protest was part of the Clean Start campaign. This campaign has succeeded in forcing many cleaning contractors to recognise the union. Their current focus is on opposing speed-ups. Many contractors do not give workers enough time to clean buildings properly.

The Melbourne action also focused on the multiracial nature of the cleaning workforce. Comprised mainly of women and immigrant workers, the group carried a banner in many languages and heard speeches from activists in Greek and Spanish. You can send messages of support to cleanstartvic@lhmu.org.au

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