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6 July 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

Dying for their union cards

Adriana Francisca Padilla was a teacher in the Colombian city of Santa Marta and eight months pregnant at the time she was shot twice, killing her and her unborn child. Adriana was an active member of the Edumag Colombian teacher's union.

Francisco Cruz Galeano had just left a bar in the city of Comayagua, in Honduras, and was on his way home. He was shot at least 25 times in a hail of bullets that also injured a passer-by. Francisco was the regional co-ordinator for the General Confederation of Workers.

After they forced their way into his Baghdad home they tortured Hadi Saleh for some time, strangling him with wire. They then shot him multiple times before setting his body on fire. In the 70s Hadi served five years on death row for organising workers in Saddam's Iraq before being sent into exile. Returning to Iraq after the invasion he co-founded the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, which now has 200,000 members.

These are just three of the 115 trade unionists killed last year around the world according to the annual survey by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. More than 1,600 were subjected to violent assaults and just under 10,000 arrested for union activity.

Almost inevitably, it is Colombia that again asserts its position as the most dangerous place in the world to carry a union card. Seventy trade unionists made the ultimate sacrifice for their brothers and sisters. Another 260 received death threats.

"This year's report reveals deeply disturbing trends, especially for women, migrant workers and those who work in the public sector," said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder.

"The death toll was slightly lower in 2005 than the previous year, but we are nevertheless witnessing increasingly severe violence and hostility against working people who stand up for their rights," he added.

Unions lead the way against education cuts

Sinn F?in supporting the Aer Lingus workers Education unions in the Six Counties have called for workers and supporters to mobilise in support of a rally against education cuts at the meeting of the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) in Dundonald today.

Co-organised by local NIPSA branches and UNISON the rally has been called in an effort to prevent draconian cuts in the budget for special education provision.

Waterford jobs threat

Cable providers NTL Ireland and Chorus have announced plans to cut up to 350 jobs and may close the NTL call centre in Waterford where 135 employees are based.

NTL and Chorus are managed by UPC Ireland, a division of Liberty Global one of the largest cable and broadband providers in the world, and currently employs 980 people in the 26 Counties.

Prior to the announcement that 350 Irish jobs were under threat, Liberty Global announced a 28% increase in revenue in 2005 to $5.2 billion and a 50% increase in the company's number of subscribers.

SIPTU gathers to debate partnership deal

Hundreds of SIPTU members met in Dublin on Tuesday to debate the new social partnership agreement finalised last month after lengthy negotiations.

The conference is one of the steps in a process that will see all SIPTU members balloted on the Towards 2016 deal in the coming weeks.

The agreement includes pay rises totalling 10% over the next 27 months, as well as an increase in social welfare rates and measures to protect employment standards.

However, several unions, along with many SIPTU shop stewards, are calling on workers to vote against the accord, pointing out that pay rises will not cover the rising cost of living, while many of the social provisions are no more than a reiteration of previous government promises.

SIPTU is Ireland's largest union and its support is vital to ratification of the agreement by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Aer Lingus worker protests

Sinn F?in supporting the Aer Lingus workers Aer Lingus workers will hold protest meetings in Dublin and Shannon airports this Thursday in protest over pay and rewards schemes at the company,which are currently being considered by the Labour Court; pensions and the maintenance of job numbers in the event of privatisation. Workers in Cork Airport may also join the protest, which will shut down the airports for over an hour in the morning.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, SIPTU national industrial secretary Michael Halpenny confirmed the protests were going ahead but that SIPTU would be meeting with Aer Lingus management on Wednesday morning.

He also dismissed suggestions in the media at the weekend which indicated workers were to be given massive increases in their shareholdings to win their support on the issue of privatisation.

"There was an awful lot of exaggeration in the papers over the weekend," said Mr Halpenny. "The reality is that with privatisation the increase in the number of shares would mean a dilution of the employee shareholding.

"What was being mooted at the weekend was the possibility of a mechanism to prevent that dilution through some sort of profit-sharing scheme, but there is no agreement from the Department of Finance on that. There is also a gap between workers and management on other issues, especially around the indexation of pensions."

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