Counter Information

Issue 51

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Global Markets: Time to Fall

AS MARKETS crash, the gap between poor and wealthy the world over grows more and more. One man, Bill Gates, owner of Microsoft, could buy a years worth of groceries for every US household below the poverty line. But he wouldn't would he?

With the global meltdown in world economies starting last year in Thailand and spreading throughout the Pacific Ring hitting countries such as S.Korea, Indonesia, Japan, and spreading to South America, namely Venezuela (lower demand for oil output) and Brazil (hyper inflation).

Bizarrely world economists haven't noticed the grinding poverty already in existence in these "developing" countries. They only seem interested in the company shares and profits going bust. Little is said about entire communities who may be devastated due to some corporate company "cutting losses" in order to keep profits high.

Since the ending of East European "Communism" the wealthy West poured in billions of dollars to Russia. The intention: to exploit what was perceived as a low wage economy and hoping to hoist profit margins even higher. But it has all backfired. Western banks are now afraid Russia will never pay these loans back.

Throughout the Far East economies have been devastated by the devaluation of their currencies. Countries such as Indonesia have seen rioters attacking businesses and reclaiming luxury goods. The downside of this is that a proportion of the rioters mistakenly blamed local Chinese migrants for this global problem by attacking them.

But despite all this cut and run by global banks and corporate institutions trying to protect their "investment" and profits, it has been resisted by workers the world over.

South Korea
The S. Korean government - with the co-operation of the Trade Unions - is implementing austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund. Since new laws permitted lay-offs, numerous strikes have erupted against redundancies.

May Day, Seoul - our correspondent writes: A demonstration of over 25,000 is stopped marching by thousands of police. 1,000 demonstrators use iron bars to resist. The demo, including steel workers, car and telecom workers, sacked workers, students and housing groups, was organised by the Korean Congress of Trades Unions with the slogan "No more job losses"

July 20: 26,000 workers from the Korean Metal Workers strike against Hyundai's attempt at mass lay offs. At Hyundai's main plant in Ulsan, 5000 workers and families occupy the car plant. The government sealed off the city and mobilised 15000 police to prevent supporters from reaching the plant. Riot police were also deployed in Incheon, where the Taewang, Hanyoung, and Kooryo companies all had striking workforces. After the workers repulsed a 15,000-strong police attack on 18 August, the Hyundai occupation ended on 25 August when unions agreed to massive sackings, "unpaid holidays" for 18 months(!), and "voluntary" redundancies. This was met by a huge wave of anger and fighting between police and workers. The workers voted by 17,123 to 9,360 to reject the deal.

On 3 September 10,000 riot police used helicopters and armoured personnel carriers to violently end the 17 day occupation of 6 Mando Machinery factories. Indonesia US-backed President Suharto had to resign in May. 1st July; Workers attack police with rocks and concrete bricks in retaliation to being fired upon with rubber bullets. The 2100 workers of the Gunung Guruda steelworks in Bekasi were demanding better pay and working conditions. They were also supported by 2000 textile workers in the town of Sukohario demanding similar aims.

Public service workers, teachers, fire fighters, have not been paid wages for over 8 months and are threatening strike action. Some workers set up a protest camp in Moscow in August demanding their wages and will continue protest until wages are paid. Elsewhere the new luxury homes of managers have been burnt down. Miners have been blockading road and rail links, protesting 8 months back pay. Russian authorities have said the miners are violating labour laws!

Korean info from A-Infos

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