On all continents, workers are suffering from soaring food and fuel prices, caused by the speculation of capitalist markets. Everywhere, they are seeking to assert their demands: wage increases, freezing of prices and an end to austerity measures. Under one and the same red banner, the banner of labor organisations from Ecuador to Tunisia, to Belgium and elsewhere, workers have mobilised this past week.
Ecuador: « Long Live the Strike!«
In Ecuador, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), which brings together indigenous workers and peasants – who represent the most exploited and oppressed segment of the Ecuadorian population – has called for a general strike starting June 14. Throughout the country, demonstrations and roadblocks have sprouted, with the cry of « Long live the strike! » against the increase in fuel prices that affect the cost of living for the poor masses.
The government refuses to give in to CONAIE’s main demands: the freezing of gasoline and diesel fuel prices, price controls on agricultural products, job creation and a halt to mining concessions in indigenous territories.
The Ecuadorian government, which claimed on June 14 that « the situation remains completely under control, » was led on June 17 to declare a state of emergency in three provinces, including the capital, Quito. This is not the first time that President Guillermo Lasso has faced mass mobilisation: in October 2021, he declared a state of emergency for sixty days in the face of worker and popular mobilisation. Has Lasso – a former banker, a member of Opus Dei and a fierce opponent of abortion rights, faithful executor of the International Monetary Fund’s privatisation plans – forgotten that, from 1997 to 2005, the popular mobilisations launched by the CONAIE cost three of his predecessors their posts?
Tunisia: Massive Strike on June 16 in State-Owned Companies
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding that the Tunisian government introduce a series of austerity measures. The IMF protests that, for years now, « the wage bill of the civil service (in Tunisia) has been one of the highest in the world.”
Against this backdrop, on June 16, the historic trade union centre, the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), called a general strike of workers in public sector establishments (state-owned industrial, agricultural and service companies). The strike was massively attended, with about 96 % of strikers: airports, trains, ports were paralyzed as well as industrial production – especially chemical.
The strikers demanded, in particular, the cancellation of government Bill No. 20, which prohibits the directors of state-owned enterprises from entering into negotiations with trade unions without government approval. The strikers also demanded higher wages and pensions and the preservation of the public sector in the face of threats of privatisation.
Despite the establishment of an increasingly authoritarian presidential regime and the bureaucratic maneuvering at the top that marked the last UGTT congress, the resistance of the Tunisian working class poses a major problem to imperialist institutions. The infamous Fitch ratings agency considers it « very difficult » to pass « political and economic reforms without the support of the UGTT ».
Belgium: A Rising Red Tide for Wages and Union Freedoms
In Brussels on June 20, « in French and in Dutch (the two main languages of Belgium), there was a lot of red and a lot of green, » according to a journalist (respectively, the colors of the socialist General Federation of Workers of Belgium, FGTB, and the Christian trade union CSC). « Never seen in ten years« , with 80,000 demonstrators, say the trade unions, which had called this day of strike « for purchasing power« .
The banners and placards brandished by the demonstrators were much more precise, indicating the reasons for the strike: « Repeal of Law 96 » (which blocks salary increases), « Money for wages, not for war« , « Not one euro for war, billions for wages« , as well as « Striking is a right« , « Trade unionists, not criminals« , « You touch our delegates: you touch our freedom of negotiation« . This was in reference to the suspended prison sentence of seventeen FGTB officials, including its president, for union activities dating from 2015. The sentence is all the more scandalous because it was handed down while « socialist » ministers sit in the federal government.
As the activists of the Unity-Eenheidscomittee point out in a bilingual leaflet massively distributed on June 20 in Brussels: « The upcoming major discussion within the government to respond to the blackmail of the European Union (which demands lower taxes for employers – editor’s note) takes place at the same time as the Belgian government is committed to a scandalous increase in military spending, in obedience to NATO. Everything shows that this government constitutes a mortal danger for the workers and the social beneficiaries (…). It is indispensable that these socialist parties* break with the parties representing the bosses and the gun merchants. For a workers’ unity government PS-Vooruit-PTB*! »
* In Belgium, there are two socialist parties: the French-speaking PS and the Dutch-speaking Vooruit. The Labour Party of Belgium (PTB) is a parliamentary left-wing party of Maoist origin.