Over 100,000 rally in Lisbon against austerityIn Korea, opposition to the latest Free Trade Agreement may actually change the government. These FTAs have a long track record of creating financial chaos—a feature, not a bug, of these agreements. One wonders why it took so long for American-occupied Korea to be "favored" by an FTA. After all, it's been nearly 20 years since the passage of NAFTA. Perhaps it is because South Korean labor is so well organized and unusually brave.
Sat Feb 11, 2012
* Organisers claim 300,000 took part
* More protests against bailout austerity on Feb. 29
* EU/IMF inspectors arrive on Wednesday
By Andrei Khalip
LISBON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - More than 100,000 people packed Lisbon's vast Palace Square on Saturday in the largest rally against austerity and economic hardships since the country resorted to an EU/IMF bailout last May, and organisers vowed to step up protests and labour action.
The mass rally occurred just four days before Portugal's international lenders were due to start the quarterly evaluation of the bailout implementation on Wednesday in the finance ministry building which overlooks the square by the river Tagus. They come amid concerns Portugal may need more bailout funds, if not a debt restructuring like Greece.
"We take this opportunity here to make our own evaluation on behalf of those who suffer daily," Armenio Carlos, head of the country's largest union, CGTP, told supporters as the crowd chanted: "IMF doesn't call the shots here!"
"We have to step up the struggle," he said. Carlos promised the next wave of rallies across Portugal as soon as on Feb. 29.
"The country needs to remove the rope from around its neck," he said, saying that Portugal should try to renegotiate its debt rather than impose more austerity, an argument he has made consistently.
The peaceful rally under the banners of the 750,000-strong CGTP, which last month refused to sign a pact with the government on labour market reform, showed that social strife is running strong and likely to grow even though other unions agreed to the reforms demanded by the bailout terms.
Spending cuts and tax hikes needed to meet the fiscal terms of the bailout have caused the worst recession in Portugal since the few turbulent years that followed the 1974 return to democracy. Unemployment is at a record of around 13 percent.
"The bailout is good for the creditors who get billions in interest and commissions, good for the banks ... But the measures are really bad for the workers, youths, pensioners, for 2.7 million Portuguese on the verge of poverty and those already below the poverty line," he said. more
Opposition Party Surging in South Korea, Vows to Undo Unpopular KORUS FTAThe Spaniards are also loudly objecting to the latest round of neoliberal piracy.
Workers in both South Korea and the United States have been vocal about their displeasure with KORUS, the free trade agreement signed between the two nations that will soon go into effect. The deal has become a wedge issue in South Korea as an important election cycle begins there. The opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) has vowed to nullify the deal if their party is elected to the majority.
The DUP thinks that KORUS is weighted in America’s corporate interest favor and disrespects Korean sovereignty. American workers think the deal is too similar to the woefully unpopular NAFTA signed in 1994. KORUS could cease to be if the DUP can win come election time, according to Kim Eun-jung of Yonhap News:
Han Myeong-sook, the DUP leader, claimed the free trade deal ratified under the Lee Myung-bak administration favors American interests and its controversial clauses need to be revised before it takes effect.
“As the FTA ratified by the Lee Myung-bak administration damages (South Korea’s) national interest, it should not take effect as it is now,” Han said during a senior party meeting.
As the government is expected to implement (the trade pact) within the month of February, controversial clauses need to be revised before it takes effect. Otherwise, (the DUP) will scrap (the deal) by changing power and the majority in parliament,” Han said.
The DUP is a Center-Left progressive party that is looking to woo Korean liberals. KORUS is widely viewed as a boondoggle entered into by the country’s Grand National Party. The party has become so unpopular, in fact, that they have just changed their name to the “Saenori,” or “New World” Party, for the election homestretch.
The KORUS FTA was originally negotiated between President George Bush and former south Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in 2007. President Obama spoke out against KORUS while campaigning for the White House in 2008 but eventually reversed course. more
Hundreds of thousands march against labour law reforms
Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in 57 Spanish cities Sunday in protest against new reforms that make it easier for companies to fire workers. Spain’s unemployment rate is nearly 23 percent, one of the highest in the eurozone.
By News Wires (text)
AP - Hundreds of thousands of protesters were marching throughout Spain on Sunday in the first large-scale show of anger over new labor reforms that make it easier for companies to fire workers and pull out of collective bargaining agreements.
The country’s main trade unions organized marches in 57 cities, beginning midmorning in Cordoba in the south and expected to end with evening marches in Toledo and Valencia, with a very large demonstration planned in Madrid from midday.
Union organizers said around a million people had marched by mid-afternoon, but official figures were not released.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government passed the package of reforms nine days ago in an effort to shake up a labor market seen as one of Europe most rigid and to encourage hiring in a country battling the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone, at nearly 23 percent. Rajoy was overheard saying that the reform will “cost me a general strike.”
“If we want Spain to grow and create employment, we had to do what we’ve done,” Rajoy said at his Popular Party’s annual congress in southwestern Seville on Sunday.
The government’s sweeping changes allow Spanish companies facing dwindling revenues to pull out of collective bargaining agreements and have greater flexibility to adjust employees’ schedules, workplace tasks and wages, as well as making it easier and less costly to fire workers.
“If the government doesn’t rectify this, we will continue with an ever-growing mobilization,” said General Workers Union spokesman Candido Mendez. more