Year 2000 No.78, April 28, 2000

Zimbabwe Delegation Visits London to Demand Britain Meets its Obligations

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Zimbabwe Delegation Visits London to Demand Britain Meets its Obligations

Another Rover Workers' Rally

Appeal from Russia

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Zimbabwe Delegation Visits London to Demand Britain Meets its Obligations

A high level delegation has arrived in London from Zimbabwe to discuss Britain’s obligation to finance comprehensive land reform in that country. Seventy percent of Zimbabwe’s prime agricultural land is still owned by some 4,500 big landowners, many of whom acquired land during the colonial period. The delegation led by Zimbabwe’s Local Government Minister John Nkomo also includes Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge and Trade Minister Nathan Shamuyarira. The delegation is due to meet Foreign Minister, Robin Cook, and other government ministers.

Britain, the former colonial power in Zimbabwe, has an obligation to fund land re-distribution under the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement signed at the time of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. The previous Conservative government made initial payments of £44m, but these were stopped in 1988 on the basis that the British government did not agree with the way in which land was being redistributed. Britain and other countries also made pledges to fund land re-distribution in 1998 but have never implemented these promises. Now the British government is attempting not only to evade its responsibilities but is also interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, demanding that it hold "free and fair elections". It is threatening further intervention from Britain and the other big powers if the result of the elections or the path of development that Zimbabwe pursues is not to the British government’s liking. At the same time in a cynical and hypocritical manner the British government is posing as Zimbabwe’s "oldest friend", claiming that Britain is "ready to help", but "can only help once the violence has stopped and free democracy started."

Even before meeting the Zimbabwean delegation Robin Cook promised Zimbabwe £36m over the next two years to finance the transfer of land from the big landowners to landless Zimbabweans. He even claimed that Britain had always been ready to help with land redistribution but added that funding would only be made available "unless there is an end to the occupations and start on the elections". For their part, the Zimbabwean delegation said that they would accept no pre-conditions and that Britain’s demands for elections could not be used to halt its obligation as the former colonial ruler to fund land re-distribution. Other leaders in southern Africa, including South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki have also called on the British government to fulfil its commitments.

The Labour Government is behaving in the manner of the 19th century colonialists, issuing threats allegedly in order to "civilise" Zimbabwe and make its government "respect the rule of law". The British government’s interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs and championing of the "opposition" in that country is also reminiscent of the "divide and rule" tactics employed by the imperialists of the past. It is out of step with the requirements of the times and with the overwhelming majority of public opinion. The British government must end its interference in Zimbabwe’s affairs, end all threats and intimidation and comply with the Zimbabwean government’s demands that it should meet its obligations in full. The British working class and all democratic people must also condemn the Labour government’s stand, and make a break with the chauvinism and disinformation that is being promoted on this issue.

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Another Rover Workers' Rally

On Tuesday, April 26, at 12.30pm, there was another Rover workers' rally of around 5,000 people at Cofton Park Longbridge in Birmingham, organised by a number of rank and file shop stewards.

After a number of ordinary workers spoke from the platform the gathering marched to the Longbridge site. The stewards have been active during the Easter shutdown because they didn't want to see the issue come out of the public eye fearing that BMW would take independent action with Venture capitalists Alchemy. They have been organising vigils of the plant because there have been rumours of actual plant being moved from inside of Longbridge. Some workers have illusions about the Towers-Phoenix bid and see it as a solution to their problems. One steward when approached said that he was not political, just an ordinary steward, and didn't want anything to do with politics.

It is absolutely imperative that workers think about this question because it is not the time to be apolitical. On the contrary, workers have to become more political and take up issues to the full. The working class needs to have its own worker politicians if it is to constitute itself as the nation. When he was asked where the union leadership were he replied, "Well you don't attack your leaders when in battle do you?" Union leaders have got onto these very same stewards and demanded of them, "What the hell are you playing at?" They are obviously being very sensitive about their leadership role, and are upset by the rally and the organising of a delegation to go to Germany with historian and radio presenter Dr Carl Chinn. A delegation went to Munich on Wednesday to meet BMW and ask for more time to consider the Phoenix Consortium bid.

West Midlands Correspondent

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Appeal from Russia

We have received an e-mail from Deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Oleg Shein on the subject: "We must stop the barbarous government Draft Labour Code". Oleg Shein is a member of the Co-ordinating Committee of the All-Russian Campaign in Defence of the Labour Code and Co-chairman of the Inter-regional Alliance of Workers’ Trade Unions "Defence of Labour". In his appeal, dated April 25, 2000, he writes:

The All-Russian Campaign in Defence of the Labour Code against the governmental Draft Labour Code, which abolishes basic labour rights of workers, is escalating. Under President Putin's personal demand, this Draft will be considered by the State Duma in the first reading in May.

The situation is extremely tense. Only by through mobilisation of all progressive forces in Russia and internationally can our workers beat back this attack on their vital rights.

The key problem now is to break the information blockade, organised by the Russian Government around this issue, to expose this criminal conspiracy against the people, and provide as much visibility to our Campaign as possible.

To this end we have established a special web site. Its purpose is to serve as an information centre of the Campaign and to reflect its development, to provide the activists of labour movement with the up-to-date information about the course of the Campaign. Besides propaganda and analytical materials, the site features the drafted labour codes by the government and the neoliberal Yabloko Party, together with the trade union Draft, introduced by the deputy of the former Duma T. Avaliani , which I support.

The address of the website is: http://www.geocities.com/rosskommuna/kzot/eng.html

Memorandum of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Central Bank of the Russian Federation on Economic and Financial Stabilisation Policies

July 16, 1998

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Labour market reform

35. Constraints on dissolving labour contracts have hampered the efficient restructuring of enterprises and the allocation of labour in the economy. By November 1, 1998, the government will submit a new draft Labour Code that will bring the labour laws in compliance with the requirements of a market economy. The Code will establish a realistic minimum of social guarantees, enhance the role of individual labour agreements, including a more simplified procedure for dissolving individual labour agreements (such as excluding the need for consent of trade unions and the requirement of finding alternative employment) and expand the ability to enter into fixed term and multiple work contracts. The Code will also contain provisions which ensure that social partnership be targeted toward forming and implementing collective agreements at the level of individual enterprises. It will also encourage the establishment of efficient institutions which will ensure the implementation of individual and collective agreements, settlement of collective disputes, and compliance with the requirements of labour legislation.


July 17, 1998

RUSSIAN FEDERATION LETTER OF DEVELOPMENT POLICY FOR THE THIRD STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT LOAN

Fostering Labour Mobility

3.15 The Government will submit to the Duma by November 1, 1998, a new Labour Code that would bring the labour laws in compliance with the requirements of a market economy. The Code will establish a realistic and feasible minimum of social guarantees, enhance the role of individual labour agreements, including a more simplified procedure for dissolving individual labour agreements (such as excluding the need for consent of trade unions and finding alternative employment), and expand the ability to enter into fixed term and multiple-work contracts. The Code will also contain provisions ensuring that social partnership be targeted at forming and implementing collective agreements at the level of individual enterprises, as well as ensure the establishment of efficient institutions ensuring implementation of individual and collective agreements, settlement of collective disputes and compliance with the requirements of the labour legislation.

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