Labour bites

Belarus struggles for freedom from Europe’s last dictator

Since August 9, 2020, the Belarusian authorities have engaged in a campaign of mass terror, attacking citizens participating in peaceful protests denouncing election fraud. Since those disputed elections, thousands of workers have participated in peaceful protests to express their demands for free and fair elections and democratic governance in Belarus. Through strikes and other legal protests, workers and independent trade unions have shown they are key to this grassroots, citizen-driven defence of democracy.

President Aleksandr Lukashenka has responded with violence. Workers have been beaten, tortured and threatened with arrest and job loss for their efforts to exercise their right to freedom of association.

In a country whose strongman president has openly scoffed at women as too weak for politics and told them their place was in the kitchen, Belarusian women have become the face and driving force of a movement aimed at toppling a leader known as Europe’s last dictator.

Approximately 300 people have been sentenced to more than a year in prison, including harsh prison sentences targeted against members affiliated with the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP).

Source: LabourStart

An inexorable tide of opposition to Myanmar’s military coup

Myanmar’s military government has intensified its crackdown on the country’s pro-democracy protest movement, firing at demonstrators gathered in Myanmar’s largest cities. Close to 2,000 people have been arrested and the death toll is now more than 70.

Demonstrations have taken place continuously across the country, taking the form of student protests, the halting of public transportation, and work stoppages that threaten to derail Myanmar’s economy.

Women have stood at the forefront of Myanmar’s protest movement, sending a powerful rebuke to the generals who ousted a female civilian leader and reimposed a patriarchal order that has suppressed women for half a century.

By the hundreds of thousands, the women have gathered for daily marches, representing striking unions of teachers, garment workers and medical workers — all sectors dominated by women.

The labour stoppage across all private and public sectors is disrupting some of society’s most critical functions, including the banking system. The disruption to the banking sector has seen those businesses that are still running now short on physical cash and with no way to pay employees.

Fuel imports have also come to a standstill, with Reuters reporting that Myanmar relies on foreign sources for around 98 percent of its fuel, and the country could run out of oil in two months.

In the early hours of 10 March, hundreds of soldiers and police swarmed a neighbourhood in Yangon, the country’s largest city, that houses state railway workers who are striking against the coup. The raid comes just days after several Myanmar unions, including the Myanmar Railway Worker’s Union Federation, issued a joint call for a nationwide work stoppage. They said the strike would be part of a broader effort for “the full, extended shutdown of the Myanmar economy.”

State railway workers in Yangon and across the country were among the earliest organized supporters of the protest movement and their strike began soon after the coup.

Authorities have also moved to shut down independent reporting, both through arrests of journalists and the closure of media outlets.

Source: Khaleej Times, Radio Free Asia

Indian women strengthen farmers’ protests against new laws

Thousands of women have joined protests by farmers on the outskirts of New Delhi to mark International Women’s Day, demanding the scrapping of new agricultural laws that open up the country’s vast farm sector to private buyers.

The demonstrations on Monday were held at multiple sites on the capital’s fringes where tens of thousands of farmers have camped for more than three months to protest against the laws, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says are necessary to modernise agriculture.

Wearing bright yellow scarves representing the colour of mustard fields, the women took centre stage at one key site, chanting slogans, holding small marches, and making speeches against the laws.

Women have been prominent at the forefront of the protests, which have posed one of the biggest challenges to Modi since he took office in 2014.

Many travelled with the thousands of male farmers who arrived at the protest sites in late November and have since organised and led protest marches, run medical camps and massive soup kitchens that feed thousands, and raised demands for gender equality.

“Today we are finding ourselves under attack at all fronts. As women, as peasants, as workers, as youth and students,” said women rights activist Sucharita, who uses one name. “We are opposed to the laws that have been passed in favour of corporations.”

Source: Al Jazeera