Thursday, November 24, 2011


"The Right to Indignation" stands above the declaration of the independent trade union SINERGIA that I visited together with the members of the Worldboard of WOW one day before the general strike of November 24. SINERGIA is the trade union of Portuguese workers in the oil, gas and electricity sector and an affiliate of WOW.

The trade union says in its statement that it wants to support the general strike even though it has as an independent union no place in the socio-economic dialogue with government and employers and therefore does not have influence on any national decision whatsoever. This is a deplorable situation taking into consideration that the majority of unions in Portugal is independent.
SINERGIA also emphasizes in its statement that as a humanist-oriented trade union it considers a strike as the last resort while emphasising on social dialogue as an instrument for the solution of social conflicts.

The Right to Indignation

The current state of national finances, the result of governments of the last decade combined with a difficult global and international financial situation, has caused chaos in the social and economic life of the country.

Although the independent trade unions, the majority of trade unions in the country, are still not represented in the social dialogue and therefore not involved in the development of policies which have led to the declaration of a general strike on 24 November, SINERGIA considers that there are sufficient reasons to show indignation about the direction the national economy is going and is undermining seriously social and economic life of most Portuguese families.

Therefore SINERGIA announces the general strike, taking into account the real concerns of all workers:

- For investment and more dynamics in the productive sector.
- To combat fraud, tax evasion and undeclared work.
- Against the impoverishment of the workers and the people in general.
- For the defense of the basic social functions of the state.
- For the defense and improvement of public services.
- Against the arbitrary elimination of social services.
- Against unemployment and job insecurity.
- Against lowering wages and pensions.

Sinergia is based on the values of humanism with an emphasis on social dialogue and consultation to which the strike is considered as a last resort for the solution of social conflicts. The choice is (always) yours!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The new elected EZA President Bartho Pronk

Last year at a meeting in Königswinter (Germany) the members of the European Centre for Workers’ Questions (EZA) elected Bartho Pronk as their new president. As a former member of the European Parliament and, before that, as an employee of the CNV International department, he is well acquainted with European social and workers’ affairs. This is of importance for EZA as a network consisting of 67 workers’ organisations from 24 different European Union countries that are committed to Christian social values.

Bartho Pronk holds office since the first of September of this year. For this reason EZA has published an interview with Bartho Pronk in its latest bulletin which can be found on the EZA website. In the interview he mentions two key-challenges for EZA. The first and most important challenge will be to find solutions for the impact of the actual crisis in Europe, particularly with regards to employment. Average unemployment in Europe is about 10% but in some countries, as for example Spain, unemployment reaches around 25% (whereas youth unemployment is currently approximately 40%). The second key challenge for EZA is “to involve its members in a process which shows that more can be achieved when we work together than when we don’t work together.”

With the financial support of the European Commission a lot of European training courses and meetings are organized by EZA for trade unions and related workers’ organizations annually. In spite of the different cultural backgrounds and different stages of development of  the European countries Bartho Pronk believes that these European courses and meetings help to develop common points of view and to look for new solutions for social problems on national and European level.

In the interview Bartho Pronk makes clear that he considers the Christian social doctrine as a source of inspiration that helps to develop new answers to the social and economic problems of today. “Of course, not everything that was done in the last 30 years is invalid, but some things have to be re-assessed. The situation has changed in such a way that we have to take a good look at it again.”

“The social dialogue is hugely important for European integration. Why? Economic integration is still a major part of European integration, and that requires employers and workers. Although there were very many cultural differences in the past, ways were found to negotiate. And in times of crisis it is absolutely vital that on the one hand economic solutions are found to overcome the crisis but on the other hand social needs are also met. It happens to be the case, and we have seen this before, that every time one country is in crisis, the countries that seek a solution through social dialogue are more successful. It is always easy to say that the welfare state has to be abolished because it costs too much, but that's not the case. It ends up costing a great deal more than seeking a solution through social dialogue. After all, in the final reckoning what matters are people, not the economy. The economy must not be allowed to harm people.”

Regarding the Eurocrisis he believes that it is important for EZA to make studies because there is a lot of talking about this crisis, the biggest since the crisis of the 30’s in the past century, but some points are not discussed at all as for example the role and responsibility of the USA in causing great part of the problems.

Other points that are mentioned in the interview are the aims of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the role of EZA and the enlargement of the EU and what possibilities he sees for the future of EZA.

 Bartho Pronk together with EZA vice-president Piergiorgio Sciacqua

·      You can read the whole interview in different languages (German, Spanish, English and French) in the latest EZA bulletin which you can find on the EZA website. There you will also find an interview with the newly elected EZA Vice-President  Piergiorgio Sciacqua, President of the General Council of the Movimiento Cristiano Lavoratori (MCL)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Journalists in the provinces of Puno  arrive to Juliaca to express their condemnation of the attack against Feliciano Gutierrez Cruz.( La Republica, Peru)

The Latin American Federation of Social and Cultural Communication Workers (FELATRACCS) has been informed about the criminal attack against journalist Feliciano Gutierrez Suca, correspondent of the newspaper "La República" in the city of Juliaca, Peru. FELATRACCS condemned the act and at the same time called on governments in the region to do everything possible to stop this new wave of blood that has been unleashed in this part of the American continent to the detriment of the freedom of press.
Recently on the 5th of November, Gutierrez was attacked  by four men with fire arms wearing hoods, taking advantage of the night to shoot him at close range while grabbing his camera and mobile phone on which he kept actual information material.
All this is part of a sequel of attacks against journalists in Peru. The journalists Julio Castillo, Pedro Flores Silva and Jose Oquendo Reyes have been killed this year by unknown persons. In this way Peru joins Mexico and Colombia, where drugs trafficking and organized crime perpetrate these crimes until now without being captured by governments.
Because of this spiral of violence the situation has become uncertain. On November 1, in Chile, an explosive device was placed against the premises of the newspaper "La Tercera"  of the Copesa Group, whose unions are members of FELATRACCS. The incident occurred in the early morning hours. The police has a video that gives hope that the criminals can be captured.
Another incident occurred on October 28 in San Pedro de Sula, Honduras, where the journalist Eddie Andino from TV Channel 6 was attacked by four thugs, who shot him with firearms from a moving car. He has injuries to his legs and back. This year alone in Honduras died 5 journalists in full exercise of their profession.
In Cordoba, Argentine, journalist Maria Gracia and cameraman Raúl Martín Vicessi from Channel 12, were shot dead while filming outside a house in the outskirts of the city and interviewing a female victim of harassment, aggression and assault.
It should be stressed that so far in Latin America a total of 21 journalists have been murdered.


Friday, November 4, 2011


 The New Europe

1. In December 2009 the Eurozone countries discovered that the Greek government debt amounts 300 billion Euros, ie almost 113% of the total government budget.

2. In January 2010 it is determined that the Greek deficit is not 3.7% but 12,7%. In the Eurozone, Greece is invited to reduce the deficit. Corrective measures are announced. In February, an IMF/EU mission goes to Greece: it predicts more economic and financial misery, a higher deficit and a recession of the Greek economy.

3. In March 2010 the Greek government announced an austerity package: VAT goes up 2%, the bonus in the public sector goes 30% down, taxes on fuel, tobacco and alcohol go up and pensions are frozen. At the European summit, without going into details, one talks about a possible aid package to Greece.

4. In April 2010 the Eurozone presents a support package: a 30 billion loan facility from the EU and a 15 billion loan facility from the IMF. It is based on a 3-year financing with an interest charge of 5%. The same month, Greece asks for the promised loans.

5. In April 2010 the rating institute Standard & Poor's lowers again the creditworthiness of Greece, and then also of Portugal. One begins to worry about infecting other countries like Spain and Italy.

6. In May the Eurozone, the IMF and the Greek Government create an emergency plan for Greece of 110 billion euros. Greece promises to reduce its expenses by 30 billion.
The EU agrees on a package that will ensure financial stability. It agreed to a "special purpose vehicle", later called the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) of 440 billion euros. The EFSF should be used for, among others, recapitalization of the banks. The EFSF should be able to act on secondary markets to prevent contamination. It seemed to bring calm, but that is short lived.
The European Commission also announced measures that should prevent deficits in the national budget, the so-called six pack. Also sanctions are laid down in European legislation that makes it possible to punish the budget sinners.

7. In the same month Spain and Portugal announced budget cuts with the aim to restore the confidence of the financial markets. The European Central Bank (ECB) starts with interventions and buys bonds from weak countries for a total of 165 billion euros. Maintaining confidence in the financial sector the European Summit announces a stress test for banks. Of the 91 banks tested, 7 banks do not meet the criteria.

8. In the summer of 2010 it becomes clear that Ireland also has problems. This is mainly due to the mortgage loans from banks. A second Lehman debacle threatens.

9. In November, Ireland received an aid package of 67.5 billion Euros. A blueprint for a European Stability Mechanism ESM is designed that will start functioning from 2013 onwards and which is open for private sector participation.

10. In March 2011, the European Summit establishes rules for the ESM. Also the six pack prevention measures are decided to which President Sarkozy and Bundeskanzler Merkel are less strict than the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Finance Ministers from the Eurozone.

11. In May a rescue plan is set for Portugal of 78 billion euros.

12. In June the European Parliament approves the package of preventive measures.

13. In June 2011 the Greek Parliament votes in favor of a drastic austerity package.

14. In July 2011 another stress test for banks is held. Now eight large banks failed to meet the requirements. A new emergency plan for Greece is setteld, worth 109 billion euros. It is decided that the financial private sector should also contribute in addition to the 109 billion euro.

15. The ECB buys more and more Italian and Spanish debt (34 billion) and thus stretches its role to prevent the interest on the Spanish and Italian debt continue to widen.

16. In October 2011, the Greek problem again is larger than expected. However, the country has cut back a lot. The 1913 budget will be balanced. But the interests charged for loans are an excessive burden. The economic downturn is much larger than anticipated. Privatisations are going to slow and do not generate enough money. Instead of 109 billion euro, one need 250 billion and when things go even worse than about 444 billion will be needed on top of the 110 in July 2010. The choice now is a "haircut" of debts or a bankruptcy for Greece. But volontary amortization of financiers (banks) can bring them into trouble too.

17. The debt of Greece will be reduced to 120% of the national budget, to get there in 2020.
The EFSF with its 440 billion Euro in guarantees from which after contributions to Ireland and Portugal remains 290 billion Euros, will be increased to 1000 billion. Private investors are invited to participate in the  Stability Fund. The exact termes have to be worked out.
The banks have to write off 50% of the money loaned to Greece. This will require 106 billion Euro. Banks will initially look for this money through the market, if it is not possible, they can borrow money before the EFSF.
As of July 2013 or possibly earlier the European Emergency Fund will have an amount of 80 billion euros. The European Commission investigates the possibility the release of eurobonds.

It has been agreed that each country adheres to the Stability Pact. Italy is committed to a balanced budget in 2013 and a surplus in 2014 so government debt will be reduced to 113% of the budget.
President of the European Council Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission Barroso and President of the Eurogroup Juncker prepare treaty changes. These are aimed to guarantee more financial stability and to promote more economic cooperation.

Thanks to the European Parliament member Ria Oomen-Ruijten