South America’s two largest economies reconciled union disputes and judicial rulings this week, allowing work to continue on major projects.
On Monday, a strike led by unions representing 90 percent of government employees ended in Brazil, on promises to raise public sector wages by 15.8 percent, over the next three years. In another development, work resumed on the Belo Monte dam after Brazil’s Supreme Court reversed a previous ruling that had suspended the project. The hydro plant will be the world’s third largest, generating from 4,751 MW to 11,233 MW, depending on the flow of the Xingu River. Upon completion, the project will flood 195 square miles of rainforest, affecting more than 66 communities.
On Tuesday, in Argentina, an alliance of government, unions, and business leaders agreed to raise the minimum wage by 25 percent amid continued inflation and slow economic growth. Monthly minimum wage will rise to 2,670 pesos (US$ 576) on Sept. 1 and to 2,875 pesos (US$ 621) on Feb. 1.
But other strikes continue elsewhere in the Americas. Last week In Colombia, a hunger strike ended, in which four GM workers sowed their lips shut after being fired for contesting the automotive company’s health policy. The hunger strike marked the culmination of nearly a year of protest. Strikers accused GM of falsifying the medical records of factory workers, to absolve the company of responsibility for health complications derived from working at the plant. On Aug. 22, after three weeks of fasting, GM agreed to mediation and protest leaders removed the stitches and dug into a meal of roast chicken and arepas (Colombian pancake). Despite some progress, the strikers continue to occupy an area surrounding the US Embassy in Bogotá.
And in Chile, students have taken to the streets once more to demand the affordability of higher education. Tuesday’s protests swelled to over 150,000 supporters. Last year, students led more than 40 major demonstrations through the capital of Santiago.
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GM’s Hunger Games
Mediation fails to secure compensation for strikers
10 September, 2012
The American Prospect
Under mounting public pressure, Colmotores agreed to negotiations facilitated by the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on August 23.
The talks, however, did not result in GM rehiring the workers or compensating them for lost wages. After three and a half days of mediation, the talks were broken off last Friday. The hunger strike and U.S. protests have begun anew, and what happens next is anyone’s guess.
Colombian GM worker takes hunger strike to Washington
Strikers take the fight to GM’s its home turf
11 September, 2012
Joey O’Goreman, Colombia Reports
Colombian General Motors (GM) worker Jorge Parra is on hunger-strike again, and this time he is in Washington D.C.
After a mere three-and-a-half days the talks were broken off when GM refused to meet the protestors demands to be rehabilitated and retrained so they could resume working in the company.
“The only thing GM offered was $6,000 to share between the 12 workers, that is not even enough to buy a hot-dog stand,” said Parra.