Sweatshops, unions and Fortress Europe

Although the European bosses do not want to allow immigrants from North Africa to enter Europe (it is estimated that between 200 and 1000 drowned trying to enter Spain in 1998*) they do want access to these same people as cheap labour.

The EU is continuing the exploitation of the people of North Africa through creating a special trade zone of some of the North African countries similar to the free trades zones North America has created in Mexico. In Ireland this has been most visible with ‘Fruit of the Loom’ closing plants in the north west of Ireland and opening new plants in Morocco where workers are paid one seventh of what the (low paid) Irish workers were paid.

Morocco is a monarchy, infamous for jailing political prisoners in an underground jail in the desert. As might be expected, one of the services provided for the European bosses is the suppression of trade unions. An International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) report notes that "21 Moroccan trade unionists were imprisoned in 1999 for trade union activities, and that they were tortured during their detention."

ICFTU also revealed a dispute where "when a trade union was set up in November of last year at a subsidiary of the Irish [sic] ‘Fruit of the Loom’ group in the town of Sale - a factory employing over 1,200 workers - a whole arsenal of anti-union tactics was unleashed: the recruitment of militiamen to intimidate participants at the union assembly, the dismissal of eight leaders elected by the grass roots…the governor of Sale .. sided with the ‘Fruit of the Loom’ management, stating bluntly that he didn’t want any unions in his prefecture."

Moroccan workers, like Irish workers, should be supported in their fight for better pay and working conditions. A student led anti-sweatshop campaign in the US has forced over 60 universities to form a Workers Rights Consortium, to monitor working conditions in plants which manufacture clothes they sell.

If you are a member of Mandate or another union that organises retail workers you could demand that your union fills this role and regularly reports to the members on any disputes. As part of this, direct links should be built with unions in the relevant plants in the countries concerned. This would be the first step to showing solidarity with workers in Morocco and elsewhere. They are being exploited by the same gang of bosses who exploit us. An injury to one is an injury to all.

* this figure is from an Inter Press Service news report

From that report "The Spanish government, which registers only the deaths that take place in national waters, has counted 200. But ATIME (the Association of Immigrant Moroccan Workers in Spain) estimates that another 800 have drowned in Moroccan waters."

The full text is at www.oneworld.org/ips2/aug98/18_26_094.html

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This edition is No63 published in March 2001