Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good news of the day: Quebec students protest, Indonesian workers win

As we've seen from the unfolding revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, or the struggle in Wisconsin that has gripped America, good news is infectious. It's medicine for the heart and soul. It's for this reason that it's often kept out of the media, lest other people feel inspired and confident to stand up for justice. While many of my blog posts concern what's wrong with the world, I've decided to balance it out by looking at what's right. So I'm starting a new series on my blog called "Good news of the day", where I'll post inspiring stories I've come across that day. Feel free to share others on my blog, or send me tweets.

Today I'm happy to write about two inspiring and underreported stories.

Quebec stands up against austerity
Firstly, a mass student protest in Quebec. Though you wouldn't know if from the complete media blackout in English Canada, tens of thousands of students in French Canada are taking to the streets right now against government plans to increase tuition. A strong student movement, which this demonstration is building upon and continuing, has made Quebec the province with the lowest tuition and (as a result) highest accessibility, as spokesperson for the Quebec student group ASSE explained:
"We're the province where tuition fees are the lowest, but also the province where the attendance of post-secondary institutions is the highest. We're talking about 9%  higher than the Canadian average. We should be proud because the results for accessibility are clear."
The student movement is part of a broader fightback against the austerity agenda of the ruling Liberals. The protest today follows on an equally ignored mobilization two weeks ago that saw 55,000 people march through Montreal demanding tuition fee freeze, accessible public healthcare, and a moratoium on shale gas drilling. As a spokesperson for one of the major trade unions declared at the time, "We're in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin." While the Parti Quebecois governments have had the same record in office, the people of Quebec have an alternative party that is campaigning against austerity: Quebec solidaire. As their Member of the National Assembly, Amir Khadir said, "there is a need to unite people, there is a growing capacity in our society to say no to government policies and government decisions."

Indonesia workers smell the sweet aroma of a freshly-brewed cup o' victory
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Indonesian workers have claimed victory in a long year battle against Nestle--the multibillion dollar food and nutrition company whose motto is "Good Food, Good Life".  (Thanks to Labour Start for the alert). For more than a decade, the Union of NestlĂ© Indonesia Workers in the NescafĂ© factory in Panjang (SBNIP, an affiliate of the International Union of Foodworkers) has represented workers at the country's only factory that produces the Nescafe coffee. For 3 years the union has demanded basic democratic rights of collective bargaining and freedom of association, but Nestle has refused and even created a fake union that it pressured workers to join. But after a 3 year battle--which received internationally solidarity under the banner of Nespressure, including last year's solidarity picket outside Nespresso shops in New York City--the workers today claimed victory. According to the Indonesian trade union SBNIP, affiliate of the representing the workers:
"This victory is not for IUF and affiliated SBNIP only, this is a real victory for all Indonesian workers. This is a very historic victory that from now on the Indonesian workers will have rights to determine their own wages through CBA negotiation."
 It's nice to wake up and smell the sweet aroma of victory!

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