Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Simple Question - Do We Support US Troops in Libya?




NATO’s plan is to occupy Libya

OIL became the principal wealth in the hands of the large yankee transnationals; with that source of energy, they had at their disposal an instrument that considerably increased their political power in the world. It was their principal weapon when they decided to simply liquidate the Cuban Revolution as soon as the first, just and sovereign laws were enacted in our homeland: by depriving it of oil.

Current civilization was developed on the basis of this source of energy. Of the nations in this hemisphere it was Venezuela which paid the highest price. The United States made itself the owner of the vast oilfields which nature endowed upon that sister nation.

At the end of the last World War it began to extract large volumes from oilfields in Iran, as well as those of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Arab countries located around them. These came to be the principal suppliers. World consumption rose progressively to the fabulous figure of approximately 80 million barrels per day, including those pumped in U.S. territory, to which gas, hydro-electric and nuclear energy were subsequently added. Up until the beginning of the 20th century coal was the fundamental source of energy that made possible industrial development, before billions of automobiles and engines consuming combustible liquid were produced.

The squandering of oil and gas is associated with one of the greatest tragedies, totally unresolved, being endured by humanity: climate change.

When our Revolution arose, Algeria, Libya and Egypt were not as yet oil producers and a large part of the substantial reserves of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and the United Arab Emirates were still to be discovered.

In December of 1951, Libya became the first African country to attain its independence after World War II, during which its territory was the scene of significant battles between German and British troops, bringing fame to Generals Erwin Rommel and Bernard. L. Montgomery.

Total desert covers 95% of its territory. Technology made it possible to find significant fields of excellent quality light oil, currently providing 800 billion barrels per day, and abundant natural gas deposits. Such wealth allowed it to achieve a life expectancy rate of close to 75 years and the highest per capita income in Africa. Its harsh desert is located above an enormous lake of fossil water, equivalent to more than three times the land surface of Cuba, which has made it possible to construct a broad network of fresh water pipes which extends throughout the country.

Libya, which had one million inhabitants upon attaining its independence, now has a population of more than six million.

The Libyan Revolution took place in September 1969. Its principal leader was Muammar al-Gaddafi, a soldier of Bedouin origin who was inspired in his early youth by the ideas of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Without any doubt, many of his decisions are associated with the changes that came about when, as in Egypt, a weak and corrupt monarchy was overthrown in Libya.

The inhabitants of that country have age-old warrior traditions. It is said that the ancient Libyans formed part of Hannibal’s army when he was at the point of liquidating Ancient Rome with the force that crossed the Alps.

One can be in agreement with Gaddafi or not. The world has been invaded with all kind of news, especially through the mass media. We shall have to wait the time needed to discover precisely how much is truth or lies, or a mix of the events, of all kinds, which, in the midst of chaos, have been taking place in Libya. What is absolutely evident to me is that the government of the United States is totally unconcerned about peace in Libya and will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, possibly in a matter of hours or a few days.

Those who, with perfidious intentions, invented the lie that Gaddafi was headed for Venezuela, as they did yesterday afternoon Sunday, February 20, today received a worthy response from Nicol├ís Maduro, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he stated textually that he was "voting for the Libyan people, in the exercise of their sovereignty, to find a peaceful solution to their difficulties which will preserve the integrity of the Libyan people and nation, without the interference of imperialism…"

For my part, I cannot imagine the Libyan leader abandoning the country, eluding the responsibilities attributed to him, whether or not this news is partly or totally false.

An honest person will always be against any injustice committed against any nation of the world, and the worst injustice, at this moment, would be to remain silent in the face of the crime that NATO is preparing to commit against the Libyan people.

The chief of that military organization is being urged to do so. This must be condemned!

Fidel Castro Ruz
February 21, 2011
10:14 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

Yes to the Popular Movement! No to US Imperialism!

Of all the struggles going on in North Africa and the Middle East right now, the most difficult to unravel is the one in Libya.

What is the character of the opposition to the Gadhafi regime, which reportedly now controls the eastern city of Benghazi?

Is it just coincidence that the rebellion started in Benghazi, which is north of Libya’s richest oil fields as well as close to most of its oil and gas pipelines, refineries and its LNG port? Is there a plan to partition the country?

What is the risk of imperialist military intervention, which poses the gravest danger for the people of the entire region?

Libya is not like Egypt. Its leader, Moammar al-Gadhafi, has not been an imperialist puppet like Hosni Mubarak. For many years, Gadhafi was allied to countries and movements fighting imperialism. On taking power in 1969 through a military coup, he nationalized Libya’s oil and used much of that money to develop the Libyan economy. Conditions of life improved dramatically for the people.

For that, the imperialists were determined to grind Libya down. The U.S. actually launched air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 that killed 60 people, including Gadhafi’s infant daughter - which is rarely mentioned by the corporate media. Devastating sanctions were imposed by both the U.S. and the U.N. to wreck the Libyan economy.

After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and leveled much of Baghdad with a bombing campaign that the Pentagon exultantly called “shock and awe,” Gadhafi tried to ward off further threatened aggression on Libya by making big political and economic concessions to the imperialists. He opened the economy to foreign banks and corporations; he agreed to IMF demands for “structural adjustment,” privatizing many state-owned enterprises and cutting state subsidies on necessities like food and fuel.

The Libyan people are suffering from the same high prices and unemployment that underlie the rebellions elsewhere and that flow from the worldwide capitalist economic crisis.

There can be no doubt that the struggle sweeping the Arab world for political freedom and economic justice has also struck a chord in Libya. There can be no doubt that discontent with the Gadhafi regime is motivating a significant section of the population.

However, it is important for progressives to know that many of the people being promoted in the West as leaders of the opposition are long-time agents of imperialism. The BBC on Feb. 22 showed footage of crowds in Benghazi pulling down the green flag of the republic and replacing it with the flag of the overthrown monarch King Idris - who had been a puppet of U.S. and British imperialism.

The Western media are basing a great deal of their reporting on supposed facts provided by the exile group National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which was trained and financed by the U.S. CIA. Google the front’s name plus CIA and you will find hundreds of references.

The Wall Street Journal in a Feb. 23 editorial wrote that “The U.S. and Europe should help Libyans overthrow the Gadhafi regime.” There is no talk in the board rooms or the corridors of Washington about intervening to help the people of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Bahrain overthrow their dictatorial rulers. Even with all the lip service being paid to the mass struggles rocking the region right now, that would be unthinkable. As for Egypt and Tunisia, the imperialists are pulling every string they can to get the masses off the streets.

There was no talk of U.S. intervention to help the Palestinian people of Gaza when thousands died from being blockaded, bombed and invaded by Israel. Just the opposite. The U.S. intervened to prevent condemnation of the Zionist settler state.

Imperialism’s interest in Libya is not hard to find. Bloomberg.com wrote on Feb. 22 that while Libya is Africa’s third-largest producer of oil, it has the continent’s largest proven reserves - 44.3 billion barrels. It is a country with a relatively small population but the potential to produce huge profits for the giant oil companies. That’s how the super-rich look at it, and that’s what underlies their professed concern for the people’s democratic rights in Libya.

Getting concessions out of Gadhafi is not enough for the imperialist oil barons. They want a government that they can own outright, lock, stock and barrel. They have never forgiven Gadhafi for overthrowing the monarchy and nationalizing the oil. Fidel Castro of Cuba in his column “Reflections” takes note of imperialism’s hunger for oil and warns that the U.S. is laying the basis for military intervention in Libya.

In the U.S., some forces are trying to mobilize a street-level campaign promoting such U.S. intervention. We should oppose this outright and remind any well-intentioned people of the millions killed and displaced by U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Progressive people are in sympathy with what they see as a popular movement in Libya. We can help such a movement most by supporting its just demands while rejecting imperialist intervention, in whatever form it may take. It is the people of Libya who must decide their future.

Thanks to http://www.workers.org/

Friday, 11 January 2008

Defend the Right to Strike - POA press release

PRISON OFFICER’S ASSOCIATION (POA)
press release January 7th 2008

Leaders of the POA have reacted angrily to the statement made by the Rt. Hon. Minister for State Jack Straw to reintroduce legislation that will criminalise its members for taking industrial action.
Mr Straw said that he was reluctantly putting in place safeguards to ensure the safety of prisons and the public following the decision of the POA to withdraw from the JIRPA in May this year, an agreement which prevented Prison Officers from disrupting the Prison Service.
In effect New Labour are reintroducing anti trades union legislation, legislation they vehemently opposed when in opposition and legislation they PROMISED to repeal to the POA leadership.
Colin Moses National Chairman of the POA said,
“This is a sad day for the Trades Union movement. Workers are being blackmailed to sign away their rights by a Labour Government. A Government which has broken promise after promise to this union and a Government that has forgotten its roots. This union has had two agreements and both have failed not because of the workers or this union but because of the mismanagement of those agreements by the employer supported by the Government. When this anti trade union legislation was introduced, compensatory measures had to be put in place. Unfortunately, those measures have failed the workers of the Prison Service and we now need to have our rights as workers restored. Jack said, what new money is available for 2009, what about 2007 and 2008. Are we as public sector workers to be treated as second class citizens, used as bargaining chips to manage the economy and of course used as punch bags by those we look after. This union is owed 6 million pounds in TOIL, it is owed pay from 2001 and 2007 and it deserves to be treated fairly and decently. Promises and Platitudes do nothing for the workers of this Country and nothing for my members”.
Brian Caton General Secretary of the POA said,
“Nothing surprises me with the New Labour party. The Government may believe that they can bully and threaten my members but they cannot. If they believe that threatening POA members with imprisonment is a step forward for industrial relations they are sadly wrong. This union like every union should be treated with respect and trust. The POA only react when no one listens, when the employer and government resort to the Courts to manage the Service and of course when promises are broken. We will be calling all public sector workers to unite against this reserved legislation, maybe the Government have underestimated the support of the worker and fallout that will arise if they continue to attack the Trades Union movement”.

Excellent piece by Greg Palast on Correa/Ecuador

David v Goliath (Tuesday 08 January 2008)

Top US investigative journalist GREG PALAST comes face to face with the president of Ecuador.

I DON'T know what the hell seized me. In the middle of an hour-long interview with the
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, I asked him about his father.
It's not the kind of question I ask.
He hesitated. Then said: "My father was unemployed."
He paused. Then added: "He took a little drugs to the States... This is called in Spanish a mule. He passed four years in the States - in a jail."
He continued: "I'd never talked about my father before."
Apparently, he hadn't. His staff stood stone silent, eyes widened.
Correa's dad took that frightening chance in the 1960s, a time when his family, like almost all families in Ecuador, was destitute. Ecuador was the original "banana republic" and the price of bananas had hit the floor. A million desperate Ecuadorans, probably a 10th of the entire adult population, fled to the US any way that they could.
"My mother told us he was working in the States," he says.
On his release from prison, Correa's father was deported back to Ecuador. Humiliated, poor and broken, his father, I learned later, committed suicide.
At the end of our formal interview, through a doorway surrounded by paintings of the pale plutocrats who once ruled this difficult land, he took me into his own Oval Office. I asked him about an odd-looking framed note that he had on the wall. It was, he said, from his daughter and her school class at Christmas time. He translated for me.
"We are writing to remind you that, in Ecuador, there are a lot of very poor children in the streets and we ask you please to help these children who are cold almost every night."
It was kind of corny. And kind of sweet. A smart display for a politician.
Or maybe there was something else to it.
Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation. Certainly, he is one of the first from the streets. He'd won a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador, the owner of the biggest banana plantation.
Dr Correa, I should say, with a PhD in economics earned in Europe. Professor Correa as he is officially called, a man who, until not long ago, taught at the University of Illinois.
And Professor Doctor Correa is one tough character.
He told George Bush to take the US military base and stick it where the equatorial sun don't shine.
He told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which held Ecuador's finances by the throat, to go to hell.
He ripped up the "agreements" which his predecessors had signed at financial gunpoint. He told the Miami bond vultures that were charging Ecuador usurious interest to eat their bonds. "We are not going to pay off this debt with the hunger of our people." Food first, interest later. Much later. And he meant it.It was a stunning performance.
I'd met his predecessor two years ago. President Alfredo Palacio was a man of good heart who told me, looking at the secret IMF agreements that I showed him, "We cannot pay this level of debt. If we do, we are dead. And if we are dead, how can we pay?"
Palacio told me that he would explain this to George Bush and Condoleezza Rice and the World Bank, which was then headed by Paul Wolfowitz. He was sure they would understand.
They didn't. They cut off Ecuador at the knees.
But Ecuador didn't fall to the floor. Correa, who was then economics minister, went secretly to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and obtained emergency financing. Ecuador survived. And thrived. But Correa was not done.
Once elected president, one of his first acts was to establish a fund for the Ecuadoran refugees in the US to give them loans to return to Ecuador with a little cash and lot of dignity.
There were other dragons to slay. He and Palacio kicked US oil giant Occidental Petroleum out of the country.But Correa still wasn't done.
I'd returned from a very wet visit to the rainforest by canoe to a Cofan Indian village in the Amazon, where there was an epidemic of childhood cancers. The indigenous folk related this to the hundreds of open pits of oil sludge left to them by Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, and its partners.
I met the Cofan's chief. His three-year-old son swam in what appeared to be contaminated water, then came out vomiting blood and died.
Correa had gone there, too, to the rainforest, though probably in something sturdier than a canoe. And President Correa announced that the company that had left these filthy pits would pay to clean them up.
But it's not just any company that he was challenging. Chevron's largest oil tanker was named after a long-serving member of its board of directors, the Condoleezza. The US secretary of state.
The Cofan have sued Condi's corporation demanding that the oil company clean up the crap that it left in the jungle. The cost would be roughly £6 billion. Correa won't comment on the suit itself, which is a private legal action. But, if the verdict goes in favour of Ecuador's citizens, Correa told me, he will make sure that Chevron pays up.
Is he kidding? No-one has ever made an oil company pay for their slop. Even in the US, the Exxon Valdez case is dragging on into its 18th year. Yet Correa is not deterred.
He told me he would create an international tribunal to collect, if necessary. In retaliation, he could hold up payments to US companies who sue Ecuador in US courts.
This is hard core. No-one has made such a threat to Bush and big oil and lived to carry it out.
And, in an office tower looking down on Ecuador's capital Quito, Chevron's lawyers were not amused. I met them.
"And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States?"
Rodrigo Perez, Texaco's top lawyer in Ecuador, was chuckling over the legal difficulties that the Indians would have in proving their case that Chevron-Texaco had caused their kids' deaths.
"If there is somebody with cancer there," the parents must prove the deaths were "caused by crude or by the petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is our crude - which is absolutely impossible." He laughed again. You have to see this on film to believe it.
The oil company lawyer added: "No-one has ever proved scientifically the connection between cancer and crude oil." Really? You could swim in the stuff and you'd be just fine.
The Cofan had heard this before.
When Chevron's Texaco unit came to their land, the the oil men said that they could rub the crude oil on their arms and it would cure their ailments. Now, Condi's men had told me that crude oil doesn't cause cancer. But maybe they are right. I'm no expert. So I called one.
Pace University environmental law professor Robert F Kennedy Jr told me that elements of crude oil production such as benzene, toluene and xylene "are well-known carcinogens."
Kennedy told me that he's seen Chevron-Texaco's ugly open pits in the Amazon and said that this kind of toxic dumping would mean jail time in the US.
But it wasn't as much what the Chevron-Texaco lawyers said that shook me. It was the way that they said it. Childhood cancer answered with a chuckle
The Chevron lawyer, a wealthy guy called Jaime Varela with a blonde bouffant hairdo wearing in the kind of yellow chinos you'd see on country club golf course, was beside himself with delight at the impossibility of the legal hurdles that the Cofan would face.
Especially this one - Chevron had pulled all its assets out of Ecuador. The Indians could win, but they wouldn't get a dime. "What about the chairs in this office?" I asked. Couldn't the Cofan at least get those? "No," they laughed, the chairs were held in the name of the law firm.
Well, now they might not be laughing. Correa's threat to use the power of his presidency to protect the Indians, should they win, is a shocker. No-one could have expected that. And Correa, who is no fool, knows that confronting Chevron means confronting the full power of the Bush administration. But to Ecuador's president, it's all about justice, fairness.
"You wouldn't do this to your own people," he told me. Oh yes we would, I was thinking to myself, remembering Alaska's Native Americans.Correa's not unique. He's the latest of a new breed in Latin America.
Brazilian President Lula, Evo Morales, who was the first Indian ever elected president of Bolivia, Chavez of Venezuela. All "leftists," as the press tells us. But all have something else in common - they are dark-skinned working-class or poor kids who found themselves leaders of nations of dark-skinned people who had forever been ruled by an elite of bouffant blondes.
When I was in Venezuela, the leaders of the old order liked to refer to Chavez as "the monkey." Chavez told me proudly: "I am negro e indio" - black and Indian, like most Venezuelans.
Chavez, as a kid rising in the ranks of the blonde-controlled armed forces, undoubtedly had to endure many jeers of "monkey." Now, all over Latin America, the "monkeys" are in charge.
And they are unlocking the economic cages.
Maybe the mood will drift north. Far above the equator, a nation is ruled by a blonde oil company executive.
He never made much in oil, but, every time that he lost his money or his investors' money, his daddy, another oil man, would give him another oil well. And when, as a rich young man out of Philips Andover Academy, the wayward youth tooted a little blow off the bar, daddy took care of that too. Maybe young George got his powder from some guy up from Ecuador.
I know that this is an incredibly simple story. Indians in white hats with their dead kids and oil millionaires in black hats laughing at kiddy cancer and playing musical chairs with oil assets.
But maybe it's just that simple. Maybe in this world there really is good and evil.
Maybe Santa will sort it out for us, tell us who's been good and who's been bad. Maybe Lawyer Yellow Pants will wake up one Christmas Eve staring at the ghost of Christmas future and promise to get the oil sludge out of the Cofan's drinking water. Or maybe we'll have to figure it out ourselves.
When I met Chief Emergildo, I was reminded of an evening years back when I was way the hell in the middle of nowhere in the Prince William Sound, Alaska, in the Chugach Native American village of Chenega.
I was investigating the damage done by Exxon's oil. There was oil sludge all over Chenega's beaches. It was March 1991 and I was in the home of village elder Paul Kompkoff on the island's shore watching CNN. We stared in silence as "smart" bombs exploded in Baghdad and Basra.
Then, Kompkoff said to me, in that slow, quiet way that he had, "Well, I guess we're all Natives now."
Well, maybe we are. But we don't have to be, do we?
Maybe we can take some guidance from this tiny nation at the centre of the earth. I listened back through my talk with President Correa. And I can assure his daughter that she didn't have to worry that her dad would forget about "the poor children who are cold" on the streets of Quito.
Because the Professor Doctor is still one of them.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Damsels in Distress?

The west should stop using the liberalisation of Muslim women to justify its strategy of dominance writes Soumaya Ghannoushi in the Guardian

It seems that Muslim women - particularly those living in western capitals- are destined to remain besieged by two debilitating discourses, which though different in appearance, are one in essence.
The first of these is conservative and exclusionist, sentencing Muslim women to a life of childbearing and rearing, lived out in the narrow confines of their homes at the mercy of fathers, brothers, and husbands. Revolving around notions of sexual purity and family honour, it appeals to religion for justification and legitimisation.
The other is a "liberation" discourse that vows to break Muslim woman's bondage and free her of the oppressive yoke of an aggressive, patriarchical, and backward society. She is a mass of powerlessness and enslavement; the embodiment of seclusion, silence, and invisibility. Her only hope of deliverance from the cave of veiling and isolation lies in the benevolent intervention of this force of emancipation. It will save her from her hellishly miserable and bleak existence, to the promised heaven of enlightenment and progress.
It is a game of binaries that pits one stereotype against another: the wretched caged female Muslim victim and her ruthless jailer society against an idealised "west" that is the epitome of enlightenment, rationalism, and freedom. Those escapees who leave the herd are held up as living testimonies to the arduousness of transition from the twilights of tribe, religion and tradition, to the dawn of reason, individualism, and liberation. There is no denying the manifold injustices that cripple the lives of many Muslim women and stunt their potential. But these appear in this condescending liberation narrative as representative of the condition of the millions of Muslim women around the world and exclusive to them. There are no colours, tones, or shades here. There are no living real women, urban or rural, educated or illiterate, affluent or poor, Turkish, Malaysian, or Egyptian - differences so crucial in defining women's life chances and shaping their situations. All we know about this ghostly creature is her Muslim identity, as though she was entirely shaped and affected by religion and theology irrespective of social background, economic circumstances, political reality, or regional and local cultural traditions. Important as it is, legal and theological reform will on its own do little to improve the lot of impoverished, uneducated, or insecure women in Somalia, Iraq, or rural Bangladesh. The narrative revolves around a dehistoricised, universal "Muslim woman"; a crushing model that oppresses flesh and blood Muslim women, denies them subjectivity and singularity, and claims to sum up their lives with all their vicissitudes and details from cradle to coffin. It reserves for itself the right to speak for them exclusively, whether they like it or not.Representations of the Muslim woman serve a dual legitimising function, at once confirming and justifying the west's narrative of itself, and of the Muslim other. The victimised Muslim woman is the lens through which Islam and Muslim society are seen. In medieval times she was cast as an intimidating powerful queen or termagant (like Bramimonde in the Chanson de Roland, or Belacane in Parzival) reflecting an intimidating powerful Muslim civilisation. And when the power balance began to shift in Europe's favour in the 17th and 18th centuries, she was made to mirror her society's fallen fortunes. She turned into a harem slave, leading little more than a dumb animal existence, subjugated, inert, abject, powerless, and invisible. She is the quintessential embodiment of a despotic, deformed, and backward Islam.
It is Europe, later the west, that must penetrate her iron cage and break her shackles. It must save the victim and civilise her oppressors. The more victimised "the Muslim woman", the greater the need for the liberated west to liberate her. The noble intervention is for her and in her interest, not for the west, or its interests. It was indeed no coincidence that a great many colonial officers and archivists devotedly recorded instances of barbarity among the colonised, practices like sati, the ban on widow marriage, or the practice of child marriage in India, or slavery and genital mutilation in Africa. Although these atrocities were not inventions, their chronicling had and still has a purpose: It provides the moral framework for intervention.As a couplet by Torquato Tasso puts it,And when her city and her state was lost,Then her person lov'd and honor'd most.But "love" and "honour" haven't exactly been the experience of Iraqi women when their cities fell under American occupation. Rights which took decades to secure have crumbled away in the space of months. From doctors, scientists, engineers or businesswomen, today they find themselves incarcerated in their homes unable to move around for fear of being kidnapped, raped, or assassinated. Those who escape the bombs and bullets of the occupying army, die at the hands of the Iraqi security forces and out of control extremist and sectarian militias which flourished since 2003, as Maggie O'Kane demonstrated in her moving piece on Cif yesterday. In the past three months 45 innocent women were murdered in cold blood in Basra. The truth is that just as there is a military machine of hegemony, there is a discursive machine of hegemony. When armies move on the ground to conquer and subjugate, they need moral and ideological cover. It is this that gives the dominant narrative of the "Muslim woman" its raison d'etre. No wonder then that the "Muslim woman" liberation warriors, the likes of Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, and Pascal Bruckner, were the same people who cheered American/ British troops as they blasted their way through Kabul and Baghdad, and who will no doubt cheer and dance once more should Iran or Syria be bombed next. Soldiers shoot with their guns; they with their pens. They are hegemony's apologists. Without them the emperor stands naked.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Unite Challenges M&S on Migrant Workers

This organisation and defence of migrant workers is a great example of progressive leadership, taclking racism and pushing forward labour organisation. - Ed.

· Retailer investigating conditions at meat plant
· Unite says Poles given 'zero hours' contracts
News Story by Matthew Taylor, Thursday December 13, The Guardian

Migrant workers at a factory which supplies meat to Marks & Spencer are suffering exploitation in a drive to maximise profits, a union report claims today.
M&S, which yesterday announced that sales of its organic turkeys are likely to top the £1m mark this Christmas, is considered to be one of the most ethical of leading high street retailers. However, a study published by the union Unite says that Polish staff at a factory in south Wales which supplies M&S with red meat are employed on a "zero hours" contract with no guaranteed number of hours, and suffer "harsh and divisive" conditions.Last night, an M&S spokeswoman said it had launched an investigation and was taking the allegations seriously.

The report, which focuses on the Dawn Pac meat factory near Llanelli, says staff employed by a local agency claimed that shifts were regularly abandoned at short notice, leaving workers stranded at the factory, sometimes in the middle of the night, because transport was only provided at the normal end of a shift. Some workers had to walk up to 15 miles to get home after being told by supervisors they were no longer needed halfway through a shift. In addition, those who opted out of agency accommodation and transport had their hours cut, it was claimed.
"We are creating a situation in local communities where work has become so insecure and casualised it evokes images of the casualisation of the docks before they were unionised," said Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite. "M&S prides itself on its image as an ethical retailer. We want them to practise what they preach."

When the Guardian visited the south Wales site, five Polish workers said they had turned up that day and had been told they were not needed after an hour's work. "I came to work at 8am this morning and I was sent home at 9am," said Maria. "There was no car, no transport back, so I was stuck there and I have now been told that I have three days off this week."

Staff, who receive £5.52 an hour, said their hours were cut when they stopped using agency accommodation or the minibus to and from the factory, which costs £7 a day. Jeff Hopkins, chair of the Welsh-Polish Association in Llanelli, said that when workers stopped using the full range of services laid on by local employment agency CSA Recruitment they became "less productive economic units...so they knock their hours down". According to Unite, CSA Recruitment charges around £250 to bring Poles to the UK. They sign a zero-hours deal when they arrive in the UK after a 36-hour coach journey.

Woodley said: "This is not just about one site or one agency. Our campaign is about the prevalence of agency working, and the consequences for workers and communities." Yesterday both Dawn Pac and CSA Recruitment declined to comment on the report's allegations.