Peugeot-Citroen to open talks with French unions

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The head of French car maker, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, has agreed to open talks with unions following the announcement of cuts that will result in the loss of 8000 jobs.

In July, the ailing company announced the measures as well as the closure of its plant in Aulnay, north of Paris.

PSA Union leader Jean-Pierre Mercier said the workers were happy that talks are opening:

“We’re faced with a company that is tough, a management that doesn’t want to give anything up. But today through the unity of the workforce, we have managed to score a very important first point.”

On Wednesday the French government promised a 7 billion euro state guarantee for PSA’s finance division, but the its Chief Executive, Philippe Varin says savings still need to be made:

“The closure of the Aulnay plant will take place. A total of 8,000 jobs in total are concerned. But as we have said since the very start: we attach a great importance to the limitation of the social impact.”

Peugeot reported a 3.9% fall in sales during the July to September quarter and its shares fell sharply as it said it would not pay dividends while in receipt of government aid.

Ukraine’s East/West divide

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Still littered with reminders of its Soviet past the eastern city of Donetsk highlights the East – West divide in Ukraine.

The country is set to go to the polls on Sunday and mostly Russian speaking Ukrainians in the east favour Viktor Yanukovich’s ruling Party of Regions over the opposition.

Valentyn Litvinov, a retired miner lives in Donetsk, he says: “In the past 20 years we haven’t seen so many things achieved: but now schools, nurseries, everything else, roads, airports, everything which needs to be done has started to be done, my only hope is with the Party of Regions.”

But Tatyana Petrova, a former coke plant worker who now sweeps the streets to top up her pension earnings says she will not vote for the Party of Regions again: “I am disappointed with the Party of Regions for many reasons. The pension is small and they don’t raise it, I am over 70 but am still working, I’ve been working for 50 years already.”

Opposition

But in the western city of Lviv the opposition coalition is far more popular. It includes imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, as well as the party of heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.

Vasyl Soroko, a student said: “I expect the opposition to win. At least I hope for it and that life will get better bit by bit.”

But electrician, Andriy Mostovy was more pessimistic: “I doubt that anything will change in the country’s political life. Anyway, I don’t expect any improvement.”

Corruption

Last year corruption monitor, Transparency International, downgraded Ukraine to the 152nd of 183 countries in the world and this has been a key campaign issue for all parties.

Corruption has been described as a cancer in Ukrainian life which hits personal incomes, kills entrepreneurial spirit and deters vitally needed foreign investment. But regardless of the election result many voters feel that this is unlikely to change.

Rogue-trader Kerviel loses appeal

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Jerome Kerviel, the man behind France’s biggest rogue trading scandal, has lost his appeal at a Paris court, which has upheld his jail term.

Kerviel was originally given five years, two of which were suspended, in 2010.

The former Societe Generale trader has also been ordered to repay the impossibly large sum of 4.9 billion euros that he lost in illicit positions on the financial markets.

The little known junior trader working in a grim Paris suburb became internationally known overnight as the financial crisis began to hit in 2008. It emerged he had taken positions worth 50 billion euros on the markets.

Kerviel never denied masking his actions, but has always claimed his bosses were complicit and that he has simply become a pawn of what he called the “rotten financial system.”

Testifying in 2009 former Societe Generale CEO, Daniel Bouton, denied Kerviel’s accusations and said the bank’s risk managers never stood a chance against his manipulations.

After the decision was announced his lawyers said they were considering the possibility of a higher appeal, but Kerviel himself later told RTL radio that he would not appeal.

Russian handbook insults immigrants

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What was intended to be a friendly guide for labour migrants to Russia, has instead been taken as an insult. The brochure gives practical advice on dealing with authorities, such as guards and police, but workers have taken exception to the fact that the booklet represents them as work tools.

The book was published by an NGO and distributed in the Russian, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik languages.

Alexander Shishlov the Human Rights Ombudsman in St. Petersburg said: “When migrant workers who come here from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and other countries are portrayed as spatulas, brushes and other tools, while all the other characters in the brochure are portrayed as people, this clearly sets people who live here against those who are visitors. And this comparison is insulting to a large degree.”

Outrage

The government of Tajikistan has formally asked Russian authorities to withdraw the handbook, but despite the book having been promoted on a Russian government website, authorities have denied any connection with its publication.

Gleb Panfilov, deputy head of the Look into the Future group that published the guide in St Petersburg said he could not understand the sudden public outrage, many months after its release. He claims to have consulted workers from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan while putting the book together aiming “to help labour migrants learn about their rights and avoid getting into trouble in this city”.

Hate crime

Activists say the book is another example of discrimination against the impoverished, mostly Muslim migrants who move to Russia and take on low-skilled work. The immigrants, many of whom have dark skins, have been the targets of hate crime in recent years.

This reached a peak in 2008 when 115 immigrants were killed and nearly 500 wounded, according to an independent watchdog. A police crackdown on neo-Nazi groups has helped to reduce racially motivated crimes, but numbers are said to be still high.

US Republican makes abortion gaff

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The Republican candidate for the US senate in Indiana caused outrage by saying that if a woman is raped it is part of God’s will.

Richard Mourdock, who is a favourite of the conservative Tea Party movement, made the comments during a debate on abortion.

He had been locked in a close battle with Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly but these remarks could amount to political suicide:

“I believe that life begins at conception,” Mourdock said. “The only exception I have, to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it, myself, for a long time, but I came to realise life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who on Monday launched state-wide ads endorsing Mourdock, immediately distanced himself from the comments.

The Republicans need a net gain of four seats in the elections on November 6 to take control of the US senate.

Russia: Navalny to lead protest movement

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Anti-Putin blogger Alexai Navalny has been selected to lead the opposition movement and will now be tasked with turning mass street protests into more structured attack on the Russian President.

More than 81,000 people voted online to chose 45 new leaders, who it is hoped will unify protesters and give them direction.

Professional chess player Garry Kasparov and writer Dmitry Bykov were also popular choices and will join the opposition’s coordination council. Navalny was the outright winner with 43.723 votes.

It is reported the election had to be extended by a day due to cyber-attacks on the platform.

Putin has been the subject of spirited protests since returning to the presidency for a third time in May but the opposition candidates gained no ground in Russia’s regional elections on October 14.

EU summit in ‘small revolution’

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European leaders have agreed a deal on a banking union.

France and the European Commission arrived at the summit keen to run ahead with a new European bank supervisory mechanism to be in place by January, but the cautious German chancellor, Angela Merkel said she thinks baby steps are needed first: “Concerning the move towards banking supervision, we have decided to move forward with the principle that quality is more important than rapidity. This means we will not have a working banking supervision at the beginning of 2013.”

The summit agreement now says that “work on the operational implementation will take place in the course of 2013” rather than in January.

European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy hailed the result of the summit as highly successful: “This is a small revolution, it means that we’ll have only one supervisor for the whole Europe, who – to a certain extent – will replace all the national supervisors.

“You know the source of our problem is the financial crisis. Now we will have only one supervisor for Europe, if we had this in 2008 I don’t think the crisis would have reached this level.”

The art of compromise has prevailed once again in Europe, but there is still much more that needs to be done, as the Spanish and Greek emergencies are still waiting.