Criminal lawyers in England and Wales stage pay strike
Senior criminal lawyers in England and Wales on Monday went on strike in a dispute over pay, just days after rail workers staged stoppages and other sectors threatened industrial action.
Barristers have threatened a series of walkouts over the coming weeks and to refuse to accept new cases or cover for colleagues as part of the action.
They say the strikes are vital to prevent the already creaking criminal justice system hit by cuts and Covid backlogs from grinding to a halt.
In London, several hundred barristers -- some dressed in their trademark horsehair wigs and black gowns -- staged a picket outside the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court.
Similar actions took place outside courts in five other cities including Cardiff and Manchester.
Criminal lawyers are calling for a 15-percent increase to the pay they receive when carrying out so-called legal aid work which is funded by the state.
They say that unlike lawyers involved in commercial legal work they earn very little per hour because years of underfunding has left the system struggling to cope.
Sarah Jones -- a senior barrister or queen's counsel (QC) -- said unless action was taken now "in five years time there won't be a criminal justice system... there simply won't be anyone to prosecute and defend".
"It means that people who are victims will not have specially trained experts fighting their corner and those accused will not have representation and the system will fail," she told AFP.
Jones said the struggle to recruit into the profession was "horrendous" and that even those who did join often left after a few years because of the pressures.
Some 300 barristers had left the profession in the past 12 months, she said.
Mark Watson, assistant secretary of The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) which represents barristers in England and Wales, said it was a misconception that lawyers at the start of their career were well paid.
He said a criminal barrister would be paid £124 ($152) for a hearing but that would often require many hours of preparation as well as travel which was often not reimbursed.
Barristers are the latest sector to demand pay rises, amid a soaring cost of living crisis in Britain which has seen inflation hit 9.1 percent -- a 40-year high.
Last week, tens of thousands of rail workers staged three one-day walkouts over pay and job security, virtually bringing the railway system to a standstill.
Teachers are also hoping to secure a significant pay rise, with the NEU union threatening to consult members on possible strikes later in the year if their demands are not met.
The CBA says its strike action will last four weeks with stoppages increasing by a day each week until a five-day strike on July 18.
Peru truckers to strike after failed govt talks
A truckers union in Peru has declared an indefinite strike from Monday after failed negotiations with President Pedro Castillo's government over fuel prices.
Peru's government confirmed Sunday that an agreement could not be reached after three days of talks with the country's heavy haulers and drivers union.
"We have not reached an agreement with the cargo transport unions, we regret the intention to continue with the strike announced for (June) 27," said Finance Minister Oscar Graham at a press conference.
Consumer inflation in Peru has spiked in recent months, with the current year-on-year rate at more than 8 percent, far higher than the government's target of 3.5 percent.
Graham called on the truckers union "to continue the dialogue", adding that the government did reach a deal with a union that represents about 100,000 interprovincial bus drivers.
"We are going to strike anyway," Marlon Milla, the truckers union chief, said on a local television channel.
Milla, whose union brings together about 400,000 truck drivers in 14 of Peru's 25 regions, is asking for an extension to the elimination of a fuel tax, as well as other measures to address discontent in the sector.
Defense Minister Jose Luis Gavidia declared a state of emergency on the country's roads from midnight on Monday, with the army and police deployed to prevent roadblocks.
This is the second truckers union strike Castillo's government has faced in 11 months.
In April, a strike by the multimodal transport guilds union triggered violent protests and roadblocks, as well as the imposition of a curfew on April 5.
Ecuador to cut fuel prices that sparked protests
President Guillermo Lasso announced Sunday that Ecuador will cut fuel prices, which had sparked weeks of demonstrations, though not by as much as protesters have demanded.
"I have decided to reduce the price of gasoline by 10 cents per gallon and diesel also by 10 cents per gallon," he said in a television and radio address.
The powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), which since June 13 has been blocking roads and occupying oil wells in different parts of the country, had demanded a reduction in prices by an additional 30 cents and 35 cents, respectively.
Earlier on Sunday, the country's energy ministry warned that oil production had reached a "critical" level and could be halted entirely within 48 hours if the protests and roadblocks continued.
The protests, which are also against rising living costs, have crippled transportation in Ecuador, with roadblocks set up in 19 of the oil-rich country's 24 provinces.
"Oil production is at a critical level," the ministry said in a statement.
"If this situation continues, the country's oil production will be suspended in less than 48 hours as vandalism, the seizure of oil wells and road closures have prevented the transport of equipment and diesel needed to keep operations going."
"Today, the figures show a decrease of more than 50 percent" in production, which was at roughly 520,000 barrels per day before the protests, it said.
Ecuador's economy is highly dependent on oil revenues, with 65 percent of output exported in the first four months of 2022.
Late on Sunday, the country's parliament suspended seven hours of debate over whether to impeach Lasso, with proceedings set to resume on Tuesday. At least 20 members of parliament are still due to speak.
The president's impeachment would require 92 of the 137 possible votes in the National Assembly, where the opposition holds a fragmented majority. MPs will have a maximum of 72 hours to vote following the end of the debate.
An estimated 14,000 protesters have taken part in the nationwide demonstrations, most of them in Quito.
Shortages are already being reported in the capital, where prices have soared.
Violence between police and demonstrators has reportedly left five dead, while about 500 people have been injured.
Earlier in the day, Production Minister Julio Jose Prado said that public-private economic losses from the protests totaled $500 million.
"Each additional day of downtime represents $40 to $50 million lost," he said on Sunday.
Overall losses since the protests began include 8.5 million liters of milk worth $13 million as well as $90 million in agricultural goods and livestock.
The tourism industry has seen cancellations rise to 80 percent, with losses amounting to at least $50 million.
Additionally, "in the flower farm sector, 12 days of shutdown resulted in $30 million in losses and damage to trucks and farms," Prado said.