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January 2004

South Africa 2004 - A decade of freedom… the decade ahead

Jean-Anne Goodbrand and John Barton of the International committee Report from a major conference organised by the South African High Commission in advance of the 10th Anniversary of the end of apartheid and free elections.

Around 2,000 delegates attended this conference, organised by the South African High Commission, celebrating ten years of freedom for South Africa, the rainbow nation. The weekend marked the first decade of freedom highlighting the accomplishments achieved and marking the problems still requiring solutions. John Barton and myself represented the Scottish International Committee.

Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Foreign Affairs) remarked on the support from the UK of the 1959 boycott of South African products, now South Africa is asking for the UK to open markets. Tourists who were asked not to travel to South Africa are now being encouraged to see the new South Africa. Sport was boycotted; South Africa hosted the last Rugby World Cup. Pension campaigns seeking disinvestment in South Africa, now companies persuaded to invest.

Paul Boateng, Chief Secretary to the UK Treasury remembered taking part in Anti-Apartheid demonstrations in Trafalgar Square and the strong ties forged between the UK and South Africa in good times and bad. Witnessing the transition of South Africa from a global pariah to a respected beacon amongst nations. A strong South Africa is an invaluable resource of the whole continent of Africa. The global challenge of the HIV AIDS pandemic with 4 people dying every minute.

President Thabo Mbeki broadcast a pre-recorded video to the conference outlining South Africa as a society of the 1st and 3rd world.

Minister Alec Erwin, Trade & Industry pointed out that whilst South Africa is short of natural fibres, they are working with Mozambique and Zimbabwe to grow cotton. ESCOM is the third largest utility company in the World, yet only 20% of Africa have access to electricity. Fruit Salad prepared in South Africa including mangoes from Ghana is flown into the UK and on the supermarket shelves the next morning. We are all citizens of the world and should conduct ourselves as human beings, not trading commodities.

Events planned in Scotland in 2004

A meeting of Scottish delegates took place to discuss events being organised to mark the 10th anniversary of the South African elections in April 2004. There will be Writers' conference in Edinburgh and Glasgow; the Church of Scotland is marking South African Freedom day in April. The Edinburgh Festival, Blues, Jazz and Film Festivals, Christmas Markets and Hogmanay events next year will have a South African slant. A Scottish organising Committee is planned; further details are available from Brian Filling, Chair or John Nelson, ACTSA Scotland, 55 St Enoch's Square, Glasgow.

Trade Union Workshop

The Labour movement in South Africa and the UK played a pivotal role in the fight against apartheid and many strong links exist today. Unfortunately there were no South African Trade Unionists at the workshop to strengthen these links.

More GATSly goings on

In the last newsletter we wrote about the threat to public services of the World Trade Organisation's negotiations on a new agreement called General Agreement on Trade in Services.

GATs was a major theme of the UNISON Branch International Officers Seminar held in Newcastle on 31 October t0 2 November 2003. The seminar was able to hear from Mike Waghorne, Assistant General Secretary of the Public Services International. PSI is the international federation of public service trade unions and we are a major affiliate.

PSI have been spearheading much of the work around GATs on behalf of public service trade unions. GATs threatens public services across the globe by placing pressures on governments to open them up to being traded.

The effects on developing countries and developed ones will be different but significant to each. Mike outlined the 5 main concerns to public sector and education trade unions as being:

  • threats to the security of existing public services;
  • the needs of developing countries wanting to develop public services; the potential undermining of governments' ability to regulate with certainty, especially in the area of public services standards;
  • the mobility of labour;
  • the need for there to be a full assessment of GATS before negotiations proceed.

Mike's presentation to the seminar was excellent and included much background to the recent meeting of the WTO and the emerging threats of the so called ‘Singapore issues' which are: a multilateral investment agreement; an agreement on competition policy; an agreement on transparency in government procurement; and a trade facilitation agreement.

All this can seem very dry but these agreements could fundamentally alter the way in which public services are run across the globe and move much further down the road of becoming just another commodity rather than the fabric of a decent, humane and democratic society. That is the challenge facing us all. See the website list for some relevant links.

Mike Waghorne's presentation is available in hard copy by contacting Simon Macfarlane.

UNISON launch Urgent Action Email Network

"Sacked for Joining a trade union"; "sacked for getting pregnant; "imprisoned for trade union activity"; Disappeared for defending public services". These are just some of the headlines about the repression of trade union and human rights from around the world. Everyday somewhere, including Britain, trade union rights are being violated. But there are things you can do.

UNISON's International Department has launched an Urgent Action Email Network for members who want to know about and respond to trade union rights abuses around the world as and when they happen. So next time you can respond and help make a difference.

To join the network please email Polly Jones at p.jones@unison.co.uk and tell her you want to join.

UNISON Scotland pledges solidarity with Colombian trade Unionists

At December's Scottish Council a motion moved by the International Committee's Alison Cosgrove on behalf of her Branch highlighted the horrendous conditions for trade unionists in Columbia.

One practical way UNISON members can support trade unionists in Columbia is to boycott Coca-Cola and write to them and tell them why. The Colombian Solidarity Campaign to whom UNISON is affiliated has launched the boycott campaign in Britain.

CSC write:

The International Boycott of Coca-Cola started on the 22 July 2003. It was called by SINALTRAINAL (Colombian Food and Drinks Workers' Union). It is supported by the World Social Forum, and by the CUT and the CGTD (principle trade union federations in Colombia), and numerous social organisations around the world.

Coca-Cola stands accused of complicity in the assassination of 8 Sinaltrainal trade union leaders in Colombia since 1990. Many other leaders have been imprisoned, tortured, forcibly displaced and exiled. Of course, Coca-Cola deny any responsibility for the murders, pointing out that 100s of union leaders are killed every year in Colombia. However, many of Sinaltrainal's victims were killed inside Coca-Cola plants while negotiating collective agreements. Coca-Cola management were reported in the national press as meeting and contracting members of the AUC death squads to "sort out their labour problems".

So why the boycott? Sinaltrainal have exhausted all the legal avenues in Colombia, where their applications to the courts have been manipulated and rejected. However, in the USA, in a court case brought in solidarity with Sinaltrainal by the United Steel Workers Union, a judge has ruled that there is enough evidence for a case to continue against Coca-Cola's Colombian subsidiaries. However, the multinational refuses to cooperate with the union, and the violent repression continues. Coca-Cola are also suing the union for libel. The boycott and international campaign are powerful but dangerous weapons, the workers in Colombia know that they will bear the brunt of the repression for highlighting these facts. They deserve your solidarity.

"We ask Coca Cola to stop killing, and you to stop drinking Coke"

Carlos Julia, Sinaltrainal

War on Want are also campaigning on Columbia and have launched a postcard campaign. If you can get some of these filled in please contact Simon Macfarlane.

Oxfam Scotland brief UNISON on campaigns

Simon Macfarlane attended an Oxfam in Scotland campaigns briefing in January, where Oxfam's campaigns team outlined the issues behind their three ongoing campaigns:

  • The Make Trade Fair campaign which is calling on governments, institutions and multinational companies to change the rules so that trade can become part of the solution to poverty, not part of the problem.

  • The Control Arms campaign calling for tighter controls on the arms trade through an international arms trade treaty.

  • The Education Now campaign which is working to end the scandal where 115 million children worldwide have no access to education.

This was a very positive meeting and there are many areas of common interest to UNISON and Oxfam, our concerns over the General Agreement on Trade in Services are mirrored well in Oxfam's Make Trade Fair Campaign. Similarly our leading role in the anti war movement is in line with the Arms Control campaign.

Oxfam in Scotland Campaigns Manager, Angela O'Hagan, said:

" Oxfam was delighted to meet with representatives from UNISON to explain in greater depth our campaigns which are focused on changing the factors currently causing poverty throughout the world.

" There is considerable cross-over between the beliefs and policies of UNISON and those of Oxfam and hopefully this meeting will herald a closer working relationship that will be mutually beneficial.

" Throughout the world Oxfam's ethos is of working with partners to reduce poverty and suffering and that philosophy is as important in Scotland as elsewhere."

Anyone who wants to become a campaigner with Oxfam should phone 0845 900 5678.

ACTION POINTS

Each newsletter lists some up and coming events and action points that members can get involved in.

1) Challenging Racism

Informed choices: Positive opportunities is a conference on challenging racism within social work, education and care services in Scotland on Tuesday 10th February 2004, 9.30am to 3.00pm in the Exhibition Hall, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow.

Organised by the black voluntary sector in Scotland, supported by the West of Scotland Voluntary Agencies Forum, the Scottish Social Services Council and Glasgow City Council. A national conference to influence change, to promote access to social care and social work, education and careers for people from black and minority ethnic communities. The conference is aimed at young people, adult learners, employers, educators and policy makers. For more info contact: Vanessa Glenday, SSSC, Compass House, 11 Riverside Drive, Dundee DD1 4NY t: 01382 207 101. email: vanessa.glenday@sssc.uk.com .

2) Time to get your dancing shoes on!

Scottish Friends of Palestine are holding their second annual Ceilidh on Saturday 28th February from 8pm until midnight at St. Andrews in the Square Merchant City, Glasgow.

For £10/£5 you will get hooking and chooking from the Cloud Howe Ceilidh Band, Palestinian Snacks, the chance to enter a raffle and listen to a very short speech!! from former Lord Provost of Glasgow Alex Mosson.

For tickets contact David Walls on (0141) 334 1757 or email him on dfwalls@ndcnet.co.uk .

SFoP also have a great range of enamel solidarity badges, contact hugh@tintord.freeserve.co.uk or Simon Macfarlane

WEB DIRECTORY

Every newsletter will contain a list of websites relevant to themes picked up in the newsletter.

GATS

http://www.unison.org.uk/campaigns/gats/index.asp (our own website on GATS)

South Africa

http://www.southafricahouse.com/CelebSA_2.htm Full report of conference organised by High Commission.

http://www.actsa.org Action for Southern Africa, formerly Anti Apartheid Campaign.

http://www.actsascotland.org.uk/ The Scottish site.

Columbia

http://www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk/index.shtml The national organisation we are affiliated to.

http://www.waronwant.org/ Campaign on Columbia and on many other issue of concern to trade unionists.

Palestine

http://www.palestinecampaign.org/ Palestine Solidarity campaign, lead the BIG Boycott Israeli Goods campaign.

Oxfam

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/about_us/scotland/

Burma

www.burmacampaign.org Just for Jean-Anne Goodbrand (and important info on human rights abuses in Burma).

Last but not least

http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/international the Committee's own website which has more info on the Palestine Seminar and minutes of the last of meeting.

Contact Details

Simon Macfarlane, Secretary to the International Committee, UNISON House, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow G2 6RX (0870) 7777 006 s.macfarlane@unison.co.uk

Wilma Kennedy, Secretary UNISON same details as above.

w.kennedy@unison.co.uk

Please let us know if you want added to our email list to receive International information or if you are a Branch International Officer we don't have a note of.

 

 


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