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Inspiring UNISON Scotland and North West 2013 international seminar

International SeminarDelegates from Scotland and the North West met in Glasgow yesterday for a an inspiring joint international seminar. They heard the optimism of young Cuban trade unionists, the ongoing struggle against the continuing human disaster of Bhopal, and the human cost of the sweatshops that make our clothes. But most of all they heard what to do about it.

The attacks on us are international so the response has to be international. Exploitative companies are international. Repressive politics are international. The ‘big lie’ and austerity are international. As Walton Pantland from Union Solidarity International put it: ‘it’s a robbery not a recession’.

Ordinary workers and trade unionists in the UK cannot stand by while colleagues around the world face death and lifelong injury from multinationals who care nothing for the cheap labour they exploit. They cannot stand by while ordinary trade unionists around the world face imprisonment or assassination. Solidarity with workers across the world was the recurring message.

Sam Maccartney with Cuban trade unionists Yudith Camps
Sam Maccartney with Cuban trade unionists Yudith Camps and Yamil Eduardo

North West's Rena Wood
North West's Rena Wood
with Yudith and Yamil

The seminar heard about the empowering work that Community HEART is doing in South Africa and practical help from Union Solidarity International on using social media. Did you know that #u1 is the twitter hashtag for international union issues?

Chaired by Scotland’s Sam Maccartney and North West’s Rena Woods, the seminar heard neo liberal mythbusting contributions from David Martin MEP and Jan Willem (by video link) of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU). UNISON's Dave Prentis is a vice-president of the EPSU.

Tamara Van Strijthem and Simon Bateson outlined this year’s Take One Action film festival and War on Want’s Murray Worthy exposed the exploitation of fashion sweatshops.

UNISON’s Sarah Collins reported on her visit to Cuba on May Day and the seminar was lifted by inspiring contributions from young Cuban trade unionists Yamil Eduardo and Yudith Camps.

Eurig Scandrett gave a moving and constructive presentation on the continuing tragedy in Bhopal. On the night of 2 December 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocynate. None of the safety systems designed to contain such a leak were operational, allowing the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal reports that half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site. For more information, and what you can do, see Scottish Friends of Bhopal at http://sfobhopal.org/

The seminar ended with a plug for the Edinburgh World Justice Festival from 12 - 26 October with special guest and lifelong campaigner for justice Denis Goldberg who was 22 years in prison after being jailed with Mandela at the Rivonia trial.

This report is also on the blog at http://unison-scotland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/unison-scotland-and-north-west-join-for.html

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