UNISON International Newsletter – March 2014

International seminar
There are still places available for activists interested in attending UNISON’s international seminar at Croyde Bay 11-13 April. Anyone who is interested should seek branch approval and complete and return (with payment) the registration form.
The draft programme for this year’s seminar includes sessions on Palestine; southern Africa; global organising; preparing for international workers’ memorial day with Labour Behind the Label/Clean Clothes Campaign and getting employers to support ethical procurement policies in the workplace; plus simultaneous sessions on Latin America (Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Guatemala).

As always, it’s a great opportunity for activists to network and find out what other regions are doing as well as hearing about national priorities and how our international work is linked to the key objectives of the union.

Email I.Relations@unison.co.uk for a form.

Visa refused for member of Cuban Five to visit UK
An international commission of inquiry on 7 and 8 March in London into the case of the Cuban Five (Miami Five in the UK) will go ahead without the principal witness being there to give his testimony.

René González, one of the Five, was refused a visa by the UK government to take part in the commission. He was released from prison in the US after 13 years trying to clear his name. A second member of the Five was released very recently which reflects international concerns about the nature of their convictions for espionage. The five had infiltrated groups planning terrorist attacks on Cuba.

Cuba Solidarity Campaign director, Rob Miller said of the decision, ‘The commission and events will still continue this weekend, and we are making every effort to get this decision overturned and enable René to come to Britain to participate. Thousands of people in the UK, including hundreds of MPs, have been campaigning for the freedom and justice for the Five for more than ten years and are waiting to welcome René to Britain.’

The commission, which has sold out, will take place at the Law Society in London. Day one of the inquiry will establish the scale of terrorist aggression against the Cuban people and the activities undertaken by the Cuban Five in Miami to prevent the attacks. The second day will focus on the unfairness of the treatment of the Cuban Five in terms of their arrest, the conduct of the trial, detention conditions and visiting rights.

Details about the commission of inquiry

Tesco’s Western Sahara ‘conflict tomatoes’ 
The Western Sahara is a disputed territory in north-west Africa. It is largely controlled by Morocco who, in 1975, annexed the territory which led to more than 155,000 Saharawi refugees living in exile in Algeria. The international community also rejects Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over the territory.

Tesco’s, the UK supermarket giant, currently sell Western Sahara tomatoes, which are illegally mislabelled as ‘Moroccan’. This is a clear violation of UK Trading Standards. Tesco’s, by default, strengthens Morocco’s claim over the Western Sahara. UK consumers are also unwittingly supporting Moroccan claims to the territory, often referred to as Africa’s last colony. Unfortunately, the Saharawi people do not profit from these agreements which is why they are referred to as ‘conflict tomatoes’.

Sign the petition calling on the UK Trading Standards to put pressure on Tesco PLC to remove mislabelled Moroccan/’conflict tomatoes’ from all their stores. UK Trading Standards has the authority to investigate this case because misleading consumers is illegal in the UK. Share the petition with colleagues and friends to ensure that it has a large response.

UNISON conference 2014
UNISON’s annual national delegate conference (NDC) in Brighton between 17 and 19 June will include an international programme of events and speakers covering a broad range of issues of interest for the union.

Rosa Pavanelli, the general secretary of Public Services International (PSI), the global union to which UNISON is affiliated, will address conference.

International guests have been invited from Colombia and Guatemala, and will speak at the international rally on the Monday evening before NDC. Also invited is the new general secretary of the European Public Services Union (EPSU). The rally will be followed by a reception which will give members an opportunity to speak to the international guests and the NEC members from their regions who are on the NEC international committee.

International calendar – branch resource
The international unit at UNISON has produced a calendar of internationally-recognised days including International Women’s Day, Workers’ Memorial Day and International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, among others.

The calendar suggests activities that branches could undertake such as ribbon wearing, joint actions/e-campaigns with solidarity groups, stalls, talking to colleagues (members and non-members) about issues, lobbying and other activities.

If branches would like a copy of the calendar please contact I.Relations@unison.co.uk
Trade union conference on Palestine
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is organising a conference for trade unions on Saturday 5 April. As the United Nations has declared 2014 as the year of international solidarity with the Palestinian people it seems an opportune time to support a conference on Palestine from a trade union perspective.

The conference will hear about the latest developments from speakers, including trade unionists from Palestine and from the trade union and solidarity movements in Britain. It will take place at the TUC, Congress House, Great Russell St, London.

Branches and regions are encouraged to send delegates and to affiliate to PSC.

More details about the conference and how to register

Peru water privatisation – urgent action
The Peruvian Congress has approved a law which will place water and sanitation services, which are essential for human life and health, into private hands, turning a fundamental human right into a commodity.

Workers in the industry are campaigning against the privatisation, which they say is being done without any consultation. UNISON is supporting public service unions in their campaign to keep water in public hands – the NEC international committee agreed to fund a project with FENTAP through the International Development Fund: a fund built up with commission received from UNISON Plus partners. FENTAP is the national federation of public water services workers. The project will establish a national network of defenders of water and public services who will be trained on communication and advocacy strategies in the run up to COP20 which will take place in Lima.

Labour Start, in consultation with global union Public Services International (PSI), has now set up an online campaign calling on the president of Peru to repeal the law which will see water and sanitation being handed over to the private sector.

UNISON activists are being encouraged to sign the Labour Start urgent action and to publicise the action, and encourage members to sign it.

First African network seminar at UNISON
UNISON is holding a seminar on 15 March for all African migrant workers who find themselves isolated and lonely in the workplace. Branches are being asked to encourage African workers who are members of UNISON to attend the seminar.

The seminar hopes to enable African members to network, gain an understanding of the union, and increase their self-confidence and activism so that they can access their own branches, regions, self-organised groups and UNISON’s learning and development initiatives.

The strategic organising unit said that working in public services and outsourced services in hard-to-reach areas, often working many unsocial hours, can be difficult and leave members feeling unsupported. The seminar hopes to address some of these concerns.

Details about the upcoming African workers’ seminar 

International women’s day – act for the victims of Rana Plaza
International women’s day will be commemorated on 8 March around the world. It is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution that women have made to the world of work. It is also a time to reflect and to take action. Almost a year ago 1,139 workers lost their lives and scores more were injured when Rana Plaza collapsed: a building housing a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Most of the victims were women. They have been seeking compensation from the retailers that use the factories to manufacture their clothes but to date few have paid up.

The Clean Clothes Campaign/Labour Behind the Label together with Labour Start have set up a petition calling on the retailers to pay up and compensate the victims of the disaster. Branches and regions can contribute to the fund also.

So this weekend, why not sign the petition, wear your international women’s day ribbon with pride, and encourage your members to mark the event by taking positive action. The petition will also be publicised in the run up to international workers’ memorial day.

NEC international committee decisions
UNISON’s NEC international committee met in January to consider a number of project proposals to the UNISON international development fund (UIDF) and requests for support from a number of solidarity groups. The committee also heard from a representative of Zaytoun, an organisation that supports Palestinian date growers in the Jordan Valley to access UK markets for their produce. This initiative has previously received the support of UNISON.

The committee agreed a number of new projects in Peru, Palestine, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Colombia. The committee also agreed to support the Justice For Colombia peace campaign and a human rights initiative in the disputed area of Western Sahara, illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

UNISON’s international work programme for the year, taking into consideration existing policy and major events that have taken place since NDC, was approved as was arrangements for conference.

Upcoming events

Friday/Saturday 7-8 March, London
International Commission Inquiry, Cuban Five

Saturday 15 March, UNISON Centre, London
African Network Seminar
Saturday 22 March, London
War on Want AGM and conference
Saturday 5 April, London
Palestine Solidarity Campaign trade union conference

Friday-Sunday 11-13 April, Croyde Bay
UNISON international seminar
Details I.Relations@unison.co.uk 

Saturday/Sunday 12-13 April, Edinburgh
Amnesty International AGM

Saturday 31 May, London
Conference – Guatemala, no going back!
Details info.koh@talktalk.net

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