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INTER NA TI ONA L

PUBLISHED BY THE
WEST MIDLANDS
INTERNATIONAL
FORUM SPRING 2010

Sometimes regardless of the links and often simply


because of the grinding poverty and hardship that
workers in the British colonies experienced, trade
unionism developed. In fact the development of trade
unionism in the former British colonies was an integral
part of the resistance to racism being experienced and
the fight for national liberation.
I make these historical points because I think its
important to remember that our international work is
carried out on the basis of equality. We are looking to
build solidarity and work alongside sisters and brothers
who, like the people who founded the British trade un-
The recent financial and economic crisis has ion movement, did so out of struggle and an
proved, if it ever needed proving, that the
World is increasingly interdependent. The understanding that workers organising collectively can
shock waves from financial mismanagement and always will be a powerful force for change.’
and greed, on the other side of the globe, were However, our international work is also more than just
soon felt in the smallest towns and villages about hearing about and expressing solidarity with the
thousands of miles away – including in the struggles of workers in other parts of the world – as
UK. If financial and economic systems are important as that is. Its also, as I have already
linked this closely then it is certainly the case
indicated, about cold hard economics. That means
that the fate of workers across the world are
that for UNISON we must find new and innovative
closely tied together.
ways of using our international links to win the fight for
The truth is that, for workers, this is not a new public services. The ever increasing involvement of
phenomenon. Workers of the world have always global companies in the delivery of public services
had to look out for each other as our labour has makes this an absolute imperative. That’s why the
been bought and sold and, indeed, used against
organising work alongside the Service Employees
other. We all know that workers from various parts
of the world have often been brought into this International Union from the USA and our work
country to do the dirty jobs that nobody else through Public Services International is so important.
wanted to do and have been subjected to The firestorm against the public services that is
institutional and direct racism for their efforts. about to hit us may lead some members to
question our international work.
These facts were long ago recognised by trade I hope that in this short article I have reminded
union leaders in this country who sought to you all that our international work is far from just
develop close ties with emerging trade union an add-on.
structures in the former British colonies. Often It is in fact a vital component of our resistance to
these links were developed for the very good attacks against our members and against working
people across the globe.
reasons of developing solidarity and friendship.
Other times these links were clearly developed as
a patronising means of building a subordinate Roger McKenzie
trade union movement in the image of the colonial
power. Regional Secretary
Jolyon Jones, Branch Secretary,
Solihull Local Government Branch But Britain had made an earlier promise to
It is now twelve months since Operation Cast another people, the historical inhabitants of the
Lead and Israel’s attack on the population of region, in what has been described by one
Gaza which left over 1500 people dead and
devastated the physical infrastructure. The historian as an extraordinary tale of double-dealing
humanitarian crisis from the continued siege of and betrayal.
Gaza needs to be our urgent concern but it is In 1915 Britain in what is known as the
important to remember that the seeds of the Hussein–McMahon correspondence promised the
present conflict were sown by Britain in the Sharif of Mecca an independent Arab Kingdom in
latter stages of the First World War. return for a revolt against the Ottoman Empire.
Palestine had been under the occupation of The Arab Revolt of 1916-18 made a considerable
the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, an ally of contribution to the defeat of the Turkish forces but
Germany in the First World War. also to the development of Arab national

During the First World War Britain was consciousness.


concerned to defeat the Ottoman Empire but
also to strengthen its existing strategic
influence in the Region. (Think of the Suez
Canal and Oil fields).
The British Government was to engage in a
series of negotiations and mutually exclusive
agreements with different parties to this end.
The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1915 between
the French and British Governments divided
the wider Middle East between the control of
the two imperial powers, allocating Palestine to
the British sphere of influence.
In 1917 the British Government made the
Balfour Declaration of 1917 where it promised
to support the establishment of a national
home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Arab’s didn’t get their promised independence
Arthur Koestler described the Declaration as but rather the imposition of the British mandate, a
one nation promising another nation the land particular form of colonial rule which lasted until
of a third nation. In 1917 ‘the population of 1948.
Palestine was in the neighbourhood of According to Israeli historian Tom Segev, British
670,000. Of these, the Jews numbered policy in the Mandate period favoured and
some 60,000. The Arabs thus constituted strengthened the Zionist settler movement and the
roughly 91 per cent of the population, while realisation of the Balfour Declaration.
the Jews accounted for 9 per cent.’(Shlaim)
, ‘the greatest contradiction lay in
supporting, ... a right to national
self-determination of a minority of the
inhabitants of Palestine, while implicitly
denying it to the majority.’(Shlaim)
To understand what is happening in Gaza
today we need to understand the strategic
role of Western imperialist powers in the re-
gion in the past. British imperialist interven-
tion provided the grounds for the develop-
ment of a colonial settler Zionist movement
which led to the formation of the state of Is-
rael in 1948 and the ethnic cleansing of the
majority of the Palestinian people from their
historic land during the Nakba,
It is a truism that understanding our past en-
ables us to understand the present, in the
case of Palestine we need to understand the
particular role of Britain in the region and our
responsibility build solidarity with the people
of Palestine to resist and right this injustice.
For more information on the history of
Palestine:
The United Nations website ‘Question of Pal-
estine’: http://www.un.org/Depts/dpa/ngo/
history.html
The National International Office organises 2 national seminars
each year . In October the seminar was held in Leeds .4 I thought the seminar was
Branch International Officers plus myself attended from the
West Midlands.
very well planned out. I really
enjoyed listening to the ’
The seminar is an opportunity both to hear directly from those
hands on work’ from
involved in International campaigns and issues, as well as to
speak to other branch activists about what is happening in their Lorraine,( Telford Branch)
branches and regions around international work. concerning her visit to south
It features workshops, guest speakers and formal and informal Africa and I felt
discussions on UNISON’s international programme. Regions empowered by Ruby Cox’s
may send two delegates and branches may send one.
very moving presentation on
there were several interesting presentations made on Nicara-
gua, Colombia, Palestine and Venezuela and issues of concern
the current situation in
to UNISON such as trade union rights and the million voices Nicaragua. This has
campaign
encouraged me to raise the
The next Seminar is provisionally planned for late March as a issues around Nicaragua
joint seminar with the CGT in Paris.
within my branch. The first
For further information contact me or the National website step of which will be to invite
Dave Auger Regional International Officer Ruby from the Nicaragua Soli-
darity campaign to our branch
meeting. I would
encourage anyone to attend
JimJim Goodall
Goodall the international seminars in
Walsall
Walsall the hope that they become
actively involved in trying to
help with some of the terrible
atrocities that are going on in
the world.
Sat Sagoo
Tonia Atherdan
Wolverhampton
Staffordshire LG branch

I found the last seminar very


informative and useful.
It gave me an opportunity in particular to meet
up with delegates I had been to Southern Africa
with earlier in the year, which enabled us to fa-
cilitate some meetings and begin putting in
place a work plan for the future. It is a good
way of learning more about international issues
and sharing your own experiences with others
Lorraine & Tonia too.
Lorraine Roberts Telford LG branch
made a brief visit to was capacity building of women
the Regional Office. trade unionists
As well as receiving , it was particularly interesting to
an update on the po- hear that the Dignity campaign
litical situation in both (which this union had supported)
countries, informal had resulted in a rise in women's
active involvement in the trade
discussion took place
unions in Zimbabwe.
on building links
Women who had been
between our
significantly involved in the
organisations.
logistics of the campaign saw the
It was agreed that the
value and role of trade unions.
first step in this would
be to invite both or- Both also expressed an interest
ganisations back to in learning more about UNISONs
As part of a visit to Britain Vemi
the region for a longer and approach to activist training and
Zinyama of ZCTU (Zimbabwe
more focused visit to the re- development.
Congress of Trade Unions) and
gion .It is hoped to involve the It was agreed that we would look
Victor Dlamini General
Midlands TUC in this. at building on their visit
Secretary of NAPSAWU
Of particular interest to Vemi
(Swazi Public sector Workers)

IF YOU ONLY WATCH ONE DVD THIS YEAR...


Every Branch should by now “Congratulations on the
have received the hottest DVD
International Solidarity DVD. It
of 2010 so far!
is a nice length and really
A record of the Regional Branch tight”
International Seminar held last
Solihull Branch secretary
year jointly with the Northern re-
gion.
If watching the DVD has given
It contains sections on Regional you an interest in getting in-
priority areas Colombia, Pales- volved , the next Regional
tine and Africa. Speakers de- BIRO weekend is provisionally
scribe not only the history and booked for the 24th and 25th
causes of these struggles but April in Birmingham .
equally important how through
our international work we can Further details to follow or
make a contribution to support- register your interest with Fred
ing our brothers and sisters Cattle f.cattle@unison.co.uk
Our region has a long history of support for The motion also recognised that rather begin
the Cuban people, but presently we have no from ‘scratch ‘, that our region would join forces
ongoing links with Cuban trade unions. with the east midlands region (who already have
links with the Cuban public sector union
AT National Conference last year a motion was
passed calling on all regions and branches to SNTAP ) in a joint invitation to SNTAP to tour
build direct links with Cuban trade unions. our regions with a view to further discussion on
building formal permanent links .
Following this a motion was passed at our
regional Council supporting this proposal.

Brazil’s Landless Workers equality.


Movement, or in Portuguese
The MST has won land titles for
Movimento dos Trabalhadores
more than 350,000 families in
Rurais Sem Terra (MST), is the
2,000 settlements as a result of
largest social movement in
MST actions, and 180,000 en-
This Month the region hosted a Latin America with an
camped families currently await
meeting at the regional office estimated 1.5 million landless government recognition. Land
on Brazils landless workers members organized in 23 out occupations are rooted in the
movement. 27 states. The MST carries out Brazilian Constitution, which
The speaker was a visiting long-overdue land reform in a says land that remains
country mired by unjust land
Brazilian activist Sandra Maria unproductive should be used
distribution. In Brazil, 1.6% of
Gadeha de Carvalhos. for a “larger social function."
the landowners control roughly
Sandra is a sociology lecturer half (46.8%) of the land on The MST’s success lies in its
at a university in the north of which crops could be grown. ability to organize and educate.
Brazil who has been developing Just 3% of the population owns Members have not only
a sociology degree programme two-thirds of all arable lands. managed to secure land,
with/for the Landless Peoples' Since 1985, the MST has therefore food security for their
Movement. peacefully occupied unused families, but also continue to
She addressed issues with land where they have estab- develop a sustainable
lished cooperative farms,
regard to developing educa- socio-economic model that
tional programmes that support constructed houses, schools for
offers a concrete alternative to
children and adults and clinics,
minority groups' campaigning today's globalization that puts
promoted indigenous cultures
efforts. profits before people and
and a healthy and sustainable
environment and gender humanity.
UNISON meeting to
Highlight situation in
the Phillipines

The Campaign for Human


Rights in the Philippines
(CHRP)

was set up in July 2006 in

response to the increasing num-


ber of political killings and human
rights abuses taking place in the
Philippines.

Between the beginning of 2002


and the end of 2006 more than 830 people died
or disappeared at the hands of death squads. The The CHRP aims to raise
victims include farmers, trade unionists, university
professors, church workers, political activists, awareness of the increasingly critical human
rights situation In the Philippines and to put pres-
students, and others who had been active in fight- sure on the Philippines Government both to pro-
ing for social justice in the Philippines. tect its citizens and to fully investigate these kill-
ings. It is widely believed that the death squads
The Philippines is currently the second most dan- are acting on behalf of the military forces.
gerous place in the world to be a journalist after
Iraq. In July 2006 Amnesty International pro- The group also aims to spotlight British investors
duced a special report Philippines: ‘Political kill- or agencies, which profit from violations of
ings, human rights and the peace process’.
human rights in the Philippines. Our activities
In October 2006 Guy Ryder, General Secretary have included holding seminars, hosting speaker
of the International Trade Union Confederation tours and organising protest actions.
(ITUC) described the Philippines as becoming “a
second Colombia”.

Our Objectives

1. To put pressure on the Philippines Government to stop the political killings and defend human
rights in the Philippines
2. To raise awareness in the UK about political repression in the Philippines with the aim of
putting pressure on the Philippines Government to respect human rights
3. To spotlight British investment and trade links which benefit from human rights violations in
the Philippines
4. To make links between the issues of poverty and political oppression in the Philippines and
the situation of Filipino migrants in the UK
http://www.chrp.org.uk
Regional Action
Wolverhampton Branch have a motion to Regional Council calling for affiliation to the campaign
And we would ask you to support this motion
This month the Regional International forum wel-
comed visitors from Venezuela and the Philippines.
Eglé Sanchez Elias Rodriguez from the Venezuelan
print workers union (accompanied by Francisco
Dominguez of the Venezuela Solidarity campaign)
gave a report on the progress being made by the
Bolivarian revolution .
Edre Olalia a peoples lawyer in the Philippines and
Andy Whitmore from the campaign for human rights
in the Philippines spoke of the dangers faced by
trade unionists and social activists (in what is the
second most dangerous place in the world for trade
unionists) (see article on page 7)
Both campaigns urged all branches to affiliate to
their respective organisations.
you can affiliate to the VSC at www.vicuk.org
and the CHRP at http://www.chrp.org.uk/
The Regional Centre later hosted a Birmingham
VSC meeting.
Discussion will continue regarding future
co-operation including building closer links with To become an international
officer contact your branch
our brothers and sisters in the Venezuelan trade
or the Regional Office
union movement

Contact
Dave Auger 01902554093
International visitors and forum members Daveauger@wolverhamptonunison.org.uk