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  Issue No 106 Official Organ of LaborNet 10 August 2001  




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Bras First in Burma Boycotts

Triumph bras manufactured in Burma have become the target of an internationally-sanctioned campaign against the military dictatorship and its use of slave labour.

The FairWear Alliance - supported by Unions NSW - this week released postcards highlighting Tirumph's involvement in Burma - under the slogan "Support Breasts, Not Dictators".

The postcard can be sent to the head of Triumph, David Gow, calling on Triumph to withdraw its operations from Burma.

Tour operators - including Lonely Planet - are also in the Burmese campaigners' sights and face consumer awareness campaigns if they continue to operate in support of the military regime.

The International Labour Organisation has invoked its penal powers for breaching core global labour standards for the first time in its 90 year history over the regime's use of slave labour.

In November last year, the ILO called for all governments to isolate the regime by reviewing their ties with Burma to ensure they are not supporting the continuation of forced labour.

Thirteen Years On...

This week's campaign release coincided with the thirteenth anniversary of the 1988 general strike in Burma, a show of outrage against the oppression of 26 years of military rule.

Thirteen years on, for workers in Burma, trade unions are still illegal. Meetings of more than 5 people are banned. Trade unionists - U Khin Kyaw and U Myo Aung Thant - jailed for 17 years and life respectively for union activities.

Since the general strike that prompted a popular uprising, the military government has cracked down continually against political opposition. Burma's people have never seen realised, the outcome of the last democratic election held in 1990. At that time the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won over 80% of the seats.

Multiple Violations

The violation of labour rights in Burma takes many forms. In recent years, the practice of forced labour has become widespread in Burma.

Up to 2 million men, women, children and the elderly are used are forced labourers by the military. This work includes, constructing and maintaining roads, railways and dams, building and maintaining Army camps, sweeping roads for landmines, other activities for the personal profit of Army officers, acting as porters carrying ammunition and supplies to the border hills. There are well documented reports of people being subject to beatings, torture rape and summary execution.

Forced labour is also used to support the tourism industry in Burma, such as building roads and hotels for the tourist trade.

International trade unions are backing a renewed call by the ILO to campaign to pressure Burma to end forced labour. For the first time,

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is calling for us all to:

· Pressure our governments to review policy and relations with Burma

· Ensure that International Financial Institutions do not provide funding to Burma

· Increase pressure on companies that do business in Burma, including supporting consumer boycotts

Companies Refuse Burma Trade

Meanwile, ACTU president Sharan Burrow this week named the companies which had ceased links with Burma in light of the ILO ruling and called on those still doing business to follow their lead.

The ACTU wrote to more than 50 companies operating in Australia earlier this year to seek assurances that they have severed any commercial links with the Burmese junta.

Seventeen have now declared they have no such ties. However, five of the companies, mainly in the tourism industry, have confirmed that they are continuing to deal with Burma.

Her comments marked the 13th anniversary this week of the beginning of the national strike in Burma on 8/8/88 in protest against the military junta's cancellation of democratic elections in the country.

"More than a million people in Burma are now subjected to forced labour on construction projects, many of them for tourist development," Burrow says.

"It's not too late for travel companies and travellers themselves to take a stand against oppression by boycotting Burma."

Howard's Appeasement Policy

The ACTU says the principled stand of the majority of companies contrasted with the Federal Government's appeasement of the military dictatorship in Rangoon.

"When Foreign Minister Alexander Downer met with his Burmese counterpart, Win Aung last month, he emphasised so-called positive developments in Burma.

"The Federal Government must take a much stronger stand to pressure Burma into establishing democratic norms and ending the persecution of its people."

List of companies declaring no economic links with Burma

- ANL Container Line P/L

- Coffey International Ltd

- Foster's Brewing Group Ltd

- Ikea Australia

- Intrepid Travel P/L

- Klinger P/L

- Lloyd's Agency

- Longreach Gold Oil Ltd

- McConnell Dowell Corp Ltd

- M G Kailis Group

- Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd

- Modra Electric Power

- Multiplex Constructions P/L

- New Tel Ltd

- Pacrim Energy Ltd

- Quantum Explosives P/L

- Telstra Corp Ltd

- Totalcare Industries Ltd


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 106 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: In Exile
Burmese's government in exile's Minister for Justice U Thein Oo talks about a struggle for democracy that has become a test of international solidarity.
*  Politics: A National Disgrace
Labor's IR spokesman Arch Bevis gives his take on the workers entitlements issue and its mismanagement by the Howard Government.
*  E-Change: 2.2 The Information Organisation
Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel look at how network technologies will change the way organizations operate in the Information Age.
*  Media: The Fine Print
Mark Hebblewhite looks at how the major dailies handled the Tri-Star dispute and finds that the story really does depend on the telling.
*  Human Rights: A People Besieged
Labor MLC Janelle Saffin, an active supporter of the pro-Democracy movement in Burma, sets out the issues behind the ILO sanctions.
*  International: Postcard From Brazil
The CFMEU’s Phil Davey reports on a rural movement that puts our National Farmers Federation to shame.
*  History: Indonesia Calling
They needed no resolutions. Soldiers and workers who did not know one another moved together, the black ban started to reach out across the harbour from the noisy, smoke-filled room.
*  Solidarity: On the Frontline
Australian trade unionists are providing practical help for the Burmese through projects funded by APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad.
*  Satire: Skase 'Too Ill' to Fly Home for Burial
Spanish authorities have deemed Christopher Skase too ill to return to Australia for his own funeral.
*  Review: Living Silence
In these extracts from her new book, Christina Fink goes inside Burma to find a world where military repression is slowly crushing a people.

»  Revealed: ABC Censors Industrial Reporting
»  WorkCover Revisited – Public Sector Laws Rammed Through
»  Bras First in Burma Boycotts
»  Tri Star Only the Start of Entitlements Push
»  New Spying Tactics Hit Work Cars
»  Howard’s Secret Anti-Worker Plans
»  Direct Action to Increase Nurses' Worth
»  High Court: Courier Was Employee
»  Victory for Academic Freedom
»  Put A Stop To Acoustic Shock
»  Builders' Bucks: Payroll Tax Evasion Rife
»  Tassie Workers Brew Up a Storm
»  HIH Collapse Hits Arts Industry
»  Labour for Hire Not Entitlements
»  Rail Inquiry Into Treatment of Homeless
»  ACTU Awards To Reward Union Excellence
»  Activist Notebook

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  The Soapbox

Letters to the editor
»  Botsman Goes Crosby
»  Left Right Out
»  Belly's Shout
»  Ode to the New Serfs

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