||Issue No. 144||12 July 2002|
The Lotto Economy
Interview: Capital in Crisis
Industrial: No Sweat
Bad Boss: Super Spam
History: Living Treasures
International: Axis of Evil
Solidarity: Pride of Place
Technology: The Art of Cyber-Unionism
Poetry: The Masochism Tango
Satire: Foxtel-Optus Merger 'Anti-Repetitive'
Review: Bob Carr's Thoughtlines
The Locker Room
Week in Review
Pride of Place
Eru, the footballer, is the nephew of dying Tuwharetoa tribal elder, Joe Eru, a man who carved out an honourable place for himself in the history of the Sydney Olympic Games. That contribution was recognised last week by presentations from SOCOG, Labor Council and CFMEU representatives.
Four years ago, Eru was central to resolving the problems of 400 Kiwis, mainly Maori, flown to Sydney under the false pretence that they would have Olympic-related security jobs.
When they arrived they found the companies who recruited them hadn't even got their security licenses, much less jobs.
Working closely with SOCOG, Labor Council and affiliated unions, Eru used his influence to calm the misled workers and have them placed in jobs around a city buzzing with Olympic preparations.
In return, CFMEU members turned their hands to transforming the old Arnotts biscuit factory at West Ryde into livable accommodation that became known locally as "the Maori village".
In the end, the New Zealand contingent, was central to the success of Games opening ceremony, being rushed in to manually lift tonnes of timber when it became obvious, during secret last-minute rehearsals, forklifts couldn't do the job. That story is covered in The Collaborative Games, a book outlining the secrets to the organisational success of the Sydney spectacular.
Today, the dynamic healer of four years ago is failing. He is staying with Auckland-based family, hundreds of kilometres from his central North Island home, to be closer to doctors fighting a losing battle against his cancer.
It was Eru's predicament that drew Rob Forsythe (SOCOG), Chris Christodoulou (Labor Council) and CFMEU reps Brian Parker and Steve Keenan across the Tasman. It was his standing in Maoridom that convinced New Zealand television to converge on the plain, working class home.
In a simple ceremony in his family's living room the visitors presented him with Olympic pins, union flags and jackets, a framed montage of photographs and the Collaborative Games book.
Christodoulou related the central role of unions in a collective approach to organising the Olympics. He said Eru's contribution, at a time of potential turmoil, had fitted the approach to perfection.
He recalled the rousing, traditional welcome turned on by the New Zealanders when officials visited them at the converted biscuit factory.
"We never expected such an honour because all we did was our jobs," Christodoulou said. "There is a wonderful story in this book that shows Joe did more for the Olympic Games than he will ever know."
Parker told the family the old man's efforts had won him recognition "across the ditch".
"He did his people proud and he did New Zealand proud. This honour we are paying him today is only small recogniton of the large role he played in the success of the Sydney Olympics," the CFMEU assistant secretary said.
"This man taught Australians a lot about Maori culture. In the words of my tradition, I am proud to call Joe a good mate."
Forsythe spoke of statesmanship, saying Eru had stood up to be counted when his people in Sydney found themselves in trouble.
"He sorted things out in a way that helped his people and absolutely suited SOCOG and the trade union movement," Forsythe explained. "I have come here to thank you on behalf of the organising committee and to recognise you as a statesman."
Eru, a union member and power board worker for 38 years, was clearly moved by the unexpected recognition. So, too, was his family, some of whom openly cried as the Australians told their stories.
Christodoulou said the visit had been an opportunity to present to New Zealanders the merits of a co-operative approach to major projects, through the efforts of one of their own.
More important, he added, was the desire of all parties to pay their respects to a humble man while he still lived.
"It was hard to see Joe in that condition. He was such a livewire when we last met him," Christodoulou recalled.
"When we were leaving one of his daughters told us it was the brightest the family had seen him in three months. She said the visit gave him a real lift.
"If that's the case, then it was well worthwhile."
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