||Issue No. 305||05 May 2006|
Contract With Australia
Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Politics: Labor Pains
Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Corporate: House of Horrors
History: Clash Of Cultures
International: Childs Play
Culture: Folk You Mate!
Review: Last Holeproof Hero
The Locker Room
Yellow Bosses See Red
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, has urged affiliates to provide practical support to Sumatra palm oil workers who were fired en masse and had their children expelled from schools for attempting to form an independent union.
"In an era of globalisation, this fight is our fight," Robertson said. "We must stand alongside people, everywhere, who want to improve their lives through strong, independent unions.
"Australians can no longer pretend Indonesia is a long way away. They are being subjected to the same pressures that we are facing and it is in our own interests to lift the wages and conditions of workers everywhere."
IUF regional secretary, Ma Wei Pin, said Indonesia's largest palm oil exporter, Musim Mas took action after employees refused to join the "yellow union" it had established.
"They were met with ferocious repression," he said. "Despite being ordered by the Department of Labour to pay going rates and conditions, management simply focused on getting rid of the union," he reported.
More than 1000 workers voted to strike in support of their demands for core Indonesian labour standards including maternity leave, social security registration for daily workers and the availability of copies of their employment agreement.
Ma Wei Pin said, last September, management got local police to arrest six union leaders who have imprisoned ever since.
Meanwhile, 700 permanent employees and 300 contract workers who backed the union were sacked. They were evicted from company-owned homes and their children were expelled from schools within the plantation.
"With the emergence of WorkChoices it is even more important for workers all over the world to stand together," Ma Wei Pin said. "Or pro-employer governments will take advantage of the differences between countries and drive standards down in a race to the bottom."
Unions NSW agreed to endorse a global campaign on behalf of Sumatra palm oil workers. The first step in the campaign is putting the heat on trans-nationals that use palm oil not to be associated with such exploitative practices.
More information on the Musim Mas campaign is available at: IUF website
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