|Issue No 67||18 August 2000|
Fiji To Dominate SPOCTU Summit
By Andrew Casey
When the South Pacific and Oceanic Council of Trade Unions (SPOCTU) meets in NZ from Monday August 28 the crisis in Fiji and its effects on the island workforce will be high on the agenda.
The South Pacific unions will probably discuss a proposal to send a combined union delegation to Fiji in September to have an on-the-ground inspection of conditions and discussions about future union sanctions in support of the Fiji TUC and its membership.
This meeting of SPOCTU, attended by about 40 participants, was originally scheduled to be held in Fiji, but this was cancelled to protest the coup against the democratically elected Labour-led government of Fiji.
New Zealand, with its newly elected Labor government and a raft of new pro-worker employment laws just passed this week, is a much more positive environment for unions from this region to meet together.
NZ Prime Minister, Helen Clark, is scheduled to speak at SPOCTU on the same day that the Fiji crisis is to be discussed by delegates.
Democratic developments throughout the South Pacific will be a key item for discussion at the conference.
There will also be a debate on the effects of Globalisation and the WTO on the economies and democracies of the island nations.
Many of these island nations play 'host' to a growing textile and garment industry funded by Chinese, Korean and Australian interests.
There are some reports that these new factories are also being used as fronts for an international trade in sex slaves - with the island factories being used as staging points for the movement of young Asian women into North America.
The history and struggles of workers in the South Pacific sometimes seems as being the stuff of a good Pacific Island pulp adventure story - heroic struggles, romantic stories, as well as outrageous and funny episodes.
The pioneers of the union movement in the South Pacific can provide hair raising stories about how the Cold War impacted on these small islands with mention of the CIA, the KGB and even Mossad.
The CIA at one time was said to have a full time operative in Fiji funding the development of unions. The WFTU - the old pro-Soviet union international - was also very active providing funding and support to a wide variety of nascent island unions.
At the end of the Cold War it was the Japanese, the Koreans and the Malaysians who were trying to influence the local union movements - largely with an eye on how best to make a profit for their business interests from their home countries.
In reaction the union movements from about 15 island nations came together in 1990 to swap experiences about the spies and the influence peddlers, and to provide solidarity and support under the umbrella of SPOCTU.
Apart from Australia and NZ, Pacific Island countries with active union movements who will be represented at the SPOCTU conference include: the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tahiti, Kiribati, New Caledonia, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, the Wallis and Futuna Islands.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005