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  Issue No 78 Official Organ of LaborNet 17 November 2000  




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STOP PRESS: Global First - ILO Sanctions Against Burma

By Alison Tate - APHEDA - Unions Aid Abroad

In an historic decision, the governing body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) today agreed to impose sanctions against Burma over the country's use of forced labour.

The sanctions will be applied under an Article 33 of the ILO constitution that has never been used before in the body's 80-year history and will take effect from November 30. In an informal vote, only four countries (China, Malaysia, India and Russia) of the 56 members opposed the measures.

The move, recommends ILO members - workers, employers' groups, and governments, to review their relations with Burma and take steps to ensure their ties do not help continue or extend forced labour.

Unlike Security Council sanctions, which spell out limits on trade and other punishments for the offending nation, the ILO measures allow individual governments, employers' organisations and labor unions to determine what they will do.

These measures provide a new basis for Burma activists, ethical investment groups, unions and others in their struggle to persuade governments, companies and other actors to ensure that their relations with Burma do not contribute, directly or indirectly, to forced labour, and to take positive action to reduce forced labour in Burma. Such action can now be seen, not as bilateral or individual action, but as steps taken at the explicit request of the international community.

U.S. Deputy Labor Secretary Andrew Samet told The Associated Press: "This reflects the more than three decades of frustration with the Burmese regime on their failure to stop the use of forced labor - a practice that is abhorrent to this organisation."

The Burmese Ambassador Mya Than, speaking before the decision, said ''We can assure you that ... no practice of forced labor will occur in the country, and if and when it does occur, it should not be condoned and anyone guilty of such an offence shall be brought to justice."

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions immediately called for tour operators to cancel trips to Burma on the grounds that forced labor is used to develop the tourist infrastructure. It also said multinational energy companies should reconsider their involvement in the Burma-Thailand gas pipeline, where the ICFTU also has reported cases of forced labor.

ICFTU General-Secretary Bill Jordan said the decision was "a message of hope for Burmese democrats and for the hundreds of thousands of victims of inhuman exploitation."

In recent years ASEAN nations had defended the Burmese regime's human rights record. In this case, neighbouring Thailand said that "one million illegal workers have fled over the border because they cannot tolerate the slave labour in Burma." In an historically important move, going against Malaysia's opposition, Thailand specified that Burma must allow a permanent ILO presence in the country, that a mechanism to monitor forced labour be introduced, and that sanctions should not be lifted until real results had been achieved.

Australian trade unionists have been supporting humanitarian and training projects with migrant workers and refugees from Burma on the Thai-Burma border through APHEDA Union Aid Abroad since 1996.

APHEDA is running a study tour to the Thai-Burma border from 4-11 January, 2000 (Costs is $2300).[Cambodia study tour 12-19 January - cost of combined tour $3,600].

Call Peter Jennings at APHEDA immediately (02) 9264 9343 to book or for enquiries. Bookings are about to close.

Sydney Fundraiser

Sydney Action as Pressure Builds on Burma

Local workers have their schance to support the campaign for justice in Burma this Thursday night, November 23 at 7pm at the Gaelice club, Devonshire Street, Surry Hills.

Bands will be BaBalu and B'Dussy, tickets $12 and $10. For tickets call 0411 337816 or turn up on the night.

Proudly sponsored by the CFMEU, PSA and Labor Council of NSW.


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*   Issue 78 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Doubly Blessed
With that unforgettable name, Grace Grace is making her mark as the first female secretary of the Queensland trade union movement.
*  Unions: On The Line
Trade unions this week entered a landmark partnership with the call centre industry to improve the quality jobs in this growing sector.
*  History: Conspiracy or Class? The Whitlam Sacking
Never trust a man who wears a top hat and tails in Australia, in Summer. Neale Towart considers this and other evidence of conspiracy in the great shonky dismissal.
*  Legal: Return Of The Lock-out
Marian Baird reports on the increasing tendency of aggressive employers to use lock-outs to reduce wages and conditions and promote individual agreements.
*  Activists: Waterfront Hero Bows Out
John Coombs, the man the government compared to Ned Kelly - villain to the bosses, the big land owners and conservatives, folk hero to working Australians - bows out of the union movement next month.
*  International: Morocco Stonewalls In Western Sahara
Morocco has new king but its old game plan of defying world opinion over its occupation of the Western Sahara continues.
*  Review: The Identity-Shifting Pragmatist
If New Zealand should have an Australian as its first Labour Prime Minister, then it is only fitting that Australia should have as its first a man who spent much of his formative years across the ditch.
*  Satire: Hackers Infect Microsoft Computers With Mysterious Windows Virus
SEATTLE, Thursday: Shame-faced workers at Microsoft admitted today that hackers had succeeded in penetrating their network's defences and had installed a sophisticated virus on the Apple Macintosh machines used across the software giant's operations.

»  STOP PRESS: Global First - ILO Sanctions Against Burma
»  Big Bosses Bloat While Working Poor Grows
»  Union Puts Heat on Bastard Bank
»  Reith Fiddles As Workers Diddled In Shelf Company Scam
»  Call Centre Group Sets New Standard
»  Bag The Building Union Back In Vogue
»  Reith Uses the Back Door
»  Big Australian Blamed As Ships of Shame Toll Rises
»  Public Education Bus Donated to East Timor
»  Vic Opposition Blocks Fair IR Laws
»  More Reasons to Abolish the Employment Advocate
»  Coca-Cola Hit by Racism Claims
»  Souths or Bust!
»  Fundraisers for Burma, Timor, EMILY's List

»  The Soapbox
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  Heaps of US Presidential Feedback
»  George W's Words of Wisdom
»  Cancer of the Soul
»  Explaining to to the Gott - Slowly
»  Desperately Seeking George Scurry

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