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November 2003   

Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
The Welfare Rights Centre's Michael Raper on 20 years of activism, the politics of punishment and how to make Australia egalitarian again.

Unions: Joel's Law
Building Workers have overcome powerful forces to push workplace safety back up the national agenda. But, Jim Marr writes, their "success" has come at an unacceptable cost.

National Focus: Spring Carnival
It must be spring: punting in Victoria, singing in South Australia, fighting in America. It’s all there in the national wrap from Noel Hester plus an Australian union movement rugby world cup class consciousness poll.

Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
They sacked the job delegate, reinstated him after an IRC hearing, and sacked him again two weeks later. But that was just the beginning.

Industrial: The Price of War
Mass industrial action is brewing in Israel as the policies of the right-wing Sharon Government come home to roost, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Who's Got What
Frank Stilwell pours over the latest BRW Rich List to build a picture of the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

History: Containing Discontent
Racism against minorities has always been a stock in trade of politicans, writes Phil Griffiths

Review: An Honourable Wally
Most Australians probably look at our politicians and feel they could do a better job but when redundant meatworker Wally Norman gets the chance to find out he realises getting elected is a major hurdle, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
A thousand blossoms bloomed during the US President's spring-time colonial visit last month.


The Soapbox
Bush's Faith-Filled Life
The President's conversion, 'sense of divine calling' and struggle with sobriety are subjects of a forthcoming book, writes Bill Berkowitz

The Not So Smart Money
Phil Doyle is sick of big money ruining grass roots sport, and he’s taking his bat and going home.

The Westie Wing
The ongoing challenge for Labor members of parliament is to make what the Premier calls the ‘creative partnership’ between the Government and the union movement a reality, writes our favourite MP Ian West.

Behind the Junta
Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.


Governing the Corporates
Suburban branch manager Joy Buckland’s bid for a position on the ANZ Board raises important questions about the way our major companies are governed.


 Taskforce Sleeps As Cranes Crash

 Scabies, Filth in Upmarket Annandale

 ANZ Jumps For Joy

 Race That Couldn’t Stop Nangwarry

 Mandarins in $120m Disappearing Act

 BAT Stubs Out Junta

 Millions on Entitlements Line

 Workcover in Hold-Ups Gun

 Phoenix Rises … Again

 TAFE Takes To Thong Slapping

 Casual Work Is Health Hazard

 Activists Notebook

 Veterans' Compo
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Behind the Junta

Saw Min Lwin, Secretary for Trade Union Rights/ Human Rights for the Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), outlines the struggle for workers in his country.


Burma, a country in Southeast Asia, has been controlled by a military regime since 1962. It's the size of NSW, with a population of 50 million.

Before the dictatorship, Burma was the biggest rice exporting country in the world, and was rich in natural resources including teak, jade, rubies and natural gas.

However, now, Burma is known as one of the 10 poorest countries in the world and is the biggest drug producing country (heroin and amphetamines). Most of those drugs in Australia come from Burma. Now, resources such as the forests and minerals are gone. The country is now most famous for having one of the worst human rights records in the world.

When the National League for Democracy, party of the Nobel peace prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won the democratic election in 1990 the military regime refused to hand over power. Instead, she has been under house arrest for over 7 years and the military regime have tried unsuccessfully to destroy her spirit with several attempted assaults, most recently on May 30. Some 1500 political prisoners are currently detained. Since May 30, she is back under house arrest. Other NLD leaders are being held in remote prisons.

The military regime banned trade unions, making it illegal to organise workers and fight for basic rights such as wages and OH&S conditions. In a country where forced labour and child labour are common, trade unionists are sentenced to up to 70 years imprisonment for organising workers. There are no mechanisms for resolving industrial disputes.

The Generals are privatising public industries, with ownership going to their own private companies. Not only is this taking away revenue from public services such as health and education but employees are poorly paid (around $12 - 16 a month), if they are paid at all. The army force rural people to work on their plantation farms and on back breaking road building projects without payment.

The International Labor Organisation (ILO) has taken action on Burma for the practice of forced labour. The military junta has been inflicting child labour and forced labour on its own citizens for the benefit of the military owned infrastructure and for military purposes.

Moreover, widespread confiscation of land and crops and summary executions has caused hundreds of thousands of people to become internally displaced persons or flee from the country, to India, Bangladesh and Thailand as refugees or illegal migrant workers.

As a result, over 2 million migrant workers, out of a population of 50 million, have left illegally to find jobs in neighbouring countries. This results in social and health problems to the host countries. Some governments provide health assistance but most of the workers are being exploited by their employers.

The military regime spends around 5 percent of its budget on health and a bit more on education. On the other hand, the military is upgrading such as buying MIG 29 fighter planes.

What you can do:

This is why the health worker training program sponsored by Australian trade unions through Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is so important to assist rural migrants and refugees to access basic medical care.

Please help the people of Burma to achieve peace, democracy and union rights and pressure the military regime by all means available. Maintain your Union's support of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA and join the Global Justice Program yourself.

You can stay in touch with developments in Burma by signing up to the APHEDA campaigns network, where you will find information on Australian companies that are still trading in Burma. We need your help to encourage them to stop.


For more information contact:

Sally Castle

Marketing & Fundraising Officer

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA

Email: [email protected]

phone: 02 9264 9343

or toll free 1800 888 674


*    Visit APHEDA

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