David Hammond, Branch International Relations Officer, writes:
On Monday 10 March I travelled to my first South East AGM and Committee Meeting at Unison Centre Office in Euston Road London, as the International Relations Officer for UNISON West Sussex.
I was looking forward to attending the meeting to find out more about what the actual role entails. I took the role on because I care about what happens to my fellow workers in other countries as I do those in this country. It is a role I take very seriously and I relish the prospect of adding my input in helping those less fortunate than myself in regards working conditions and pay and all that goes along with these ideals. I was not disappointed.
What I took back with me from this meeting was an understanding of the mechanisms installed to help support workers in other countries, a network of websites and organisations working collectively to unite fellow-workers in a pan-global effort that has impressed me.
The UIDF, which is the Unison International Development Fund, is funded solely through a small commission received from Unison’s affinity partners every time a Unison member makes a purchase from them. A great incentive to do this as I am sure you will agree. Apparently the fund is quite healthy at the moment although the income year on year is projected to decrease, which puts Unison’s capacity and resources under threat.
I suggest members subscribe to Labour Start at www.labourstart.org This is a great up-to-date website where members can make a difference. Here you can find e-petitions that Governments are pressured by and on this basis respond. You can exchange expertise which is another form of support. We have a lot to offer and also to learn from the Global South trade union movement, where the movement is growing in comparison to declining in the Global North.
Labour Behind the Label is another organisation that supports garment workers’ efforts worldwide to improve their working conditions through awareness raising, information provision and encouraging international solidarity between workers and consumers. Unison nationally is affiliated to Labour Behind the Label, the UK face for the Clean Clothes Campaign; their members include trade unions and their local branches, consumer organisations, campaign groups and charities. These organisations work together though Labour Behind the Label to achieve four aims:
- To raise awareness and mobilise consumers;
- pressure companies to take responsibilities for workers’ rights in the entirety of their supply chains;
- support workers in their struggles for decent working conditions, including speaker tours and urgent appeals;
- Lobby governments and policy makers to bring about change.
Labour Behind the Label are planning to take action as part of their “Pay up Campaign” to put pressure on the brand giants who have not yet provided funding for full and fair compensation to the victims of Rana Plaza and their families; Benetton and Tesco (to name just two)
On 24 April 2013, Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building, collapsed in Savar, a sub-district in the Greater Dhaka Area, the capital of Bangladesh. The search for the dead ended on 13 May with the death toll of 1,129. Approximately 2,515 injured people were rescued from the building alive.
It is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, as well as the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history.
The building contained clothing factories, a bank, apartments, and several other shops. The shops and the bank on the lower floors immediately closed after cracks were discovered in the building. Warnings to avoid using the building after cracks appeared the day before had been ignored. Garment workers were ordered to return the following day and the building collapsed during the morning rush-hour.
To date no compensation has been paid. Labour Behind the Label would like UNISON to promote the day of action to its members. Members can help take action by visiting: http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/urgent-actions/itemlist/category/293-take-action
Labour Behind the Label is also campaigning for a living wage for garment workers in Cambodia where workers are increasingly suffering from malnourishment due to pay poverty.
The above are the very reasons I wanted to become the international Relations Officer and why I would like fellow members of Unison West Sussex to support and help me in this role, starting with those things I have already suggested.
Branch International Officer