Norway, Indonesia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, PNG--Solidarity Rules The Day In WA

From across the oceans they came. From Norway, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea--all to share their experiences and build bridges of solidarity during the Western Australia branch's conference.

Leading off the morning of the conference's second day, Jacqueline Smith of the Norwegian maritime union NORSK, spoke about the need to preserve national resources for the people, as she expressed astonishment over the fight in Australia over the mining tax. It’s not acceptable for companies coming in exploitating and not putting anyting back into the communities and paying taxes," Smith said.

Image - Jacqueline Smith NORSK  
[Picture: Jacqueline Smith, NORSK]  

In Norway, she said, there was a determined effort to make sure that the riches flowing from the oil fields were used to improve society as a whole, not just fatten the bottom line of corporations. "Our oil fund is our future. We only use about 2 percent," she said. "That’s for our children and generations after them."

Image - Ray Familathe ILWU at WA Branch Conf 2013  
 [Picture: Ray Familathe]  

Ray Familathe, vice president of the US International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), recounted an alliance the union built with Students Against Sweatshops, a US-based non-profit organisation which was trying to make sure that Honduran workers, who produced apparel for Nike, were paid back wages. The students pressured the universities to stop stocking Nike goods, while "All we had to say was we unload your ships," he said. The money was soon paid to the workers.

Hanafi Rustandi, chairman of the Indonesian Seafarers Association (KPI) asked the delegates, "You know how much is the pay for dockers?," he asked. "$4 a day." To unite, he said, is crucial. "Seafarers are the most important thing, our task is to bring goods from port to port," he said. "Solidarity has to come from our heart."

Delegates certainly reaffirmed the notion of a union that sees itself as part of a global movement.