100 unionists rallied on the lawn in front of Parliament House in Canberra today in support of trade union rights in Mexico.
Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman told the rally that the campaign against the mining conglomerate Grupo Mexico is in support of Los Mineros, the mining union, but it has a broader application for all workers, including dockers and seafarers in the maritime sector.
“We call on the Federal Government who won the 2007 election largely on the issue of Your Rights At Work to make representation on behalf of those workers in Mexico to their government and we also call on the US Government to influence the Mexican Government to treat workers with the same dignity as Australian, US and other workers.”
“Coalmines should not be graves,” said CFMEU General Secretary Andrew Vickers, also highlighting the importance of investigating tragedies in order to prevent them from happening again. In Mexico at Pasta de Conchos by contrast, the death of 65 miners was followed by a hasty cover up and no accountability.
Glenn Thompson, Assistant National Secretary of the AMWU said today's protest in support of the Mexican unions is the first step in ensuring justice. “Governments and global corporations regardless of country of operation need to respect human rights, workers rights and the right to organise without fear or intimidation.”
Later a delegation visited the Mexican Embassy to present a letter on behalf of the Australian trade union movement to the Ambassador.
The delegation consisted of Ged Kearney, President, ACTU, Doleman, Thompson and Vickers who represented their individual unions as well as the Global Union Federations they are affiliated to: International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation), IMF (International Metalworkers’ Federation and ICEM (International Federation of Chemical Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions).
In part the letter reads,
Workers’ rights to recognition of union leaders, to collective bargaining, to strike and to stability of employment are all guaranteed in Mexican national law and in international law. However under the system of toma de nota and “protection contracts”, these rights have been systematically violated. All this has taken place with the tolerance, complicity and on many occasions, the direct action of the Mexican state through different levels of authority, including the Labor and Social Welfare Secretariat (STPS).
As well as denial of their legal rights and intimidation, unionists in Mexico are routinely subjected to real and threatened violence, including fatal attacks.
Killings of independent unionists — from violent intimidation or state force — go unpunished:
o In April 2007 Santiago Rafael Cruz was bound with rope and beaten to death in the offices of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Monterrey where he worked as an organizer.
o Hector Alvarez Gomez and Mario Alberto Castillo Rodriguez were killed and 50 hit by bullets when 900 federal and state police stormed the April 2006 SNTMMSRM Sicartsa steel strike.
o Reynaldo Hernandez Gonzalez was shot and killed among the 90 union members on their way to La Caridad copper mine to demand reinstatement from Grupo México in August 2007;
20 other miners who won the reinstatement court ruling were abducted, beaten and tortured
o Juventino Flores Salas died from injuries caused by a June 2009 anti-union attack against the SNTMMSRM in Zacatecas.
No one has been prosecuted in relation to these crimes.
Ged Kearney said they impressed upon the Ambassador the importance of basic human rights, the right to be in a union and to organise and are calling on the Mexican government to show real action coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the deaths of 65 miners at the Pasta de Conchos disaster in 2006.
Members from Newcastle, Sydney and Sth NSW travelled to Canberra to attend this important rally. Unions ACT organised the event and are to be congratulated on their efforts.
Mick Doleman made the point very clearly that solidarity efforts such as these when members take time out of their daily lives to show support for others are exactly what is needed to win these crucial fights.
See photo's of events here http://www.flickr.com/photos/muaaustralia/sets/72157626079700564/