Day 4: The IUF Communication Program: Internet and Trade Unions Solidarity in the Caribbean.

February 08: The first part of the Internet session conducted by Jasper looked at the IUF family of web sites, starting with the main page (www.iuf.org). On the page, the participants explored the different sections: the Urgent Actions, Editorials and News. In Urgent Actions they looked at the news on “Spanish Union Officer Sacked for Denouncing Unsafe Working Conditions” as it related directly to one of the topics of the activity. They sent a protest message, and also subscribed to the IUF mailing list.


Another exercise was to logon in the “members only” area, where documents from IUF meetings are available. The participants downloaded resolutions from the AWTG Global Conference (Seville, Dec. 2006), and also look at documents available in preparation to the 25th IUF Global, and read especially those related to the Caribbean and to the global sugar program.
Continuing with the IUF family of web sites, the participants looked at the Asia Pacific web site, in particular the resources on Maternity Protection. This allowed for the introduction to videos (new media) on the Internet, watching short films from Australia and Fiji.
A look at Labourstart, where the participants joined solidarity campaigns, was also an occasion to see a video from the Canadian Auto Workers on their fight for Long Term Care Standards.
A portion of the session was devoted to the exploration of the IUF Sugar Workers’ Network Web Site (this site). Jorge gave an overview of the sugar newsletter and site, stressing the objective of sharing information on the sector’s developments and the work of the unions, to strengthen the basis for solidarity work. The participants looked at ways in which the interrelationship between the IUF global sugar program and the unions can be maintained, such as the basic posting of comments to news appearing on the site, their subscribing to the sugar mailing list and the possibility of directly contributing to the site with news. A quick “on-the-spot” request for recommendations to develop the site, provided useful leads that will be explore: (a) more information on OSH issues in the sugar sector; (b) information on campaigns on the ratification of ILO Convention 184; (c) statistical information on the sector. They recommended to follow some news to their completion; and also said that the turn-over time of news is good: that news is not kept for longer periods after which they lose their relevance. They said that The Sugar Worker is a good source of information and they keep past copies as a reference to current situations. In the same line, they said that it should carry more information on union struggles, and, at least one participant said that it should be expected that out of this meeting, the IUF Sugar Workers’ Network Site would receive more news contributions from unions.

One “homework” given to the participants the day before was to search the ILO database to find out how many from 18 ILO Conventions which the participants considered relevant to agricultural workers, their countries have ratified them. The results are here in a pdf file.

The occupation safety and health afternoon session looked at a draft of the recommendations that the participants put together after their visit to the LBI factory on Monday 5 Feb. A copy of the report with recommendations would be delivered to the local union, as contribution from this training, and the participants were also in agreement that the process which produced the recommendations was/is a very useful tool to use in their own countries. The recommendations were, in fact, a guide which can easily be used in other countries (although with some amendments because the observations were limited by the fact that production was not running).
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Unions were encouraged to train both people at national union level and members of OHS committees at workplace level in using such union inspection methods. Some core experiences concerning OSH-strategy at workplace level were discussed. A few central facts about occupational diseases expected to be common in the sugar industry were presented. (Lung and airway diseases caused by dust from bagasse and mineral fibers, back injuries, hearing loss and effects of working in a hot environment. It was recommended to consider setting up a union register of health complaints from affiliates as occupational diseases are obviously not registered by the public health systems. Some additional tools to put pressure on employers for improving working conditions were also presented: Environmental and OHS management systems, Code of Conducts of the European supermarkets and sugar industry etc.
Jesper finalised his presentation with a strong recommendation to participants to continue being in touch with one another, to exchange information on OSH issues, to share information on successful cases where unions and workers were able to overcome difficulties, which then can be of inspiration to others.
Visitors to this fourth day of the training included Hella Alikuru, regional secretary for IUF Africa, who spoke about the challenges in the sugar sector in her region, the difficult conditions facing the unions, but she was quite happy to learn that half of the participants to the training were women delegates. Sue Longley (AWTG coordinator) also came on line, and physically present were Grantley Colbard, president of the Guyanese union CCW, and president of the labour federation FITUG, Kenneth Joseph, NAACIE general secretary, and Seepaul Narine, GAWU general secretary.
In the evening, GAWU gave a cocktail party for the participants with the attendance of several Guyana trade unionists.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.iuf.org/sugarworkers/day-4-the-iuf-communication-program-internet-and-trade-unions-solidarity-in-the-caribbean/