PCS members showed their continuing commitment to supporting the struggles of workers and their families in other parts of the world at their Annual Delegate Conference, despite their ongoing concerns over the Civil Service Compensation Scheme, and the now very real threats to members’ jobs and terms and conditions posed by the new ConDem Government.
The international section of the ADC started with emergency motion A622 on the economic situation in Greece, supporting the Greek public sector unions and pledging to send a solidarity delegation to Greece to coincide with future industrial action.
Conference voted by a large majority in support of motion A67 calling for the immediate withdrawal of UK soldiers from Afghanistan, and motion A71 was passed to affiliate to the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Motion A68 on universal jurisdiction, to retain the existing right under UK criminal law to charge foreign nationals suspected of war crimes when visiting the UK, was unanimously approved. The motion was sparked by both Labour and Conservative Party commitments to scrap the provision, in the light of the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni having to cancel her plans to visit the UK earlier in 2010 because of an arrest warrant being issued in a UK court.
More information about these motions can be found on the PCS conference webpage.
Fringe meetings were held by affiliated organisations on Cuba, Palestine and Venezuela. The long-established international event at conference this year was entitled ‘What Direction Development’, and looked at the possible implications for development and trade union rights of the new ConDem Government.
John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, led the analysis of international life under the new Government. He foresaw more overt support for the Israeli Government’s position on Palestine, less active engagement on human and trade union rights issues than the previous Labour administration, and commented on the bizarreness of the Tories’ “My Fund” intention to allow people to vote for the aid and development projects they’d most like to support.
On the positive side, John commended the Conservatives for finally joining the cross-party consensus on achieving the aid and development target of 0.7% of Gross National Income, and commented on their currently positive stance towards a levy on banks, although he expressed concern as to whether this would amount to a financial transfer tax as called for by the Robin Hood Tax campaign. He also saw considerable potential to engage with the Lib Dems in order to seek to counter the worst excesses of Conservative development and foreign policy.
His analysis was followed by the moving testimony of Jorge Gamboa, NEC member of the Colombian Union of Workers. Over 120 trade unionists have been assassinated in Colombia over the last three years, and this was poignantly brought home to the meeting when he held up the list of names of those murdered, with the date and location and the union they had belonged to.
Jorge, who has been the subject of an assassination attempt himself, impressed on PCS members the importance of keeping up pressure on the UK Government to make representations on trade union and human rights to his Government, so that they know the world is watching what happens in Colombia.
Hugh Lanning, Deputy General Secretary, reflected on backward steps already taken by the ConDem administration, in particular the freezing and immediate review of international development awareness funding, which could potentially hit the capacity of trade unions to undertake awareness raising work with their members.
He called on members to remain resolute and involved in PCS’ international activities, for example, inviting speakers of affiliated organisations to speak on international issues at branch meetings.
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