Category Archives: Human Rights

Report: Stand Up to Racism Trade Union Conference

944343_838222376289599_8345544089945264528_nLast weekend, we had the excellent initiative of having a specifically trade union and labour movement conference about anti-racism was held in London. Delegates from Barnet TUC went along.

The day itself, of course, also happened to be the day of further protests against the most racist (to say nothing of also sexist and authoritarian) president of recent American history, Donald Trump. SUtR organisers quite right cancelled the morning session to allow us all to join around 40,000 other people on this lively and important demonstration, and it put people into the right frame of mind for the day.

The opening session contained greetings and introductions from a range of trade union speakers. Ronnie Draper, general secretary of the of the Bakers’ Union, spoke about how his union was combating the myth that immigration, rather than employers, are the cause of low wages. Suzanne Matthews of Unite the Union spoke her work organising black workers with the TUC. Janet Maiden from Unison Health spoke about NHS workers defending the ideal of multiculturalism. The conference then split into three workshops: one on Brexit and Workers’ Rights, one on building solidarity with refugees and a third on the threat of the Prevent policy.

I went to the refugee solidarity session. It was kicked off by Sara Tomlinson of Lambeth TUC, who had been involved in the Care for Calais organisation. Teachers from Lambeth had been volunteering at a pop-up school at the refugee camp operated by a courageous refugee activist who has since received the NUT’s “Service to Education” award. The school served around 100 adults and dozens of children. The school provided a vital centre of normality and stability for the refugees and was more than just a place of education (in a sense, this is true of any functioning school!). It was destroyed when the camp was forcibly dispersed in November, and conditions for the refugees are now far worse, as they now live completely rough as fugitives, and risk death to sneak onto literally any vehicle they can. Care for Calais has continued distributing basic aid to refugees, even though this is now far harder, and continues to appeal for support. Trade unions are encouraged to help out by sending useful items like sleeping bags to Stand Up to Racism and to get trade unionists to the site to help, as Lambeth teachers have. A very good report from Mile End hospital followed about them organising their own-workplace based solidarity collection. Activists are strongly advised to reproduce these actions at their own work.

There was also some good information about things that have been done to help refugees inside Britain. Unite Community in the city of Chesterfield has managed to organise English for Speakers of Other Languages classes for refugees, based on its existing programme to help Eastern European workers learn English. This actually helped build solidarity between the communities and has also resulted in refugees and migrant workers joining the unions at work, which they might otherwise never have had the opportunity to do.

The other sessions also got very positive report backs. For people who do not know about Prevent, a very handy pamphlet has been produced to explain it. Essentially an institutionalised programme of getting education workers to report “potentially extremist” behaviour by students, who are almost exclusively Muslims, has created a surreal atmosphere of paranoia and discrimination that would be funny if weren’t so horrible. Young Muslims have been called in for questioning for wearing badges that say “Free Palestine” or mispronouncing words so someone else can think they heard the word “bomb”. Children growing up in such climate can scarcely be said to be free and enjoying their rights: our movement must oppose Prevent, and champion an education that is actively anti-racist. The session on Brexit was also useful, and contained a report back from the new Free Movement of Labour Campaign, which has been invited to send a speaker to Barnet TUC’s AGM next month.

Generally, this was a timely and very well organised conference that turned what could be a very bleak few hours into a useful organising event. I would support having another one in future.

Protest: Stop Trump’s Muslim Ban – Stop May Supporting It

16299599_1243551425738367_690766915073093102_oCalled by Stop the War Coalition, Stand Up to Racism, Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Engagement and Development and the Muslim Council of Britain.

Trump’s ban on Muslims must be opposed by all who are against racism and support basic human rights. Theresa May’s collusion with Trump must end.

Assemble 11am Saturday 4th February at the US Embassy 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ followed by a march to Downing St.

Defend Democracy in Turkey

In Turkey on 7 June 2015, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP received more than 6 million votes across the political and cultural spectrum and prevented the governing AK Party from gaining a majority. This prevented Erdogan from creating an executive presidential system. Since then Erdogan has unilaterally ended negotiations for a political resolution to the Kurdish question, and the Turkish state have declared war on all progressive opposition forces united under the umbrella of the HDP.

Kurds, Armenians, Arabs, Assyrians, Turks, Alawites, Sunnis, secularists, feminists, workers, students and LGBTI groups all unite under the banner of the HDP. By uniting these diverse constituencies under the banner of democratising Turkey, the HDP became the 3rd largest party in Parliament, with 59 MPs.
More than 16,800 people also voted for the HDP in the UK, which was 60% of the total vote, making the HDP the 1st party for the diaspora in the UK. Unfortunately, this has not been echoed in the statements of UK government, who have kept silent on the Turkish regime’s freehdpattacks on basic human rights.

Following the siege and destruction of a dozen Kurdish towns and cities, the generals responsible launched a coup-attempt on 15 July 2016, which was quickly put down. Erdogan responded with a counter-coup, seizing the opportunity to suppress and punish all opposition. 35 Kurdish Democratic Regions Party, DBP municipalities have been seized using state of emergency decree laws. The mayors of these councils, as well as 2500 DBP members, have been imprisoned. More than 100,000 public sector workers, including 11,000 Kurdish and pro-Kurdish teachers, have been sacked. 170 media outlets critical of the government have been closed down, with at least 130 journalists jailed. Hundreds of academics, lawyers and students have also been at the receiving end of Erdogans rage.

Finally, on 4 November 2016, 10 Peoples’ Democratic Party deputies, including co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, were detained and imprisoned on trumped-up charges of membership of the PKK. In the week since, 441 members of the HDP have also been arrested for protesting the abduction of MPs. There are now no democratic channels left to exercise in Turkey.

Turkey’s turn towards dictatorship is cause for concern not just for the people of Turkey, Kurdistan and the Middle East, but also very dangerous for Europe and the wider world, who have granted Erdogan immunity for all his heinous crimes in exchange for largely sheltering the west from the refugee flow from the Middle East. The Turkish government’s policy of war on the Kurdish people and other progressive and democratic forces is taking Turkey towards a point of no return and possible civil war which of course, will result in the failure of the EU deal regarding refugee. More war, means more refugees and migrants.

• We are calling on all political representatives, trade unions, progressive circles and the British public to support the HDP and demand the release of all HDP MPs and political prisoners in Turkey.

• We are calling on the UK Government to condemn, in the strongest possible terms the Turkish state and Erdogan, and demand that they respect the most basic democratic freedoms, first and foremost by releasing all political prisoners.

The HDP is the best hope for a secular, democratic, gender-equal Turkey where human rights and the rule of law are practiced and defended.

Please join us in solidarity and support on Sunday 11 December 2016, to march from the Turkish Embassy to the Houses of Parliament. We will assemble at 12pm (midday) in front of the Turkish Embassy (43 Belgrave Square, Belgravia, London SW1X 8PA).

Convoy to Calais

Barnet TUC is proudly suppoting this project for solidarity with refugees:

Convoy_Update

Hundreds more refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean, the British government are refusing to even take parentless children from Calais, and Syrian refugees are being forced back into the jaws of the war they have fled.

The Convoy to Calais on 18 June will be a huge demonstration of solidarity with refugees from the people of this country. The major unions are in. The biggest social movements are in. The Muslim community is in. Are you?

This is practical aid but it is also a huge moving protest at the way governments across the continent are failing refugees. This is the time to come together and say: stop the scapegoating, solidarity with the refugees.

Organised by People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Stop the War Coalition, Stand up to Racism, Unite the Union, Communications Workers Union, TSSA, War on Want, Momentum & Muslim Association of Britain

Here’s what you can do:

  • Come on the Convoy. We need every last lorry, van, bus, car, motorbike or scooter that can come to be with us. Let us know you’re coming by registering, and do make a donation to help with the costs. Even if you have to peel off at Dover and cant make it all the way. (Initial itinary below)
  • Collect: we need material, and money. Collect in your workplace, union, community, place of worship or just among your friends. Every bit counts. Download the full aproved donation list HERE.
  • Even if you haven’t collected anything do come on the Convoy. We need hands to unload and a massive show of solidarity.

MARCH AT TORY PARTY CONFERENCE: NO TO AUSTERITY

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Barnet TUC and the Barnet Alliance for Public Services are putting on transport to get to Manchester to join the nationwide protests against Tory austerity and attacks on workers’ rights on Sunday the 4th of October.

There will be three pick-up points:

  1. 6:45 AM: Finchley Central
  2. 7 AM: Hendon Central
  3. 7.15 AM: Mill Hill Broadway

Tickets are £15 for waged people, and £1 unwaged (plus donations if you can afford it).

Contact Barnet UNISON Tel. 020 8359 2088 Fax: 020 8446 5245 Email: contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Demo called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and the Trades Union Congress.

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