ACTU retreats on aid to phoney union
The ACTU appears to have been forced to retreat on plans for a large scale program of cooperation with the Suharto regime's puppet trade union, the SPSI.
Several weeks after publication in Solidarity newspaper of leaked documents on Melbourne Age that he had written to ACTU affiliates stating that he would not act on the recommendations. He emphasised that he had opposed attempts by the SPSI to obtain affiliation to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) last May.
Despite the fact that last year the ACTU met with leaders of the SPSI during a visit to Melbourne, Ferguson also claimed the ACTU did not even have an "informal" relationship with the SPSI.
The recommendations advocated training of so-called "union delegates", the establishment of an Australia-Indonesia Labour Institute and the appointment of a labour attaché at the Australian embassy in Jakarta.
Sources among the non-government worker support organisations had been told that this program would cost $1 million. One of these groups, the Advance Together Foundation (YMB) had denounced the plan and called for a boycott of the program.
Dick Nichols, co-editor of Solidarity, told Green Left Weekly that he was pleased with the apparent retreat by Ferguson. "It is necessary, however", said Nichols, "that unions remain alert to ensure there is no backsliding. There certainly seems to be some kind of international campaign to rehabilitate the SPSI. In the US some unions have been publishing pamphlets praising the SPSI."
According to a spokesperson for FISI (Indonesian Forum for International Solidarity), a coalition of worker, student and cultural activists in Indonesia, the SPSI remains an impotent organisation mainly dominated by military officers
and business people. "While the minister of labour is a millionaire businessman as well as the chairman of the SPSI, we cannot expect any real change inside the SPSI. The SPSI continues to help the military break strikes and refuses to support most worker protests", a FISI spokesperson said.
"If the ACTU and the trade union movement in Australia wants to help the workers' movement in Indonesia", said Nichols, "then they should consult with the independent worker and worker support organisations such as the Advance Together Foundation, the Workers Solidarity Forum and others."