Building workers support East Timor

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Building workers support East Timor

By David Woolley

SYDNEY — Three hundred and fifty building workers held stop-work meetings at their sites on May 19 to show their support for a free East Timor. The meetings, which where called by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), voted to endorse the May 22 international day of solidarity with students in Indonesia and East Timor and hang banners on the sites promoting the day.

Jon Land from Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor spoke to 100 workers at the Radisson Hotel site about his recent visit to East Timor. He said that what we see and hear in the media about East Timor is "only half the story". He stressed that the people of East Timor needed increased solidarity as the United Nations-coordinated vote on autonomy approaches.

The meeting at the Finger Wharf site in Woolloomooloo began with a discussion about the relevance of East Timor to building workers. When one worker questioned why the meeting was called to discuss a "political" issue such as East Timor, CFMEU organiser James Perkins responded by saying that the union was concerned about broader social issues and not just those which affect its members "back pocket".

Perkins also pointed out that many building workers in Australia are migrants who have been forced to leave their country of birth because of the "colour of their skin, their culture or political beliefs" and share similar experiences of oppression with the people of East Timor. Only two of the 250 workers present voted against hearing Land speak.

Land talked about the common ground Australian workers shared with the people of East Timor: "The Howard government, which is striving to break militant unions like the CFMEU and deny workers their right to organise in trade unions, is also acting to block the democratic rights of the East Timorese through the support it gives to the Habibie regime in Indonesia." He told the meeting that the solidarity from building workers would mean a great deal to people in East Timor.

Land told Green Left Weekly after the meetings, "Work site meetings like these are very important in building stronger support amongst workers for the democracy movement in Indonesia and the independence struggle in East Timor. The next step is to have this support transformed into concrete political and industrial action."