Philippines union leader well-received



SYDNEY — Philippines union leader Ariel Guides' fiery and rousing speeches were very well received at the protests against the visit of US President George Bush in Sydney and Canberra on October 22 and 23. In particular, protesters loudly applauded Guides' account of the inspiring 60,000-strong anti-Bush protests in the Philippines on October 18 and the defiance of seven left-wing members of Congress who walked out on Bush's speech.

Guides is a leader of the Solidarity of Philippines Workers (BMP), one of the two main trade union federations in the Philippines. He represents 22,000 sugar workers on the Philippines island of Negros.

He is in Australia as one of the October 25-26 Sydney Social Forum's featured international speakers. Guides is also visiting Canberra and Melbourne with the assistance of the Victorian branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific, Australia-Asia Worker Links, the Globalism Institute at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace, and the ACT Network Opposing War.

Unfortunately, Guides's visit was marred on October 22 when, as the organiser of the Sydney leg of Guides' tour, I accompanied him to a rally organised by the NSW branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union for workers mistreated by labour-hire company EL Blue. I introduced Guides to Tim Ayres, president of the NSW AMWU, and asked if Guides could give a brief solidarity greeting to the workers.

However, Ayres snubbed Guides on the pretext that I was "from that Green Left Weekly". "No one from Green Left Weekly gets a guernsey at an AMWU rally", Ayres told me. When I replied that Guides was not from Green Left Weekly, but is the representative of 22,000 Philippines workers, I was told: "You brought him, he doesn't speak."

This exchange took place in front of Guides.

Guides will meet several trade unions and progressive organisations in Victoria from October 28 to November 2, and will address a public meeting on October 30, 6.30pm, at the RMIT, seminar rooms 1 & 2, level 7, Storey Hall, 344 Swanston St. Phone Karl Miller on 0403 964 247 for more information.

From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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