Unions opt for pre-CHOGM march

Issue 

BY EWAN SAUNDERS

BRISBANE — The Queensland Council of Unions has backed a proposal for a march the day before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting begins here on October 6, but has refused to back a planned "people's unity march" on the first morning of the conference.

Queensland unions had already indicated that they would not support an attempt to blockade the venue of CHOGM.

A Queensland Council of Unions affiliate meeting on July 16 voted against a proposal from the CHOGM Action Network (CAN) to join the people's march, which will call for the cancellation of the Third World debt, action on climate change, a treaty for indigenous people and an end to attempts to launch a new round of global "free trade" talks.

Instead, affiliates backed a proposal put by Stop CHOGM, the group attempting to blockade the meeting, to march through the city on October 5, the day before the summit of top-level Commonwealth leaders begins. Affiliates also indicated that they would not call any form of strike or stop-work for that day.

In attendance at the meeting was ACTU president Sharan Burrow who reaffirmed the ACTU's position of support for the Commonwealth People's Festival, which is part of the official events, and its intention to participate in CHOGM.

Burrow said the ACTU's main concern was to avoid violent protest at CHOGM or a repeat of the S11 protests against the World Economic Forum.

Maritime union state secretary David Perry also expressed hostility to anti-globalisation protesters.

Pro-Labor circles in the union movement here are antagonistic towards the anti-corporate movement, seeing it, and the prospect of loud protests at CHOGM, as a potential embarrassment for Premier Peter Beattie and a liability for federal Labor leader Kim Beazley's electoral chances. They likely see the proposal to march on the day before CHOGM as an easy way out.

While disappointed that they couldn't garner union support for the people's unity march on October 6, CAN activists have said that the QCU decision to march on October 5 is still a positive step, allowing unionists to raise important issues about the direction of Australian and global society.

"What is likely to happen during the summit is a diversity of actions on many different issues", said Tim Stewart of CAN. "The QCU march will be a part of that diversity."

Unions still have several months to finalise decisions on whether to join with those protesting at CHOGM. Activists have indicated that they will continue seeking union support for actions during the summit itself.

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