Monday, 15 June 2015

Cuba and Qatar - a meeting dilemma

This Thursday (the 18 June) delivers a particular dilemma for those interested in campaigning on international issues. Two significant topics are to be aired at clashing meetings in different parts of Glasgow. Hopefully this variety will be fully exploited by the many comrades who are currently taking part in the UNISON conference in the city, as well as interested weegies.

At the STUC Centre in Woodlands Road at 7.00pm, the Scottish Cuba Solidarity Campaign hosts
internationally renowned Cuba expert - Dr Stephen Wilkinson, who is in town to explain the significance of the Obama administration's thaw towards the island, and why it is too soon to celebrate a new era just yet! As Churchill once said of a different struggle - 'It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. It is perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Stephen Wilkinson first visited Cuba in 1986 and has been traveling to and writing about the island ever since.  Now the Chairman of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba based in the UK, Stephen has a PhD on the subject of Cuban literature. He has written numerous articles on such questions as the history of European and US - Cuba relations, Cuban attitudes and policy towards homosexuals and the nature of the Cuban state. He blogs at The Cuba Bug

However, if the future of a sun-soaked land of socialism, international solidarity and health and educational advances doesn't float your boat, then another, less happy, sunny country is also attracting (less positive) coverage. The position of workers in Qatar employed in constructing the infrastructure needed to stage the forthcoming football World Cup has moved centre stage. 

The Playfair Qatar campaign intends to build on that profile to explain why pressure on authorities there needs to be increased. While UNISON's conference will no doubt address the many problems faced by Trade Unions organising in Cameron's Britain, the medieval labour conditions, and flouting of basic health and safety standards in Qatar have led to many workers' deaths. The
meeting is at UNISON's Scottish Office at 14, W Campbell Street, G2 6RX, also at 7.00pm. Speakers are Philippe Gousenbourger – ITUC-CSI International Trade Union Confederation; Abdes Ouaddou – Moroccan International Footballer, victim of Qatar’s Kafala system; Helen Martin – STUC and Michael Connarty – Author of Report on the Reform of Football Governance to Council of Europe. Chair – Eileen Dinning, UNISON & Show Racism the Red Card

Of course, in the UK workers can elect reps to ensure Health and Safety rules are followed, but even
Robert addresses demo outside SECC
here that doesn't mean employers are all sweetness and light. UNISON Health and Safety Rep, Robert O'Donnell was recently sacked by managers at the SECC - the very venue where the union is holding its UK Conference! 

Despite being 91% owned by Glasgow City Council, the SECC has never recognised UNISON for its own workforce. Surely a trait closer to management practices in Qatar than the UK. No doubt the sole Glasgow Councillor on the SECC Board - Cllr Graeme Hendry - will soon be putting forward the case for a more progressive treatment of his own union's representatives.