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First for Maori women - Adress to ILO

CTU MEDIA RELEASE 30 June 2006

First for Maori women in CTU Vice President's Address to International Labour Conference

Council of Trade Unions Maori Vice President Sharon Clair achieved a first for Maori women when she addressed the 95th Session of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva earlier this month.

Ms Clair, who has recently arrived back in the country from the conference, is understood to be the first Maori women speaker representing workers to address the conference plenary, and received a special mention from the ILO Director-General for her contribution to the 95th Session (see note).

In her address, Sharon Clair called on all worker, employer and government members of the ILO to reaffirm their commitment to a living planet where decent work is enjoyed by everyone.

"I pay homage to all those who throughout history have done so much to promote and defend the rights of working women and men, create social justice and fight for equality, human rights and democracy.

They have taught us that Trade Unions play a vital role in ensuring that we must continue to create a tomorrow that our grand children will value. It means workers must mobilise by applying a rights based approach that integrates the environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development.

Maori people understand our duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. To do this we must have keen and unhurried thinking which resides in good heart. The sacredness of this is respect. The choices we make affect our evolutionary process. If we live unconsciously we evolve unconsciously, if we live consciously we evolve consciously.

A major priority for workers in New Zealand is supporting joint union campaigns to increase wages, end low pay and improve training and skills and investment in people because workers want a fair go to decent work to achieve an end to poverty.

Our young need to be able to have freedom from poverty so that they can be the leaders we will need tomorrow. Poverty and impoverishment must end so that a strong, healthy, dynamic workforce can blossom," Ms Clair said.

Note: ILO Director General, Provisional Record 25, "Reply by the Director-General to the discussion of his Report" "...Allow me however to quote one speaker in particular whose words captured much of the spirit that inspires the commitment of delegates to the International Labour Conference. Sharon Clair introduced herself as the first Maori Vice President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and introduced us to some of the philosophy of her people about the relationships we should have between ourselves, with our environment and in our work. She said that "work is one of the most important avenues by which we come to know ourselves as people".

I think we would all agree with that, and it is why the ILO is such an important place for people from all over the world to meet and come to know and respect each other" Source: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc95/pdf/pr-25.pdf

Sharon Clair's full speech is available on the CTU website here: http://www.union.org.nz/about/maori.html

ENDS

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