21 April 2008
South African dock workers commended for stand on human rights
“South African dock workers should be congratulated for preventing arms getting to the Mugabe regime and their stand shows the crucial role unions play internationally in protecting human rights,” CTU president Helen Kelly said today.
South African dock workers last week refused to unload a shipment of arms from China destined for Zimbabwe, and the union’s road freight members have refused to truck the goods. This action was unlawful under South African law.
“This is the crucial role unions play in standing up for democracy in the all parts of the world,” Helen Kelly said. “The workers thought it unconscionable to handle goods that were destined for the Mugabe regime, to be used against ordinary working people and the democracy movement. But for this stand, these arms would be in Zimbabwe now.”
“History shows that the rights to free speech and to organise in unions, although guaranteed by international law, are among the first to go when democracy is subverted or overthrown. Blocking the arms at the port was a significant act of solidarity with Zimbabwe’s working people and an act that would have the support of many people around the world.”
The workers’ sister union in this country, the Maritime Union of NZ, have today sent a message of solidarity to the dockers’ union in South Africa, passing on the full support of New Zealand maritime workers for their stand.