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Union criticizes Myanmar connection in trade deal

Maritime Union criticizes Myanmar connection in free trade deal

Maritime Union of New Zealand media release
Friday 29 August 2008

The Maritime Union of New Zealand says a free trade deal signed with ASEAN nations including the military dictatorship of Myanmar is bad for workers.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says a free trade deal including Myanmar will boost the violently anti-worker regime in Myanmar and threatened workers rights.

He says the Maritime Union has many concerns about the treatment of Burmese maritime workers, some of whom work in New Zealand waters, and who have been mistreated and abused in the past.

The Maritime Union has previously spoken out about the murder of Ko Moe Naung, a Seafarers' Union of Burma (Myanmar) organizer in the Ranong region, who was killed by Burmese military forces on 19 May 2005.

The Seafarers' Union of Burma is a fellow affiliate with the Maritime Union of New Zealand to the International Transport Workers' Federation.

Ko Moe was tortured to death over three hours during interrogation at 8-Mile Village Army Base LIR 431 in Kawthaung, Burma.

Ko Moe was targeted by the Myanmar regime as he was a dedicated trade union leader, who was organising Burmese fishermen and migrant workers from Burma at the Ranong area.

Mr Hanson says free trade deals mean that New Zealand is now effectively endorsing dictatorships such as Burma which murder workers such as Ko Moe Naung.

He says the Maritime Union has a long history of opposing repressive regimes, refusing to work on American nuclear warships in New Zealand harbours and supporting the struggle against apartheid.

"New Zealand waterfront workers refused to load pig iron for Japan before World War 2, which they were denounced for, but shortly afterwards the pig iron was coming back towards us as bullets."

Mr Hanson says sometimes doing the right thing comes with a cost.

He says the Maritime Union is extremely concerned that free trade deals will mean the use of short term, casual labour imported across borders to drive down wages and conditions, a problem that is now occurring around the world.


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