Saturday, May 12, 2007

Support Fair Trade Day

This article was previously published in the International Young Professionals' Foundation newsletter in 2007

Having just started work with an Australian trade union, I have been exposed to what the labour movement has been doing to ensure that employees receive fair treatment at work. The idea of achieving fair pay for a fair days work is not just limited to trade unions but also the Fair Trade Movement.

Fair Trade Day is held every year on the 2nd Saturday in May and this year the theme is Children and how fair trade affects them.

It is well known that children in Developing Countries play a far more vital part in producing goods than those in the West.

Whether it be through the exploitation in Sweat Shops or helping their families in their farms, kids in the Developing World are involved in producing a lot of the goods that we see in the west.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that almost 126 million Children aged 5 -15 work in hazardous conditions world wide (Fair Trade Website). Many of these kids are trapped in slavery while others are confined to their cycle of poverty that requires them to work long hours in family businesses.

The good news is that by supporting the fair trade movement (through buying certified products) we are able to help producers develop a sustainable livelihood as well as ensure that they are less dependant on the labour of their children. The Fair Trade brand guarantees that no child needs to be trafficked or substitute work for education in the production of the products that we buy.

Biodiversity Day is another important issue that is being highlighted this month by Biodiversity Action Day. While it is not directly linked to Fair Trade, climate change directly influences the production of agricultural produce such as coffee, rice and fruit.

As the Biodiversity Action website day points out, those highly populated areas that surround the river deltas in Asia will be hardest hit, with poor people and their livelihoods being most affected.

While climate change and biodiversity are huge issues and will not be solved over night, by taking little steps to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and improving biodiversity we can ensure that the producers in the developing world are able to develop products that are available for trade.

So, the next time you run out of coffee or feel like some chocolate I encourage you to buy fair trade products so that those who produce coffee and chocolate can get fair price for their labour.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Living the dream in Sydney

Having passed the 6 week mark, my new life in Sydney is looking rather good. I’ve found accommodation at a ridiculously cheap price (for Sydney) and met some cool people who have made my first weeks in Sydney “so interesting” as well as helped me to survived the union movement. My adventure has begun with opportunities to explore this new city and enjoying the atmosphere and living the big-city-life that I’ve always dreamt about.

My first weekend began by a terrified 20 min of wondering around Redfern in the dark and yes, I thought I was going to be murdered about 5 times. I made it to our rendezvous and we soon moved on to Len Franches, an over hyped/overpriced “Performance Space”.

Every weekend since then has been spent visiting swanky bars in the city, seeing movies in Newtown and live music (The Vanguard and The Basement), café hopping, stopping at markets and loitering in art galleries. Recently saw a photographic exhibition of Cragie Horsefield’s work at the Museum of Contemporary Art and with his emotive photos that deal with the idea of art in modern life I soon enrolled in an art course.

My office being in the centre of China Town makes going to work an interesting experience. Shops with 50 kinds of Spinish, supermarkets with isles dedicated to Asian food and banks with all-Asian crew adds a unique flavor to this already cosmopolitan city. Having lunch out is almost irresistible with a Pho (Vietnamese soup) shop on every corner and sushi outlets at regular intervals

After 4 weeks in a youth hostel, I’ve finally found a place to live in Marrickville. A little granny flat sneezed in a between a Vietnamese Catholic church a Buddhist temple and a Greek Orthodox Worship Venue. It’s not very big but it’s all I need.

Life continues with work and the usual nights spent babysitting the nieces and nephew with their bath and story routine.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Political Intern gets prosposed to while meeting top brass

Excitement reached new heights last week when the participants from Chris Evans Labour Movement Work Experience programme met Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter and State Labor Party president Sharryn Jackson.

After meeting the top brass and their army of spin doctors, passion broake out in the centre of Perth though a rally against the poor treatment of cleaners in the CBD.

As a play on the Valentine’s Day theme, a very public show of love was expressed by the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union which included a dramatic marriage proposal being made on the busiest street in Perth at lunch time as part of protest.

Roses and chocolates were handed out to passers by to bring attention to the poor wages and conditions that the cleaners have to put up with.

The high drama tactic was used by the union asked the tenants of number 77 St George’s Tce to share the love with those who clean and part of their “Clean Start” campaign.

This piece of street drama appeared in the inside cover of the West Australian Newspaper.

All this took place during a ministerial placement during which I spent the week at the Office of the Minister of Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah Mactiernan.

Much of my time was spent working on documents relating to government legislation and the appointment of boards and committees but also to research some Freedom of Information issues.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Time to share the cake Howard, there’s enough to go around

During Prime Minister John Howard's recent trip to Perth, Western Australia's peak Union body, Union WA provided his community morning tea with 'Your-rights-at-work' cakes with orange icing.

Union WA were protesting about Work Choices, rules that make it easier to sack staff for no reason and allowing individual contacts which cut wages and conditions.

All of which provide a bigger slice of the cake to the employer and little to the employee.

"Despite a booming economy and soaring wages of CEOs, more and more Australians are being left behind under Howard's unfair workplace laws. It is time for Australians to get a bigger slice of the cake" said Simone McGurk, Assistant Secretary of Unions WA.

Working Australians are just getting the crumbs.

The Howard government believe that they are responsible for economic growth, while real wages fail to rise with the cost of living.

Howard, it's time to go.
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