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Trade Unions and Haiti

15 February 2010

Trade unions have played a highly valuable and multifaceted role in Haiti. In many ways the nature of the response by trade unions, not only in the region but around the world and within the UK illustrates the valuable role they can play in international development. While recent newspaper reports, notably in the Times, have sought to discredit DfID’s support for trade unions, recent events underpin their ability to unite work forces around the world on an astonishing scale.

UK trade unions have responded quickly and in some measure to respond to the recent catastrophic events in Haiti. Unison for example made a pledge of £10,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee, as well as further donations to TUC Aid which will be used by trade unions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The TUC, as well as helping through its TUC Aid scheme, has moved quickly to organize a concert for Haiti which took place on the 3rd February to raise much needed funds to help with the aftermath of the earthquake.

International trade unions have also been active, largely through the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The funds given by ITUC have largely been used to give much needed humanitarian assistance to Haitian affiliate CTH, via three Dominican Republic unions which united swiftly following the earthquake: CASC-CNUS-CNTD.They collectively sent aid such as water, food and important medical supplies, as well as sending over teams to Haiti and setting up offices to help collect funds, clothing and other essential aid materials. The CTH headquarters was also turned into a refuge for affected workers and a base for the distribution of medical and aid supplies.

A further example of the type of support trade unions have been providing can been seen in the actions of solidarity organisations who sent the CTH two ambulances with staff to help deal with the devastating medical issues arising out of the earthquake.

Clearly trade unions have, in the case of Haiti, played an extremely helpful role in the aftermath of the earthquake. Moreover, these examples underline why trade unions can be so valuable to the government and why DFID supports them.

By Daniel Sleat

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 February 2010 12:23

    An ODCD report says that Britain is expected to devote 0.56% of national income to foreign aid. Gordon Brown says there was “no excuse” for others not to follow suit. Well that hides a few things

    What the government does not say is that it arrives at its aid figure by including money for debt relief. Yet those of us who campaigned for debt cancellation expected that it would be additional to aid spending, not part of it. Take away the debt relief and the figure for aid is just under 0.5%, good compared with recent years, but like-for-like about the same as in the late 1970s!

    The government would do well to face up to a big weakness in its Make Poverty History claims – it continues to push free trade, which keeps millions in poverty. The urgent need is for trade justice, the opposite of free trade. Trade justice includes curbing the traders, the TNCs. Action please, not window-dressing, not spin, but effective action.

    • 7 March 2010 12:14

      John. I believe too that much more needs to be done on trade, but our aid is no longer tied to forced liberalisation of developing country markets. We’ve not done anywhere near enough on trade at the EU level, I do agree.

      Quite frankly, it’s too easy to look at something you don’t like and call it ‘window-dressing spin’ – it is possible for activists and political parties to work together for the same thing and that is what I believe Make Poverty History and Brown (and Blair) were trying to do.

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