A popular and well-known Sydney trade union official, Jagath Bandara, who was in the land of his birth – Sri Lanka – for the funeral of his father, was lucky in escaping the horrors of the Asian earthquake-tsunami.
Jagath is calling on his friends in the union movement across Australia to donate whatever financial support they can provide to Sri Lanka, and other areas affected by the tsunami.
Sri Lanka is the worst hit of South Asian countries, as a result of the 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake near the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The Australian union aid agency Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is putting into place a special Sri Lanka donation program, which will be implemented in co-operation with the Norwegian trade union aid agency – Norwegian
Norwegian Peoples Aid has several years experience already in that country, working on a project to rid Sri Lanka of landmines.
The LHMU WA Branch, the LHMU NSW Branch and the LHMU National Council will be
donating $10,000 each.
LHMU Casino Union members at the Burswood Casino in Perth are
separately organising fund-raising drives.
At the Sheraton-on-the-Park Hotel in Sydney LHMU members are
collecting money for a union member who lost family in Sri Lanka. The hotel
union activists have called on local management to match dollar-for-dollar money
raised by the union at this site.
NSW LHMU Secretary, Annie Owens, said where members are raising money in the
workplace employers will be called upon to match workers’ donations.
NSW LHMU financial members, whose families are directly affected by the
tsunami crisis, should contact Mark Boyd, the NSW LHMU Assistant Secretary – at
02 8204 7204 or firstname.lastname@example.org –
to discuss possible financial help and support
LHMU National Secretary, Jeff Lawrence, said other branches of the union will
be deciding their own fund-raising strategies over the next few days.
” Many LHMU members across Australia will have family and friends in these
countries who they wish to support,” Jeff Lawrence said.
“It is appropriate that, if they wish, they can provide help through the
union movements’ aid agency.”
Sharan Burrow, ACTU President, has also called on unions to do whatever they
can to help the working people of the Indian Ocean Rim who have been hurt so
disastrously by these events.
Ms Burrow – who was recently elected president of the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions – commented :” The ACTU will join with unions
across the globe to provide support. Union members all over the world will be
devastated by these scenes.”
For a period of 36 hours, after news that the earthquake and giant waves had
devastated Sri Lanka, many union activists in Australia, especially from the
LHMU and the AMWU, were frantically searching for Jagath and his wife Thanuja.
Union members were especially worried as they were unable to raise Jagath on
his mobile phone or find other members of his family in Colombo.
The resources of the popular international trade union website, LabourStart, where Jagath is a regular
correspondent providing information about trade union activity in Sri Lanka and
India , were brought into action.
LabourStart people used their
e-mail networks to contact key trade union people in Sri Lanka, as well as
having Jagath registered as a missing person on a special Sri Lanka website set
up to trace people who may have disappeared in that country.
You can hear an interview with Jagath on Radio LabourStart.
Jagath was originally a guest service attendant at the Sheraton on the Park
Hotel in Sydney, where he became a workplace delegate for the LHMU and then went
on to be a full-time union official.
As an LHMU organiser he was known by hundreds of union members across a
number of different worksites where he put all his energy and vigour into
ensuring the voice of union members was heard loud and clear in management
Jagath is safe back in Sydney, having flown out of Sri Lanka only hours
before the waves hit the island nation.
At the time of the tragedy he was actually in the air and only found out
about it after landing in Singapore to change flights for Australia.
” I was in shock, and for several hours we debated in Singapore whether to
return to help in Sri Lanka or come home to Australia and organise among the Sri
Lankan community and the trade union community for short-term, and long-term,
aid for the people.
” The Left-wing trade unions and political parties have organised a massive
20,000 volunteer force to work in the villages among the people to help restore
life to the devastated communities.
” Here in Australia we should be looking at how best we can all help now,” Jagath said
He is eagerly supporting plans by Australia’s Union Aid Abroad agency- Apheda – to donate money to people in Sri Lanka and other affected areas.
Peter Jennings, Executive Officer for Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA was just one of many people searching for Jagath in the hours after the news of the tragedy started making headlines in Australia.
APHEDA has informed unions across Australia of the special appeal for Sri Lanka and other areas affected by the tsunami.
In a note to all unions who regularly donate to APHEDA Peter Jennings said:
“Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is commencing an appeal for the victims of the tidal waves in South Asia.
” Several of our donors have expressed the desire to make contributions, so we have been in contact with Solidar (the alliance of aid agencies linked to the European trade unions) to link up with those agencies working in badly affected areas, such as the southern and eastern coasts of Sri Lanka,” Peter Jennings said.
“There is a consortium of Norwegian Peoples Aid, which has 650 de-mining staff in eastern Sri Lanka, with Workers Aid from Switzerland and Germany, and MPDL from Spain. All are sending staff and supplies to affected areas.
” We will keep you informed of progress, and will provide details of how aid is being delivered via Solidar and Norwegian Peoples Aid.
” The Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA office is open and can provide information, or collect donations on 1800 888 674 or 02 9264 9343.
Get more information about making a donation through Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.
” APHEDA will be fully operational on Tuesday 4th January, when we will circulate further information about this appeal,” Peter Jennings said.
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