Packed fringes at union conferences

Campaign News | Saturday, 29 March 2008

Trade Unionists urged to defend Cuban revolution at Spring fringes

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign has run four successful fringes at union conferences across the country this Spring.

Teachers’ union NASUWT affiliated to CSC at the end of 2006, and the campaign’s first ever fringe as an affiliated organisation was a passionate event.

Jerry Bartlett, NASUWT’s deputy general secretary, slammed British national newspapers - such as the “soft porn comic” Sun - for distorting the public perception of Cuba, and called on delegates to defend the Cuban Revolution against United States’ imperialism.

He added: “All my adult life I’ve been inspired by the Cuban Revolution. Cuba has given unstinting, non-violent practical support in the fight against the enemies of human rights and trade unions across the world.

“I have met Wilson Borja, a Colombian politician, who suffered appalling injuries after a botched assassination attempt and who thought he was going to die. His life was saved in Cuba. I’ve met political prisoners from all over the world whose children are being looked after in Cuba. We all benefit as a consequence.

“But what inspires me the most is the Cuban’s resistance and refusal to be crushed by the hypocritical blockade. Can you imagine what they could have achieved if not for the wicked economic blockade?”

Jerry Bartlett was joined by Bernard Regan, CSC’s Secretary, and Mercedes Alguezabal and Yordanka Brunet - two Cuban academics studying in London.

Mercedes, who is head of the English Department in the Medical University of Havana, teaches English to doctors so they can study English medical books and can practice in Anglophone countries.

She said: “There have been two sides to the impact the blockade has made to medicine, on the one hand it’s negative because obviously it seriously effects the price of equipment and drugs. But the positive effect is that it has forces us to be innovative and learn how to use what we have.

“We also share what we have, because that is what we have been taught to do all of our lives.”

Yordanka and Mercedes also spoke at the NUT conference - along with the union’s president Bill Greenshields and head of international Martin Reed - to almost 150 delegates.

Yordanka said: “The United States’ blockade has cost the Cuban economy more than $68billion, we hope in future years we can continue to work together in trying to eliminate the blockade and achieve even better results in terms of health and education.”

More than 50 delegates at the UNISON Women’s annual conference enjoyed a joint CSC and Venezuela Information Centre fringe. Norma Stephenson, UNISON’s president, said: “We must defend the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions and the progress they are making and I’m proud that our union is at the forefront of the campaigns to support those countries.”

Delegates at the TUC Women’s Conference heard from Jane Carolan, from UNISON’s NEC, who passionately spoke about Cuba's inspirational women who had fought in the Revolution and who today were at the forefront of advances in Cuban society and an inspiration for women across Latin America and the world.

All the fringers were sponsored and supported by Thompsons Solicitors.

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