From the TUC

Taking action works: even half a world away

11 Nov 2011, By

Fiji's Coral Coast in the aftermath of a storm (Photo: Sue Hixson)

The wonderful news that the leaders of the Fijian trade union movement are out of jail (even if we need to remain vigilant, and even if there is still a lot more to do about workers’ rights and democracy in Fiji) is a testament to the power of union campaigning and the value of LabourStart. Even though for activists in the UK, the end result is on the other side of the world!

As soon as we heard that a second trade union leader had been arrested, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) asked LabourStart to create an e-action aimed at Fijian embassies and high commissions around the world. There aren’t a lot, and many don’t have email addresses (or not ones they make public, anyway). We advertised the action on websites, twitter and through LabourStart’s email list of activists around the world willing to take action online for fellow trade unionists.

It worked. Daniel Urai was freed on bail – Felix Anthony wasn’t even charged. Our messages clearly got through to the Fijian government, and perhaps more importantly (our colleagues in trouble have always told us this) Daniel, Felix and their colleagues knew that they had our support and our vigilance. So next time we ask you to take action, please remember that it does make a difference.

LabourStart’s Eric Lee says this:

This kind of rapid reaction by trade unionists to violations of workers rights is something new and significant.

Within 24 hours of the launch of LabourStart’s online campaign demanding the release of the two Fijian trade union leaders, both have been let out of jail.  Their release followed the sending of nearly 4,000 messages to Fijian embassies around the world.  Within the first few hours, we had managed to crash the embassy email servers in France and New Zealand and were no doubt overwhelming them elsewhere.

The LabourStart campaign was only a part of wider effort by the international trade union movement, led by the ITUC.  But it demonstrates once again the power of the new campaigning technologies – including use of the web, mass emailings, and social networks.  It also demonstrates the growing ‘velocity’ of campaigns.  It used to take 24 hours to get the first 1,000 messages delivered; today that happens within the first 4 hours.