Sherpa Dorje Khatri raises the ITUC flag at the summit of Everest, to raise awareness of climate change. Photo ITUC.
TUC backs Nepalese Sherpas after Everest deaths
Last night, Newsnight covered union militancy at the NUT conference in Brighton and at Everest base camp in the Himalayas. No surprises for guessing which received the more sympathetic hearing, although at least NUT representatives were allowed to speak for themselves. The Nepalese Sherpas are threatening strike action over the deaths of 16 workers at base camp on 18 April. They want fair compensation for the victims’ families, and better terms and conditions for the Sherpas.
An avalanche hit a group of more than 60 support staff and guides, mostly Sherpas, at 5.9km when they were heading towards Camps I and II carrying necessary equipment and logistics for the Everest climbers at around 6:30am. Particularly poignant for the global trade union movement is that one of those killed last week was Sherpa Dorje Khatri, Vice President of the Union of Trekking Travel Rafting and Airline Workers (UNITRAV), and a prominent figure in the Nepalese trade union confederation GEFONT. The TUC helped GEFONT set up a domestic workers’ union few years ago, and TUC delegates to the UN climate change conference in Durban recall his inspiring address on the impacts of climate change on the Himalayas. So TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has joined many around the world in sending condolences to his fellow trade unionists.
Sherpa Dorje Khatri was also famous in the global trade union movement because he took the flags of the ITUC, his global union federation IndustriALL and the GEFONT confederation to the very summit of Everest, and put trade unionism at the top of the world. Frances O’Grady wrote:
“Sherpa Dorje Khatri was an inspiration to everyone who believes in social justice and sustainable development. His leadership of the union for his fellow Sherpas, and the symbolic planting of the flag of the International Trade Union Confederation on Everest itself, stood out in the history of global trade unionism.”