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Manitoba GJ committee visits union in Peru

In April, a group from Winnipeg, including several members of the CUPE Manitoba global justice committee, visited Peru on vacation. While there, they met with FENTAP, a union similar to CUPE and an affiliate of Public Services International.

PSI Andean Region staff member Juan Diego Gomez helped set up the FENTAP meeting from his office in Bogota, Colombia. CUPE is one of nine Canadian unions affiliated to PSI.

Here are excerpts from a report from Sue Roth, a Manitoba GJ committee member writing in CUPE 1063’s News For Your Dues newsletter summer edition. Her column was headlined “Global View – Experiencing Global Solidariy One Way: A Penny a Day”.

“I recently travelled to Peru with a group of folks interested in travel and justice including five other CUPE members. The trip was two weeks of touring and a third week involved a combination of visiting partner groups and individuals working for justice and development in Lima [the capital city]…

“The value of solidarity through community radio was shared by ‘Coordinator Nacional Radio’ (Network Association for Community Radio. They told us how they successfully supported a community in having their voices heard across Peru in saying No to a multinational mining corporation. The community had not been consulted regarding the mining operations and had grave concerns about their land and the environment.

CUPE members met with FENTAP, a public service union that includes water workers. They are diligently and successfully stopping the privatization of municipal water systems while building coalitions to ensure all have access to clean water.

“Only 5 per cent of workers are unionized but the work of FENTAP has great impact. Like community radio, FENTAP really lives solidarity. They have launched a cross-country campaign to let the public know privatization of water means increased costs and puts clean water out of reach for the poor. They have focused attention on Tumbes where privatization of water is at stake.

“While the meeting with FENTAP was occurring, two other CUPE members met with grassroots workers living in a pueblos jovenes. This literally means ‘young towns’, but less favourable terms for such communities are ‘slums’ or squatter villages’. The pueblos jovenes grow as people seeking employment move to urban areas and build makeshift homes on vacant land on the city outskirts.

“Despite the incredible impact of being without running water, land or employment, the residents here work hard together to build new futures for their families. They lobby for water and electricity as groups. They work together in operating community kitchens, libraries and daycares. They pool resources to open ‘botiquins’ where residents can access medications at affordable prices or on credit…

“Whether we are in the South or in the North, we face many of the same struggles. Solidarity is not about charity. It is about working together so we can all have our basic needs met, be valued, have a choice and have a voice. It has always been labour’s role to take up this cause. From where I stand, we can take a lot of pride in waving this flag as union members.”