Australian trade unions back engagement stance on Israel/Palestine

The Australian trade union movement has returned to its traditional position of taking a moderate and balanced stance on the hotly contested issue of Israel-Palestine.

“ The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Congress – the highest decision making body of the Australian union movement – has this month quietly, but firmly, confirmed a balanced position on this contentious issue,” the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), National Secretary, Paul Howes said today.

At next month’s Australian Labor Party national conference the labour movement will now discuss, at a Fringe Event sponsored by the AWU, practical measures Australian labour activists can take to support peace, justice and reconciliation for Israel/Palestine.

The AWU’s Paul Howes leads Australia’s oldest labour union, and the nation’s biggest blue-collar union the Australian Workers’ Union. He is Vice-President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the only peak council and national trade union centre representing the Australian workforce.

Paul Howes  is also one of the co-founders of  Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP) set up to respond to the spreading boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement inside trade unions.

New international policy stance on Middle East

“ The ACTU’s new international policy position was adopted unanimously at the Congress , and importantly swims against the perceived tide of trade union support for boycotting Israel,” Paul Howes said.

The ACTU policy adopted at Congress calls on the labour movement to focus its work on the Middle East by looking at the impact of the Israel-Palestinian conflict on the rights of all workers in the region, and their families – Palestinians, Israelis and other communities.

The previous policy mentioned only Palestinian workers and omitted mentioning the rights of “ Israelis and other communities.”

The ACTU Congress - with more than 600 delegates from affiliated unions across the country  - met in Brisbane, Australia, in June f or nearly a week for its triennial policy making meeting.

ALP National Conference Fringe Event in July

Meanwhile the AWU National Secretary, Paul Howes, will chair a Fringe Event at the Australian Labor Party National Conference in Sydney on:

  • What the Australian labour movement can practically do to support peace, justice and reconciliation for Israel/Palestine.

This Fringe Event will be held at 5.30 pm on Thursday July 30 in the theatre at the National Maritime Museum, Darling Habour in Sydney, Australia.

Global Trade Union Trends

In recent months national trade union centres in Norway, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa – as well as major national unions – have seemingly shifted to a hostile anti-Israel position supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The leader of the German trade union national centre , Michael Sommer, the president of the Confederation of German Trade Unions ( DGB) this week re-affirmed his hostility to the BDS movement, support for the Histadrut and opposition to any anti-Israel boycott.

Mr Sommer told a conference in Berlin this week that his national executive would consider next week affiliating to Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine ( TULIP) which was established this year to battle the BDS movement in the trade union movement.

TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) was launched in April and is currently led by union officials from three continents - Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (US/Canada); and Michael Leahy, general secretary of Community, a British trade union.