Embargoed! | Scottish Trade Unionists take up Turkish Cypriot Campaign

Historic moment as Scottish trade unionists take up Turkish Cypriot campaign

The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) Black Workers Conference unanimously passed a motion on Sunday 7 October calling for an end to the embargoes on North Cyprus and for everyone on the island to be treated equally. It provides the STUC Black Workers Movement with an official policy position – the first time the Turkish Cypriot cause has been given such widespread trade union support. The motion was put forward by Fevzi Hussein of the 210,000-strong Communication Workers Union (CWU) and seconded by Ismail Donmez of UNISON, the UK’s largest trade union with 1.3 million members.

Mr Hussein is a former chair of Embargoed! and a policy advisor for the CWU. He presented Motion 20 at the Glasgow conference, calling for an end to ‘the inhumane embargoes on North Cyprus’. It was seconded by Mr Donmez, who works in Childcare services in Fife, Scotland, and is the Vice-Chair of the Scottish Black Members Group. He provided numerous examples of the discrimination Turkish Cypriots face. Respected STUC President Agnes Tolmie was also present when the motion was being moved.

The text for Motion 20 stated: “… Conference believes that the international community should now hold it [Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus] to account over the punitive manner in which North Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots are treated. Ongoing talks led by the Cypriots have sadly not reached a settlement and this Conference agrees that there are no grounds for the embargoes to continue. The incoming STUC Race Committee is asked to liaise with the General Council, to begin a campaign designed to raise awareness of the embargoes and to put pressure on decision-makers to bring equity to ALL Cypriots the island”.

CWU has been an affiliate member of human rights group Embargoed! for the past five years, regularly lending their support to the campaign. Most recently, CWU head Billy Hayes was one of 13 British notables that included author Martina Cole, Members of the European Parliament, and Operation Black Vote director Simon Woolley to sign the group’s letter, published in the Daily Telegraph in June, calling on the British Government to recognise the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Mr Hussein said, “Sunday was a historic day as Scottish trade unionists recognised the plight of Turkish Cypriots. It is consistent with the wider British trade union movement, which regularly challenges injustices around the world. It is also a testament to the determined Embargoed! campaign and deepening relationship with CWU that North Cyprus is finally on the trade union agenda.” He added, “The message from the Glasgow Conference is clear: ‘Turkish Cypriots must not be penalised for the continuing failure of the talks and the embargoes must go.’ I look forward to seeing firm action from STUC to that effect”.

By becoming part of STUC policy, it is hoped that the rights of Turkish Cypriots will now follow a similar path to that of the Palestinian struggle. Having first been adopted by the TUC Black Workers Conference many years ago, the campaign has since become a mainstream issue with almost all the trade unions affiliated to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), helping to raise awareness and garner support from the general British public. The PSC now reserves two seats on its executive committee for trade union members, in recognition of the important role the trade union movement has played in providing ongoing aid and visibility of their cause.

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