A high point of the recent ACTU Congress was the adoption of a strong asylum seeker and refugee policy.

At Congress a draft policy was workshopped by delegates from many unions including the AEU, CPSU, MUA, IEU, AMWU, FSU and NTEU. An amended policy was drawn up and put to the Congress. The policy was adopted unanimously.

The ACTU already had a strong policy as a result of resolutions supported at previous Congresses. The new policy recognises that seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. It calls for the closure of all offshore processing centre including Nauru and Manus Island. It condemned the indefinite detention of asylum seekers and opposes forcible deportation. The policy argues mandatory detention is not necessary. We specifically call for an end to the Abbott government’s boat “turn-backs”, which refugee supporters are also trying to maintain as Labor policy.

The policy as a whole should be an embarrassment to the Federal Labour Party.

Importantly the policy calls on unions to organise refugee speakers for meetings and refugee stalls at union conferences. The ACTU is encouraging all unions to support and participate in Union for Refugees groups.

On the floor of Congress Mark Lennon, Secretary of Unions NSW, made an strong impassioned speech in support of refugees and that we should support them. Michael Thomson (NTEU and Unions for Refugees) argued that refugees were union business. Both speeches were met with wide applause. Delegates used the policy to talk forming more Union for Refugees groups.

Union activists can use the ACTU’s support for refugees to build union contingents at rallies, get refugee speakers to meetings and build Union refugee groups.

By Michael Thomson

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