World transport unions back Indonesia protests
MELBOURNE, Sept 9 (Reuters) - International transport workers called on Thursday for protests against air and sea traffic to and from Indonesia to pressure the Indonesian government into ending the atrocities in East Timor.
The move came as Australian dockers refused to handle cargoes bound to or from Indonesia in sympathy with the East Timorese, who voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia on August 30 but have since seen the territory wracked by violence.
Shipping unions in the South Pacific agreed at a meeting in Fiji to join in the action by Australian dockers, and the International Transport Workers Federation called for wider protests around the globe, the Maritime Union of Australia said on Thursday, citing a letter from the federations chief.
"The meeting of the ITF affiliates in Fiji adopted a resolution calling on the ITF to organise protest action against Indonesian shipping and cargo in support of the people of East Timor," said a letter from David Cockroft, general secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation.
He called for the international federation to work with national affiliates to organise protests elsewhere.
In Australia, workers at the eastern port of Newcastle refused to load a cargo of Smorgon Steel Group Ltd (Australia:SSX.AX - news) grinding balls onto the Arktis Fantasy bound for Freeport McMoRan (NYSE:FCX - news) in Irian Jaya, the Maritime Union of Australia said. Smorgon said the disruption would have little effect near term on its sales or Freeport McMoRans mining operations.
"Its a stock replenishment order and they do carry stock up there so we cant see any short term problem for us or for them," said Peter Fraser, corporate affairs manager at Smorgon Steel.
At Brisbane, workers pulled containers that were due to go to Indonesia off two ships, including two containers which an exporter, yet to be identified, chose not to send to Indonesia.
In Queenslands Townsville port, bans were placed on seven containers going onto the Chekiang, including drilling equipment.
Workers had yet to decide whether to take action against a ship due into Townsville on Thursday night carrying nickel ore from Indonesia and another due on the weekend to export 500 tonnes of Mt Isa copper cathode produced by MIM Ltd (Australia:MIM.AX - news).
In South Australia, the maritime union said all containers headed to or from Indonesia were being placed in a holding area so that no other shipping would be affected.
Melbourne airport, where union demonstrations prevented passengers from boarding a flight to Bali on Wednesday, was quiet on Thursday as there were no scheduled Garuda Indonesia flights.