can do it for Salud!
International is a name familiar to UNISON branches for
its work in getting humanitarian aid to Cuba. Now it has
spread its wings as a non-governmental agency to enable
trade unionists to provide the same aid throughout the developing
A fringe meeting at the STUC encouraged more
Scottish trade unionists to become involved in its work,
reports Jane Carolan.
Salud has no full time workers but an army
of volunteers committed to helping overcome the effects
of the blockade which has starved Cuba of health and public
Andy Gilchrist, General Secretary of the Fire
Brigade Union, emphasised that the Cuban people saw such
work as a gesture of international solidarity and were determined
that they would remain in charge of their own destiny.
"In Cuba last year, four days after a hurricane
hit I was privileged to assist in the area. Public services
had been restored, with power and water on supply. After
only four days that was a remarkable achievement, made possible
by the united efforts, working together in adversity”, said
He urged Scottish trade unionists to get involved
in the aid campaign.
Bob Oram of Salud outlined how a campaign
that started with a request to supply a single bus had grown
into an effort that shipped 1,000 tons of aid on its first
ship, an effort repeated during 2001 and soon to be repeated
Bob emphasised that Salud was committed to
appropriate aid based on the recipients telling the campaign
that was needed. Requests have come for everything from
buses and ambulances to medical equipment, paper and pencils
and even a wedding dress!
"Salud has attracted support from NHS trusts,
government departments, companies and even the Royal Family”,
said Bob. "But our lifeblood is in the commitment of ordinary
trade unionists raising money which allows us to continue
our work. It's practical politics.
"By collecting pennies and pounds, any branch
can buy its ambulance and have its logo on it. It's a peculiar
feeling being in Havana and seeing a Manchester ambulance
go by. But a good feeling.”
SALUD currently has 35 ambulances ready to
be shipped. To make transport viable they need 50 so assistance
to buy the rest is vital.