I finally left the liquor trades union leaving all the campaigns behind , brewery strikes at Christmas , topless female workers , celebrity chefs wage theft , and the long running campaign against Mc Donald’s which finally ended with them suing me and David Grove and others for defamation and libel to the tune of $380,000 dollars back in 1982, $ 380 ,000 in 1982 .
I’m happy to report that they didn’t get a fkn Mc cent
For writing a book called rip of Ronald exposing the exploitation of young workers and devastating the environment .
So I was off the the Food Preservers union under the leadership of Tom Ryan and Gail Cotton which was soon to become notorious as the most militant union in the country for opposing the prices and incomes accord in the coming years . With only about 7000 members the talk about a union fighting above its wait was not a idle boast .
The union which became famous for its direct involvement with its members unlike a lot of unions these days played a significant role in improving wages conditions in the industries they worked .
The food processing industry was as diverse as my previous employment but I was happy to make the move from one progressive organisation to another
The union had gained a fierce reputation for its solidarity with its members and stood side by side with them on many picket lines over the years .
The most famous one lasted 26 weeks at Rosella in 1985 when the members opposed the prices and incomes but let’s discect that victory in the coming weeks .
Within 3 months I was off to Bulgaria to represent Australian workers in the food industry , but there is a real story about how i got chosen in the first place and how I was to get behind the iron curtain into the Soviet Union during the Cold War without alerting the government is a classic story in itself .
There were 2 major union organisations in the world one representing workers in Europe and the Eastern Bloc countries ,the other the western workers in the other part.
The WFTU ,the World Federation of Trade Unions was a communist inspired organisation of which the foodies was affiliated to ,but to make matters worse they had previously been affiliated to the ICFTU the international federation of Trade unions .
Before my foray beyond the iron curtain the union was given a ultimatum ,resign from the communist inspired organisation or risk expulsion from the other.
Fortunately the union chose expulsion from the CIA influenced organisation of which Australia’s ACTU remains a member.
But to the nitty gritty of the transport to foreign climes were more surrounded in conspiracy theories relevent to the world according to Rowan Dean on Sky Channel
How to get behind the Iron curtain without the government becoming aware and being branded a pinko commie sympathiser, easy !
Book a flight to Singapore with the appropriate visas ,stay in Singapore for a day ,visit the Soviet embassy get another visa go straight to the international airport wait a hour or so and jump on the next available flight to Sofia the capital of Bulgaria aboard the official Soviet carrier Aeroflot .
I would use this method of transportation on many occasions using the same subterfuge while visiting the then Soviet.
Of course there were drawbacks to flying Aeroflot each time considering no matter what meal they served it was chicken for breakfast ,chicken for lunch and believe it or not chicken for dinner it wasn’t long before I renamed Aeroflot as Chickenflot . Still do !
Anyway it was to be my first foray into international trade union relations with more to come ,I addressed the trade union international of the WFTU in Sofia and visited many workplaces and collective farms as they were in days
It’s important to have a exchange of ideas between workers in different countries it’s more important to learn different systems and work practices ideas that if worthwhile can be adopted into Australian industries .
There were more mountains to climb more international relations and more victories for a union that punched above its weight more importantly many more political partnerships to be formed in this country .
Next episode a visit to Moscow but unlike the American basketballer Brittany Griner serving 10 years in jail ,I was innocently caught carrying a small amount of marijuana through Moscow airport . In 1983 . Didn’t even know it was in a pocket of a very rarely used overcoat .
If I had known there would have been a party in room 405 of the Moscow hotel before I got to the airport
The death penalty was in still in force then !
The lesson here is it always pays to be in the union
Dare to struggle dare to Win