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Sam Macartney Award: Unison pays tribute to late activist's international solidarity work

Kaila McCulloch and Tony Caleary, co-chairs of the Unison Scotland international committee, introduce an award in memory of a dedicated fighter for international justice

TODAY, Friday November 18, is a special day for Unison Scotland’s international committee.   

We’re remembering our late former committee chair and dear friend Sam Macartney with the launch tonight of an award and lecture in his name.  

While always active on behalf of members in his branch at Glasgow City Unison, Sam was also a longstanding highly committed and involved member, then chair, of our committee.  

We decided that the inaugural Sam Macartney Award for International Solidarity should be presented to Sam’s wife Teresa Macartney in recognition, posthumously, of his dedication and outstanding commitment to internationalism.  

Former branch chair Mary Dawson will receive the award on Teresa’s behalf in a ceremony tonight that honours Palestine solidarity work — one of Sam’s passions.  

Assaf Adiv, executive director of MAAN Workers Association, one of the organisations that Unison partners with, will give the Sam Macartney Commemoration Lecture in a live internet link from Israel.  

He will talk about their work as an independent trade union association that organises Arab and Jewish workers in Israel. MAAN stands against the occupation, for Palestinian rights and for equality and human rights for all.   

Unison has had a number of successful projects with MAAN, most recently organising Palestinian workers in the illegal Israeli industrial zones in the West Bank.   

Palestinian unions aren’t able to represent the workers but MAAN can, although it inevitably involves legal action and strikes before they are recognised. MAAN is the sole workers’ organisation in Israel that unionises Palestinians employed in the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, as well as those working in Israel.  

Sam joined a Unison delegation to Palestine and Israel in 2016 and met with a number of organisations, including one of MAAN’s projects.  

As he did on his other international solidarity trips — including to Cuba in 2018 and to Bhopal in India in 2014, for the 30th anniversary of the horrific Union Carbide industrial disaster, Sam sent back informative blogs and reports and pictures.  

One of his blogs from the Palestine visit spoke of meeting with the MANN workers’ advice centre.  

Sam wrote: “We also met with a newish trade union who are making a name for themselves by taking on big firms and government red tape, and more importantly, winning compensation and jobs for many women in Jerusalem. Unison presently supports the work of this union and from what we saw today it’s money well spent.  

“Their work with the newly employed and those seeking employment or refused benefits is excellent. The delegation was very impressed with their work.”  

Our international committee wishes to thank the many branches who have given generous donations to fund the award. We are pleased that the award will provide £300 each to MAAN — for their work organising Palestinian workers in the industrial zones in the illegal settlements on the occupied West Bank; to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and to Scottish Friends of Palestine (SFoP).   

Eurig Scandrett, chair of SPSC, will speak at tonight’s event alongside Arthur West, chair of SFoP, both organisations that were really important to Sam.   

Scandrett was on the delegation to visit Bhopal, along with myself (Tony) and we all have fond memories of Sam’s justified anger, but also practical activism on workers’ rights, along with his natural kindness and very generous nature and his singing and guitar playing being a highlight on many social evenings.    

Anyone interested can still read Sam’s blogs on our website and archive website. Our thoughts today are with his wife Teresa and their wider families.  

And next year Unison branches will be nominating for a new recipient of this special award which will help us all build on Sam’s excellent contribution to building workers’ solidarity internationally.

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