Struggle of Ethiopian unions

19th May 2000 at 01:00
I WAS appalled at the diary (TES, April 28) piece entitled "Philibustering" which referred to delegates at the NUT conference "listening in painfully respectful silence" to the general secretary of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association, Gemoraw Kassa.

Gemoraw Kassa was invited to address conference following the union's long standing support for the Ethiopian Teachers' Association. Its president, Dr Taye Woldesmiate, has been in prison for nearly four years and has been sentenced to 15 years for undertaking normal trades union activities. Deputy general secretary, Assafa Maru, was assassinated by state securit forces in 1997.

Gemoraw Kassa was forced into exile and the union supported his application for asylum in the UK. These teachers have been targeted as a result of their disagreement with the education policies of their Government.

At the conference, Gemoraw Kassa was greeted with a long and sincere standing ovation. The suggestion he was called to speak to conference as a way of reducing debating time is grotesque and deeply insulting both to the NUT and our Ethiopian colleagues.

Steve Sinnott

Deputy general secretary

National Union of Teachers

Hamilton House, London WC1

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