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Paritosh Parasher in Sydney
In a unique gesture, an influential Australian union has decided to install an idol of Lord Ganesh in its new head office in Sydney on Wednesday, marking a Hindu festival dedicated to the elephant-headed god.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union will install the statue at its newly constructed office on the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi, showing the respect of the Australian working class for multiculturalism.
A Hindu priest has been invited for 'sanctification' of the function being held by CFMEU, one of Australia's major unions.
The statue holds special significance for CFMEU as it was sculpted by a group of eight Indian temple stone masons for whom the union had struggled to get wages according to Australian working conditions earlier this year.
"Ganesh is the elephant-headed Hindu patron of new undertakings and the remover of obstacles. He is traditionally associated with everything new, including buildings and projects. It is appropriate for the CFMEU to have the statue consecrated now, because we have just moved into our new Lidcombe head office," union head Andrew Ferguson told the Indo-Asian News Service on Tuesday.
"The CFMEU embraces all cultures and the colourful cultural event is being conducted on Wednesday as part of our commitment to encourage a more tolerant society," he says.
"It's a gesture to express our commitment to multiculturalism and also to show our respect for other cultures and religions," Ferguson added.
In a case that had attracted international attention, CFMEU head Ferguson and other unionists had raided the Sri Venkateswara temple at Helensburg in south Sydney and taken away eight stone masons.
The workers from Tamil Nadu were allegedly grossly underpaid and living in squalid conditions on the temple premises.
It was also alleged that they were being denied their basic human rights and forced to live within the temple walls.
The temple management not only denied these allegations, but charged the union team with having desecrated the temple by walking in with their shoes on and blocking the passage of devotees. The management also resorted to legal action against the CFMEU on various grounds.
Union officials denied all the accusations of desecration and disrespect to religious sentiments.
While the union and temple executives were busy exchanging accusations and legal notices, the masons were accommodated in a Sydney suburban house.
While waiting for a settlement between the warring parties, the workers decided to make a sculpture of Ganesh. The wooden statue of the seated, four-armed god was later presented to Ferguson as a token of gratitude. This statue will now be the centre of attraction at the busy CFMEU head office.
After many exchanges of accusations, the temple management agreed to pay compensation to the eight workers who then decided to return to their native villages in Tamil Nadu to continue their trade as specialist stone masons.
Indo-Asian News Service
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