Tuesday, 4 December 2007

UnionSolidarity - Libs defeated by community outrage over Workchoices.

Union Solidarity
Monday, December 03, 2007
The fantastic November 24 federal election result is definitely worth celebrating. It’s now time to reflect on the significance of the victory and face the challenges ahead.

Firstly the stunning swing to Labor was the product of mobilising the community. The huge nation wide Your Rights at Work rallies, public meetings, community protests, strikes and pickets against unfair dismissals all played a role in stopping the worst excesses of Workchoices being carried out. They also demonstrated the unfairness of the legislation and the power of the union movement.

We need to savour victory but remember we have only won a battle in the larger war. The damage done to the community as a result of 11 years of conservative government is hard to underestimate; we are in a rebuilding phase. We need to focus on the following:
  • Winning back tens of thousands of workers who left unions over recent years.
  • Develop strategies to get 1.5 million workers off AWA's and onto union collective agreements.
  • Organise new sections of workers, especially young workers in casual employment.

The federal election was a mandate to change the IR system. Regardless of the semantics of policy positions millions of working class people voted for a fair and just industrial relations system.

We therefore call on the new government to:
  • Acknowledge that union officials have the right to enter workplaces to protect and represent the interests of workers.
  • Ensure that workers have the right to collectively bargain.
  • Guarantee a “Right to strike”.
It should be noted that these are not “extreme” demands but the International Labour Organisation conventions. They form the preconditions of any society that claims to respect democratic rights.

All charges and pending fines against union officials and workers resulting from taking industrial action under the previous government need to be dropped. This is particularly the case in the construction industry where workers face the draconian powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC).

Supposedly the ABCC was set up to curb illegal activity in the construction industry but has focused on attempting to crush legitimate union activity and persecute ordinary rank and file union members. This disgraceful and anti-democratic commission needs to be shut down. Guaranteeing the continuation of the construction boom should not come at the price of destroying some of Australia’s best unions.

The ascendancy of the Labor Party into office does not mean the demise of Union Solidarity. We will need to exist as long as employers have the ability to fine and penalise workers and unions who take industrial action.

2008 could see an increase in industrial disputes. A number of EBA’s expire next year and workers could be more confident as a result of the federal election. On the other hand employers might try and set the tone of the new government by provoking strikes and insisting that the "rule of law" be followed.

We also need to remind ourselves that we are fighting the effects of globalisation. Employers are compelled to continually attempt to drive down wages and conditions while increasing productivity.

Over 2007 Union Solidarity strengthened our ability to respond, we improved our communication systems and increased our supporter base. We need you to be ready in 2008.

Union Solidarity has learnt over the past three years, through numerous community assemblies and pickets that solidarity and direct action works, if you fight you can win. It’s not rocket science.

Going forward we face new and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Stopping Climate Change will necessitate a radical restructuring of the economy if human beings are to survive. As Albert Einstein said “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” If the union movement doesn’t adopt new and creative solutions to the looming environmental crisis we will become the victims of it.

The second great challenge in this country is the continuing dispossession and denial of equal opportunity for indigenous Australians. Unions still remain the biggest and most democratic mass organisations in Australian society. If we can’t use our leverage to elevate the position of indigenous Australians then history will rightfully condemn us.

We should be extremely proud of our efforts to kick out the Howard government. The election was a testimony to the decency of ordinary Australians. 2007 ended on a high note, we now need to be focused and ready for 2008.

Yours in Solidarity

Union Solidarity

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