||Issue No. 191||15 August 2003|
Three Year Itch
Interview: The New Deal
Unions: In the Line of Hire
Culture: Too Cool for the Collective?
International: The Domino Effect
Industrial: A Spanner in the Works
National Focus: Gathering of the Tribes
History: The Welcome Nazi Tourist
Bad Boss: Domm, Domm Turn Around
Poetry: Just Move On.
Review: Reality Bites
The Locker Room
MUA CD Launch
The Remittance Man
Three Year Itch
This is not just a government that acts contrary to workers' interests, but actively sets out to destroy the union movement under the constant khaki cover of terror and global instability.
Three years ago ACTU Congress was consumed with passionate speeches about what Labor should do when it was back in power; debate on issues such as trade policy had an edge because there was a genuine feeling that future government policy was being shaped.
This time around, the feeling is more: how the hell do we get Labor back into power? And perhaps more importantly, how do we effect change if we can't achieve this political goal in the short term?
The challenge for this ACTU Congress is to develop an agenda for change that can be achieved in a hostile political environment; through workplace negotiations, industry bargaining and state legislation.
It must be built on a consistent set of values and grounded in concrete policy issues that effect the lives of both union members and non-members.
Medicare is such an important flashpoint issue because it packages the values of a fair go for all with a service that has, to date, been available to every Australian worker and their family.
Medicare is not a just a health issue, it is a symbol for a model of government that the Howard Government's mad obsession with all things American seeks to rip away - universal access to basic services.
The challenge is to transform Medicare from a point of community angst to the line in the sand where workers say to Howard: we will not trade this right off for lower taxes. All indications are this is the public mood, the union movement's challenge is to mobilise it.
As for broader debate around workplace issues, few are expecting fireworks - when you are fighting for survival, disagreement over the nuances of industrial policy does seem a tad indulgent.
Where there is tension it will emerge on issues like the call to cap hours at work, here the argument comes down to imposing central regulatory models or empowering workers to set their limits through on the ground organising.
The good news from our perspective is that this Congress will be transmitted to the movement through a unified medium - unlike three years ago when Virtual Communities transmitted bells and whistles while a bunch of idiots like me ran around in Hawaiian shirts.
This time, if you have the inclination, you'll be able to follow all the debates online through an ACTU website that is linked in with Labornet, Workers Online and dozens of other union websites.
None of which will win the war, but it at least provides a common ground to embark on the hard, often dispiriting, but ultimately pivotal mission of rebuilding unionism in such a hostile political environment.
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