||Issue No. 192||22 August 2003|
Flexing the Muscles
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
A Harsh Lesson
Axe The Max
India On A Dollar A Day
Flexing the Muscles
Set-piece Congresses are difficult beasts to read - high-profile addresses, earnest resolutions, restless delegates whingeing about the fact that they were there at all. But beneath the surface there was a feeling that the time to act as a movement is fast approaching
Some of this is based on frustration, as the labour movement's political wing struggles on the national stage while holding power in the states with a brand of managerialism that doesn't always promote a union agenda.
It is also comes from the battle-hardened reality that modern industrial relations is often closer to hand to hand combat with well-resourced employers who use a system weighted in their favour to relentlessly drive down labour costs.
But beneath it all is the realisation that the modern world doesn't owe the trade union movement a future, and indeed, the trends of global capital are actively working against it by making the flow of capital so footloose and amoral.
None of the speeches or resolutions at the ACTU Congress will, in and of themselves, turn this situation around, but combined they form the building blocks of an agenda.
Minimum rights for call centre workers, new safeguards for casuals, portability of entitlements - these are all practical measures to address the stress and insecurity of modern employment.
Importantly, the recasting from the ACTU leadership has been to wrap these individual initiatives into a broader defence of public institutions like health care and education that articulates the core union vision of a fairer society
But it was events outside the Congress that provided the practical context for this agenda -our former national airline training strikebreakers offshore before announcing a target of 25 per cent casualisation to satisfy the market.
The response from Qantas workers was immediate; the challenge is now for the dozen unions with members in the airline to work together to resist the casual push in a sustained and strategic way.
If there was a lesson from that other contentious Congress debate over the Pilbara it is that all unions have to work together as a team - after all that is what we are asking our members to do.
Rank and file workers want a strong movement. Those officials at the Congress seem ready to step up a gear. The battleground appears to have been staked out by Geoff Dixon. It will be interesting to watch things unfold from here.
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