||Issue No. 197||26 September 2003|
Coming to the Party
Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
A Sick War
Coming to the Party
Between the set piece speeches the ritualised debates on branching stacking, there will be a new dimension - a union movement with a common desire to see an electorally successful Labor Government do more for the people who elect them.
Unions have crossed the factional divide at a number of past conferences - who can forget the decision to block the privatisation of the power industry in 1998? Who can forget the political mileage the Carr Government extracted from that conference 'defeat' at the 1999 election?
But never before has the movement been as united: with the AMWU now back in the Labor Council, there is unified voice behind these resolutions that make them difficult to ignore and impossible to defeat.
And, as the 2002 Conference debate on refugees showed, when unions are united, the rank and file tends to back them in.
The union agenda for Conference 2003 speaks to the issues unions confront every day.
Some resolutions speak of desperation - the need to address the entitlements issue is more acute every day a company collapses. To simply blame Canberra is no longer enough. State Labor Governments must show leadership.
Some speak of impatience with the Carr Government - the call for industrial manslaughter laws follows solemn reassurances by Minister Della Bosca that the existing law was sufficient: yet still no employer has tasted justice despite the ongoing deaths in the workplace.
Other resolutions speak of frustration: the call for the Carr Government to back the Labor Council's Secure Employment Test Case follows three years of waiting for the government to address the issue of labour hire through legislation.
And others speak of a yearning for a Labor Government with the courage to end the 'business as usual approach to politics'. The call for a comprehensive government procurement policy is an invitation for visionary leadership.
It argues that Labor Governments should use their purchasing power - through government tenders and funding - to encourage employers to be better corporate citizens and treat their workers with respect.
The bottom line: if you want to run an anti-union agenda in your workplace, don't expect a government contract. It's no more than Tony Abbott is trying to achieve a t a federal level - only this time geared at the interests of the worker, not the boss.
But all speak a common language that politicians are not responding to problems arising in the workplace, problems that are placing stress on families and communities.
The political managers of the Party will have no option but to accept these resolutions, or risk being rolled over by union delegates with the support of the rank and file.
The big question is whether the resolutions will be implemented at Macquarie Street or whether Conference is ignored.
It may not make the headlines, but these debates on bread and butter work issues could well herald a shift in power from the stage to the body of the hall.
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