||Issue No. 242||15 October 2004|
Interview: The Last Bastian
Unions: High and Dry
Security: Liquid Borders
Industrial: No Bully For You
History: Radical Brisbane
International: No Vacancies
Economics: Life After Capitalism
Technology: Cyber Winners
Poetry: Do It Yourself Poetry
Review: Hard Labo(u)r
The Locker Room
Invest in Dignity Part III
You Need Help
Whose Party Is It Anyway?
Donít Worry, Be Organised
Secretary John Robertson says unions have 10 clear months to organise resistance to the legislative assault expected from a strengthened Coalition Government.
Prime Minister John Howard went to the electorate, last Saturday, making no secret of his plan to gree-light unfair sackings at workplaces with less than 20 employees; restrict the ability of unions to visit members; introduce compulsory secret ballots; promote individual agreements; and increase the powers of his building industry taskforce.
But, buoyed by the unexpected scale of the Coalition's success, urgers and tuggers from the Hard Right are backing Howard to go on with the job and eliminate collectivism from Australian workplaces.
Leading the chorus have been Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry head, Peter Hendy, and Institute for Private Enterprise director, Des Moore.
Moore, a confidante of leading Liberals including fellow HR Nicholls Society member Peter Costello, summed-up the wish-list in one paragraph this week.
"Union privileges - such as entry rights, picketing and the right to inspect books - should be abolished, as should the unfair dismissals regime, across the board, and the right to strike should be repealed," Moore told the Age newspaper.
Sydney University's John Buchanan, warns eight years of Howard leadership have already pushed Australia to the far right of the industrial spectrum - out beyond New Zealand and, even, the US.
"Employers can essentially pick and choose whether they negotiate with a union or not," Buchanan said. "There is no other country in the western world where that happens so, even before this election, Australia was a bit of a freak on the world stage.
"If we break down the remaining edifice, we will become a real social laboratory for quite extreme free market ideas, I think."
But Robertson says a renewal process, built around stronger community ties, has been strengthening unions and expanding their support base.
"It's not all doom and gloom. When we are confronted with these challenges, the union movement is at its best," he said. "We are in a better position than we were four or five years ago.
"We have another 10 months before the new Senate is even in place so we won't be panicked into any rash responses."
Robertson says unions will assess the final make-up of the Senate and enter into dialogue with key members. If that be Family First, he says, unions have a persuasive argument to put to them.'
Robertson says the renewal process of recent years has seen unions emerge as champions of family friendly policies, and highlighted the threat to families posed by greater insecurity and reduced entitlements.
He has already held discussions with Premier, Bob Carr, about the practicality of NSW becoming a "safe haven" for organisations prepared to walk away from the federal IR system.
"We have our differences in NSW but, together, we have built a system based on co-operation rather than confrontation. And it works," Robertson said.
"This is not a time for panic. We need to work together, strategically, to defend our members and their families. It will be a difficult period for Australian workers but we have time and experience on our side.
"The labour movement has been around for 100 years and seen governments of all persuasions come and go. While this one may be one of the most difficult, I'm confident we will see it off as well.
Robertson said the real threat to worker organisation could be internal. A return to demarcation arguments and one-out adventurism, he warned, would leave "us dead in the water".
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