||Issue No. 243||22 October 2004|
The Perfect Storm
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
Shop Till the Worker Drops
Bobís Silver Anniversary
Hit And Myth
The Perfect Storm
The threats to organised labour are poised to intersect some time after July next year and the Hanrahans are already starting up their chorus 'we'll all be rooned"
One only has to look at the current attitude of Qantas to see where the doomsayers are coming from: a 66 per cent pay rise for directors, three per cent for staff - those whose jobs aren't shunted offshore.
For cabin crew contemplating Industrial action there is the threat of trained teams of strike-breakers; which management now calls ' customer protection' and a PM telling workers to get used to it, while the markets reward Qantas with a higher share price.
There is no doubt there are challenges ahead for the union movement - federal legislation will make it harder to bargain collectively, the courts have narrowed the scope of what can be covered in agreements and the Hard Right is positively baying for blood.
For the first time in 30 years the conservatives will control the industrial agenda through a majority of both houses of federal parliament. What they can't control is the way the union movement responds.
The storm may be out of our control, but the level of damage will be directly linked to the way we prepare for the onslaught.
The days ahead are important - we need to understand what is coming; take steps to minimise the damage, but also get on with life, continuing to do what we have always done, argue the case for working people.
The alternative is to leave ourselves exposed to the mercy of the elements raging against the Tempest like some kind of latter day King Lear.
So what is to be done? We must prepare ourselves for the storm by building strong durable delegate structures - work that is already well underway through the focus on organising workplaces from the ground up.
We also need to be smart; staying indoors when the lightening is striking rather than setting ourselves up to take the blast.
That means being strategic in our reactions to the attacks that are coming; avoiding the obvious points of engagement; defending workers by campaigning on a positive agenda around conditions, training and retirement savings - causes that can not be silenced by an act of parliament or a court decision.
And we need to realise that all storms inevitably pass; after the downpour, there is grief and awe at the damage but also a time of renewal and regeneration.
Played well, the next period could actually be a time of opportunity - at last we will be confronted with John Howard unplugged, unencumbered by the Senate, exposing his real agenda once and for all.
And a workforce that has taken the hard-won protections for granted for so long will be reminded what it is like without them.
Our challenge in this difficult period will be to sow the seeds of a resurgent union movement, even as the storm rages.
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