||Issue No. 262||06 May 2005|
Rights and Wrongs
Interview: Fortress NSW
Unions: Fashions Afield
Industrial: Pay Dirt
Politics: Infrastructure Blues
History: Big Day Out
International: Making History
Economics: The Fear Factor
Review: The Robots Revolt
Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The Locker Room
Rights and Wrongs
The sleeping giant is becoming a juggernaut, moving on workplace fatalities, adding protections against email surveillance, putting spine into the sweatshop code of conduct.
After nearly a decade of banging our heads against a brick wall we are witnessing real progress, with smart and targeted laws dealing with contemporary workplace issues.
The contrast with the firestorm brewing in Canberra could not be more stark - the Carr Government is protecting workers rights while the Howard Government is planning to take them away.
And you don't need to look far to see Labor's best political strategist John Della Bosca's fingerprints all over the place.
As Della tells Workers Online this week, the big mistake is to look at the coming industrial relations debate as being about state rights - this is a battle for workers rights.
The coming campaign has many dimensions. For unions it is about bargaining rights, for families it's about control of working hours, for communities it is about working patterns that allow citizens to commit.
For the ALP, it is a golden opportunity for brand differentiation - in an era when the Labor Party has been the big loser in the convergence of the parties and the shift to white bread politics.
The Carr Government's movement over the past week indicates that it sees the opportunity in being clearly on the side of a balanced system of rights at work in this upcoming showdown.
It's a similar conclusion that emerged as the union campaign was being developed, particularly through focus groups of workers, both union and non-union.
Employers and the Howard Government had attempted to stake out the battle ground for IR as being 'fairness' - remember the outrageous statement that there was no room for fairness in the workplace, proposed by BCA and endorsed by Kevin Andrews.
The problem with a fight for fairness though, is that no one thinks the workplace is fair anyway, probably never have, if the truth be known.
But what workers are concerned about are their rights at work, and when they get clear information about the rights they will lose they are not just angry, they are looking for someone to fight on their behalf.
On one level there is nothing new in this thinking - unions have always existed to improve their members' rights at work; but it constructed this around a collectivist ideology that at some point became more important than the outcomes.
The collectivism is intrinsic to unions and will always be; but it is a means of delivering objective, individual rights.
In a somewhat subversive way, it is this individualistic, objective framework, that will drive the broader labour movement's battle against the Howard laws.
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