||Issue No. 270||01 July 2005|
After the Action
Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
Power and the Passion
Mao and Then
The Third Way Hits A Dead End
Unfair For All
What Is To Be Done?
Black Hawk Up
After the Action
We'll test this in the coming weeks through focus groups, but I'm prepared to wager that when we ask the next group of punters about what's happening to their rights at work, their won't be the sea of blank faces their were a few months ago.
The heartening thing about the first round of research was that while awareness was low, when the changes were spelt out, people were not just concerned they were angry. And whether they were union members or otherwise the question was - what can I do about it?
That is still the $64,000 question: Now that we have established the problem, what can be done when we have a Prime Minister with an ideological obsession and unlimited power and a confidence that no matter what he does he can trick the public into voting for him at election time.
It's a question that has been responsible for a number of sleepless nights across the movement in recent months. Like so much in politics, I don't think there is a silver bullet here.
More weeks of industrial action like the one just past are obviously essential, as the legislation is drafted and makes it way through the Parliament. But this sort of action has a law of diminishing returns - as those who participated in the war protests learned - if having established the benchmark, the movement is defined by how the numbers on the street are maintained. And there is always the danger of alienating the public if demonstration becomes obstruction
More constructive is community activity aimed at hitting coalition MPs a where they hurt - their local electorates. This is the phase the campaign is now moving into - mobilising communities to ask their representatives where they stand on this most basic of issues.
Look at the weasel words of the business lobby and second rate student politicians like Kevin Andrews - like the 15 page diatribe Jackie Kelly sent to constituents this week, full of "trust me's" and half truths. This won't be enough - labour market deregulation is real and people are already being squeezed.
When Unions NSW held meetings this week, the number of people who turned up to hear what was going on was a revelation - 140 in Blacktown, 70 in Penrith, 75 in Tumbi Umbi - out on a cold winter's night because they know something is happening to them.
Broadening the support base is another necessary step - and the statement of concern this week from the National Council of Churches shows that this is an issue that resonates. We need to take the debate deeper into the community - sports clubs, scouts and guides, anywhere that relies on the free time of working people to function.
There is also the challenge of supporting workers when they come under attack by employers empowered by these new laws. We need to create a movement that supports workers under attack and shames the companies that take them on.
And finally there will be the holding of account. When the time comes to pass judgment at the ballot box we can not allow this leader to pull another rabbit from the hat.
We need to wedge him between the family values he uses as a crutch and the cold hard free market ideology that he espouses.
We need to have the Australian workforce waiting for him with the proverbial baseball bat - the same one they used on Keating when he over-stepped the line and put the economy ahead of people.
And we can do it. Make no mistake, This campaign is on the rails - but it is a long and difficult track. For now we need to enjoy this week's success, take a deep breath and keeping on working.
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