||Issue No. 286||21 October 2005|
Lord of the Lobster Legs
Interview: Under Fire
Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Economics: The Common Wealth
History: Walking for Justice
International: Deja Vu
Legal: The Rights Stuff
Review: That Cinderella Fella
Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
The Locker Room
Thus Spake Sydney Uni
Vote 1 Dictator
Buying peace Of Mind
Rev Kev Speaks
Lord of the Lobster Legs
After all, this has to be one of the most shameless power plays in recent political history: a legislative assault on workers rights, backed by $100 million in wall to wall political advertising funded by the very taxpayers who are about to be duded.
But when hundreds of Wollongong workers rallied outside the business lunch, the PM agreed to a rare meeting and invited a union delegation including a local police officer, a midwife and a fire fighter to probe him on the impact of his changes.
Later they said, what struck them most was the sense of inevitably about what is about to happen - that the PM will talk but there is no room for debate.
Yes, frontline police could end up on contracts; yes, workers could be worse off if a recession hits; yes, there are bad bosses who will abuse the unfair dismissal laws and no - he would not guarantee no worse would be worse off - he would not even guarantee that majority of workers would not be worse off.
Why should he? As those who got a chance to eye ball Howard said afterwards: this guy knows he has the numbers and he's going to do what he wants to do, come hell or high water.
The so-called softening of his laws has already been exposed as mere spin to give the pegs for the dishonest advertising campaign; now he's moving in for the kill.
This is a critical moment for the union campaign. Like never before we need to change the way we approach campaigns and disputes.
Unions are a product of a system of conciliation and arbitration based on the principle that the parties go in hard to prosecute their case; then reach a deal to accommodate the relative merits of their arguments.
These rules no longer exist - indeed, the laws are designed to end this sort of thinking forever. In its place we have a series of laws to prevent and punish industrial action by employees, while actively encouraging militant employers.
It means unions need to rethink everything about the way they campaign; their tactics, their timelines, their definitions of success.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the unions can only win this debate in the community, convincing the electorate that decides who will govern that this issue; not interest rates or terrorism or some moral panic plucked out of left field is THE issue to determine their vote at the next election.
Of course, there's another challenge too; create the spec that a political party, preferably Labor, will read the public mood and have the courage to put forward policies on workers rights that will undo this looming damage.
There is no doubt the first phase of the union campaign - the raising of awareness and concerns about the changes has been successful; but there is now even more important work to do - actually hold the government accountable for the impact of their changes on the Australian way of life.
That process started this week in Wollongong; its up to all of us to keep the ball rolling.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online