||Issue No. 294||10 February 2006|
Interview: Court's in Session
Industrial: Whose Choices?
Politics: Peter's Principles
Environment: TINA or Greener?
History: Its Not Just Handshakes and Aprons
International: US Locks out Jose' Bove
Education: No AWA - No Job
Culture: Jesus was a Long-Grass Man
Review: Charlie the Serf
The Locker Room
Belated Merry Whatmas?
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
I Think Therefore I Scam
A Taxing Answer
Leslie John Turner
As Workers Online and, it seemed, the entire union movement retreated to recharge its batteries after last year's exertions, a few things became clear.
First the opinion polls, which had moved so decisively around WorkChoices, reverted back to a clear lead for the government - proof positive that is the momentum of the union campaign and not the advocacy of the ALP that was shifting voters. The moment the foot is off the accelerator the whole show stalls.
Second, the Howard Government's absolute power is beginning to take its toll; internal defections within the Coalition; threats and reprisals and a public inquiry suggesting incompetence, if not corruption, at the highest level of government in the lead up to the Iraqi invasion, speaks to an administration suffering from the absence of the usual checks and balances.
Third, the increasing disconnect between the formal economic indicators and most people's personal experience; our summer poll on public services in NSW showed the tide shifting against privatisation and job cuts; but both sides of politics still dance to the rationalist's tune.
Fourth, the High Court challenge and a series of NSW Industrial Relations Commission decisions hinting that, at least, there may be some legal redress to the mad grab for power that WorkChoices represents; the ultimate test being whether the conservative High Court bench is true to its jurisprudence or bows to its political masters.
And finally the business world, dusting off the gloves and ready to hit the union movement for all its worth, with ACCI's pre-emptive strike on wage rates proof positive that some people have been working over the summer months.
For the union movement in 2006 the only certainty is that there is no road map to what is about to come; no precedents, no business as usual; just the need for good people to make history.
The challenges, it seems to me, are threefold:
- first, to protect union members from attacks on their rights in workplaces large and small by drawing on the finest traditions of solidarity and adapting them to the 21st century, where mass media; online campaigning; culture jamming are as potent tools as the feet on the street,
- second, to bring a new generation of workers into the union movement; those same young people who will be the first to bear the brunt of a job without rights; seizing an historical opportunity to both halt the decline and the aging of the union base.
- and thirdly, to build the political momentum against a government wielding power on behalf of elite business interests against the interests of working families all the way to the next election, sometime in 2007.
None of these tasks should be under-estimated; but to watch the Howard Government and their cheerleaders in big business triumph is simply untenable.
Workers Online will be there all the way; not just chronicling the battles to comes; but doing our bit to shape the debate and drive the vision of a modern, savvy union movement, that has always been so close to our hearts.
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