||Issue No. 301||31 March 2006|
Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
The Earl Speaks
Let Us Rejoice
We have seen workers sacked because they are too expensive, because they refuse to travel to multiple workplaces where they have no transport, because they refuse to tick off on AWAs that cut their conditions.
We have seen collective agreements over-ridden, attempts at legitimate action stone-walled and union meetings secretly taped.
More than this, we have seen the culture of the workplace begin to shift, because all this is OK under WorkChoices - there is now no recourse.
There is little doubt that people don't like it - Unions NSW polling this week found that one in five Liberal voters are regretting their decision to re-elect Howard.
But the great unknown is whether this dislike turns into a sullen acceptance of this Brave New World, or if a real impetus to change emerges driven by a coherent, well-articulated alternate agenda.
Working Australians need a political advocate that pursues the issue relentlessly and passionately - and if they do, we will have a new government by the end of 2007.
The biggest test the ALP currently faces is mounting pressure to walk away in some quarters from its policy platform to abolish Australian Workplace Agreements, instead allowing them to exist with added safeguards.
This is dangerous territory on two levels.
For Australian workers, individual contracts, replicated by an employer but presented on a take it or leave basis to workers, is the primary tool to de-unionise the Australian workface.
They are the cancer that will eat away at the rights that underpin the Australian way of life and take us down the path to the Americanisation of the labour market.
Collective bargaining rights, or recognition ballots, are a treatment for this disease, but will never prove to be a cure.
As long as AWAs exist, managers will have an incentive to break down the collective, pick workers off one by one to drive their labour costs down.
But there are political dangers too; by walking away from the current policy will undermine the ALP's clear messages on WorkChoices and its ability to differentiate .
A national conference focussed on an internal debate on walking away from current policy will undermine this contrast, would be disastrous, bringing into question Labor's real commitment to knocking over the WorkChoices package.
Those advocating the change argue that taking a prohibition on AWAs to the next election is too risky because too many people will have been forced on to them.
But there are solutions; transferring AWAs to common law contracts overseen by an Industrial Commission, transferring AWAs to ocollective agreements, overseen by the Industrial Commission, without undermining what they have now.
Yes, there are risks when challenging Howard's industrial changes; the greater risk is not to. That would be suicide.
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