||Issue No. 329||20 October 2006|
Sucking the Oranges
Interview: Cowboys and Indians
Industrial: Seven Deadly Sins
Unions: The IT Factor
Politics: Bargain Basement
Environment: An Inconvenient Hoax
Corporate: Two Sides
International: Unfair Dismissals
History: A Stitch in Time
Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Sucking the Oranges
Workers Online have been to a few of these events, from the cyber wars of Wollongong in 2000, Melbourne Casino 2003 where debate was around cashing in the chips in the ALP, all the way back to 1994 when we all booed Brereton.
Typically, these are events are broad affairs, where everyone pushes their barrow, political points are scored and everyone makes up after the final Congress dinner.
But it is a sign of the seriousness - and success - of the current Rights at Work campaign that this week's Congress is a far more sober and focussed affair.
The Congress is being held at the rough half-way mark in the Rights at Work campaign - a little over 12 months since the laws and about 12 months out from a federal election that will decide once and for all the direction of workers rights in this country.
In this context it is a chance to take a deep breath, suck the oranges and contemplate where the campaign is placed.
If the polls are any guide, we are ahead on the scoreboard. The Rights at Work campaign has shifted a significant number of votes into the Labor column, with men in particular opposed, and naming industrial relations as an area of key concern.
Our team is also playing with its heads up. Despite its thumping in 2003, the ALP is competitive and the shine has gone off John Howard, but maintaining political momentum around an issue for two years is unprecedented and remains a challenge for unions.
On the field of Parliament, they have largely stuck to the game plan, after all WorkChoices has been described as like have Wayne Carey at centre half forward, every time you are in trouble you know he'll take a mark and kick it straight.
Their opponent's game plan is faltering - the government keeps switching message form 'take the pain for the greater good' to 'it's a scare campaign ' there is no pain. And whether the PM, the Rev Kev or bench player Sloppy Joe has the pill, it still ends up in out of bounds.
And importantly, the crowd is behind us - like never before rank and file workers are joining grassroots campaigns, building momentum even before the candidates have been chosen.
So we are well-placed at half time, not impregnable but in position to build on our lead.
The ACTU Congress brings a new tactic into play, a positive agenda to rebuild workers rights, based around enforceable bargaining rights and workplace democracy.
With this armoury, expect the campaign to run harder on collective bargaining - the initial wave of unfair dismissals has passed, now groups of workers are feeling the pain, forced to give up penalty rates and job security and sing the AWA.
There is another issue that has been itching for a run - the undercutting of Australian job security from both guest workers and off shore workers, just another way in which the Howard Government is putting the interests of big business ahead of those of ordinary workers.
And then there is the pending decision from the umpire - the High Court ruling on whether a hostile takeover of state industrial laws was really the intention of our Founding Fathers.
All this, before the election campaign proper kicks off and we are presented with a whole swag more of metaphors to slaughter. All this is ahead of us, in one of the classic match ups of all time.
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